How are you wired when it comes to the way you attach with others? How does your emotional attachment style affects your intimate relationship? These three audio files should help shine some light on these questions, and avoid unnecessary glitches and arguments with your partner!
Island / Avoidant:
Wave / Anxious – Ambivalent:
Anchor / Secure:
In order to better understand the following, I invite you to first listen to the three audio files above. Stan’s description of the Island (in psychological terms aka the Avoidant style of attachment), the Wave (Anxious/Ambivalent) and the Anchor (Secure) will help put this information in context.
Knowing about our different emotional attachment styles can be greatly valuable when it comes to understanding their effects on our relationships at large, and more specifically on our intimate, romantic and sexual relationships. As is the case with any psychological model which increases our comprehension of ourselves and of our relationships, let’s be mindful not to use this information to pigeonhole, guilt or shame ourselves and others. When we know how we, and our partners are wired for attachment, we increase our skills to repair our misattunements and challenges in communication. May this help all of your relationships to thrive!
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While it is often not obvious at first sight, a deeper look allows us to see that most of us emotionally connect with our significant other in adulthood as our primary caregivers did with us in childhood, especially in periods of stress, vulnerability and misattunements. This becomes more tangible as people move closer emotionally, establish deeper commitments and bonds, and their shortcomings and deficits become more obvious. The misunderstandings and hurts all couples are likely to experience at some point or another are likely to bringing to light their “early attachment wirings”. Under stress, a secure functioning person is more likely to show his/her Waveish or Islandish qualities. An Islandish person is more likely to loose the “-ishness” and become truer to the Island archetype. And of course, the same applies to the Waveish person, out goes the “-ishness” when he/she is pissed or hurt. Even Anchors, who are by nature predisposed for secure functioning relationships, they too at times of stress and insecurities, show their Waveish or Islandish qualities. Being an Anchor does not mean you have it all figured out. It just means that, by nature, the focus is on the health of the relationship, not the preservation of the individualistic self. In brief, when our relationships are under stress, our center of gravity moves towards a purest form of our initial archetypal way of relating.
Increased life experiences with others who relate differently than us–for example spending extended quantity of time with someone who is more of an Anchor than us–will tend, over time, to predispose us to relate more as an Anchor. As we exhibit a willingness to learn from others, to get unstuck from our initial wiring, we gain a greater repertoire of relational skills. This being said, it is also wise to refrain from expecting an Island become a Wave, and vice-versa. It won’t happen. At least, it won’t happen because we want it so. If a transformation is to take place, it will be an organic one, not an ego focussed one.
One of the many gifts of this specific typology is that it helps us better understand and become more empathetic towards others and ourselves. It also equips us better to navigate the challenges we face when our relations are tense and difficult. This way of looking at relationships is not to be used as an excuse for hurtful behaviors, “I’m a Wave, I’m an Island, that is just the way I am… deal with it… your reactions to the way I’m wired is your problem… not mine!” Such comments would actually be funny, if they were not so hurtful and disrespectful. They are totally coherent with people relating to others from a one-person system, which both the archetypal Wave and Island come from. In fact, these statements weaken the pillars on which secure functioning relationships rest: equality, fairness and sensitivity to the other person and the relationship.
Secure functioning relationships asks all of us that our relationships be more “Anchorish”. Whatever the combination of the partnership be (Wave-Wave, Wave-Island, Island-Island, Wave-Anchor, etc.), couples learn to move closer to an Anchor-Anchor way of relating. Of course, this forward movement should be done while honoring the initial wiring of each person. This is not always easy. No kidding! It is, however, an honest and enlightened principle, which allows us to honor the complexity of our humanity and of our relationships. It provides us with greater chances of having nurturing, loving, fun relationships in which we feel safe!
Once you have identified your stronger suit of attachment style, the charts below should help you better understand the dynamics, which take place in your intimate relationships. Enjoy the insights and empower your relationships! Have fun!