Disorganized Attachment Style in Relationships: 2 Dating Tips
Have you been in a relationship where your partner worships and loves you one day, and, on the next day, they act distant, aloof, and cold towards you? Have you been in a relationship where there is a lot of back-and-forths and ups-and-downs? A relationship that does not feel stable and where you do not know what to expect from your partner. On one day, they are very close to you and on the other day, they are very far away from you; emotionally and mentally. In psychology, people that act like this in relationships are said to have a Disorganized Attachment Style. In this article, we are going to learn more about this attachment style, but, most importantly, we will learn how to communicate with a partner with this sort of style, and how to foster a healthier and more secure relationship.
What is an Attachment Style?
Before we try to understand what a disorganized attachment style is, we must first learn what an attachment style is. Put simply, an attachment type is the way we connect and relate to other people. We all have an attachment style. There is nobody that does not have one. It dictates the way we trust, or whether we trust. It refers to how we feel secure or insecure in the presence of other people; specifically, the people that are close to us. It is the way we relate with our partners, friends, and overall people that belong to our environment. Our attachment style is shaped from our childhood, from the very first relationship we have: the one with our main caregivers. If you would like to learn more about the attachment styles, what causes them, and the different types, we suggest you take a look at this article.
What is a Disorganized Attachment Style?
The disorganized attachment is one of the least discussed types of styles. It encompasses those individuals that feel very insecure about being intimate and close to other people. However, at the same time, these individuals crave connection. As a result, in their relationships, these styles create a lot of back-and-forth. This back-and-forth can be very inconsistent, unpredictable, and unstable. What happens is that when the partner of the disorganized style wants to feel close to them and desires more connection, the person with the disorganized attachment tends to feel a lot of pressure; so, they push their partner back. As they have been pushed back, the partner might decide to take distance and grant them some space. This is then when the individual with a disorganized attachment comes back to their partner, chases them, and tries to reconnect again. So, as you can understand, the disorganized attachment usually seeks the opposite from their partner. It is always one chasing the other which can make the relationship feel exhausting and unpredictable.
What causes this attachment style?
Disorganized attachment styles are usually the result of painful, traumatic, and emotional life experiences. Namely, they might have experienced situations where the same person that has shown them love is the same person that has abused and hurt them. In some cases it is the parents, but it also can be other important individuals that played a role in their upbringing and their childhood environment. As a result from their life experiences, individuals with these style struggle with separating the fact that somebody that has deeply loved them were capable of also deeply hurting them. Therefore, people with this style decide that they cannot trust people anymore, or allow themselves to connect fully with other people as they fear that they might pay a heavy price for it. Consequently, they engage in a lot of back-and-forth in relationships where they crave love but, at the same time, push their partner away.
Disorganized Attachment Styles in Relationships
Individuals with this type of style are usually not setting out to hurt their partner intentionally. On the contrary, they experience a lot of inner chaos and confusion about people and relationships. They tend to feel unsafe in their relationships and are afraid of committing and connecting with the other. Generally as there is a lot of mistrust and anxiety due to the disorganized attachment's history of trauma. All this inner turmoil affects the relationship as it creates a dynamic with many ups-and-downs and instability. It fosters a relationship with a lot of stress that, ultimately, also affects both partners self-image and self-worth. People with this attachment style tend to think that they do not deserve to be loved, that they are unlovable and unlikable, and question whether if it is even possible for them to have a calm and respectful relationship. Namely, as they did not have a very healthy relationship during their childhood.
Dating a Disorganized Attachment Style: 2 Tips
Dating a person with a disorganized attachment style can be stressful, confusing, overwhelming, and exhausting. Although they might not be entirely at fault, their unhealthy attachment dynamics can affect their partner and the relationship as a whole. Therefore, I am going to share with you some tips so you learn how to bring more connection and safety into your relationship—which is, ultimately, what this attachment style craves.
1. Improve communication
Usually, the person with a disorganized attachment style interprets the world, their partner, and the overall relationship through a filter of instability, mistrust, betrayal, and hurt. They tend to fill in the gaps of your communication with their interpretation. So, in order to foster a healthy relationship, what you need to bring to the table is transparency. Try not to leave what you mean or say up to their interpretation. You have to try to make everything explicit. In relationships with disorganized attachment styles, there usually is a lot of confusion and misunderstandings. Therefore, in order to prevent this, you have to make everything clear and reassure them.
For example, if you are going out for drinks with your friends, you have to reiterate that this does not mean that you are abandoning them—it does not mean that you are not having a good time with them, or that your feelings for them have changed.
It might sound exhausting to have to be very clear about your intentions or thoughts, but this is something that you need to do only for some time so that you can help establish some safety within the relationship. Once the safety and trust is there, you do not need to do this all the time. However, at first, we need to make these messages explicit. Because, as we established before, the person with a disorganized attachment style is going to interpret everything you do through this filter of rejection, hurt and betrayal—and we want to prevent this.
2. Set healthy boundaries
Generally, when we put pressure on our disorganized partner they can react in an aggressive or distressed way. Take, for example, when we want to have a conversation, want to talk about our feelings, or talk about something that is important about the relationship. This might trigger the disorganized partner, and they might react in a negative way. As a result, we tend to give them space—lots of space. However, because we are afraid of the conflict, this space eventually becomes silence and we never get back to what is important for the relationship. We never get back to the issue that needs to be discussed and resolved. The silence does not mean that the issue is resolved—it simply stays hidden under the carpet.
Naturally, the person with the disorganized attachment style (and you) might need some space after starting a difficult conversation. You both might not immediately have the right words or clarity to discuss the issue. So, it is indeed important to respect that your partner needs some space and time in order to put their thoughts and feelings in order. It is ok to grant them space. But, at the same time, you must set some healthy boundaries together with them. You both can decide when do you think it is best to come back and continue the conversation. For instance, you could decide to continue the conversation in one week. It is okay if you both need some time. This time can be very valuable because you both can check within yourselves and identify what your feelings and needs are. However, do go back and discuss the issue when the time is appropriate. If you don't, the insecurity might creep into the disorganized attachment style's brain.
Put simply, give your partner that space they seek and understand where they are coming from. Do not present giving them space as a punishment, or as a sacrifice you are doing. Rather, allow them to feel safe, understood, and validated. However, do set a healthy boundary—set a time or date where you will go back and discuss the issue at hand.
Individuals with disorganized attachment styles are usually people that have a history of trauma, abuse, and/or emotional neglect while growing up. As a result, they tend to view their partners, relationships, and the world at large through a filter of mistrust, betrayal, hurt, and instability. This might create unhealthy relationship dynamics with lots of ups-and-downs. If you are in a relationship with a person with this style and you want to foster a healthier relationship, try to understand them, validate them, reassure them, and communicate clearly—all the while still maintaining healthy boundaries. Also, if you feel that your partner's attachment style is getting in the way of a fulfilling relationship, you can always begin a conversation with them and seek professional help. Above all, remember you are not alone. Take care.
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