Loveand attachment in adults are complex psychological phenomena (Sable,2008). Attachment can be defined as the emotional feelings andconnection to someone else (Fonagy, 2014). Attachment is an essentialcomponent of love (Baumeister& Bushman, 2013).Naturally, human beings have a tendency to develop emotionalattachment which begins during infancy (Fonagy, 2014). However, beingattached to someone is different from being in love with someone.Therefore, a person can be attached to another person but no loveexists between them (Fonagy, 2014). On the other hand, love cannotexist if there is no attachment (Fonagy, 2014). There are differentattachment styles that exist among adults (Fonagy, 2014). Theseattachments influence the type of love the individual is likely todevelop. However, it is important to note that attachment does notimply exclusive dependence on another person (Sable, 2008).Attachment is associated with a sense of safety and forms a necessaryfacet of intimate relationship (Sable, 2008).
Adultshave different styles of attachment, which results in variations inthe way they experience love and achieve intimacy (Sable, 2008).Generally, attachment styles can be grouped into two categories,secure and insecure attachment (Fonagy, 2014). Individuals who havesecure attachment can get emotionally close to other people withrelative ease (Fonagy, 2014). They are comfortable when other peopledepend on them or when they depend on other people (Fonagy, 2014).Additionally, they are not emotionally affected by being rejected orbeing alone (Fonagy, 2014). Secure attachment is associated withwarm interactive and responsive relationships (Fonagy, 2014). Inorder to develop a secure attachment, an individual should havepositive perceptions and views about the other party he or she isattached to (Fonagy, 2014).
Thereare several categories of insecure attachment which include‘anxious-preoccupied’ attachment, ‘dismissive-avoidant’attachment and ‘fearful-avoidant’ attachment (Baumeister& Bushman, 2013).In anxious-preoccupied attachment style, the individual isemotionally attached to other people but other people find itdifficult to be attached to him or her (Fonagy, 2014). While theindividual is comfortable with other people, he or she is concernedthat other people are unlikely to value their relationship (Fonagy,2014). Therefore, they seek attachment partners who are more intimateand responsive. As a result, they are likely to be over dependent onindividuals they are attached to (Fonagy, 2014). They are moreanxious about their attachments especially when they are not incontact with the attachment figure (Fonagy, 2014). In dismissiveavoidant attachment style, the individual is comfortable without anyemotional attachment with other people (Fonagy, 2014). Thisattachment style is associated with the feeling of self-sufficientand independence (Fonagy, 2014). The desires for self-independenceresult in avoidance of attachment with other people and less need forintimate relationships (Fonagy, 2014). Additionally, theseindividuals are likely to suppress their rejection by keeping adistance from other people who have rejected them. Fearful-avoidantattachment style is mainly observed in individuals who experiencedabuse, especially sexual abuse during childhood (Fonagy, 2014). Theseindividuals are uncomfortable when getting emotionally attached toother people, although they need close relationships (Fonagy, 2014).As a result of difficulties in trusting other people or beingdependent on others, they unconsciously experience a feeling ofnegative views about themselves as well as other people (Fonagy,2014). For example, they can view themselves as unworthy or alwaysdoubt the intentions of other people (Fonagy, 2014).
Accordingto the Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love, there are three typesof love, intimacy, passion and commitment (Baumeister& Bushman, 2013).Intimacy love refers to the aspect of love that makes individualsclose or attached to each other (Sternberg, 2007). Intimacy love isassociated with the feeling of security and trust (Sternberg, 2007).Consequently, it develops after a period of time as the partners getused to each other resulting in self-disclosure (Sternberg, 2007).Intimate love is associated with the partners being comfortable andopen when talking to each other (Sternberg, 2007). Passion loverefers to the physical attraction to each other (Sternberg, 2007).This includes the desire to be physically close to one another(Sternberg, 2007). Commitment refers to the decision to remainfaithful and loyal to the partner through a mutual decision todevelop a lasting and satisfying intimate relationship (Sternberg,2007).
Studieshave established a link between attachment styles and type of love inan individual. Having a secure attachment style means that theindividual does not have problems establishing or maintainingintimate relationships (Bolt, 2004). These individuals are lesslikely to have issues with the three types of love identified by inthe Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love (Bolt, 2004). Individualswith avoidance attachment styles are likely to guard their emotionsto prevent disappointments in the future (Bolt, 2004). Consequently,they are likely to have challenges in establishing intimaterelationships or committing themselves to a long-term relationship(Bolt, 2004). This makes it difficult for him to establish any otherthe types of love identified in the triangular theory of love (Bolt,2004). Individuals with anxious attachment styles also have difficultin intimacy and commitment because they are not sure what they expectfrom their partners (Bolt, 2004).
Psychologistsand relationships therapists can use the relationship between typesof love and attachment style to help individuals develop successfuland fulfilling intimate relationships (Bolt, 2004). For example,identifying past experiences that have an impact on feelings ofoneself and others can be used to alter anxious attachment andavoidance attachment styles (Bolt, 2004). Psychologists can assistindividuals with insecure attachments to develop their self-esteemand self-concept and resolve the insecurity that negatively affecttheir ability to establish intimate relationships (Bolt, 2004).
Baumeister,R. & Bushman, B. (2013). SocialPsychology and Human Nature, Brief.Cengage Learning, ISBN 1285546245.
Bolt,M. (2004). Pursuinghuman strengths: A positive psychology guide.NY: Worth Publishing.
Fonagy,P. (2014). Attachmenttheory and psychoanalysis.New York: Other Press Professional.
Sable,P. (2008). "What is Adult Attachment?". ClinSoc WorkJ 36: 21–30.
Sternberg,R. J. (2007). "Triangulating Love". In Oord, T. J. TheAltruism Reader: Selections from Writings on Love, Religion, andScience.West Conshohocken, PA: Templeton Foundation. p. 332.