Navigating relationships can be a complex and layered experience. Whether we are in a romantic relationship or developing a friendship, there are so many intricacies and nuances to consider. However, there are ways to dig deeper and connect more intimately with a romantic partner, as well as with yourself. One thing that is unexpected in relationships is what you learn about yourself. Sometimes it is these lessons that give you the greatest insight into your dating patterns.
Besides identifying your love language, it is also important to look into your attachment style, or in other words, how you connect with others. Before we go further, let's get a working definition of attachment styles. According to research conducted by Dr. Cindy Hazan and Dr. Phillip Shaver, attachment is "a biosocial process by which affectional bonds are formed between adult lovers, just as affectional bonds are formed earlier in life between human infants and their parents." So what does this all mean? Basically, how you were raised and how your parents reared you determines how you attach to people in relationships later in life.
This is commonly referred to as the attachment theory.
So why is it important to understand your attachment style in relationships?
According to Dr. Ayanna Abrams, a licensed clinical psychologist, "Knowing your attachment style is important because it helps you understand how you organize your world. It helps you to understand how you view yourself in relation to other people and how you tend to view other people in relation to yourself." In close intimates relationships, this is crucial because it can explain why you might push a partner away or why you may cling too closely to people. Depending on which attachment style you lean towards, you can gain insight into the way you bond with people and reveal patterns around dating habits.
There are four attachment styles that can be identified between adults in a relationship: secure, anxious-preoccupied, dismissive-avoidant, and fearful-avoidant.
How you fall into each category depends on a few factors: how you engage and think about closeness and emotional intimacy, how you communicate, how you listen and understand your emotions as well as your partners, your conflict resolution skills, and the expectations you place on your partner or relationships. Each attachment style has a distinct underlying basic characteristic that involves closeness or how comfortable you are being intimate and emotionally close with another person. It also involves a default to dependent/avoidant behavior. Simply put, dependent/avoidant behavior refers to how comfortable you feel depending on people or having people depend on you. Lastly, there is a component of anxiety. This means the amount of fear you have around a partner rejecting or abandoning you.
What are each of the attachment styles?
Secure Attachment: In this attachment style people are low avoidance and low anxiety. They feel safe in relationships, are comfortable with intimacy, are not worried about rejections, and are not preoccupied with relationships. People in this category tend to be more satisfied with their relationships. As a child, they view their parents as a secure base and feel they can venture out into the world and explore independently. This is also displayed in their adult relationships with a romantic partner where they feel secure and connected while allowing themselves and partner to move freely. They often are able to support their partners when they are troubled. These relationships are honest, open, and equal. Both partners feel independent and loving towards one another. People in this category do not participate in a "Fantasy Bond", this is the belief that connections provide a false sense of security. Couples that fantasy bond do not engage in real acts of love but act in a more robotic, routine way that puts distance between them and actually emotionally relating.
Anxious-Preoccupied: This attachment style is low in avoidance and high in anxiety. People in this category crave closeness and intimacy from their partners but are extremely insecure in their relationships. They are often searching for their partner to rescue or complete them as a person. This can manifest in behaviors that are seeking safety by becoming very clingy but in turn, push away their partner. Even with their desperate and insecure actions, the behaviors more times than none, only serve to exacerbate their own manufactured fears. When they become possessive towards their partners, any independent actions exhibited by their partner may only confirm their fears.
Dismissive-Avoidant: People who fall into this attachment style are high in avoidance and low in anxiety. They are normally uncomfortable with being close or intimate with other people. They also value their independence and freedom and oftentimes do not worry about their partner's availability. There is a tendency for people in this category to be emotionally distant from their partners. They can appear to be self-centered and only focused on themselves while attending to their own needs. Something else unique to this group is their ability to shut down in emotional situations and turn their feelings off with little to no reaction.
Fearful-Avoidant: This attachment style is high in both avoidance and anxiety. Here, people feel not only uncomfortable with intimacy but worry that their partner is not committed or does not love them. Essentially they feel a state of being afraid of being both too close or too distant from others. They often have trouble keeping their feelings under control, not being able to avoid anxiety but also not being able to run away from their feelings. Unpredictability in their moods is common with fearful-avoidant people. They struggle with wanting to land securely with their partner but also feeling this same person will hurt them. They almost never get their emotional needs met when they are in a relationship.
When you identify what your attachment style is, what's next?Shutterstock
If you find that you are securely attached, great! Continue to move forward in this way with people who respect and honor you while still building healthy relationships. However, if you find that you are in an attachment style that is undesirable or not beneficial, can you change your attachment style? The answer is yes. Dr. Niecie Jones, a psychotherapist, suggests doing reflexivity work, or inner reflection, to understand where certain behaviors and patterns may have begun.
Also when doing the work towards changing your attachment style, she adds, "Think of different people in your life, could be mentors, could be friends, who seem to be more open with their boundaries or with their trusting. Find certain things that they are able to say or do as habits that have helped them be more trusting and try to adapt those into your life." So there is hope. If you are thinking about starting this work, look to yourself first.
Where do you go for help to develop a new attachment style?
There are several types of resources that can help you discover a new attachment style. Ranging from books to actual in-person therapy sessions, there is a wealth of information. For some helpful reading to learn more about how attachment styles affect your love life, check out Hold Me Tight by Dr. Sue Johnson. In it, a therapy called emotionally-focused couple therapy is discussed and how your emotional attachments to your partner are the same as a child to a parent. This book also offers ways to save your relationships by "re-establishing emotional connection," with others.
However, both Dr. Abrams and Dr. Jones agree that help from a professional therapist is ideal in recognizing patterns and developing tools to engage yourself as well as others. Also, if you are in relationships and trying to work through these obstacles, it can be a difficult process. It a good idea to have a professional observe what is going on to identify the attachment styles that may be causing blocks in your romantic partnerships as well as any other relationships you might have in your life. The main key to success in relationships though is both people have to completely invest in the process.
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This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Russell and Nina Westbrook are one of those low-key, unproblematic couples we don’t talk about enough. They met in college and got married in 2015. They also have a beautiful family with three kids. While Russell is an NBA star, Nina is a licensed family and marriage therapist and a mental health advocate.
She recently launched the podcast The Relationship Chronicles with Nina Westbrook, and in the latest episode, she had none other than her husband on as a guest. The college sweethearts dived into important topics from marriage to children and how they navigate it all.
One of the topics they touched on was dealing with resentment in your relationship. The former MVP highlighted the sacrifices his wife has had to make in order for him to pursue a career in the NBA, and that’s why it’s also important for him to support his wife whenever he can.
“For me is respecting and understanding what your partner do and the time it takes,” Russell said. “Not kind of downplaying what they do, understanding the time and energy and effort they're doing to make sure whether it’s their job or making sure home is taken care of, and understanding that, I think that is the challenge of not being resentful.”
Nina agreed and also shared her thoughts on resentment. According to her, one of the best things couples should do is have their own identity and passions outside of the relationship in an effort to be fulfilled.
“I also think that when you’re in a relationship, that’s why it’s so important that each individual kinda pursue their own passions and follow their own dreams as I feel like it only becomes or leads to resentment when one person is not feeling fulfilled in what they're doing in their lives,” she explained.
“And so, they will start to look at the other partner who’s happy or excelling or promoting or moving along in their journey, then they’re left feeling stuck like they sacrificed themselves, their happiness, their career, their future and have not pursued it in the name of the relationship or their partner. So, it’s so much easier to avoid those feelings of resentment when you’re each equally pursuing your passions.”
The couple has many passions that they work on together and separately. Outside of basketball and his family, Russell has become known for his eclectic style and started the fashion brand Honor The Gift. Nina has her podcast, and she also started the mental health website Bene. Together, they run the Why Not? Foundation, which works with kids in underserved communities.
“I’m a firm believer that one person can’t be everything to you, so you have to sort of seek out those different friendships or groups or hobbies or activities that help to fulfill you,” Nina concluded.
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