We all deal with problems in different ways, but attachment theory can shed some light on why you do the things you do, and why infidelity has affected you in the way that it has.
In this episode, you’ll learn what attachment theory is and the three different types of attachment. You’ll also learn how to develop into the kind of attachment that will help you show up in your intimate relationships the way you want to and that will have the most impact.
Most of all, you’ll learn how to have compassion for where you are, and an understanding of how you can help yourself feel more secure and safely attached.
I’m Andrea Giles. And you’re listening to the Heal From Infidelity Podcast,
episode number 49, Attachment Theory.
Hello and welcome to the Heal From Infidelity Podcast, where courageous
women learn not only to heal from their spouses betrayal, but to become the
boldest, truest, most decisive and confident versions of themselves ever.
If you know there’s more for you than the life you’re currently living, but
don’t quite know how to get there, you are in the right place. Stick around
to learn how to create a life that will knock your own socks off. Is it
possible? It is. And I’m here to show you how. I’m your host, Andrea Giles.
Are you ready? Let’s dive in.
Hello everybody, I hope everybody’s doing well. I hope everybody’s had a
pretty good week. I am doing great. I am home after a wonderful trip with
my husband celebrating our five year anniversary last week, we had such a
great time. We are trying to pack in what we can before this little baby
comes, because we know that it’s going to change things somewhat or a lot.
So before I dive into today’s topic, I want to just tell you that I know
that some of you listening have reached out with interest in working with
me. Maybe I’ve talked to some of you, maybe you have thought about it.
Maybe you thought about reaching out and have been nervous for some reason
or afraid that we won’t be a good fit or that it’ll be intimidating or that
you’ll feel uncomfortable in some way. And I just want to tell you that I
am filling up my spots quickly for the rest of the year until I have this
And so if you are interested in working with me now is the time, especially
one-on-one. If you want to work with me one-on-one, now is the time I have
spots that I’m opening up for the rest of the year. I have some
availability soon. I have some that’s coming up a little bit later. And if
you are somebody who has considered it, now’s the time, come see me. You
can go to my website, AndreaGiles.com. There’s the link right on there,
it’s a yellow button where you can push it and you can schedule a consult
with me and come talk to me, see if we’re a good fit and we’ll get started.
So today I’m going to be talking about something called attachment theory.
Many of you maybe have heard of it. Maybe you have not, either way I hope
you stick around. I hope you stick around because this has to do with you.
It is very relevant to what we work through in infidelity, in matters of
infidelity. Attachment theory explains a lot about our behavior and about
how we respond to infidelity, how we respond to our spouses. How we
internalize it, what we make it mean. It’s something I’ve been studying a
lot lately that I’ve been trying to understand at a deeper level to help my
clients and to help myself as I navigate some things with myself. And so I
thought, you know what? I’m going to share with them in hopes that it will
help you today as well.
So what is attachment theory? Attachment theory was coined by John Bowlby
and Mary Ainsworth, they teach about three different kinds of attachment.
I’m going to tell you what they are. I’m going to tell you how they came to
find these. And I want you to listen as I describe each one, and I want you
to listen for which one best describes you in the different kinds of
attachment styles. There’s different styles. I want you to see if there’s
one that sounds more like you than another.
And then I’m going to talk with you about how that might be affecting you
now and how you could help yourself to work through any areas that need
strengthening in regards to your attachment style. So much of what I’m
going to be sharing with you comes from a book that is an amazing book.
It’s called the Assertiveness Guide For Women. It’s by Julie de Azevedo
Hanks, and it’s a wonderful book, but she teaches a lot about attachment
theory in it and teaches about how, when we can understand our attachment
style, it makes a lot of sense why many of us struggle to be advocates for
ourself. Why many of us shy away from conflict, difficult conversations,
being assertive. It makes it understandable to go, yeah, it makes sense
that I am the way that I am. And once you understand it and have the
awareness, you can work on it, you can improve, you can grow.
So basically these two people, John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth, they did an
experiment. And they did is they studied babies. So what they did is they
separated children from their mothers and they watched them. They observed
them. And at first children protested, they were visibly upset by the
separation from their caregiver. I guess it wasn’t just a mother, but it
was like a caregiver. Next they sunk into despair, becoming apathetic and
withdrawn. And then finally after continued separation, the children became
detached and unresponsive. Bowlby identified four components of attachment
that children develop around to maintain connection. First is proximity
maintenance. They desire to be near attachment figures, to maintain
Two, a secure base, the role of the caregiver or attachment figure plays
and from which the child can explore the larger world. So this is kind of
like a toddler who is like, you see a kid playing at a park, they wander
off a little bit and then they come right back to their parent to make sure
that they’re still there. Number three, safe haven, the return to the
caregiver for a kiss or hug. When that same toddler feels scared or
threatened, she’ll return for comfort. Number four, separation distress,
the emotional upset exhibited by young children when they’re separated from
their parent or caregiver. This looks like when you leave your toddler with
a babysitter for the first time and they will protest and they don’t like
it. Now, a way that is recommended is that it’s okay to go away from your
child for a little while, but the child needs to know that you’re going to
come back and that builds trust.
It builds trust to know that you’re going to come back. and many of us have
learned to survive drive by detaching or denying our feelings and needs. If
the caregiver didn’t come back, or if we detached before they came back,
what it taught our brain is you got to detach and you got to deny how you
actually feel to make it in this world. Now our attachment style can
determine very much what our intimate adult relationships are like, future
relationships. We have similar patterns of protesting, despairing ,and then
detaching. We can see that in adult relationships. If an adult relationship
is threatened by illness, by betrayal, by fear of abandonment, et cetera,
then it’s very likely that the person who is feeling those things, like
that they are going to get left behind or things like that, might detach.
They might be anxious. So the general attachment style developed in earlier
life can also be seen in adult relationships, especially with your intimate
partner. So I think that piece is really important. Many of us have secure
adult relationships with adults that are not our partners, but these
attachment styles are really the most present when it comes to our intimate
So now I want to tell you what the three attachment styles are. I’m going
to give you a definition, a brief definition of them and then I’m going to
actually ask you some questions. And I want you to think about it and
determine which one best describes you. So in the study that these two did,
60% of the children were what’s called a secure attachment. They had formed
secure attachments. They felt distressed when separated from a caregiver,
joy upon reunification with caregiver, and ability to be close to others,
trusting of others to meet needs. That’s called the secure attachment
Anxious attachment style. 20% of these kids had that. Distraught upon
separation, difficult to soothe upon reunification, clingy and overwhelmed.
Number three, avoidance, another 20%. Minimal distress upon separation,
does not seek contact when the caregiver returns. Just like, I’m just fine.
I don’t need you. Now the thing that’s super interesting is that among
adults, it’s roughly the same percentages that fall into these three
different camps. 60% secure, 20% anxious, 20% avoided. Now I want you to
hear me right now. As I’m teaching you this, I don’t want you to judge
yourself or just think, oh my gosh, see, I am messed up. Even as I have
been studying this, I can see I definitely have patterns where I’ve been
anxious and patterns where I’ve been avoidant, for sure. I think that there
are relationships that I feel very secure in. Where my anxiousness and
avoidance have come up, have been in intimate relationships. And I’ll talk
a little bit more about that later.
So as you are learning these things, I want you to just be aware and know
that we can’t often see what we are doing. We can’t see the things that
we’re thinking, especially because these things were developed when we were
really young. Really young. So how are we supposed to know? Unless somebody
helps you see it. So when you are just coasting through life, not coasting,
but just living your life, we make assumptions. We think that other people
do things the way we do that this is what it looks like to be married. This
is how people do relationships. And it’s not until we’re often in a lot of
pain and really feeling distressed and hurt in our relationships that we
sometimes are ready to take a look at things that we might be needing to
grow in, areas that we need to strengthen.
And so that is the intention here is to just help you be aware and to see
where maybe you can help yourself to grow. So that’s the lens I want you to
look at this through. It’s self-reflection, getting familiar with the
attachment types and seeing where you land. So now I’m going to read you
some characteristics of each type of attachment style, and I want you to
hear and see what one sounds like you. So number one, I often rely on
others approval to feel good about myself. I worry about my loved ones when
we’re physically apart. I often worry that I’ll unintentionally push people
away. I usually want to be closer to my friends, family, and lover than
they want to be to me. Type one, and type one is anxious. That’s an anxious
Type two, this is avoidant. I frequently feel suffocated in relationships,
especially with intimate partners. I feel best about myself when I’m
independent and autonomous. I’ve been labeled aloof or distant in more than
a few different relationships. I often wonder why other people get so upset
about trivial things. I tend to let things roll off my back. Again, that’s
avoidant. Type three, secure. I like being with loved ones and also
spending quiet time alone. I don’t worry much about my loved ones when
we’re apart. I feel things deeply, but I rarely lose my cool. Most of the
time I am aware of what I’m feeling inside. I have rarely felt smothered or
suffocated in my love relationships. Again, there’s no good or bad here.
There’s a right or wrong. These just are. Understanding will help you
pinpoint areas where you can learn and grow, areas where you can expand in
your communication skills and your connection skills.
And they can be flexible. Know that these are not set in stone. Just like
thought patterns, they come with us from childhood and don’t even know that
they’re there. We’re unaware of it. But once you become aware, they are
flexible. You can grow. You can move. You can step out of these into a more
secure attention. Now, how does this show up around situations of
infidelity? I want to talk to you about that now. So if you are an anxious
attachment style, if that’s what you have, you can imagine… Let’s say, I
know if you’re listening, you’ve experienced some kind of betrayal and
let’s say you are experiencing betrayal. And you know that there is
something amiss, you know that there are maybe holes in the story that
you’re being told perhaps, but you cling to the relationship.
You’re anxious about being abandoned. You’re anxious about being separated.
It’s easy to become overcome with emotion, overwhelmed with emotion and you
often have trouble separating out thoughts and feelings. It kind of all
feels like one big blob. People who have that anxious attachment style
often are afraid to speak up for fear of creating distance or rejection. So
even if you know that there are or issues, you know that your spouse is
doing things that you are not okay with, you’re often hesitant to speak up
for fear of a rejection, of overwhelming the other person. And often can’t
even identify what it is that you’re feeling. It just kind of feels like a
big blur or big blob of emotion. So for this person, if this is you, how
can you help yourself with this? First of all, understanding your
attachment style, just knowing what it is, start identifying, what are your
thoughts? What are your feelings? What are your needs? What are your wants?
Separating them out.
Now you’ve heard me talk before about an exercise to separate out your
thoughts and feelings. It’s called a thought download. You just dump out
your brain and I often recommend coming up with some kind of situation. So
let’s say you put at the top of your paper your spouse’s name and then you
dump out on paper all of your thoughts about this person. Or you could put
at the top of the paper the thing that he has been involved in that has led
you to find this podcast, and then you can dump out your brain on paper and
write down all of your thoughts about it. Now, as you go through that, you
can look and see what our thoughts and what are feelings.
So for example if you’re like, he’s such a jerk, or I don’t know how we’ll
ever be okay. I don’t know how we can fix this. Things like that, those are
your thoughts. I must not be good enough thoughts. If you’re writing down,
I am heartbroken. I am so sad. Those are feelings. Those are your feelings.
So separate it out. I recommend getting a highlighter, you can highlight
out, what are your thoughts? What are your feelings? Slowing your brain
down long enough to get it out of your head and onto paper it can be so
powerful. And you can see on paper where you are maybe blurring, thoughts
and feelings. As far as wants and needs, we often mute the things that we
want. And we often confuse things that we need for things we want. Now, how
do you know if it’s a need or a want? A need is something you need to
survive and thrive. A want is something that would be nice to have.
There is no moral superiority to either one, but it’s good to know what are
your needs? What are your wants? Separating them out. Developing out
emotional management strategies. Now some of that can come from listening
to past episodes. I think one of the top five episodes that I’ve done, top
five meaning the most downloads is called Feeling your Feelings. Go back to
that one, study it, practice feeling your feelings, practice sitting in
feeling, develop other emotional 911 tools, things to help you when you’re
really in it. When you’re really struggling, work on building your
communication skills. A woman who has an anxious attachment style might
feel really dependent on her relationship to feel good about herself. So if
she’s dealing with her spouse being unfaithful in some way. And she’s still
dealing with this anxious attachment style, she’s going to have a hard time
asserting herself and separating herself from him to really objectively
look at everything and make decisions that are best for her.
She’s going to have this primitive, needy, clingy, I can’t let go of this,
I’m so afraid, I don’t want to lose him. And I promise you, it comes from
that anxious attachment style that says that you’re going to get left
behind. You have to stay. You’re going to get abandoned. It’s coming from a
very fearful place. So learning to separate those things out, what are my
scared emotions here and what am I afraid of? And then deciding, do I want
to let those dictate how I show up here? Or are there other skills that I
can develop so I can make really clear decisions for myself?
Next up is the avoidant attachment style. So characteristics avoidant
attachment is uncomfortable being too emotionally close others, they feel
content interacting on a surface level. They’re often very unaware of
thoughts and feelings, just like the anxious attachment. And often they
detach even more from their emotions during conflict or stress. So have you
ever talked to somebody who you’re in a conversation, maybe a conflict and
they are stone faced? Almost like no emotion, nothing. And you’re like,
come on, do you not feel anything? Are you just a robot? And they are just
almost robotic. They likely have an avoidant attachment style. This person
has discomfort in discussing emotions for fear of getting too close. They
believe that it’s better to just let things go. So they might seem like a
really calm and cool and like nothing ever gets to them. And in reality,
they are scared to death of getting hurt. They’re scared to death of
letting down their wall, getting close to somebody only to get slammed.
They’re very guarded when it comes to speaking up, being assertive, they’re
And some of the things that this person might want to work on is again,
understanding your attachment style and spending time truly thinking about
the value of closeness and relationships. So for those of you listening,
where you feel avoidant attachment style in you, you might just retreat.
That might be your go-to, to pull back, to not share, to close down, to
almost numb out as if it doesn’t bother you. For you, it could be really,
really helpful to spend time actually going, why does this relationship
matter? What is valuable about me stepping in here and really getting into
it and being uncomfortable with this person? What would be helpful here to
show that I do actually care about this relationship and this person?
Because it’s easy for the person on the other side to think they don’t
care. They just don’t care. They don’t care enough to even feel anything.
They’re just like talking to a brick wall, like nothing there. There’s
nothing there. And again, developing communication skills to learn how to
speak without a flood of emotions where or you can’t think anymore because
you’re so overcome with emotions and learning how to stop minimizing or
denying their own need for close relationships and allow the discomfort of
being close to somebody instead of being afraid of letting their emotions
get the best of them, they’re okay showing some emotion, they learn how to
let down their guard. They might be worried that others will think of them
as out of control if they show emotion and they practice thinking more
about what they think and caring more about what they think than about what
other people think.
In this situation with the avoidant attachment style, if one of you, or
both of you in a marriage are avoidant, you might just never talk about
anything and ignore things altogether, skirt around it, pretend like you’re
fine. But at the root of it, we all are emotional beings, all of us. We all
have feelings. We all get hurt. We all have emotions. And so one of you has
to be willing to be seen. One of you has to be willing to share and to feel
the vulnerability of showing emotion and expressing emotion. And who better
to do that than you, my friend. Who better than you.
All right. The next one is secure attachment. Some characteristics of
secure attachment are forming relationships and feeling comfortable alone,
they can do both. Able to manage emotions, can separate out thoughts and
feelings, can handle themselves pretty well in a conflict, speak up for
what they want. Have a pretty good emotional vocabulary. Pretty good at
identifying what their feelings are. Sometimes they have difficulty
identifying emotions or lack confidence to be assertive, but they do have
kind of a core belief that they’re worthy of being in the relationship.
They understand that relationships are important. They understand that
there are times to be close and there are times to be alone. So there’s
always room for growth here too.
Some goals here to work on, even if you find yourself in this secure
attachment style is continuing to identify what your feelings, thoughts,
needs, and wants are, practicing emotional management skills, developing
and solidifying communication skills. And knowing that individuals with
secure attachment style can be really close to people in relationships, but
also can be alone. They experience a full range of emotions and often have
a pretty high tolerance to intense emotions, not only of themselves, but of
other people. So in areas to grow in all of those areas, there’s always
room for growth. So even if you find yourself with a pretty good tolerance
for other people’s emotions, what areas do you shy away from?
Are there specific emotions you don’t feel comfortable with? Are there
things that you shy away from in conversations because you don’t want to
feel it? Those are your areas for growth. Learning how to not be
overwhelmed by emotions, learning how to speak up and communicate needs and
feelings. So I want to talk about the connection between emotions and
feelings and emotions, and being assertive. The more we can form secure
attachment styles, the more safe we feel to be assertive. And if we have
one of the other ones, avoidant or anxious, we often feel like we need to
hide. And that does not serve us well at all when we are working through
infidelity. Doesn’t serve us at all if we feel like we can’t speak, if we
feel like we’re muted, if we feel like we’re going to get rejected if we
speak up, and you know what, we can’t control at all, what other people do
and they might leave.
They might not like what you have to say, but it’s crucial because what
it’s actually saying is I matter, my opinion matters. My experience
matters. My life matters. How I am treated matters. So often what happens
is women will ignore clues that there are things that they need to talk
about. There are things that need to be brought to the surface and worked
through. And know that if you are avoiding emotions, it can have a great
toll on you, not just on your relationships, but your relationship with
yourself, your overall health and wellbeing. So again, from Julie Hanks’
book, she talks about ways to know if you are keeping emotions inside. I’m
going to read these to you. They get trapped act inside and fester. So you
feel them kind of building and building.
My blood pressure rises, I get stressed out. I get headaches. I overeat, I
withdraw and get depressed. I start worrying. I get irritable. I feel on
the verge of tears all the time. I take it out on my kids. After a while I
blow up at somebody who doesn’t deserve it. Do any of those sound like you?
I know I’ve done all of those things at different times. So in practicing
this work of noticing your attachment style and practicing feeling your
feelings, saying the things that feel uncomfortable. Use those cues that I
just read to you to know as a signal, what am I avoiding? What am I hiding
from? What am I feeling anxious about and look for it and find it. Bring it
out into the open. Now I want to tell you a little bit about my experience
with this. So I’ve been studying attachment theory as a way to help my
clients to go deeper in their healing.
But also because as I’ve recognized in myself some things that have been
difficult and some things that have been really painful and where in
general, I am a pretty confident person. I feel like I’m pretty level
headed most of the time, but every once in a while, I’ll get really afraid
of something and I will worry, or I will retreat in my intimate relation
with my husband, relationship. And I’ve noticed that, and I’ve mentioned
I’m expecting. And for whatever reason, this change in circumstance for me
has brought up some things that I had thought that I dealt with or that I
have dealt with, but I’m working through them at a deeper level. And so
it’s been really helpful for me to drop the judgment and go, oh, it makes
perfect sense that I might be that way. I’ve had discussions with my mother
to understand a little bit more about why I might have formed some of the
attachment styles that I have.
One of the things that she told me is that my second dad, so my first dad
died when I was two days old. And then she got remarried when I was two, he
liked me. He thought I was cute. And he would snuggle up to me and play
with me and things like that. Well they got divorced when I was five, I’ve
never seen him since, not once. I’ve not seen him at all. And so I can see
how I would have formed some anxious attachment and worrying if somebody is
going to leave. And so I want you to just take these things and understand
that just like I’m doing the same thing of going, it makes perfect sense,
of course I’m that way. And it’s just like holding a mirror up to myself to
show me how I need to grow, where I need to grow, where I need to develop.
And I will always keep growing. I may be the one sitting behind the
microphone, teaching you these things. And I have worked through a lot. I
have come a long way, but I’m always going to keep growing, and guess
what’s awesome? As I keep growing, I’m going to bring it right back to you
to help you. That’s my commitment to you. So for me, I see all three
attachment styles. With friends, with many, many relationships I feel very
secure, but in my intimate relationship with my husband, I see where there
is a lot of security, but there’s also times where I feel avoidant and
anxious. It’s not very often, but it does come up. And so it’s given me an
opportunity to go deeper, to explore, to see if there’s areas that I’m not
speaking up for fear of rejection or things like that. And to practice is
speaking up, practice being more assertive. It’s been good for me. It’s
So my friends, that’s what I have for you today. I want you to just take
this information, learn about yourself. You can go look up these attachment
styles online. They’re there to help you understand how you might be
responding to your spouse’s choices. If you have an avoidant attachment
style, you might be just closed off, shutting it down, like nope. And
people that have avoidant attachment styles, if they end up getting
divorced, they’re like, I will never date again. Why on earth would I do
that again? Anxious attachment style, they might be feeling really unhappy,
but really scared to speak up and to really communicate how hurt they are
or what they actually want or asking for things, making requests, because
they’re afraid that they’re going to be rejected.
Where with a secure attachment style, yeah, it’s still hard. There’s no way
around that. But here’s the difference is… And I’ve worked with all three
I’ve worked with all three different kinds of clients with all three
different kinds of attachment styles and the ones with the secure
attachment style don’t take on as much of the meaning of I must not be good
enough, I must just be this and that. They don’t carry that as deeply as
some of my clients who come to me with anxious attachment style, for
example. And again, please know that there’s no judgment here because I’m
right there with ya with my own stuff that I carried into my first marriage
and that I didn’t know how to deal with. And so it’s just for information
to help you to learn.
So I sure appreciate all of you listening. I want to say also that I had
set the goal to get a hundred downloads by the anniversary of my podcast
launching, which is August 12th of last year. We’re now up to 96, so six of
you have hopped on and rated or reviewed. Thank you so much. Thank you so
much. It means the world to know that you’re listening, to know that it
matters to you, that I am here and record this podcast for you every week.
And I thank you and I ask that you, if you haven’t yet, go review, go give
it a review. Let other people know how it has helped you. Imagine for a
moment, somebody who wakes up at 2:00 AM and can’t sleep because she’s so
distressed over the things that she has found out. And she’s like, “I just
need help. I just need help.” And she doesn’t know where to go.
And so she puts into the search infidelity, into the podcast search,
infidelity. There pops up Heal From Infidelity by Andrea Giles. She’s like,
“Huh? I wonder if this is legit. I wonder if this is actually helpful.” She
goes and reads through the reviews. She reads what they say, how they have
helped people, and guess what she does? She starts listening and it starts
helping her. I want to help more women. So many women and men too, I know
that there are male listeners, are hurting terribly and feel very alone.
Feel like there’s no help, feel like no one actually understands them. I
want them to know that they matter, that they are heard, that they’re
loved, that there’s help for them. Will you help me help them? Please write
a review for these people who are suffering and need to know that there’s
help for them. Thank you so much. And I will see you next time, bye-bye.
Thank you for listening to the Heal From Infidelity Podcast. If you would
like to be kept in the know about upcoming free classes, new podcast
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