How Your Attachment Style Characterizes the Depth of Your Relationships

Attachment Styles

We come to love not by finding the perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person, perfectly.
Sam Keen

Different methods of interacting and behaving in relationships identify attachment styles. These attachment styles are centered on how children and parents interact during early infancy.

Attachment styles are used in maturity to explain patterns of attachment in relationships. Attachment styles evolved from attachment theory and research that arose in the 1960s and 1970s. Currently, psychologists distinguish four major attachment styles.

What is Attachment Style?

Attachment is a unique emotional bond characterized by an exchange of comfort, caring, and pleasure.

Attachment was studied extensively by John Bowlby, who defined it as a "lasting psychological bond between human beings." According to attachment theory, which was developed by British psychiatrist John Bowlby and American psychologist Mary Ainsworth, the level of bonding you had during your first relationship frequently impacts how well you relate to others and respond to intimacy throughout your life.

Our early attachment styles are formed in childhood as a result of the infant/caregiver relationship. Bowlby also believed that attachment had an evolutionary component; it aids in survival. "The proclivity to form strong emotional attachments with specific persons [is] a fundamental component of human nature," he stated.

As a newborn, if your primary caregiver made you feel safe and understood if they were able to respond to your cries and appropriately interpret your changing physical and emotional requirements, you most likely built a successful, secure connection. As an adult, this usually translates to being self-assured, trusting, and hopeful, as well as managing conflict, responding to intimacy, and negotiating the ups and downs of love relationships.

While the newborn-primary caregiver connection shapes attachment styles significantly, especially during the first year, it's crucial to emphasize that attachment strength is not exclusively determined by the quantity of parental love or the quality of infant's care. Rather, attachment is based on the nonverbal emotional connection that develops between the caregiver and the newborn.

An infant expresses emotions through nonverbal cues such as crying, cooing, and, later, pointing and smiling. The caregiver, in turn, analyses and interprets these signs, responding to the child's demand for food, comfort, or affection. A secure attachment emerges when this nonverbal communication is successful.

If your caregiver was unable to consistently comfort you or respond to your needs during infancy, you are more likely to have had a failed or insecure attachment. Infants with insecure attachment frequently grow into adults who struggle to understand their own emotions and the emotions of others, restricting their ability to form or sustain solid relationships. They may struggle to connect with others, avoid intimacy, or be overly clinging, afraid, or worried in a relationship.

Understanding your attachment style will help you figure out why you're having troubles in your adult relationships. Understanding how your attachment style shapes and influences your intimate relationships can help you make sense of your behavior, how your partner perceives you, and how you respond to intimacy. Identifying these patterns can then assist you in clarifying what you require in a relationship and the best strategy to resolve issues.

Before you start blaming your parents for your relationship troubles, keep in mind that attachment styles created throughout childhood are not always the same as those displayed in adult love attachments. Whatever your relationship issues are, it's vital to remember that your brain can change throughout your life. Your personality and subsequent experiences during childhood, adolescence, and adulthood can all influence your attachment type.

However, research in this field shows that patterns set in childhood significantly impact later relationships. Hazan and Shaver also discovered disparities in relationship beliefs among adults with varying attachment patterns.

Adults who are securely linked tend to feel that romantic love lasts. Adults with ambivalent attachment styles report falling in love frequently, whereas those with avoidant attachment styles view love as rare and fleeting.

While early attachment styles cannot be identical to adult romantic attachment, research has demonstrated that early attachment types can help anticipate patterns of behavior in maturity.

You can learn to overcome your anxieties, establish a more securely connected way of interacting with others, and build stronger, healthier, and more satisfying relationships by discovering your attachment style.

Types of Attachment Styles

Beyond categorizing attachment as secure or insecure, there are subsets of insecure attachment which give us four main attachment styles:

  • Secure attachment

  • Ambivalent (or anxious-preoccupied) attachment

  • Avoidant-dismissive attachment

  • Disorganized attachment

The Secure Attachment Style

People with secure attachment are more empathetic and capable of setting appropriate boundaries, and they feel safer, more stable, and more fulfilled in their relationships. While they are not afraid to be alone, they usually flourish in intimate, meaningful partnerships.

Having a stable attachment style does not imply that you are perfect or do not have relationship troubles. However, you are probably secure enough to accept responsibility for your faults and inadequacies, and you are willing to seek help and support when necessary.

  • You value your self-worth and can be yourself in an intimate relationship. You're at ease expressing your emotions, hopes, and needs.

  • You feel fulfillment in being with people, and you openly seek support and comfort from your partner, but you are not particularly concerned when the two of you are apart.

  • You're equally content for your partner to rely on you for assistance.

  • You can keep your emotional equilibrium and look for healthy ways to deal with conflict in a close relationship.

  • You're resilient enough to bounce back when faced with disappointment, setbacks, and tragedy in your relationships and other aspects of your life.

Ambivalent Attachment Style

People who have an ambivalent attachment style (also known as "anxious-preoccupied," "ambivalent-anxious," or simply "anxious attachment") is highly dependent. As the labels imply, people with this attachment style are frequently apprehensive and uncertain, with low self-esteem. They seek emotional contact yet are concerned that others may reject them.

If you have an ambivalent or anxious-preoccupied attachment style, you may be uncomfortable about being too attached or embarrassed about your constant desire for love and attention. Alternatively, you may be worn down by dread and concern about whether your partner truly loves you.

You want to be in a relationship and seek closeness and intimacy with your significant other, yet you don't trust or rely on your spouse.

  • Being in a romantic relationship can take over your life and cause you to become overly focused on the other person.

  • You may struggle to set boundaries, seeing space between you as a threat that might cause panic, anger, or worry that your partner no longer wants you.

  • Your sense of self-worth is heavily influenced by how you believe you are being treated in the relationship, and you tend to overreact to any perceived dangers to the connection.

  • When you are separated from your partner, you may experience anxiety or jealousy and resort to guilt, controlling behavior, or other manipulative measures to keep them close.

  • Your companion must provide you with constant reassurance and undivided attention.

  • Others may judge you for being too needy or clinging, and you may find it difficult to establish close connections.

Avoidant-Dismissive Attachment Style

Adults with an avoidant-dismissive insecure attachment style are diametrically opposed to those who are ambivalent or anxiously obsessed. Instead of desiring intimacy, they are so afraid of contact that they shun emotional connections with others. They'd prefer not to rely on others or be reliant on others.

You may find it challenging to accept emotional connection if you have an avoidant-dismissive attachment style. You love your independence and freedom so much that intimacy and closeness in a romantic relationship might make you feel uncomfortable, if not suffocated.

  • You're a self-sufficient individual who doesn't feel the need to rely on others.

The more someone attempts to approach you or the more dependent a relationship becomes, the more you retreat.

  • You're uncomfortable with your emotions, and your partners frequently accuse you of being cold and aloof, inflexible, and intolerant. In response, you accuse them of being overly dependent.

  • To recover your sense of freedom, you may belittle or dismiss your partner's feelings, keep secrets from them, indulge in affairs, or even abandon relationships.

  • You may prefer short-term, casual relationships to long-term intimate ones, or you may seek out equally independent partners, keeping their emotional distance.

While you may believe that you do not need close connections or intimacy, the truth is that we all do. Humans are hardwired for connection, and even those with an avoidant-dismissive attachment style desire an intimate, meaningful relationship if they can overcome their deep-seated anxieties of intimacy.

Disorganized Attachment Style

Disorganized/disoriented attachment, also known as fearful-avoidant attachment, is caused by strong fear, frequently resulting from childhood trauma, neglect, or abuse. Adults who have this type of insecure attachment tend to believe that they do not deserve love or closeness in a relationship.

Because you've likely never learned to self-soothe your emotions if you have a disorganized attachment style, both relationships and the environment around you can feel terrifying and unsafe. If you were abused as a child, you might try to recreate abusive patterns of conduct as an adult.

  • You most likely find intimate relationships perplexing and disturbing, frequently oscillating between emotional extremes of love and hatred for a partner.

  • You may be insensitive to your partner's feelings, egotistical, controlling, and untrustworthy, leading to explosive or even abusive behavior. You can be as harsh on yourself as you are on others.

  • You may engage in antisocial or lousy behavior patterns, abuse alcohol or drugs, or be aggressive or violent.

  • Others may be frustrated by your refusal to accept responsibility for your actions.

  • While you long for the stability and protection of a meaningful, personal relationship, you also feel unworthy of love and fearful of being harmed again.

Abuse, neglect, or trauma may have influenced your childhood.

Getting Help

Suppose you detect an insecure attachment style in yourself or your intimate partner. In that case, it's vital to know that you don't have to accept the same attitudes, expectations, or patterns of behavior for the rest of your lives. As an adult, you can modify and create a more stable attachment pattern.

Improve Your Non-Verbal Communication Skills

One of the most fundamental insights learned from attachment theory is that adult relationships, like the first one you have with your primary caregiver, rely on nonverbal communication to succeed.

Even if you aren't aware of it, when you engage with others, you are constantly sending and receiving nonverbal signals through gestures, posture, how much eye contact you make, and so on. These nonverbal clues convey powerful messages about how you truly feel.

Developing your ability to read, understand, and communicate nonverbally can help you strengthen and deepen your connections with others at any age. Being present in the moment, learning to manage stress, and increasing emotional awareness are all ways to strengthen these abilities.

Increase Your Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to understand, use, and control your own emotions in constructive ways to empathize with your partner, communicate more effectively, and deal with conflict in a healthier manner.

Building emotional intelligence can deepen a love connection and improve your nonverbal communication skills. Understanding your emotions and how to control them can allow you better to express your wants and feelings in your relationship and comprehend how your partner is truly feeling.

Develop Relationships with People Who are Securely Attached

Being in a relationship with someone who has an insecure attachment style can result in a relationship that is out of sync at best, unstable, confused, or even painful at worst. While you can work through your concerns as a relationship, if you're single, looking for a partner with a safe attachment style might assist move you away from harmful habits of thinking and behavior.

A solid, supportive relationship with someone who makes you feel loved might help you develop a sense of security. According to research, 50 to 60 percent of people have a secure attachment type, so you have a decent chance of meeting a love partner who can help you overcome your concerns. Similarly, building deep friendships with these people can assist you in recognizing and adopting new patterns of behavior.

Resolve any Childhood Trauma

As previously noted, trauma as an infant or young child can disrupt the connection and bonding process. Childhood trauma can be caused by anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, such as a dangerous or insecure home environment, separation from your primary caregiver, significant sickness, neglect, or abuse. Feelings of uncertainty, anxiety and powerlessness can persist throughout adulthood if childhood trauma is not handled.

Even if your trauma occurred many years ago, there are measures you can do to overcome the suffering, recover emotional equilibrium, and relearn how to trust and connect in relationships.

What is your attachment style? Find out here:


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