How to Develop Secure Attachment in 2021

secure couple

Do you want to develop a secure attachment style, but don’t know where to begin?

Then, you’re in the right place.

Today, you’ll learn how to develop secure attachment from building security in relationships to fixing insecure attachment styles once and for all. 

Ready to create a secure attachment style for yourself (and/or your partner)? Let’s get started.

What are attachment styles?

Attachment styles are the way we attach to others. From The Attachment Theory by John Bowlby, attachment styles are developed during our childhood and affect our adult relationships as we mature. Every adult is one of four unique attachment styles.

Curious how we develop these four types? That’s next.

How do attachment styles develop?

According to The Attachment Theory, we develop our outlook on relationships, our “style,” during childhood. It is through the first relationships we have with parents or caretakers that create our attachment styles and thus, dictate our adult relationships. It is due to these relationships that we as adults might feel things like we’re being abandoned or dismissive of our romantic partners.

There are four attachment styles:

attachment styles

1. Anxious (Open Hearts)

Anxious adults generally want a lot of closeness from their partners. They may struggle with feeling unworthy of love.

2. Avoidant (Rolling Stones)

Rooted in a fear of love, avoidant adults typically fear closeness and avoid commitment. These individuals usually want more space from their partners.

3. Disorganized (Spice of Lifers) 

Disorganized adults deal with insecurity and may display unpredictable behaviors. They may want closeness, but also fear being close at the same time.

4. Secure (Cornerstones) 

Adults who are overall open to relationships and have a positive self-image are considered to have a secure attachment style. They are comfortable with intimacy.

We’re here to discuss how to develop secure attachment, the fourth attachment style, so let’s dive into that in greater detail. 

What is a secure attachment style in relationships?

Having a secure attachment style in relationships begins with oneself. It’s an internal experience.

The illusion of “a perfect relationship” is typically defined by one that is long-term and committed. But, being in a long-term relationship does not indicate a secure (nor a perfect) relationship. You can be single and have a secure attachment style.

I talk more about this in my “What is Secure Attachment in Relationship” video: 

I like to call Secure people “Cornerstones.” Generally, Cornerstones are comfortable with intimacy in a relationship, which looks like…

  • Forgiving their partner quickly after an argument or when their partner makes a mistake because they know the partner means well.
  • A Cornerstone might ask for space, but they will let you know when you can
    expect to hear from them again.
  • In a fight, a Cornerstone might raise their voice, but they will not attack your
    character. They may also make bids to reconnect emotionally, like cracking a joke.
  • Sex is usually emotionally intimate with a Cornerstone because they don’t
    need to create distance in the relationship by treating sex and intimacy as
    two separate things.
  • They are secure in their power to make changes in a relationship
    because they don’t think compromise requires sacrificing all of themselves.
  • They believe there is plenty of time and opportunities to find love. 
  • They are open to romantic relationships but don’t desperately need or reject
    them.
  • They are not typically jealous and trust a partner will voice a problem if or when
    they have it.
  • They also tend to be friends with their exes.

What are the traits of a secure partner?

Now that you know a few common characteristics of someone with a secure attachment style, let’s look at some other traits. If you are a secure individual or are dating one, you may hear them say things like:

  1. “I find it easy to be affectionate with my partner.”
  2. “I am generally satisfied with my romantic relationships.”
  3. “I don’t feel a need to act out in my romantic relationships.”
  4. “I have little difficulty expressing my needs and wants to a partner.”
  5. “I believe most people are essentially honest and dependable.”
  6. “I am comfortable sharing my personal thoughts and feelings with a partner.”
  7. “An argument with my partner doesn’t usually cause me to question the entire relationship.”
  8. “Sometimes people see me as boring because I create little drama in relationships.”
  9. “When I disagree, I am comfortable expressing my opinions.”
  10. “When my partner is upset, I don’t immediately assume it’s something I did.”
  11. “I don’t have an issue being friends with my ex, after all, I respect them and we have a lot in common.”
  12. “I don’t think arguments mean the end of a relationship, actually, it’s a chance to get to know each other better and deepen the intimacy.”

secure attachment style

Does this sound far-fetched?? That’s okay! You can build secure attachment in relationships. That’s what we’ll look at next.

How to build secure attachment in relationships

You CAN learn how to develop secure attachment from insecure attachment. It starts with looking at and learning from role models and relationships that are secure.

There are six signs of a secure relationship:

  1. Secure partners assume that their partner has their best interests at heart so they’re quick to forgive.
  2. Sex is emotionally intimate as the partner connects feeling intimate and being intimate.
  3. They feel empowered to make changes within the relationship (or leave it altogether).
  4. They believe there is plenty of time and opportunities to find love.
  5. They are not overly jealous and trust their partners  to speak up with their problems.
  6. They tend to be friends with their exes since they have a lot in common, and have an easier time transitioning from romantic love to platonic love.

For more on these six signs, watch my video on the topic:

In short, feeling secure in a relationship is a combination of authenticity, consistency, and honesty. In order to achieve and build this sense of security, there are two parts to focus on.

Accomplishing secure attachment in relationships takes two things

Emotional safety stems from a sense of felt security and accomplishing this is twofold. 

First, you must develop a basic belief that you are valuable and will be okay, no matter what. Nothing anyone else says or does detract from your value or your right to need and want what you do. This is an ultimate internal feeling of security.

Secondly, we feel secure when we know what to expect.

Knowing what to expect stems from trusting a partner to do what they say and say what they mean. This means their inner and outer worlds are aligned, and their actions are reflections of what they really feel and think on the inside.

In the context of relationships, one must also trust that they care about your wellbeing and have your best interests at heart. This requires a robust emotional vocabulary (more on that soon).

Why partners with insecure attachment styles struggle to become secure 

Many of us have a powerful fantasy of what a secure relationship might look like, but few of us have seen it in action. Oftentimes, insecurely attached people don’t feel safe enough to express true intimate passion. That’s because the pillars of a secure relationship are not in place. 

For example, you might experience the thrill of infatuation and obsess over every detail of the relationship, but this can keep you spinning your wheels, focusing on someone or something outside of yourself, that prevents you from really connecting to them, through a connection to your most authentic self, first.. It leads to a frequent compromising of your true self and “Inner Being” – and that renders you subject to your conditions, and things outside of your control, which fan the flames of attachment insecurity. As you try to avoid rejection by giving more to your partner, you wind up losing yourself.

True intimate passion – what you feel in a secure relationship – cannot exist in this type of environment, for anyone. 

Because  at the root of it, these actions come from a place where the insecure partner feels unworthy or “not good enough”

So, how do you connect to your authentic self? It’s reliant upon your ability to connect to your feelings and emotions. This means building a robust emotional vocabulary. 

couple together

How to build an emotional vocabulary

A history of emotional abandonment, invasion, or dismissal (the things that cause insecure attachment), makes it hard to develop a robust emotional vocabulary. Without it, it is difficult to know who the authentic self really is. That makes it hard to know and trust our own feelings and emotions. 

Often, I have received the question from clients and from my online community members, “How can I trust my intuition, when my nervous system is so reactive? How do I know if my feelings are real?”

Thoughts and feelings can only be described in what few terms insecure attachment styles understand. As a result, these terms are oversimplified and black and white. We say things like, “I feel good” or “I feel bad” or “I feel happy” or “I feel sad.” These vague responses offer little clarity or definition around our reasons for doing things, and the nuances of the more subtle emotions these umbrella terms encompass. 

For example, feeling “good” could encompass a wide range and tapestry of more subtle and intersecting ambiguous emotional experiences, such as “anticipation, nervousness, excitement, anxiety, impatience, joy, exhilaration, calm, contentment, curiosity”…and more. The better we are at teasing out these subtleties, the less confused and overwhelmed we feel by our emotions, and thus, the more secure we are, overall.

Anxious partners might say, “I need my partner, I can’t explain why… they are the ones for me. There is so much potential; I can make it work. I will compromise, if only they would tell me what they want.” 

For an avoidant partner, they might express, “I don’t know why it isn’t working, something just doesn’t feel right. My partner is great, but we aren’t a good fit. I don’t really know how I feel, but I can’t keep leading them on. It’s just making things worse.”

Notice how a more robust emotional vocabulary could offer a lot more clarity and definition to these vague statements, and with that clarity comes a better ability to problem solve, along with feelings of being more confident and secure within yourself, and your partnership. Building a better emotional vocabulary and developing emotional safety starts with changing how one thinks and reacts. That’s next.

Secure vs. insecure attachment thinking and reacting

Having a secure attachment style means doing what you say, and saying what you mean. To break that down, you must maintain a state of “congruence” between your inner and outer world. This requires access to your inner being and emotional clarity. 

The actions of people with secure attachment are authentic reflections of what they feel and think on the inside. In a nutshell, “what you see is what you get.” They think and react with confidence.

For insecurely attached individuals, this feels more like  “wearing your heart on your sleeve” and leaves them feeling vulnerable. They think and react while hiding their true feelings. This leads to game-playing or hot-cold experiences like:

  • Saying things, and then taking them back. 
  • Making promises, and then not showing up.
  • Acting like you have feelings, but verbally denying it. 
  • Or saying you have feelings, but then acting like you could care less.
  • Showing interest, and then dismissing reciprocation.

Insecure partners thinking and reacting this way is, in essence, a repetition of the early abandonment insecure  partners experienced as children. 

To create an emotionally safe environment in a relationship, both partners need to practice congruence with everything that they do. In short, they both have to follow through with what they tell one another.

When both partners start acting this way, they’ll start seeing the six signs of a secure relationship that we discussed earlier.

How do you create a secure attachment style?

Can you create a secure attachment style? Yes, but you need to do it in the right way. Hint: becoming a secure individual is not just “self-improvement” – it’s a lot more than that.

This process takes time and patience as there’s no overnight, quick fix. Here’s what you need to know. 

Can you change your attachment style? 

Yes. Many people never change their attachment style, but YOU have the power to do so if you choose. You can change your attachment style to become more secure and less avoidant or less anxious.

In my community, I get a lot of questions like, “Why am I still single when I’ve been doing everything right?” or “How can I heal myself so I can finally find and deserve a secure partner?”

If you continue to approach it from this perspective, like an A to B equation, it will take a LONG time to get to where you’re going. Instead, to fix your insecure attachment, you must shift your perception of what it means to be “secure.” 

How do I fix my insecure attachment style?

You can fix your attachment style over time and feel better about relationships, but it starts with perspective. The first perspective to shift is that secure attachment is NOT a measure for the success of your relationship. Security is felt INTERNALLY.

When I start with students in my online courses, I recommend they ask themselves:

  • What is a secure attachment style to you? 
  • What do you value in life and in a relationship? 
  • What were the points of contrast and contention in your past relationships? 
  • What were the areas you found painful in your past relationships? 

By asking yourself these questions, you are helping yourself to create boundaries. You are identifying and creating the vision of what it is you actually want in a relationship.

secure attachment

The second perspective to shift is how you view situations you find yourself in. Many people try to fix their insecure attachment by fixing the “wrong” thing. Let me explain with an example of “worrying in a relationship” and how you can shift your perspective to see it more as a secure attachment would.

Shifting your perspective to think like a secure attachment style

When we first arrive at attachment styles, we let our needs, our behaviors, and our external circumstances define who and what we are. For example, an anxiously attached person thinks they’re anxious because they may worry a lot. They assume a secure person doesn’t worry, therefore, they think, “If I worry less, then I’ll be secure.”

But the difference is not the worry; the difference is how identified an anxious person is with their worry, versus how unidentified a secure person is with the same worry. 

Why? The presence (or absence) of identification, amplifies or de-amplifies the worry’s effect.

The more identified we are with worry, the more we allow the worry to color the lenses through which we perceive the world and its possibilities. Without realizing it, the very worry we’re trying to avoid is compelling us in predictable ways so we fall into the same traps.

The less identified we are with our worry, the more we might take a pause between the sensation, take a step back, and decide how to better act upon it. 

How do we create this pause? We ask questions about the worry we’re experiencing. Some internal dialogue might look like this:

“Whoa, let’s do a reality check before we go making assumptions. Does this actually have anything to do with me? If not, it doesn’t mean I have no control or that I am not special to them. It just means it’s their problem and they have to work it out.”

In other words, secure attachments have a better grasp of emotional boundaries so they don’t take everything so personally. 

When secure individuals experience stressful events, they recognize they are upset and can create this space or pause. Secure people are motivated to manage stress and some may even draw closer to their partners physically and emotionally to increase closeness and intimacy. This comes from a tendency to resolve problems constructively and through problem-solving coping strategies – something that insecure individuals may not possess.

However, don’t interpret that as you need to find a partner to become more secure within yourself;You can fix insecure attachment styles and build a secure attachment styles while being single, like I explain in this video:

What happens when we don’t pause to question the worry?

When you immediately act on the worry that compels you, you are going to receive a reinforcing response from the environment (for example, a triggering response from an avoidant partner) that only keeps you caught in a cycle of never-ending worry.

In reality, they are operating in the same way you are but on the equal and opposite side of the coping continuum of behaviors and attitudes. 

So, being secure doesn’t mean the worry isn’t there, but it does mean you have more free will and spaciousness inside to buffer its effect. You are the part that observes the worry and makes decisions about it. You have control over your perspective.

From that position, worry doesn’t scare you so much anymore. Accomplishing the observer position is great, but that’s step one. There’s more to the story…

Body-based interventions to fix insecure attachment styles

To change from insecure to secure attachment, you can also take a more direct and effective approach with body-based interventions. 

When we have lived our life the same way for decades, it’s hard to change our perspective on a biological level. Your neurons have carved a synaptic groove in your brain and the cells of your body carry a pattern of reactivity to certain kinds of situations. Let’s call it “temperament,” but typical reactions are ingrained within us on a deeper level.

To explain, let’s continue with the worrying example from earlier. If you worry about how much you notice yourself worrying, that explains this deeper level – and that’s double trouble. 

I go into this in more detail in my video: How To Achieve Secure Attachment Fast (NOT “Self-Improvement”).

 

Moving towards secure attachment, you must allow more spaciousness within you to make more informed decisions. This happens internally as you learn how to connect to your own insecurities and form self-acceptance. Eventually, those uncertain feelings will dissipate. 

There is no quick fix to this. This process is achieved through witnessing, observing and becoming tolerant of your own insecurities – and continued practice. In the meantime, just try to retrain your mind to reframe negative thoughts into statements of affirmation, and you will move towards a more secure orientation. 

Over to you!

There you have it! Now you know how to develop secure attachment. 

It takes consistency and work, but if you can reframe your beliefs and behaviors, then you can actually be MORE fully yourself. Becoming secure is not changing who you are, it is unfolding into who you have always been on a soul level. 

Want to learn more? Leave a question in the comments below. 

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Hi, I'm Briana.

And I love romance novels and campy science fiction shows (anyone else a die-hard Supernatural fan?). I also like being my own boss. Doing what I want to do, when I want to do it. And treating work like play. Through my education, professional experience, and personal life experiences, I have come to passionately serve insecurely attached adults, who want to experience soul-deep intimacy, in their romantic relationships.

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