Benefits of Positive Relationship Experiences for Avoidantly Attached Individuals

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Abstract

Attachment avoidance is characterized by discomfort with closeness and a reluctance to develop intimacy with romantic partners, which contribute to heightened general negativity and lower satisfaction and self-disclosure in and out of their relationships. Recent research, however, has begun to uncover circumstances in which romantic partners and positive relationships buffer more avoidantly attached individuals against deleterious individual and relationship outcomes. Across 3 studies, using a multimethod approach encompassing both experimental and dyadic longitudinal diary methods, we investigated the effects of positive, intimacy-related relationship experiences on more avoidant persons’ positive and negative affect, relationship quality, self-disclosure, and attachment security immediately and over time. Results revealed that more avoidant individuals exhibit a reduction of general negative affect in particular (Studies 1–2) and report greater relationship quality (Studies 2–3) in response to positive relationship experiences, and, following intimacy-promoting activities with their partner, engage in greater self-disclosure over time and demonstrate decreased attachment avoidance 1 month later (Study 3). These findings identify novel circumstances in which more avoidant persons’ negative expectations of relationships may be countered, and suggest that relatively simple techniques can have potentially important short- and long-term implications for more avoidant individuals and their relationships.

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