The Merry-Go-Round of Attachment Patterns

God designed us to be securely attached in relationships.  With Him and others. When our relationships go well, we do well in life.  When our relationships are not doing well, our lives can be thrown into anguish and we start swirling.

Understanding Attachment Patterns can give us insight into what is behind the quality of our relationships.  And it can open up avenues for us to practically work on ways to grow in secure attachments.

Let’s look first at some examples in my current life of how these life patterns play out in every day interactions.  First let me give a backdrop.

My home has been in a state of organized chaos the past several months.  A dripping of water in my sunroom led to the discovery of a hole in the wall that encases my fireplace.  An unwelcome guest of a possum breaking into my bathroom at midnight led animal control to an additional hole under my deck.  Which led to removing shingles on the house, exposing a wall covered in black mold with white spores. This discovery necessitated the wall being replaced.  While these problems were being addressed, water kept showing up on the sunroom floor.  Another discovery happened of how when it was built, the internal part of the wall was made of particle board rather than wood.  The flashings were put in upside down and caulking was missing.  For the past 15 + years, rain had slowly been seeping inside and now the walls are disintegrating.   Throughout the ordeal, our God has made His footprints very obvious!  His Interactive Presence has put wind under my wings and brings me back to the stability of the foundation within me.

This ordeal has brought me into a full realm of relational interactions impacted by the different attachment patterns.  Let me bring you into a few conversations.


Interaction #1 [Dismissive Attachment Pattern at work]

In response to a text, I wrote in part, “The work is not finished yet. The first day they were supposed to be working, the main guy had to go care for his 83-year-old mother who was stuck by the side of the road in another town. And then yesterday his mother ended up in the hospital with serious breathing issues and he spent the night with her and is still there now.  He thus had not been able to work on the outside wall that is open/ exposed. Still have furniture in the middle of the living room…it is livable but certainly not my preference!”

The response: (in reference to a mutual friend whose home is unlivable due to hurricane Florence) “Betty would gladly exchange places with you and have construction done on her place.”

Woah! I felt my life challenges being minimized and dismissed! My desire to share my soul and life with this individual is also minimized!  It will not be easy for me to give access to the vulnerable parts of my life and soul much in the future!


Interaction #2 [Anxious Attachment Pattern at work}

I shared something similar to the summary above with a person who lives across the country, who loves me dearly.  The response went something like the following:

“Oh, how horrid! What are you going to do? Will you be ok? I’ll get lots of people to start praying.  Shall I fly over and help you?  I could help with the cooking and cleaning.  You know I ‘m good at those kind of things…”

Woah! While aware and grateful of her love for me, I felt overwhelmed with her heightened anxiety.  I now had another ‘task’ on my schedule to help her get back to a place of calm and not own the job of taking care of me. I remain hesitant to share what happens in my life because I do not want to add more conversations that will require my energy to calm this friend down.


Interaction #3 [A Disorganizing Attachment Pattern at work]

I was sharing a little bit with a precious woman who is barely staying afloat with the impact of an overwhelming past and current trauma in her life.

Her response to knowing of my situation went something as follows.

“What you are going through is so much worse than what is happening with me.  I will take a break from our time together for a while so you can get your house back.  I’ll be ok.  I’m used to being on my own when I go through hard times…”

My interaction with her had me aware of how she is caught in a multiple bind of wanting to care for me, take care of me, and heightened fear of the loss of our important connection.  She is attempting to minimize her situation while also sending emotional messages of her terror of losing me.  I experience the push and pull outwardly that she is experiencing inwardly.

She is needing to experience that I am stable and able to keep walking with her.  She needs for me to continue to be able to enter into her angst, see the repercussions of the harshness in life and so she is attempting to create an environment in which I can get ‘ok’ again for her.   Also, she is keeping herself at bay from me so as to not have her fear realized, of my backing out on her.


Interaction #4 [A Secure Attachment Pattern at work]

A friend has been keeping up with my ongoing saga, along with some other challenging aspects of my life.  She wrote me a note which included…  “My heart is concerned for you! The news Monday was not encouraging, and your interactions with the new contractor and insurance company was not leading to clear, good answers.  Has anything shifted?  Has more HARD piled on?  What would help?

I know you have sweet friends in your life, but wonder if you have the solid care and support you need right now? I want to be one of your friends that you can trust with the good, the bad and the ugly and I don’t want you to feel alone in this hard place.”

Wow! My soul took a deep breath and settled into a space of calm and gratitude. She is keeping up with me, staying attuned to how I might be impacted, caring and willing to join me as I need and want and what she is available for.


Our internal survival mechanisms, wrapped up in Attachment Patterns, impact every interaction we have to different degrees. Each of us will have a mixture of patterns and nuances that shift based on the present situation at hand and what our mind decides will be the best approach to make life feel secure.

In the following weeks I will share more on the different Attachment Patterns, giving descriptions and examples of how it plays out in life.  I will also write in the upcoming weeks some thoughts regarding how we can intentionally focus on healing from each pattern, growing into secure attachments with our God and others, offering secure bonds to those in our world.


    • Hi Wendy. Thanks for taking time to read and to send me your note. I hope you are doing well??!!

  • Hi Maribeth. I appreciate your writing on attachments as well. I’m friends with Wendy. I am interested in the topic as well. At present, I reading Changes That Heal by Dr. Henry Cloud and Living From The Heart that Jesus Gave You both of which speak to the subject. Bjd

  • My friend and I are halfway through your attachment DVDs. We love them and glean so much from you. I’m ok but am down with the flu this week. Praying we both be enveloped in the experiential hesed of our secure base!

    • Wendy, I am sorry you have had the flu. I did a couple weeks ago and it was horrid! I do hope it gets through you soon, and that you don’t have any re-cycling of it or a cold or…!!! Yep- I am wishing you well! Thanks for the encouragement regarding the dvd’s!!

  • Maribeth, These are wonderful, detailed examples that help me understand attachment patterns. I’m praying for your house to get all fixed soon. Love you lots, Debbie

    • Hi Debbie! Thanks for taking time to read … and to send me a note of encouragement. The construction around here is still a slow work in progress. I’m glad to be able to say I am staying pretty stable through it. Hope you have a good day!

    • Good morning, Debbie. We have had trouble with the site and my being able to respond. But my ‘heart’ has responded. I appreciate your responding and am glad for any nugget of insight you gain.

  • This is interesting and gives me some food for thought. Thanks!
    In example 1 – I am not sure I would share my home repair woes with someone who is currently homeless. It just seems like it would be asking too much for them to enter into my misery at that time. Although it sounds like maybe it was a friend of someone who is homeless? And it also sounds like she asked you how you were so that does put you in a bit of a double bind.
    Also, texting and email are potentially dangerous because you cannot see the persons face and so many false assumptions can be made without knowing their tone and inflection and just not being in person to encounter their heart.
    For me I’d probably respond best to someone just saying “Man that stinks. How can I help?” But I still struggle with having contempt for intimacy in general so I’m not the best person to discern what’s healthy 🙂
    This is your former phone client from Indiana by the way 🙂

    • Hi Anne. I wondered if this was you. Thanks for confirming it. You have some very good points for us to keep in mind, Anne.
      The interaction with ‘example #1″ is not with someone who is homeless. In fact it is a family member with whom is usually dismissive, and I cringed when sending his the answer to his question. I have had to wrestle with staying in relationship when I know that I am going to continually have what I am going through be minimized and feel the impact of it. BUT- it is very important for us all to keep in mind how communication can go significantly south when done by email and text! The non-verbal aspects of communication are more important than the words being ‘said’! It has me smile that you are thinking it all through in such a thorough way! And I like having the evidence of YOU on my screen!!

  • Thanks for the clarification Maribeth and I honor your willingness to stay engaged with someone, knowing that there will be hurtful minimizing. I am sorry the relationship is like that.

  • Maribeth – Your example is such a helpful illustration of attachment patterns. First, by using the same situation, I find it easy to compare and contrast the patterns. Second, by sharing your responses, it’s easy to see the impact of the various patterns. I am bookmarking this post for future reference!

    • Thank you, Lizabet! I appreciate the encouragement and am glad that it was helpful for you! I hope you have a great week with special connections for your soul!

  • Thanks so much for sharing this blog. Helps us further unpack attachment styles. I’m hoping by now your house issues are fixed.

    • Thank you, Marsha, for taking the time to jot me an encouraging note! I do not take it lightly! Thanks also for letting me know you care about the house issues. I would say that the issues are 95% taken care of, for which I am grateful!! Tailored blessings to you!


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