The different attachment styles in relationships

If you have been on a journey to figure out why all of your romantic relationships start and end in the same way, then you might already suspect that it has something to do with the way you approach them. 

And I’m here to say, yes it does. More specifically it has something to do with the way you attach in your relationships. 

Attachment theory definition

Attachment theory is a concept in psychology that describes the emotional bond between two people, especially children and their parents but also romantic partners. 

This theory explains that two individuals will attach to each other emotionally and physically to get a sense of stability and security. And the type of attachment you display as an adult depends on the relationship you had with your parents in your early childhood.  

How attachment styles affect relationships

Knowing your attachment style is crucial if you want to understand why you are attracted to certain men, why your relationships succeed or fail with certain men and why you keep experiencing the same challenges in your relationships. 

Each attachment style affects how you approach intimacy and how you deal with separation anxiety differently and can have a big impact on the success of a relationship.

The different attachment styles in relationships

According to psychologists, there are three different attachment style categories: secure, avoidant, and anxious. While the avoidant attachment style and anxious attachment style are often linked to some sort of trauma in your past, the secure attachment style indicates a healthy relationship with your parents. 

However, there is more to know about the effect of the different attachment styles in relationships.

Secure attachment style

People with a secure attachment style usually have very healthy self-esteem and are comfortable being alone and independent. Their confidence in themselves and their positive view of others stems from a healthy childhood with parents that were attentive and available to them and made them feel safe and protected.

Secure people are comfortable with intimacy, confident sharing affection, and attuned to their emotions, which makes them great romantic partners. They are able to establish clear boundaries in their relationships, thus creating enough space for interdependency while simultaneously connecting with their partner on a deeper level.

In times of conflict, securely attached people do not get overly defensive or downplay their emotions. Their ability to communicate in a mature, constructive and compassionate way allows them to evoke feelings of trust and support in their distressed partner, which leads to a healthy romantic relationship. 

More than 50% of people have a secure attachment style.

Secure attachment style traits:

  • Self-confident
  • Positive view of others
  • Secure and trusting
  • Comfortable with emotional intimacy
  • Healthy communication style
  • Empathetic and accepting towards partner

Avoidant attachment style

People with an avoidant attachment style tend to be very independent and self-reliant. Due to emotional negligence from unavailable or pre-occupied parents during childhood, they assume that they can only rely on themselves and not on others. 

They have a hard time connecting with their own emotions and are therefore uncomfortable with intimacy. In romantic relationships, they try to distance themselves from their partner in an attempt to avoid vulnerability and coming off as weak. 

Because of their fear of being too dependent on their partner, they are known to avoid commitment and often stall the progress of a relationship. 

Rather than seeking support and connecting with their loved ones in times of need they tend to pull away and deal with their emotions by themselves. 

When challenges occur in a romantic relationship a person with an avoidant attachment style will oftentimes react indifferent or unaffected by their partner’s distress and shut down emotionally. 

Men are more likely than women to have an avoidant attachment style. 

Avoidant attachment style traits:

  • High view of self, lower view of others
  • Rational and cautious 
  • Keep loved ones at a distance
  • Uncomfortable with emotional intimacy
  • Struggles with commitment
  • Fear to be rejected

Anxious Attachment Style

People with an anxious attachment style tend to cling to their partner co-dependently and self-sacrifice for their relationships. That behavior is due to an early childhood where their parents were neglectful, abusive, or emotionally unavailable. 

Therefore, anxiously attached people require a lot of attention from their partner and are often worried, nervous, or stressed about their relationship. Their constant need for reassurance and affection stems from their insecurity and emotional sensitivity. 

In a relationship they expect their partner to rescue and complete them in order to feel a sense of security, which oftentimes leads to irrational, paranoid, and clingy behavior. 

Whenever the relationship faces challenges, people with an anxious attachment style tend to act out by playing games to get their partner’s attention. By withdrawing, making him jealous, and throwing temper tantrums, they give in to their relationship anxiety and end up pushing their partner away. 

Because they fear abandonment, anxiously attached people are more likely to end up in unhealthy relationships.

Women are more likely than men to have an anxious attachment style. 

Anxious attachment style traits:

  • Low self-confidence 
  • Positive view of others
  • Distrustful and demanding
  • Emotionally volatile
  • Clingy on separation 
  • Act out when triggered

Recognizing your own attachment pattern can be very helpful to understand your needs in a relationship and how you usually go about getting them met. 

While most adults don’t change their attachment styles, you can influence your default defenses by entering relationships with partners that are securely attached.

Unfortunately, it is very common for women with an anxiously attached style to pursue men that are avoidant. This leads to one of the most common dysfunctions: anxious-avoidant relationships. 

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