Today we’re going to talk about attachment styles, but not in the way you might think.
It’s common to look at your attachment style from the angle of dating; however, romantic relationships aren’t the only thing your attachment style affects. It also relates to how you make friends as an adult.
A lot of people ask me about this. People feel like once you’re an adult, your friend group—or lack of— is set in stone. It’s not true, but it can seem a lot harder as an adult because you have your attachment style to content with.
As a kid, it was always very easy for me to make friends. But after college, that shit got harder and harder! I felt doomed, as though because I didn’t make more of an effort in college, I was forever removed from the possibility to form adult friendships.
So what changed from childhood to adulthood? Besides looking at my limiting beliefs around making friends as an adult and doing shadow work around that, I realized that my attachment style and the way I approached making friends had started looking a lot more secure and a lot more trusting. Those things made all the difference.
Before we get started, even if you think you know your attachment style, I actually encourage you to read through every single one, because there might be something there for you. Let’s start with anxious attachment.
If your attachment style leans anxious, you have difficulty holding and experiencing rejection, as well as a low tolerance to unexpected events and entering unpredictable situations, as well as a lot of fear around what’s to come in the future.
When your attachment style leans anxious, when it comes to friendships, you’ll likely notice yourself wanting to form deep bonds very quickly.
Let’s say you’re getting to know someone you just met. Maybe it seems like they have some things in common: maybe you both like 90-Day Fiancé, or maybe you’re into manifestation or into spirituality and they use similar terminology and language that you use. Regardless of what it is, your attachment style triggers something in you that tells you, “This is my perfect friend. This is a sign. Let’s go deep right now. Let me tell you about all the stuff that’s going on in my life.”
Essentially, this is a way for you to try and form deep-level connections so there is no time for rejection. A lot of times, people with anxious attachment want to bypass that timeframe where you get to sift things out and see if this person is actually someone you would really get along with. Your attachment style causes you to skip over the period where you get to learn more about their values and character, and there’s a quick latching-on to something that sounds or feels familiar.
What ends up happening here is that you end up getting very vulnerable very quickly without knowing if this person is actually the type of person that is safe and supportive of your vulnerability. You don’t know if this is the type of person that has a similar value system to you.
Not every friend that you make as an adult needs to go deep. But a lot of times with the anxious attachment style, there’s an impulse to go deep with everyone. But if you actually want to cultivate a deep relationship with someone or a deep friendship with someone, that definitely takes time.
When your attachment style leans avoidant, things change a bit. You might think that people with the avoidant attachment style don’t want friendships at all, but that’s not true. They do want friends. They do want connections. And they’re also not willing to put in the effort.
This was me, by the way. So if this is your attachment style, you’re not alone!
If your attachment style leans avoidant, when someone invites you to something, you might start thinking, “Oh, I’d rather stay in. Oh, but my bed’s so comfortable. Oh, I don’t really want to see all those people. Oh, I’m also really introverted. Oh, it’s just going to be small talk.”
When this is your attachment style, it results in a lot of excuses as to why you cannot make yourself available for getting to know people.
If this is your attachment style, you’ll find it’s similar to the anxious attachment style in that there’s an urge to bypass the getting-to-know-you phase. However, where the anxiously attached person is trying desperately to avoid rejection, the avoidantly attached person is attempting to avoid the need for their own vulnerability. To get to know people, to actually care about what they have to say and their feelings and their views, it would take vulnerability on your part and a willingness to hold and see and have patience for someone else, and your attachment style won’t allow for that.
If your attachment style is avoidant, it impacts your ability to make friends as an adult by causing you to sabotage yourself. When avenues for you to meet people open up, you cut yourself off from being open to the experience; in so doing, you cut yourself off from all the ways you can meet people, because here’s the truth: nobody’s going to fall into your apartment.
If you want to make friends as an avoidant person, take a look at whether these excuses are actually serving you in your pursuit of friendship.
Now, the fearful-avoidant attachment style is an interesting one. Fearful-avoidant is a mix between anxious and avoidant. This attachment style is usually formed through trauma. When you have this attachment style, you’re likely yearning for connection (just like the anxiously attached person) and then once that person gets close, you want nothing to do with them (like the avoidantly attached).
With this attachment style, you’ll often be really open to making connections, and you make those friends pretty quickly. But the problems start because they’re often the type of friendships that are based on some kind of similar past struggle or the person opening up and coming to you with their struggles, which means the friendship is usually based on bonding over mutual misery. Usually, the fearful-avoidant will miss that this is probably not a good foundation to start a friendship on.
What ends up happening, which I find really interesting, is that after they’ve spent enough time together, the avoidant side of you will come out. You’ll start thinking, “Oh my God, this person’s really annoying. They always have problems. I can’t stand to be around them.” You’ll want to escape and get rid of the friend, but because you’re anxious, you have trouble communicating. You have trouble expressing how you really feel. So you just kind of sit there and hope, silently, that the person gets the hint. You stop talking to them, and then the cycle actually repeats.
The way that this impacts your ability to make friends? You end up bypassing what is important to you. You end up not being connected to what friendship means to you and what role you play as a friend.
With the fearful-avoidant, they often take on the role of the listening ear. They’re the type of person that takes everything in them until the avoidant part jumps out and they realize they’ve had enough.
For the fearful-avoidant, I would suggest really taking a look at what friendship actually looks like to you, and how you want your friendship dynamics to feel. That sounds simple, but they’re actually pretty powerful questions to ask yourself, because you might not have paid attention to those things before.
So how does a secure person view making friends? To the secure person, they’re really interested in getting to know someone for exactly who they are. They’re not trying to morph them into their ideal friend or project the kind of qualities they’re looking for onto them, which can happen with anxious attachment.
For the secure person, there really is no agenda in friendship. That’s a really important thing to note with the secure attachment style. They just see it as a fun opportunity to get to interact and spend time with a new person.
The secure person is really interested in developing connection, not trying to quickly form one so that they can soothe their ego. Sometimes with making friendships, it becomes an ego game, of trying to prove something to yourself, whether that’s proving you’re not alone in life or that you’re still likable or whatever it is. If you are trying to make friends as a way to prove something to yourself, you’re going to have a hard time making authentic friendships, because it’s all about developing connection, not following a separate agenda.
Remember, there’s a human on the other side of this friendship thing. It’s so much more than whatever it is you might be trying to prove to yourself.
Everything I said about those who are securely attached? I would apply that no matter what your attachment style is. Whether your attachment style is anxious, avoidant, or fearful-avoidant, I would take a look at what is preventing you from simply connecting with the human in front of you. That is actually a life-changing question.
Drop the ego and get to know the human, and you’ll find that making friends doesn’t feel hard. It doesn’t feel like you’re performing. It’s just natural. That’s how it feels to me. I started making friends left and right when I dropped my ego, took a look at my limiting beliefs around making friends, and started really desiring to get to know the person in front of me…and you can do the very same.
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