Attachment Theory in Adult Romantic Relationships

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Wesleyan University
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Adult attachment borrows its roots to the kind of emotional bond that was present in an individuals life at his or her young age. Good parental relationship and attachment commonly lead to a very strong bond emotionally to romantic partners. It is, therefore, evident that the opposite of the above will probably lead to a destroyed or weak romantic love. This paper aims at looking at the kind of love relationships in relation to letting a partner come and go. Does the kind of relationship that one had between his or her caregiver at an early age affect the romantic relationships one have at a later age?

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A British psychoanalyst by the name John Bowlby came up with the attachment theory after a research on the distress that infants undergo when they are taken away from their parents. The separated child would portray attachment behaviors such as crying or clinging to the parent in a bid to try not to lose him or her or while trying to reintroducing a close proximity with the parent. The attachment behaviors are as a result of a strong bond created between the infant and the parent. It is already in the child's mentality that the only person that takes care of him or her gives her support and protection is the parent. The thought of losing the parents, therefore, means that they are somehow left to be independent (Bowlby & Ainsworth, 2013).

It is evident that from the attachment theory, children that able to maintain a close proximity with their guardians and providers develop a certain kind of positive attitude towards life and can survive relationship matters at an older age. The attachment brings about a system that Bowlby describes as the attachment behavioral system. The system is of relevance in the mental development of the child. An infant will always be thinking of the proximity of the attachment figure. In case the figure is around, the infant gets secure, loved and cherished feeling and most probably goes on with his or her daily activities assured that someone is checking on him or her. If the infant does not access the attachment figure, he or she develops a fear and feeling of insecurity. He or she, therefore, have to always stay on guard and is worried that no one will come to help if needed. The thoughts crossing the infant's mind prevents him or her from exploring the world around her and he or she may end up depressed. The same continues even in later stages of life since the basis of relationships of the kid was destroyed ( Goldberg, Muir& Kerr, 2013).

Hazan and shaver took interest in John's attachment theory and related the infant relationship to the relationships that one has in his or her lifetime. The emotional bond that develops in an infant influences greatly the kind of bond that develops between romantic partners. It is also evident that infants and lover share the same features in that they feel safe when the other is in a close proximity, there is engagement in a close and intimate contact, there is sharing of discoveries and life experiences. Therefore, just as infant relationships, romantic lovers develop the attachment behavioral system to one another.

In reference to the above information and by relating it to the relationships in my surrounding, I have observed that people engaging in a romantic relationship tend to have a certain series in letting go. My best friend from childhood was separated from her mother at a very tender age of one and a half years. Her mother went to work in a different country and could not carry her with her. She was therefore left under the care of her aunt. There was already a bond developed between the mother and the daughter and therefore letting go her mother was a difficult time for her. Worst still accepting her aunt as the care giver took some moment. At the end of the day, however, she was stuck with her aunt and she had to get used to that. Life went on so well until she had her first boyfriend. Their love was one of a kind that we envied so much. They were the power couple in our era, the undying love for one another, the support and care they offered to one another.

Everything that has a beginning almost always has an end. Their time came and they got separated. My good friend had such a troubled time to let go her lover. Our long talks showed me that she had that she had developed a very strong attachment to him; she considered her as her confident and trusted him so much. While in any troubled situation she would call him and he always responded positively. He was always there when she needed him. She revealed that she was so hurt by the departure of his boyfriend was a reminder of her mother's departure. It hurt her again that the kind of relationships she begins in life and trust that will work well never went far and were very short lived (Hojjat & Cramer, 2013).

From John's theory, Hazan and Shaver conducted a research in 1987 to find out whether the attachment patterns observed in one's infant life and the relationship at young age repeat themselves when one grows up. They observed how people feel, think and behave when they are in close relationships with others. Their research showed that a large percent of people, almost 60%, are very secure and are open to others getting attached to them. The other groups fell equally between being very insecure and not comfortable getting close; the distance kept is to avoid getting hurt. The other group was reluctant to get close and are too cautious to an extent that it scares the people who engage in a relationship with them.

In reference to the research conducted by the two, I concur that attachment behavior goes on to affect romantic relationships. The kind of infant relationship one developed at that tender goes on to affect many things including selecting partners. Different people look for different qualities in a partner. Some may look at the outward appearance, others at the general behavior while others will go an extra mile of consulting their parents. There is however who get together just because there was attachment behavior between the two.

People who had a very secure childhood may have very strong and committed relationship with their partners and may rely on them as a security in life. On the other hand, people who had very insecure childhood may have a steady relationship but they do not wholly rely on their partners in all situations. Unlike their secure friends, they handle the disagreements in their relationships very well

It is therefore very evident that the attachments developed during infancy affect the romantic relationships. The attachments are therefore not natural but rather come from the way people are nurtured.


Bowlby, J., & Ainsworth, M. (2013). The origins of attachment theory. Attachment Theory: Social, Developmental, and Clinical Perspectives, 45.

Goldberg, S., Muir, R., & Kerr, J. (2013). Attachment theory: Social, developmental, and clinical perspectives. Routledge.

Hojjat, M., & Cramer, D. (2013). Positive psychology of love. Oxford University Press.

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