We often refer to relationship "baggage" as unresolved issues a person holds on to from their past, but it turns out that psychologists have a clear way of understanding this broad term. As Business Insider reports, attachment styles can help us categorize and navigate the way we trust and interact with others.
According to the theory, there are three types of attachment styles: secure, anxious, and avoidant. Understanding which category you and your partner fall into can help explain how the past influences our behavior. "We are run by stories, and we don't know what kinds of assumptions rule us until we pause and reflect," psychologist Perpetua Neo told Business Insider. "In therapy, we call these stories 'core beliefs'. It could be upbringing, it could be a difficult experience, or attachment, that can lead to stories about us, such as 'I'm not good enough', 'I'm not worthy', or 'I'm unlovable'."
Here's what to know about each attachment style and what it means for you.
It's estimated that about half the population falls into this category, which means they are comfortable with intimacy. According to Business Insider, those who have secure attachments tend to have had a healthy relationship with their parents.
What it means for you: Secure people tend to be better adjusted and accept their partner's shortcomings. They are measured in times of conflict and have high self-esteem.
Anxiously attached people expect their relationship to complete them and thus, often experience issues with their partner. "When they feel unsure of their partner's feelings and unsafe in their relationship, they often become clingy, demanding, or possessive toward their partner," clinical psychologist Lisa Firestone explained in a post for Psychology Today.
What it means for you: People in this category seek affirmation from others and suffer from relationship anxiety. If you tend to be jealous and distrusting in relationships, try to seek measured advice to avoid a self-fulfilling prophecy. Psychologists believe anxiously attached people tend to seek out the third attachment style: Avoidant.
As the name suggests, people with this attachment style tend to avoid relationships altogether, often due to past trauma. "This is an unconscious attempt to make sure that they never again go through anything like they went through with their original caregiver," says psychotherapist Allison Abrams.
What it means for you: Few people change their attachment style, but Business Insider recommends seeking therapy to alter yours. If your S.O. is avoidant, they could benefit from professional help to break the cycle of distrust and isolation.