People with a secure attachment style feel comfortable developing trust in relationships and aren’t afraid to become close to other people, which sounds pretty nice! So how do you develop a secure attachment style? We’ve collected the information to get you started.
What does a secure attachment style look like?
A secure attachment style looks like being at ease in intimate, close relationships (both romantically and platonically!). People who have secure attachment feel right at home when they’re dating, making new friends, or working alongside coworkers. They trust that others will do their part in maintaining a healthy and appropriate connection and don’t feel stressed or anxiety when alone.
Any of the following behaviors also suggest a secure attachment style:
- Ability to empathize with others
- Maintaining long term relationships with others
- Still feeling close with their partner or partners even when dating long distance
- Having high self-esteem
- Finding others to talk to when they’re feeling upset about something
- Deriving meaning and fulfillment out of their relationships
- Ability to set boundaries with others when necessary
There are many more ways that someone can display a general secure attachment, too. But this is not to say that people who have secure attachment do not have issues with their mental health at times! They simply feel good about connecting with others and do generally so in healthy ways.
How does a person develop a secure attachment style in childhood?
Your attachment style develops as a result of the care you received as a baby and as a child. Attachment theory posits that your first relationships are incredibly impactful — that how your caregivers raised you will influence your attachment style.
When you’re a baby, your brain hasn’t yet learned how people connect with one another, including what they say, how they treat each other, and what closeness looks like. As with everything else, babies and young children learn by example, so when their caregivers act a certain way, they learn to act that way as well. Most importantly, babies take in and record how they feel when they’re around people. This plays out across childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.
How do I move to a secure attachment style as an adult?
Growing up in a stable, trusting environment is a privilege. While some adults were not given the opportunity to develop a secure attachment style as babies and children, that’s not to say that it will never happen for them. There are many ways to develop a more secure attachment style, even when you’re past the critical age for development.
Here are a few ways to move to a secure attachment style as an adult:
- Start to pay attention to how you feel in relationships. Awareness is always step one when it comes to creating change and noting when you feel a certain way — positively or negatively — when you’re connecting with others is a great way to kick off the strengthening of your attachment style.
- Combat cognitive distortions. A cognitive distortion is an untrue or unreliable thought, often caused by an assumption, judgement, or bias. There are many different ways that cognitive distortions pop up, most of which negatively impact our emotions. Once you begin developing an awareness of the emotional reactions caused by interactions with others, you might find yourself subscribing to some nasty cognitive distortions. Ask yourself for evidence and see if you’re seeing the situation objectively to combat these harmful thought patterns.
- Dig into the past. You cannot talk about attachment style without looking into your history — usually, your family history. By reflecting on how you grew up and what your relationships were like with your parents or caregivers, you may be surprised about what comes up with an adult perspective.
- Realize that you are good, worthy, and strong. The best way to do away with insecurity is to build up your self-esteem, confidence, and sense of worthiness. Remind yourself that you have been through difficult times and emerged on the other side with resilience — and that your strength is as an individual, which means it’s there whether you’re alone or you’re with someone else!
- Get out of your comfort zone. After you’ve practiced awareness over your thoughts and reactions to relationships, challenge yourself to coexist in social situations that previously brought you discomfort. This could mean asking your coworker to eat lunch with you, saying “I love you” to your partner, or spending a Friday night in while your friends go clubbing. There are many ways to practice being alone or being together in a different way than you previously did.
- Work with a therapist. The majority of therapists take your social connection into consideration when helping you reach your therapy goals. Therapists may educate you about attachment, point out instances of secure or insecure attachment, help you reflect on your needs in relationships or process through negative reactions to relationships, and support you as you begin connecting with others in secure ways.
How do you find someone with a secure attachment style?
While you develop a more secure attachment style, you might be wondering where you can find others with secure attachment styles. There are certainly attributes to look for in people with secure attachment styles and surrounding yourself with these types of people is a great way to grow healthy, stable relationships.
Here’s what to look for when you’re searching for others with secure attachment styles:
- They aren’t afraid to ask you to hang out. People with secure attachment styles feel motivated to ask people to spend time with them. When they want to hang out, they’ll ask you — likely, their minds aren’t trying to talk them out of it by thinking it would be awkward or come off poorly.
- They don’t play games. They’ll be upfront with you and if they don’t answer their phone, it’s because they’re busy. People with secure attachment styles don’t see relationships as a personal gain, they simply enjoy being with other people.
- They spend time alone. People with secure attachment styles don’t mind a bit of solitude. Some of them might even need it to relax! Even though we often think of people with secure attachment styles as extroverts who love being in large groups, people who prefer to be by themselves do so because they’re comfortable in their social relationships and don’t need to be surrounded by people to feel worthy.
- They share personal thoughts with you. Humans build intimacy by being vulnerable. People with secure attachment styles aren’t worried that they’ll get hurt when they talk about their feelings, share personal stories, or dream about the future. This is how they grow their relationships.
- When they like you, they’re committed. When people with secure attachment styles want to be in a relationship, they’ll put themselves out there and say it. They aren’t worried about rejection — if they are rejected, they know they can handle those resulting emotions.
- They might call you out on overstepping a boundary. Something that’s important to people with secure attachment styles is their boundaries. Their understanding of relationships is one that comes with valuing apologies. This is how they keep their relationships healthy — and they’ll apologize when they do something wrong too!
- They aren’t afraid when you aren’t together. If you’re in a relationship with someone that has a secure attachment style, they won’t worry about you or the state of the relationship when you’re apart. They trust that you’re treating them with the same respect they have for you.
Whether you’re developing your own secure attachment or looking for someone who has one, knowing more about the topic — and how you personally relate to others — can help you. We’ll be the first to admit that relationships are complicated, so having a therapist to help you sort through your feelings, experiences, and needs is a great way to practice feeling secure.