Understanding Attachment Styles and Polyamory

Attachment theory was developed in the 1950’s as a psychological model to understand how children respond within relationships when they are hurt, separated from loved ones or perceiving a threat. Environmental and cultural (evolutionary) factors influence an infant’s ability to develop basic trust in their caregivers and self, and their expectation they will receive protection and emotional support. This impacts a child's successful social and emotional development, and in particular for learning how to effectively regulate their feelings.

In the 1980’s this theory was extended to attachment in adults and looks at how attachment styles can impact romantic relationships. While more research is still needed, researchers have posited the existence of four attachment styles in adults- Secure, Anxious, Avoidant and Disorganized:

• Securely Attached: Being warm and loving in a relationship comes naturally to you. You enjoy being intimate without becoming overly worried about your relationships. You take things in stride when it comes to romance and don’t get easily upset over relationship matters. You effectively communicate your needs and feelings to your partner and are also strong at reading your partner’s emotional cues and responding to them. You share your successes and problems with your mate, and are able to be there for him or her in times of need.

• Anxious Attached: You love to be very close to your romantic partners and have the capacity for great intimacy. You often fear, however, that your partner does not wish to be as close as you would like him/her to be. Relationships tend to consume a large part of your emotional energy. You tend to be very sensitive to small fluctuations in your partner’s moods and actions, and although your senses are often accurate, you take your partner’s behaviors overly personally. You experience a lot of negative emotions within the relationship and get easily upset. As a result you tend to act out and say things you later regret. If the other person provides a lot of security and reassurance, you are able to shed much of your preoccupation and feel contented.

• Avoidant Attached: It is very important for you to maintain your independence and self-sufficiency, and you often prefer autonomy to intimate relationships. Even though you do want to be close to others, you feel uncomfortable with too much closeness and tend to keep your partner at arm’s length. You don’t spend much time worrying about your romantic relationships or about being rejected. You tend not to open up to your partners and they often complain that you are emotionally distant. In relationships, you are often on high alert for any signs of control or impingement on your territory by your partner.

• Disorganized Attached: Disorganized attachment is when there is a lack of attachment behavior or a mixture of Anxious/avoidant behaviors. This is extremely rare with only 1% of the population exhibiting these characteristics. Generally, an avoidant attached individual who is experiencing significant life challenges can display anxious characteristics, but still have an overall avoidant attachment style.

There has been some research into how attachment styles impact polyamorous relationships, however, this research was not specific to the polyamorous community. The purpose of this questionnaire is to answer the following questions:

• About 56 percent of people in the world are secure. Around 20 percent are anxious. Twenty-three percent are avoidant, and the remaining 1 percent are disorganized. Does the attachment styles percentages within the poly community match that of the general population?
• Does attachment styles influence decisions made regarding polyamory?
• Do attachment styles correlate to general satisfaction levels when living a polyamorous lifestyle?
• Can polyamorous individuals have multiple attachment styles across their romantic relationships?