What’s Your Attachment Style?
There are four main types of adult attachment, according to attachment theory: secure, avoidant, anxious, and fearful-avoidant. Attachment refers to the way we bond and form connections with other people – such as romantic partners, friends, parents, our children, and other family members. Understanding our attachment style can help us understand ourselves, our actions, and our motivations more deeply – as well as those of the people we love. It can help explain why we might struggle in romantic partnerships or feel insecure in our friendships. It can help us see how we are blocking ourselves from the intimacy we desperately crave, or why we may have unrealistic expectations about what it means to be in a relationship. Here are the four main attachment styles for you to see what resonates.
A secure attachment style is generally held by people who are secure in themselves, emotionally intelligent, and unafraid of being vulnerable. They were likely raised by stable, well-adjusted parents who were themselves consistent in their emotions, communicated their love openly, and modeled healthy boundaries in relationships. Being securely attached means that you rarely question the bond you have, and that you feel safe to implement your own boundaries – which means talking honestly about your feelings, speaking up when the demands of the relationship are too much (or not enough), and retaining a sense of self and autonomy. A securely attached person is able to give and receive love without feeling stressed or unworthy, and can honor the boundaries of their loved one, such as needing space, with trust. It is the foundation of healthy interpersonal relationships.
An anxious attachment style is found in people who have an underlying fear of abandonment affecting how they relate to others. It is characterized by codependency and insecurity in relationships, anxiety around a partner’s affections, a need for attention from them, obsession, and other clingy behaviors. Someone with an anxious attachment style, also known as ambivalent attachment, might spend a lot of time ruminating over their relationships with lovers, friends, co-workers, or others, and be driven to people-pleasing, perfectionism, performativity, or more manipulative behaviors for fear of being rejected or abandoned. They might struggle to be open and authentic with themselves and others, and find that conflict brings a lot of stress – so they might suppress their own needs to avoid it.
An avoidant attachment style is generally held by people with a fear of intimacy and dependence. It is difficult for people with this style to let others in and be vulnerable with them, so this type of person might be compelled to distance themselves or sabotage a relationship before it gets too real and involved. They are often hyper-independent, because they have absorbed the belief that their needs will not be met by other people, and will actively avoid having to rely on others, or letting anyone rely on them. This kind of attachment style, also known as dismissive attachment, can come from a childhood with parents or caregivers who were emotionally unavailable, poorly attuned to their child’s needs, or actively discouraged their child’s self-expression.
A fearful-avoidant attachment style is essentially a combination of anxious attachment and avoidant attachment. Someone with this attachment style might desperately crave love and intimacy, but subconsciously push it away. It can be incredibly confusing to experience. They might flip-flop between the two styles, go from hot to cold with their affection, and find it difficult to trust the affections of someone they care about. They might internalize their anxiety in budding relationships and put on an act out of self-preservation, be highly triggered emotionally, or be unsure how to nurture healthy friendships. Someone who is fearful-avoidant, sometimes known as a disorganized attachment style, might have experienced inconsistent love, emotional neglect, or abuse from parents or caregivers as a child.
Getting attached to your style
If one of the insecure attachment styles – anxious, avoidant, or fearful-avoidant – sounds relatable, you might want to find some support in exploring it. These attachment styles come down to internal safety, which can be affected by all sorts of factors in your development, childhood, adolescent and adult experiences. Feeling safe to be vulnerable and authentic with other people can be incredibly difficult when you’ve had the experience of being afraid of, dismissed, or let down by someone you loved. Because so much of the way we behave is unconsciously influenced by what was modeled to us by our parents and caregivers, and other influences. But these wounds can be healed, and we can learn to live in a relationship without ignoring our own needs. It just takes time, self-compassion, and emotional intelligence. Everybody deserves to love and be loved in return – sometimes we just need to learn how.
All of the content on our website is thoroughly researched to ensure that the information shared is evidence-based. For more information, please visit the academic journals that influenced this article: Romantic Love Conceptualized as an Attachment Process; Anxious Attachment and Relationship Processes: An Interactionist Perspective; Insecure Attachment, Dysfunctional Attitudes, and Low Self-Esteem Predicting Prospective Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety During Adolescence.
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