**This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as told to me by a close friend, who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.
One of my oldest friends recently told me she has a “penchant for attracting ‘damaged’ partners.” She described her last three relationships as being with men who were “emotionally unavailable,” “addicted to work,” and “jealous and controlling.”
When I asked my friend why she thought she was attracted to these types of partners, she said it was because she grew up in a volatile household.
My friend’s therapist told her that she has an anxious attachment style. This means that she is overly clingy in relationships and is constantly worried about being abandoned. Her therapist helped her to realize that she attracted these types of partners because they were familiar to her. They reminded her of the chaotic environment of her childhood. Now she’s working on unlearning the patterns and behaviors that helped create her anxious attachment.
While it is true that we tend to magnetize what is familiar to us, we can make different choices. Just because you had a dysfunctional childhood doesn’t mean you’re doomed to repeat the same mistakes. There are steps you can take to change the pattern. But when you’ve been drawn to certain types of people and situations your entire life, it can feel like the possibility of a healthy, stable connection is just not the cards for you.
“Our attachment style is based on our experiences early on in life, and the type of care we received from our parents.” — Briony Leo, Psychologist
Here are five reasons why secure attachment may seem impossible to achieve:
1. You’ve never experienced it before
If you grew up in a chaotic household, chances are you’ve never experienced a secure, healthy relationship. All you know is the confusion and mayhem that you grew up with. This can make it difficult even to imagine how a nourishing relationship might look and feel.
2. It feels foreign to you
Secure attachment may feel like something that only happens to other people. It’s something you see in movies and read about in books, but it feels like it’s not something that could ever happen to you.
3. You’re afraid of getting hurt
Because you’ve been attracted to the wrong types of partners your whole life, you may be scared of getting hurt again. This can make it difficult to let someone in and trust them.
4. You don’t believe you deserve it
If you tend to attract emotionally unavailable partners or people who treat you poorly, you may not believe you deserve a secure, healthy relationship. You may think you’re not good enough or don’t deserve to be treated well.
5. You’re not sure how to make it happen
You can achieve a secure attachment if you’re willing to do the work. Knowing where to start when you try something you’ve never done before can be challenging. That’s why having a secure attachment may seem like an impossible task. But it’s important to remember that change is possible.
“We can become secure, and I think that’s very promising. That capacity is one of the reasons I chose this field, which allows so much room for change and growth. There’s a study that came out recently that shows that simply knowing about one’s attachment style can help people become more secure if they aspire to. It’s not about being healthy or non-healthy from an attachment perspective. It’s more about an effective or ineffective way of being in a relationship, about whether your style is working for you or isn’t.” — Amir Levine, MD
The past does not always predict the future.
“The past repeats itself,” at least that’s what they say. But what they haven’t told you is that new information can change the outcome.
Who you are at any given moment is a collection of your experiences, thoughts, and emotions up until that point. You are not a victim of your attachment style. You can choose to do things differently. But that also means that you have the power to change the course of your life at any time.
You are not your past. You are not the mistakes you’ve made. You are not the people who have hurt you. And you are not your family or the choices that they made.
You are so much more than that.
It is possible to change your patterns, rewire your brain, and experience secure attachment.
You can change your attachment style.
If you take a proactive approach to healing your past, disrupting unhealthy patterns, and learning how to relationship in a healthy way, you can create secure attachments.
It might not be easy, but it is possible. And you are worth it.
Deciding to change is the first step. After that, it’s important to find resources and support to help you along the way. If you’re not sure where to start, seek help.
See a therapist.
Working with a therapist can be incredibly helpful in changing your attachment style. They can help you understand the patterns, so you can see why they may not be healthy for you.
They can also provide support and guidance as you work to change those patterns. If you’re unsure where to start, a therapist can help you create a plan to achieve secure attachment.
Do your research.
If you’re not ready for therapy and want to do some work independently, resources are available to help you understand secure attachment and how to achieve it.
Books, articles, and even YouTube videos can further your understanding of secure attachment and how to achieve it.
Create a support system.
Having people in your life who support your decision to change and are willing to help you along the way is crucial.
Friends, family, or even a therapist can be part of your support system. These people can help you when you’re stuck, offer encouragement, and provide accountability.
Intention, support, and commitment can help you shift from anxious or avoidant attachment to secure attachment.
You can do this.
What has your experience been with secure attachment? Do you think it’s possible to change your attachment style? How? Share your thoughts in the comments below.