The 4 Attachment Styles: How Can They Affect Your Relationships?

By Tatenda

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Last Updated: November 18, 2022

There are a lot of factors that shape us into being the people we are today. Among these factors is the relationship we have/had with our primary caregiver when we were young. In most cases, this is our mothers. 

In the 1950s, Bowlby introduced the attachment theory which was later expanded by Mary Ainsworth. The theory suggests that there are four types of attachment. All are dependent on how we were raised and how our primary caregiver attended to our needs. 

The attachment style we develop as kids grows into being one of the most crucial determinants of how we interact with others and how we navigate relationships. 

 

 

The Four Attachment Styles

Secure Attachment

People who were raised by caregivers who were emotionally available, warm and loving are likely to develop a secure attachment. They become emotionally healthy adults who are secure in relationships and aren’t scared of being abandoned. 

Because their caregiver was loving and trustworthy, they are capable of trusting the people around them. They are confident that the other person will do what is expected from them and this makes it easy for them to navigate relationships. 

Signs include:

  • Effective communication of feelings and emotions
  • Happy to be alone
  • Honest 
  • Does not need external validation
  • Being empathetic 
  • Respecting boundaries 
  • Ability to disagree without losing control
  • Supporting their partner’s independence

 

Avoidant Attachment

This one is also known as dismissive-avoidant or anxious avoidant.

People who have this attachment style are unable to build long-term relationships with others because of their inability to engage in physical and emotional intimacy. 

They do not simply decide not to be intimate. Rather, it is typically rooted in how their caregivers interacted with them in childhood.

People with avoidant attachment style had caregivers who were strict, absent or emotionally distant. Their needs were not adequately met and they had to fend for themselves. Their emotions were never really accepted or acknowledged. 

As a result, they become strongly independent as they learned from an early age they can not rely on anyone for anything. Their relationships do not become emotionally deep, as they do not have a need for emotional intimacy. 

As adults these people might:

  • struggle to communicate their emotions
  • Have a strong sense of independence
  • Avoid intimate relationships 
  • Have difficulties trusting other people
  • Prefer to spend time alone than with people
  • Have a hard time understanding their emotions as well as those of others

 

Anxious Attachment

Otherwise known as anxious-ambivalent or anxious-preoccupied, anxious attachment is largely characterized by fear of abandonment and rejection. There is a desire for intimacy, but there is also anxiety and doubts around abandonment. 

These people had a hard time trusting their caregivers because sometimes their needs were meet, sometimes they weren’t. As a result, they constantly seek approval and validation. Despite having difficulties with expressing love and affection, they tend to feel unloved by their partners. 

Some of the signs of anxious attachment are:

  • Being clingy 
  • Strong fear of being abandoned
  • Fear of being alone
  • Constant need for reassurance
  • Extreme jealousy in relationships
  • Low self esteem
  • People pleasing
  • Insecurity in relationships

 

Disorganized Attachment

Also known as anxious-disorganized or fearful-avoidant, this is a blend of avoidant and anxious. There is a lot of inconsistency with these people and they also have a hard time trusting others. 

This attachment style results from several experiences such as neglect, abuse and childhood trauma. Moreover, as children these people found their caregivers untrustworthy. 

People with this attachment style might:

  • Have difficulties controlling their emotions
  • Avoid intimate relationships
  • Conflicting behaviors
  • Anxiety
  • Prefer casual relationships
  • Poor boundaries
  • Avoid emotional involvement
  • Signs of both anxious and avoidant attachments. 

 

 

You Should Know Your Attachment Style

Do you fit into these 4 categories? 

Keep in mind that we are all unique and the above categories might not match us to the tee. But there is likely one which you resonate the most with. 

Talk therapy is one great tool that can help you figure out the attachment style you have.

The last three styles, (avoidant, anxious and disorganized) are classified as insecure attachment styles. These have the potential to sabotage relationships that have the potential to be great. 

Having an understanding of your attachment style brings great closure and self-awareness. It helps you understand why you do or expect certain things from your partner or the people around you. 

This level of self-awareness helps you effectively work on some of your traits that you do not like. Since you become aware of the cause of the problem, it becomes easier for you to fix the problem. 

Moreover, it also helps you understand your partner even more. Knowing the reason why your partner does certain things allows you to be gentle and more understanding with them. 

Lastly, it also shapes how you choose to parent your children. Since you know how your child will likely turn out based on a particular parenting style, you choose one that leads to the best results possible. 

Let us be kind and gentle to one another, we are products of our past. 

As always, speaking with your doctor, therapist or counselor about any issues you feel you have stemming from this article is recommended. Our goal is to educate and start a conversation, or help you to get help from professionals if needed. You should never diagnose yourself from reading an article. 

Photo by Yan Krukov

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