Is your attachment style hindering your money relationship?

Is your attachment style hindering your money relationship? Blog post by Patti Fagan, Financial Coach and author

Our financial well-being is deeply connected to our emotional health. Our relationships, both with people and money, are guided by deeply ingrained patterns. These patterns, or attachment styles, are formed in our early childhood and influence how we connect with ourselves, others, and the world around us, including our financial behaviors. If you’ve ever wondered why you do what you do around money, perhaps your attachment style is hindering your money relationship.

Attachment Style Theory was founded by psychoanalyst John Bowlby in the 1950s and expanded by Mary Ainsworth. Attachment styles are not permanent labels but insights into understanding ourselves better. Recognizing and understanding these attachment styles as they pertain to money can shed light on the drivers of our financial behaviors.

Let’s take a look at the four types of attachment styles and how they may manifest in your relationship with money:

1. Secure Attachment: If you find yourself comfortable with money, able to both save and spend within reason, you may have a secure attachment style. This reflects the ability to show up consistently in your relationship with money, handling it responsibly. Those with a secure attachment find money is neither a source of anxiety or a manipulation tool. Embracing this attachment can lead to financial stability and harmony.

2. Anxious Attachment: People with an anxious attachment style tend to feel overly anxious about money, and resist dealing with money because the thought of it triggers feelings of overwhelm. Those with anxious attachment feel unworthy of love or having wealth due to low self-esteem, and they tend to put other people’s needs before their own, which means they give money to others before their own needs are met. Increasing self-worth by implementing self-love practices and self-care, which can include financial self-care, will help shift this attachment style over time.

3. Avoidant Attachment: Those with avoidant attachment have a fear of intimacy, so they avoid getting too close to others, including money. If you often find yourself ignoring financial matters, avoiding budgets, or feeling detached from monetary goals, you may have an avoidant attachment. To transform avoidant attachment, begin nurturing a more engaged relationship with your finances where you create new habits of simply showing up with your money, which can look like setting money goals, tracking expenses, and checking your online bank accounts each day, for instance.

4. Disorganized Attachment: This attachment style can be quite confusing and may reflect contradictory behaviors and feelings towards money. If you find yourself acting impulsively with finances, swinging between extremes of anxiety and avoidance, you may have a disorganized attachment. Often stemming from childhood trauma or inconsistent (unpredictable or unsafe) caregiving experiences, this pattern can lead to a tumultuous relationship with money, marked by unpredictability and stress. Divorce, especially if it was traumatic or complex, may exacerbate disorganized attachment. It’s essential to approach this attachment style with compassion. Working with a therapist can provide a safe space for you to explore difficult emotions around relationships with people and money.

Understand that a disorganized attachment doesn’t mean you’re doomed to financial instability. But, recognizing this pattern is the first step in seeking healing and transformation. With the right support and by taking small, consistent steps, you can build a healthier relationship with money that supports your needs and aligns with your goals.

Your attachment style is not your destiny; it’s a framework that helps you recognize your unhealthy patterns around money. With self-awareness and compassion, you can heal, grow, and adapt, forging a new path to a life you love.

For more information on Attachment Style Theory, here’s an article on PschCentral, which includes an attachment style quiz (scroll to the end for the quiz).

To help shift your behavior around money, here are some suggested methods for changing from insecure attachment style (insecure, anxious, or disorganized) to a more balanced secure attachment.

1. Identify Your Attachment Style: Understanding whether your insecurity stems from an anxious, avoidant, or disorganized attachment with money will allow you to approach healing in a targeted way.

2. Seek Professional Guidance: A financial therapist or counselor can provide personalized support, helping you navigate complex emotions and create a tailored plan for moving toward security.

3. Create a Financial Plan: Establishing a clear, manageable budget that aligns with your goals can reduce anxiety and provide a sense of control, which can reduce anxiety and overwhelm.

4. Build a Support System: Surround yourself with understanding friends, family, or support groups who can offer encouragement and wisdom as you make changes.

5. Embrace Financial Education: Knowledge is empowering, especially financial knowledge. Take the time to learn about personal finance, retirement planning, investments, and savings strategies that align with your goals.

6. Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness exercises can help you recognize triggers and respond with intention rather than reacting impulsively. Mindfulness practices can include journal writing, engaging in a creative activity, and gratitude.

7. Set Achievable Goals: Break down your financial objectives into small, manageable steps. Celebrate each little achievement no matter how small, recognizing that progress is a journey, not an overnight transformation.

8. Emphasize Self-Compassion: Acknowledge that your attachment style is not your fault. It was how you adapted to your primary caregivers’ behavior beginning in infancy. Changing from insecure to secure attachment takes time and effort. Be gentle with yourself.

9. Explore Emotional Connections: Dive deeper into how your emotions are linked to money. Journaling or reflective exercises can help you understand underlying fears or desires.

10. Implement Boundaries: If needed, set clear boundaries with others regarding financial matters to avoid undue stress or pressure. Most importantly, always take care of your financial needs first before giving money to others. (You may want to read: Should women loan money to their children.)

11. Consider Debt Counseling: If debt is a part of your financial anxiety, seeking specialized support to manage and reduce it can alleviate a significant burden.

12. Heal from Past Traumas: For disorganized attachment especially, it may be essential to work with a mental health professional to address underlying traumas that impact your relationship with yourself, other people, and money.

13. Embrace a Growth Mindset: Believe in your ability to change and grow. Cultivate a positive outlook, knowing that you’re on a path to a more balanced relationship with money.

By integrating these methods into your life, you are not merely changing a financial strategy; you are embracing a holistic transformation that honors your emotional well-being and personal growth.

By identifying and understanding your attachment style, you’re not only taking a crucial step toward healing but also empowering yourself to reshape your financial future.

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