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Attachment Styles and How They Impact Relationships

"It’s human nature to seek contact and relationships, to seek love, support, and comfort in others. In fact, the ‘need to belong’ is one of the main forces that drives individuals."


Attachment styles are the ways we emotionally relate to others. According to John Bowlby, a founder in our understanding of attachment, our early relationships- specifically with our parents, influence our intimate, social, and even work relationships in our future. These early relationships are the foundation to the building blocks that will become our attachment style.

Having a greater understanding of what attachment style you have is important as it can impact your relationship with yourself and others. There are four main types of attachment styles: anxious, avoidant, disorganized, and secure. Let's explore more about these different attachment styles, how they form, and how they can impact your most meaningful relationships.


People with an anxious-preoccupied attachment often feel insecure and worry that their partner doesn’t really care for them or isn't present enough. People with this attachment style will often experience feelings of jealousy or clinginess in their relationships. They may also feel overwhelmed or out of control when it comes to expressing their needs or wants in a relationship. For those with this attachment style, there is a strong fear of abandonment and safety is a priority.


If this resonates with you, here are more resources for further reading:


People with an avoidant attachment tend to shy away from intimacy and prefer not to rely on anyone for emotional support or validation, they tend to think of themselves as 'lone wolves.' This type of person will likely come across as aloof, uninterested, distant, and independent when it comes to relationships with others - they don't want to depend on others OR have others depend on them. Avoidant attachments can be difficult because the person won’t always communicate their needs openly or clearly, they tend to avoid emotional closeness and suppress feelings, so it might be hard for their partner to understand what is going on inside them.


If this resonates with you, here are more resources for further reading:


Someone with a disorganized attachment style may alternate between being overly clingy/dependent one moment then pushing away/avoiding intimacy the next moment without any warning changes in behaviors. Those with this attachment style struggle to regulate emotions and may avoid strong emotional connections due to their fear of getting hurt. This can create confusion and insecurity within a relationship as the other person never knows which version they are going to get each day which makes it difficult for them both to connect deeply & authentically with each other.


If this resonates with you, here are more resources for further reading:

The three previous styles would be considered insecure attachment styles due difficulties in cultivating and maintaining healthy relationships. The last one, secure attachment, implies someone who is able to openly express emotions.


Someone who has a secure attachment style values close connections but also respects themselves and their partner’s autonomy within the relationship. People with this type of attachment style know how to express themselves honestly while still being sensitive towards their partner’s feelings. Relationships are based on honesty, tolerance, and emotional closeness. They are able to form meaningful connections without feeling overly dependent on the other person for emotional support or validation. Although they thrive in their relationship, they are not afraid to be alone and tend to have a positive view of themselves and others.


If this resonates with you, here are more resources for further reading:

What To Take Away

Attachment styles can change! Major life events and our partners can greatly impact our attachment styles. For example, an insecurely attached person could form a secure bond with a securely attached partner. And a securely attached person could develop unhealthy relationship behavior after experiencing a trauma or losing a loved one.


Understanding your own attachment style may be key when it comes to forming meaningful relationships with others. Learning how your own attachment style affects your interactions can help you become aware of any potential issues or misunderstandings that could arise due to differences in communication styles or expectations between partners. Taking steps towards improving self-awareness about our own needs is crucial for creating healthy and secure romantic partnerships!


If you find yourself struggling developing healthy attachments, Sarah Miller Counseling can help you navigate building better relationships skills and heal from any negative impacts caused by childhood trauma/neglect that could be blocking you from developing secure attachments.


Also, if you're interested in taking an attachment style quiz, click here!

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