I’m going to go out on a limb and guess, as you considered the many ways to get your ex back, the words “attachment styles” never entered your thoughts. But what if I told you that understanding attachment styles and your ex’s childhood may be the key to winning them back?
At the very least, knowing your ex’s attachment style will help you to better understand their frame of mind and how to communicate with them.
If you want to know what your chances are of getting your ex back, make sure you take our Ex Recovery Quiz before reading further.
Now, let’s dive into the content and start with the most basic question – what is Attachment Theory?
Attachment Style Theory
Well, simply put, Attachment Theory is a psychology model used to describe the dynamics of long-term and short-term interpersonal relationships between humans.
Now, there are many different types of attachment styles, but today we’re only going to focus on the four styles to understand if you want to get your ex back.
Four Attachment Styles:
- Secure Attachment
- Anxious Attachment
- Avoidant Attachment
- Disorganized Attachment
So, let’s take a minute to define each of these styles and give you real life examples.
The Secure Attachment
You are considered to have a secure attachment style if you are comfortable with intimacy; you’re not worried about rejection; and you are confident that your significant other wants to be in the relationship.
The Anxious Attachment
You’re considered to have an anxious attachment style if you have a greater need for intimacy and closeness. Someone with this style requires frequent reassurance of their partner’s love and commitment to the relationship.
The Avoidant Attachment
Those with an avoidant attachment style are extremely independent, self-directed, and often uncomfortable with intimacy. They’re basically commitment-phobes and experts at rationalizing their way out of any intimate situation.
The Disorganized Attachment
I’ll define the disorganized attachment style towards the end of this article.
First, let’s look at how these three attachment styles could manifest in your relationship with an ex.
Now, if you’re anything like me, understanding Attachment Style Theory can feel somewhat overwhelming, because there is so much research. So, allow me to simplify this theory by directly relating each of these styles to situations you may have encountered with your ex.
Identifying Your Exes Attachment Style
To pinpoint your ex’s attachment style, let’s rewind the clock and pretend you are the relationship again with your ex.
Let’s say you have been dating for two years and one night you decide to go out with friends to have fun, meet new people, and maybe have a few drinks.
You think, this is a fun and innocent night out – everything is great.
If Your Ex Has A Secure Attachment Style…
If your ex has a secure attachment style, they will be glad to see you and casually inquire about your night.
“how was your night?”
And the conversation will feel light.
They will not feel threatened at all by the fact that you went out.
If Your Ex Has An Anxious Attachment Style…
Now, if your ex has an anxious attachment style, in the exact same scenario they are going to be completely overbearing when you come home.
They will ask you a million questions and jump to conclusions quickly, maybe without you even verbalizing those conclusions.
Their questions will sound somewhat paranoid or angry, like
“Who did you meet?
Did he buy you a drink?
What’s up with that?”
If Your Ex Has An Avoidant Attachment Style…
Now, an ex with an avoidant attachment style, on the other hand, will act aloof when you come home. They won’t say that anything is bothering them. You’ll think everything is fine, but the issue will sit and stew beneath the surface.
That is, until you get into a fight a week or two later and they bring up the concern and accuse you of something you didn’t do.
At this point you may be wondering, why should I understand my ex’s attachment style if I can’t change it?
Approaching Your Ex Based On Their Attachment Style
Well, believe it or not, the attachment style of your ex may be the key to understanding how to approach them when you are trying to get them back. Knowing their attachment style will tell you not only what they need in a relationship, but the type of conversations you should have with them to get them back.
Of course, let’s not forget that compatibility is an important factor in any relationship, so it is equally important that you understand your own attachment style and how it relates to your ex’s attachment style.
Understanding your own attachment style is important, because psychologists have actually determined that some styles, like anxious attachment and avoidant attachment styles, are attracted to one another.
You can see where problems may arise between these two styles. And, we can back this up. From our experience in coaching countless clients and interacting with individuals in our private Facebook groups, usually one or both people who leave a failed relationship have an anxious or an avoidant attachment style.
These two styles combined doesn’t really yield great results – hence, the breakup.
But, there’s also something really cool that psychologists discovered about anxious and avoidant attachment styles as well.
Psychologists realized that when an anxious or avoidant attachment style begins a relationship with someone who has a secure attachment style, they begin will begin to mirror their partner’s secure behavior. It’s sort of a case of follow the leader.
So, if you have a secure attachment style and your ex is an anxious or avoidant attachment style, they’re likely to feel more secure in the relationship because of your example. Therefore, it’s important to understand your attachment style too.
Determining Your Attachment Style
Maybe you know without a doubt that you have a secure attachment style – that’s great. But if you are wondering how to determine your attachment style and your ex’s, there is a litmus test to find out.
In the 1970s, Mary Ainsworth, an American Canadian developmental psychologist known for developing the Attachment Theory, conducted an experiment she called “The Strange Situation”.
Essentially, this experiment involved parents bringing their children to Dr. Ainworth for a series of tests to determine their attachment style.
The experiment worked as follows: a mother brought her 8 to 15-month-old toddler to meet Dr. Ainsworth, who placed both mother and child in a room with a stranger. The mother then played with her child for about 15 minutes and then left the room.
The child’s reaction to their mother leaving the room indicated the child’s attachment style.
A child with a secure attachment style cried immediately for about 15 minutes before deciding to play, like nothing was wrong. When the mother returned, this child would greet their mother with open arms, and all was right in the world.
A child with an anxious attachment style often cried the entire time the mother was gone and, when the mother returned, she had a difficult time calming the child down.
A child with an avoidant attachment style, on the other hand, avoided the stranger for the entire duration of time the mother was gone and then ignored the mother when she returned.
Now, let’s talk about the fourth attachment style we haven’t addressed yet – the Disorganized Attachment Style.
A child with the disorganized attachment style would run and hide when the mother left and remain hidden when the mother returned.
Now, why would a child do this? Well, it was determined that these toddlers were abused. So, when their fight or flight response kicked in, they choose flight. In this situation, the children felt there was nowhere to safe to run, so they hid not only from the stranger, but from their mother too.
So, like Dr. Ainsworth’s experiment, reflecting on your ex’s childhood is the true litmus test for determining their attachment style.
As yourself, how did their parents treat them? What was their upbringing like? These questions will help you to determine their attachment style. While your conclusions may not be completely accurate, your assumptions about their childhood will help you to identify their attachment style and respond to them accordingly.
Changing Your Exes Attachment Style
I suppose you’re now wondering – especially if you realize that your ex has an anxious or avoidant style – if you can change someone’s attachment style. In other words, can someone who is anxious become secure?
Well, I’ve already eluded to the answer, but let me conclude on this note. Someone who wants to change their attachment style can do so, but only from within. Like with all change, it requires a concerted effort to make that change. Most of the time, the people I meet do not want to change their attachment style, especially for an ex.
So, it’s up to you to lead by example.
If, after reading this article, you understand that you have an anxious, avoidant, or even a disorganized attachment style – and you recognize this is caused issues in your relationship with your ex – maybe it’s time to make changes to develop a secure attachment style. Really, it’s becoming what we call “ungettable”. Because, when you really think about it, becoming ungettable is about developing a secure attachment style.
I’ll end on this note – if you want your ex back, lead the way by becoming ungettable and developing a secure attachment style. This way, if your ex does come back to you, he has a north star – something to aspire to and someone to lead the way into a healthier relationship.