How To Set Boundaries, Based On Your Attachment Style
Attachment styles can bring romantic relationships together or pull them apart. Most people tend to fall under the category of one of the four attachment styles. Awareness of the attachment style you identify with most can help you break unhealthy patterns and enjoy more secure relationships.
Each attachment style can be expressed on a spectrum. Just because you identify with one style doesn’t mean that you are defined by it. Attachment styles are also flexible, and you are not locked into one style forever. If you want to become more secure you can practice self-awareness and healthy boundaries. If you desire more help with this, you can seek out therapy to work towards becoming more secure as well.
Read on to find out which attachment style you most identify with, which styles could be most complimentary to you, and how to set and accept boundaries based on your style.
Do you find yourself constantly looking for reassurance in a relationship? The anxious attachment style is characterized by difficulty trusting, more specifically, difficulty trusting that your needs will be met. This can look like fear of being alone and anxiety related to your partner leaving you, even if there is no evidence that this is likely the case.
Ask for what you need.
If you identify with the anxious attachment style it’s important to validate your needs for safety and security. You may want to ask your partner to be transparent about their whereabouts or to be more open about their feelings with you. These are healthy needs in a relationship, and it is appropriate to ask for the reassurance you need. If you worry about pushing your partner away, it may be appropriate to self-reflect and manage your own anxieties as they appear.
Accept other’s boundaries.
If your partner requests a night out with his/her friends and wants to go alone, let them! Having separate interests and some time apart is healthy for any relationship.
If anxiety or worry comes up, ask yourself – Is my anxiety rooted in reality? Is my partner actually pulling away or just wanting to have some healthy independence? Practice self-soothing during this time and try reaching out to a friend of your own, journaling your feelings, or treating yourself to a night of self-care.
In a marriage, the anxious attachment style can present as paranoid due to difficulty trusting their partner. They can also present as “needy” and request a lot of reassurance. But when in a healthy relationship and given adequate reassurances, the anxious attachment style can become more secure. This is why they pair well with a person with a more secure attachment style, who is comfortable providing that reassurance while also not feeling enmeshed by the more anxious person.
Do you end up with the same type of partner again and again? You want someone who is emotionally available, but you find yourself either picking partners who are not completely available or avoiding dating altogether. You might be open about searching for casual relationships, or pulling back from relationships as soon as they feel “clingy” or start to get serious.
The avoidant attachment style tends to feel more “suffocated” and can fear commitment in a relationship. Commitment can feel like it means enmeshment or losing one’s sense of independence and even one’s sense of self to another person.
Balance your boundaries.
If you relate to the avoidant attachment style, it’s important to feel confident in your own sense of boundaries but to balance those boundaries with letting people in. A relationship does not have to mean enmeshment. You can have your own independence and your own interests, and allow someone to be a close part of your life at the same time.
When you want to set a boundary, I recommend checking in with yourself and asking if this is a boundary you need or if you are putting up a wall.
For example, if someone you are dating mentions meeting your family and you are inclined to say no, ask yourself – Do I really like this person? Is moving our relationship to the next step worth it? Are there any factual warning signs that this would be a bad idea?
If there are no warning signs and you feel it’s worth the risk of letting this person deeper into your life, then challenge yourself to move through the discomfort and let this person in.
Relationships typically don’t last very long between two people who both tend to be more avoidant. The relationship can just “fizzle out” or come to an amicable end.
Depending on the level of avoidance, and the person’s self-awareness of their attachment, the avoidant type can pair well with a secure person or even with an anxious person.
The goal is to be aware of their own discomfort with closeness and let down their walls enough to let someone else in.
Do you relate to both the anxious and avoidant styles described above? The disorganized attachment style is essentially a combination of both anxious and avoidant styles. This can appear as a “push-pull” feeling in relationships. They may allow intimacy one day, then feel discomfort and push away the next.
It’s important to practice both types of boundaries if you identify with this attachment style. When you notice yourself putting up walls, be aware of your defenses, and try to reflect on the discomfort. When you notice yourself feeling more anxious or “clingy”, reflect on how to self soothe and calmly ask for what you need.
A secure attachment style allows for an appropriate level of vulnerability in relationships while also implementing healthy boundaries. There is a general trusting attitude that your needs are able to be met by others.
If you are willing to take risks in relationships to get to know someone but are also secure enough to end things when you notice warning signs, then you are likely secure.
A person with a secure attachment style can work on being confident in their ability to set boundaries but also being aware and empathetic about other’s attachment styles. They can typically pair well with any of the attachment styles.
They can give a more anxious partner the reassurance they may need, or give the avoidant partner time to adjust to the intimacy and closeness. The secure person is typically good at expressing their needs and trusting that they are valid.
They should not back down on getting their needs met, but awareness of their partner’s attachment style can help them develop empathy and encourage the growth of both people in the relationship.
Most importantly, self-reflection is vital to developing appropriate boundaries with each of these attachment styles. Only you can really know yourself, and if you need more reassurances (anxious), if you tend to put up walls (avoidant), or if you tend to bounce back and forth (disorganized). Take the time to listen to your feelings and develop boundaries in safe relationships that you already have with friends or family as practice for romantic relationships in the future.
Resources if you want to dive deeper into your attachment style: