6 Ways to Nurture a Secure Attachment

Pop culture and media have instilled the notion that relationships are founded on sentimentality and big romantic gestures. In many films, an expensive piece of jewellery or big, bold, public declarations of love often resolve conflicts in a cinch. This dramaticism has contributed to increasingly skewed expectations of love and to the glorification of insecure and unhealthy attachments that lead to strained relationships.

Marriages, in particular, are especially prone to such strains, often causing separation or divorce. However, it does not have to be that way. Strained marriages can be repaired, and insecure attachments can be rebuilt into ones that are healthy and secure -- and it’s all in the little things.

This article discusses the different attachment styles and a few simple things you can do to nurture a secure attachment and enhance your relationship with your spouse.

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What Are the Four Adult Attachment Styles?

Attachment theory aims to define the dynamics of interpersonal relationships between individuals, including friendship, bonds between parent and child, and romantic connections. Depending on various factors (personality, social influences), individuals develop an attachment style as children. This is typically carried over into adulthood, influencing how you interact and connect with others.

The first step in growing and healing is to know yourself. Identify what your current attachment style is so you can work your way towards a secure attachment. Below are the four different forms of attachment:

  • Fearful-Avoidant - Fearful-avoidant attachments stem from feelings of detachment as children when faced with traumatic events and situations. This sense of being detached from themselves follows the individual into adulthood, resulting in highly dramatic relationships. Caught between their desire to connect with others and the fear of getting too close causes them to display unpredictable moods and erratic behaviour (at times clingy and others avoidant) when dealing with their partners.
  • Preoccupied - Individuals with a preoccupied attachment style are self-critical and insecure of themselves. They continually question their worth in relationships and their feelings, and their behaviours are dominated mainly by a need for validation and approval from others. Because of this, they can be excessively clingy and emotionally dependent as partners.
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  • Dismissive - Avoidant attachments formed during childhood can result in individuals developing a dismissive attachment style as adults. People with this type of attachment often deny or repress the innate need to build connections with others. Seeing themselves as self-sufficient, they often isolate themselves and become loners. As a coping mechanism, they downplay the importance of relationships and distance themselves from people and situations when conflicts arise.
  • Secure - People with secure attachment patterns possess a positive and strong view of themselves and of other people. They are confident and eager to form close relationships with others and are comfortable with both depending on their partner and having their partner rely on them. These factors allow them to build strong and satisfactory relationships that endure.

Humans are social creatures, which means that the need to bond with others is deeply ingrained into our psyche. Developing a secure attachment as adults helps to establish inner confidence, build self-esteem, and satisfy the need for connectedness. This enhances interpersonal relationships and a person’s overall emotional and physical health.

Learning about your attachment style and why it came to be can be overwhelming. If you do not wish to do this on your own, speak to a therapist. They can offer guidance and valuable insights to help promote your healing.

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What Can I Do to Nurture a Secure Attachment with My Spouse?

Enhancing your attachment and, with it, your relationship rests on doing a few simple things:

1. Start with yourself

Individuals with secure attachment view themselves and others in a positive light. A negative self-image can hinder you from forming a secure attachment. Focus on building your self-esteem and transform that self-doubt into self-confidence. Learn to acknowledge your needs and to accept yourself for who you are (strengths, weaknesses, and all). Do this without being deprecatory or self-effacing. Know your worth and, with it, the worth of your partner.

2. Listen to your spouse

Communication is a vital aspect of all relationships and goes both ways. Learn to listen to your spouse. Let them finish when they speak. Focus on the main points and avoid mind reading. If certain statements are unclear, ask for clarification. Acknowledge that you heard what they said. Do not be defensive if they complain and be constructive when giving negative feedback. Actively listening to your partner can bolster their sense of validation and help you get to the bottom of the issue more calmly and quickly.

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3. Spend quality time outdoors

A massive study involving 290 million people confirms that being in nature is good for your health. In addition to the health benefits, spending time outdoors, surrounded by nature, can help couples bond. It gives you and your partner time to talk about everything, or even nothing so you get to focus on enjoying each other’s presence. The activity reduces stress and gives you a new perspective, making it easier to resolve issues.

4. Show your appreciation

Telling your partner how much you appreciate them can make them feel valued and bolster their self-esteem. This is especially true if your partner’s primary love language is words of affirmation. Thank your spouse for every little thing they do, whether they give you a gift or did an everyday chore. Praise them for their accomplishments. Let them know their efforts are noticed and not taken for granted.

5. Be open with your needs and emotions

When expressing your needs, try to be as direct as possible. Avoid playing games or going the roundabout way of getting what you want. Your partner is not a mindreader; don’t be vague and make them guess. If they made you feel a certain way, tell them directly. Let your spouse know what you’re feeling and what you need, so they don’t have to play a guessing game and you don’t get frustrated when they don’t guess correctly. This open communication helps foster trust and makes it easier for both of you to develop a more secure attachment.

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6. Touch each other often

Touch is a basic human need that’s encoded in our DNA. It is a powerful method of communication and can affect us at a physical and emotional level. Touching another person releases oxytocin, popularly referred to as the “love hormone.” It increases empathy, promotes relaxation, helps build trust between individuals, and strengthens their bond with each other. Hugging, cuddling, holding hands, or giving a massage are small but powerful gestures on their own that can deepen intimacy within your relationship.

A secure attachment is a cornerstone for a happy and satisfying relationship. Give your partner and yourself a fighting chance of maintaining a strong and lasting marriage. Work together and be consistent. If you need support and guidance, professional counsellors can help you work through your troubles and provide a safe place to voice out your concerns.

If you need individual or couples counselling in St. Albert, you can turn to Wendy Hart. She is dedicated to helping clients create and maintain rewarding relationships. Call her today at (780) 246-8100 to book your appointment.

Wendy Hart