top of page

Attachment Theory, Parents, and Dating

Negative Practices

“the negative practices I was subjected to in childhood continued in my adult relationships... I did not want to accept a definition of love that would compel me to face the possibility that I had not known love in the relationships most primary to me." -bell hooks

[1] "Attachment refers to the particular way in which you relate to other people. Your style of attachment was formed at the very beginning of your life, during your first two years.  Once established, it is a style that stays with you and plays out today in how you relate in intimate relationships and in how you parent your children.”[2]

When I ask you how your partners display love, you hesitate. When I ask you how your past partners displayed love, you also hesitate. Yet, in that hesitation, you never seem to see your partners with clarity. You see them with rose-colored glasses. They are Nicholas Sparks movie and you think your struggle defines the purity of your love.  You see neglect, gaslighting, ignoring, using, disrespecting, talking down to, abusing, ignoring boundaries, cheating, diminishing, and struggling as the ultimate form of love. So, you hold onto them physically and sometimes emotionally,  and you think about them with fondness.  Why? Why do you view what is a pain as love and sincerity? Why do you hold on so tightly to what does not add, support, hold, or care for you? The answer is most likely in your childhood.

Previously, we reviewed attachment styles, but I will go over them again to briefly show the interconnectedness between our relationships with our primary caregiver and how we demonstrate attachment as adults. According to John Bowlby (1969)

  • Secure- demonstrated by those possessing a positive view of self and a positive view of others. Results from a history of warm and responsive interactions with their attachment [3]

  • Insecure- a relationship style where the bond is contaminated by fear. This is expressed mainly as reluctance in the relationship and other mixed emotions, such as dependence and rejection.[4]

    • Anxious preoccupied- “When this type of children become adults, they show a very strong need for closeness and affection. Their relationships with other people are very intense. They show dependence, a need for approval, and over-sensitivity to rejection.”[5]

    • Dismissive Avoidant- “It's common for these people to react unexpectedly – they emotionally disconnect and start acting like a robot. But this won't help them handle their anxiety."[6]

    • Fearful-Avoidant - style has characteristics of both anxious and avoidant individuals. Bartholomew and Horowitz write that they tend to have negative views of both themselves and others, feel unworthy of support, and anticipate that others will not support them. As a result, they feel uncomfortable relying on others despite a desire for close relationships.[7]

The impetus of your attachment styles is your interactions with your primary caregivers and their responses towards you. Emotionally this creates attachment styles; however, in our lived experiences we not only generate attachment styles but we define concepts based on that messaging. For example, our caregivers ignoring us will not only generate an insecure attachment style, but we will also associate being ignored with love. As a result, our definition of love becomes “being ignored” and every time we are ignored we feel a sort of fondness towards that action. We not only view it as a pleasant experience, but also, we also lean in, love more, and ultimately attach. We measure every partner to the love that was initially presented to us and when it does not fall into that category we view it as uninteresting, unhealthy, or non-beneficial. Unfortunately, the only remedy for that is to have a corrective experience. We need to partner (romantic or non-romantic) with someone who has a secure attachment. They must be willing to walk us through what it feels and looks like. That process does not put you at a disadvantage because you also have something to offer. You have your unique perspective and the life skills you acquired self-soothing. You offer strength in some areas that may not be as well-rounded as your partner. Not only do you have something to offer, but you also have something to empower you. You have a definition of love that will help you steer away from seeking what your parents offered you. You have a definition of love that will help you recognize healthy love. You have a measurement, a blueprint, and if you use this you will come out victorious in your understanding and perception of love.

bell hooks state "Love is a combination of six ingredients: care, commitment, knowledge, responsibility, respect, and trust.” [8]

She states, “ I found that a lot of people just felt really confused about what love is, so I said, here, take these six ingredients and as you go about your life, you can ask: the action I'm taking, does it have these six ingredients?” So, ask yourself do you, the person courting you, the friend you have, the friendship you are developing show these 6 ingredients? If not, sort it out or let it go. Life is to short to be unloved.


bottom of page