guest blogger: how does attachment style impact your communication in relationships?

*Guest Blogger, Amanda Roe, wrote this post about how one's anxious-preoccupied attachment style can impact his or her communication in a romantic relationship. Amanda's full bio is at the end of this article.

The attachment style of one’s romantic partner is a very good indicator on how he or she will communicate within the relationship because of the great impact that attachment style has on communication both verbally and non-verbally. Understanding your partner’s anxious-preoccupied attachment style, for instance, can help you understand his or her needs to feel a sense of love and support in your romantic relationship. It is also important for the anxious-preoccupied individual to understand how his/her attachment style affects the communication in a relationship, so that if it is causing problems, he or she can sit down and discuss ways that could potentially improve the relationship.

Anxious-preoccupied individuals often communicate in a way that reveals their low self-esteem and dependence on their partners. According to researchers Dr. Aaron Bartholomew and Dr. James Horowitz in their 1991 article, preoccupied individuals have low avoidance and high anxiety; they view themselves as being unworthy of love and tend to base their self-worth on whether their significant other accepts them. Due to having low avoidance, these individuals want to constantly be around their partner because they typically have positive views of their loved ones and therefore exhibit validating behaviors towards them. They use communication that often praises their companion because they want to receive lots of verbal and nonverbal love in return; they want self-confirming feedback. These individuals tend to be afraid that their partners do not love them as much as they do. This frequently causes them to display clinginess and lots of nice comments, in hopes that this will make their partners love them more.  In a 1991 Journal of Social and Personal Relationships article, Judith Feeney and Patricia Noller point out that these strong needs for affiliation and external validation can lead to overinvolved communication styles.

Dr. Laura Guerrero, a researcher from Arizona State University, explains in her 1998 article on attachment styles that anxious-preoccupied partners are likely to feel and display intense jealous emotions due to their constant fear of being abandoned. With these intense feelings of jealousy, you can see how anxious-preoccupied individuals would be more likely to take part in surveillance activities and questioning of their mates. Guerrero adds that preoccupation is associated positively with cognitive suspicion, cognitive worry, fear, sadness, and envy. When surveillance actions are considered, such as spying and keeping tabs on a partner, preoccupied individuals engage in nonverbal communication that provides evidence to believe that they lack confidence and have high levels of uncertainty within the relationship.

Furthermore, an article published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 1997, by Paula Pietromonaco and Feldman Barrett, reported that preoccupied individuals have higher levels of intimacy and self-disclosure than all other attachment groups. Given the tendency to be worried about relationship issues such as sharing, love, and commitment, those high in anxiety, like preoccupied individuals, mainly focus their disclosures to their romantic partner on relationship issues such as commitment, future plans, and conflict. In fact, preoccupied partners tend to show greater intimacy and self-disclosure after having a conflict as discovered by Lee Kirkpatrick and Cindy Hazan in their 1994 journal article. According to the researchers, this is their way of making sure that their partners do not try to leave them.

Overall, anxious-preoccupied individuals seek a high level of intimacy, acceptance and responsiveness from others and appear to value intimacy over their own independence. They also have negative views of themselves and live in fear of being dismissed, abandoned, or left. This results in communication that displays high levels of validating behaviors, intense jealousy, and self-disclosure. Romantic partners of anxious-preoccupied individuals can now understand how important their role is in confirming their mate’s self-worth and understand how their partner’s attachment style influences their communication. 

References

Bartholomew, K., & Horowitz, L.M. (1991). Attachment styles among young adults: A test of a four-category model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61, 226-24.
Feeney, J.A., & Noller, P. (1991). Attachment style and verbal descriptions of romantic partners. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 8, 187-215. 
Guerrero, L. K. (1998), Attachment-style differences in the experience and expression of romantic jealousy. Personal Relationships, 5, 273–291. 
Kirkpatrick, L. A., & Hazan, C. (1994). Attachment styles and close relationships: A four-year prospective study. Personal Relationships, 1, 123-142.
Pietromonaco, P. R., & Barrett, L. F. (1997). Working models of attachment and daily social interactions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 1409–1423.

About this Guest Blogger:
Amanda Roe attends James Madison University where she will be a sophomore in the fall of 2013. She is a member of the University’s Official Dance team, the JMU Dukettes. Roe is double majoring in finance and accounting but enjoys writing and learning about communication in relationships on the side for fun. She grew up in Northern Virginia and graduated from South County Secondary School where she was in honor society, FBLA, DECA, and a four year captain of the dance team. She is honored and proud to be a part of the Duke Dog Family.  

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