Laws of Love: the power of Early Attachment Styles on Adult Romantic Relationships

holding hands

Let’s face it. Sooner or later we have all asked ourselves ‘Why did I choose him/her?’. After all, we meet a numerous amount of people during our daily routine. So how do we select our better halves among many prospective candidates? And which are the elements that influence romantic partner’s choice?

The science of psychology has attempted to answer these questions, and has achieved a considerable success in doing so.
Among the various psychological models used by clinicians and researchers to investigate the subject is the attachment theoretical approach.

Attachment theory provides a descriptive and explanatory framework for understanding how early attachment patterns are correlated to the subsequent styles of future intimate relationships. So, when you were a child, what kind of relationship did you have with your primary caregivers? Would you describe your parents as attentive and loving or fair and austere?

Fascinatingly, attachment theory proposes that early mother-child interaction patterns determine the nature and quality of the enduring affectional tie that emotionally binds one person to another later in life.

Attachment theory

Attachment theorists have enlightened how different styles of attachment in childhood may be involved with the happiness or dissatisfaction in our adult romantic relationships. What is meant by the term attachment in psychology? And how do feelings of attachment develop?

Drawing on concepts from ethology, developmental psychology, information processing and psychoanalysis, British psychologist John Bowlby pioneered the theory of attachment. This is focussed on the emotional bonds between people and suggests that our earliest attachments can leave a lasting impression on our lives.

Bowlby thought that a warm and affectionate relationship with their primary caregivers, usually their mothers, is just as essential to infants as nourishment. He defined attachment as a “lasting psychological connectedness between human beings” (1969, p. 194). Without it, a child would not be able to develop into an emotionally and socially mature individual.

This first attachment bond shapes the baby’s mind because it leads to the development of a set of expectations and core beliefs about the self, others and the world. This concept is called internal working models and is a key aspect of attachment theory.

Children’s working models lay the foundation for all their future experiences, profoundly influencing one’ self-esteem, expectations of others, and the ability to attract and maintain positive adult relationships. They are responsible for the capacity to preserve one’s emotional balance, the ability to enjoy being with others and to successfully recover from disappointment. In a nutshell, one’s internal working models determine the success or failure of later love relationships.

If, after reading about attachment, you are thinking: ‘So what can I do about it? What’s done cannot be undone!’ remember, the good news is that by learning about attachment in therapy, one can build healthier relationships and learn how to communicate more effectively.

Part 2 of this blog will be coming soon where we will be looking at attachment styles and how they function as predictors of adult romantic relationships.

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