Relationship Tips

Attachment Theory Can Help You Understand Yourself and Your Relationships, But Only to an Extent

Kara Jillian Brown

Photo: W+G Creative
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"Attachment theory"—which purports that people approach relationships with either a "secure," "anxious," or "avoidant" attachment style—is one of the ways we can analyze how we function in our closest relationships. There are plenty of online attachment theory quizzes that try to give insight into why we behave the way we do, but according to Love Understood ($18) author Laura Mucha, filling out a quick questionnaire won't necessarily give you the full picture.

"Humans are complicated and we cannot adequately summarize everything about the way you are a relationship from a really short, pithy online quiz," says Mucha. "Attachment theory, as brilliant as it is in so many ways, is only one aspect of things. And there are lots of different ways of looking at how we are in relationships. And so you don't want to essentially reduce everything to one theory."

This is the crux of the latest episode of The Well+Good Podcast. In it, Mucha chats with hosts Kate Spies, Ella Dove, and Taylor Camille to break down what attachment theory is, as well as the extent to which we can use it during our own self-analyses.

The basic premise of attachment theory "is that we're not all the same when it comes to relationships [and] that we have certain ways of being that influence our relationships in different ways," says Mucha. Your attachment style is said to develop during infancy, through your bond with your primary caregiver, and dictates how we perceive ourselves, others, and the world. Through this, it helps us decide which relationships are worth pursuing.  "It becomes part of who we are and is part of our personality," Dina Wirick, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist who has done research on attachment theory, previously told Well+Good. 

According to Mucha, there are a few different ways you can determine your own attachment style. One way is self-tests, which are questionnaires that you fill out yourself. Another is Adult Attachment Interviews, which involve a live interview and take over an hour to complete. The answers can vary from test to test, so Mucha says to have a good think about your results instead of simply accepting them at face value.

"The best way of looking at your results is to think, 'That's interesting. How does that resonate with me? What about that feels true? And what about that doesn't feel true?' Without seeing it as absolutely definitive," she says.

To learn more about each of the three attachment styles—and find out whether or not you have the power to change yours—listen to the full episode on AppleSpotify, or wherever you get your podcasts

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