The Different Types of Attachment Styles in Relationships: What Are the 4 Attachment Styles?
Discover the impact of different types of attachment styles on your relationships and emotional wellbeing. Get a deep understanding of 4 attachment styles and how they shape our lives.
We have all heard it; communication is the key to a healthy and successful relationship. But some of us do not get to this point because of different attachment styles in relationships.
Let's be honest; it is not very easy to handle a relationship—especially when your partner is constantly sending mixed signals . Maybe your partner tells you they need space but then becomes available all day long. They feel like they are into you, but they do not prioritize you.
"All hurt and pain are founded on attachment to anything, regardless of its nature."
These attachment issues in a relationship can make or break it. But if you get to the root of these issues and learn where they are coming from, you can learn more about your relationship and where you stand with your partner. Of course, the best way to know where you stand in your relationship is by understanding the attachment styles your partner may show.
In this blog, we will understand how contradicting and conflicting attachment styles in relationships can be the reason behind cross-wiring in relationships and why miscommunication might not be the only red flag.
But first, let us understand what are the attachment styles.
What Are the Attachment Styles?
In simple words, attachment styles in a relationship are ways of relating to or understanding others in a relationship that are made of bonds, whether new or old.
There are mainly four attachment styles - secure, anxious, avoidant, and fearful-avoidant. Do any of these sound similar or understandable to you?
It all starts in the early years of our childhood. Relationship attachment styles are mostly developed in infancy, based on your relationship with the earliest caregivers. Most researchers believe that attachment styles are formed in the early years of a child’s life and can affect them in adulthood as well. The different experiences caused in adulthood can affect a person’s future attachment styles in a relationship because we are more immune to trauma as adults.
Attachment issues in a relationship can apply to all forms of relationships, not just romantic ones. But mostly, these contradicting styles are present in platonic or familial relationships.
How Do Attachment Styles Develop in Early Childhood?
Now, as you understand what are the attachment styles, let’s dig into how they develop.
Attachment styles develop in early childhood through interactions with primary caregivers. When an infant has their needs met consistently and sensitively by a caregiver, they develop a sense of security and learn to trust that their caregiver will be there for them. This leads to the development of a secure attachment style.
On the other hand, if a caregiver is inconsistent, neglectful, or responds to the child's needs with anger or rejection, the child may develop an insecure attachment style. In some cases, children may also develop a disorganized attachment style if the caregiver's behavior is confusing or frightening.
Characteristics of Relationship Attachment Styles
According to John Bowlby, the founder of attachment theory, there are 4 attachment styles with distinct characteristics.
- The first is proximity maintenance, which describes the desire to be close to the people we're attached to.
- The second is the safe haven, where we seek comfort and protection from our attachment figures when we feel scared or threatened.
- The third characteristic is the secure base, where the attachment figure provides a foundation of security for the child to explore the surrounding environment.
- Lastly, separation distress is the anxiety that arises when the attachment figure is absent.
Bowlby proposed three key propositions about attachment theory.
- First, he believed that children who have a caregiver that they trust to be available to them are less likely to experience fear than those without such a caregiver.
- Second, he suggested that this confidence is developed during a critical period of development - infancy, childhood, and adolescence - and tends to remain stable throughout a person's life.
- Finally, he believed that these expectations are directly tied to experience, meaning that children develop expectations based on their past experiences with responsive caregivers.
Have You Noticed Repeating Patterns in Your Love Life?
Have you ever found yourself in similar situations in your love life, despite being with different partners? You may not have taken the time to analyze your behavior in relationships, but patterns can still emerge.
If you've questioned why you keep ending up in the same circumstances, examining your attachment style can provide insights. Do you struggle with jealousy or clinginess? Or do you tend to be more invested in the relationship than your partner? Perhaps you crave intimacy, but when it's offered, you pull away.
When you recognize patterns of unhealthy behaviors in your love life, exploring attachment theory can be helpful. Understanding your attachment style can help you gain insight into why you act the way you do in relationships and learn new skills for healthier communication and emotional regulation.
Types of Attachment Styles in Relationships
We have all been through a phase of dating someone and cannot help but wonder what our future will be like together. Will this relationship last, or will we get married? Is this love real or not? All of these are valid questions, and the only way to find the correct answer to them is by reading and understanding our partner’s contradicting attachment style.
Analyzing Attachment Styles
To fully understand your relationship attachment style, we will first need to understand what attachment is. Attachment is an emotional bond between two people that is characterized by feelings of security, dependence, and closeness. Mainly, there are 4 attachment styles of different types:
In this article, we will help you determine and understand each of these, and help you find which one you identify with the most.
1. Secure attachment style
Secure attachment is built with the help of healthy and long-lasting relationships. Secure attachment styles are a result of feeling safe with your caregiver. This style includes being able to ask for validation and reassurance. Ultimately, feeling understood, safe, and comforted by partners from an early age in life. For this type of attachment to last, caregivers need to be emotionally available and aware of their behaviours and emotions. Secure attachment style can be recognised from the following:
- ability to regulate emotions,
- trusting others,
- able to seek emotional support,
- better communication skills,
- finding comfort in one another,
- able to self-reflect on relationships/partners,
- better conflict management,
- easy to connect with, and
- being emotionally available.
The secure attachment style helps people grow up feeling more securely through emotional and physical care , and it engages people to live a more healthy lifestyle. This is why people with secure attachment styles in a relationship tend to handle and navigate relationships better. They have a positive, trusting and loving nature. People who follow a secure attachment style are more likely to understand their partner’s intentions, and jealousy is not the biggest issue for them. These people believe they are worthy of love and do not need extra reassurance.
2. Anxious attachment style
This is also known as ambivalent or anxious-preoccupied attachment style. This type of attachment style in a relationship is characterized by:
- the feeling of fear or rejection,
- feelings of abandonment,
- depending on your partner for emotional regulation,
- depending on validations,
- codependent tendencies
Anxious attachment style in a relationship is built from inconsistent and bad parenting attitudes or styles, therefore not fulfilling a child’s needs. People who have an anxious attachment style tend to have difficulty understanding their partners and have zero security of what to expect from others. As a result, these people feel unstable and confused in relationships. Many times people who suffer from anxious attachment styles also suffer from high-stress levels. These people require someone supportive and responsive to their needs. Unfortunately, people who grow up with this often think they are supposed to take care of everyone’s feelings and become codependent.
People who have anxious attachment issues in a relationship may become:
- Easily overwhelmed
- Being attentive at first and then pushing away
- Puts all the responsibility on you
- Sometimes overly coddling and sometimes detached
Signs of knowing if someone has an anxious attachment style:
- Sensitive to criticism
- Needs constant approval
- Clingy tendencies
- Low self-esteem
- Feeling unworthy
- Difficulty being alone
- Fear of rejection
- Abandonment issues
- Difficulty trusting others
Most people who have an anxious attachment style tend to feel unworthy of care or love and need regular reassurance from their partners. They may blame themselves for the challenges faced in the relationship and can get intensely jealous or disturbed due to their poor self-esteem . All of this is because of feelings of rejection, abandonment, and loneliness.
3. Avoidant attachment style
Also known as dismissive-avoidant or insecure attachment style. Avoidant attachment style in a relationship is defined by the failure to strengthen the long-term relationship with others. This is due to the inability to engage in emotional or physical intimacy. Avoidant attachment style is developed from having emotionally distant or extremely strict parents or caregivers . Avoidant attachment style usually consists of:
- Being left to fend for yourself
- Being called out for depending on someone
- Expected to become independent
- Emotional rejections
- Slow in responding to basic needs There are different reasons behind this attachment issue. Sometimes people are outright neglected or are slightly ignorant. People who suffer from this are used to adopting a sense of independence at an early age so that they do not have to rely on anyone else for support.
People who suffer from avoidant attachment issues may have:
- Strong sense of independence
- Avoiding emotional and physical intimacy
- Uncomfortable in expressing feelings
- Dismissive of others
- Hard at trusting others
- Feels threatened by closeness
- Has commitment issues
- Believe in staying alone
- Spend more time alone
People who have an avoidant attachment style in a relationship lack the need for emotional intimacy, so they are less likely to reach romantic levels of depth in a relationship. These people will allow romantic partners to engage with them but avoid getting emotionally involved.
4. Disorganized attachment style
Also known as the anxious-disorganized attachment style, it is defined as inconsistent behaviour and extreme difficulty trusting others. The main causes of disorganized attachment style in a relationship are trauma, abuse or neglect as a child. It can also be caused due to the fear of past caregivers or present. People with this attachment style are mostly confused. Disorganized attachment is due to inconsistent behaviour or caregivers. This leads to disorganized behaviour.
Signs of disorganized behaviour:
- Unable to express emotions
- Fear of rejection
- Changing behaviour
- Unable to trust others
Disorganized attachment style can also be associated with mental health conditions:
- Personality disorder
- Mood disorders
People who have disorganized attachment styles in a relationship usually have unpredictable and confusing behaviour. These people in a relationship can alternate between being aloof and independent, clingy and suddenly emotional. Disorganized attachment issues in a relationship cause people to seek love desperately, but they also push their partners away due to the fear of rejection. They do not avoid emotional intimacy but fear it.
How These Styles Affect A Relationship
Have you been in a relationship with someone who is emotionally unavailable? Or with someone who was emotionally exhausting?
We get so involved in finding the right one for us that we forget to look at their dating style. And when things go wrong, we start to doubt ourselves.
So, how does a contradicting attachment style affect relationships? Well, the biggest way attachment styles can affect a relationship is through miscommunication. People with different styles can view their relationships through different lenses. The problem arises when partners realise they are not on the same page. It then feels like a game of telephone with two people; every message seems to get mixed up between them.
Why is this? Because relationship attachment styles are about underlying assumptions. A person who has a secure attachment style assumes the best in their partner; they can take things at face value. You can say anything to them, and you will only get respect and affection from them.
But when put together with someone who has an anxious attachment style, the entire contract changes. Anxious attachment style makes a person assume the worst because of their personal experience. These people look for hidden signs, read people, and try to withhold their affection as a sort of test.
These patterns can be seen from relationship to relationship. The signs of attachment styles show up in even the most intimate relationships. Even today, a lot of people are unable to realise what their relationship attachment issues are without proper guidance. And if you can’t figure out the attachment style in your relationship, then you can’t easily change it. In short, attachment styles are about getting your own needs met.
Can someone change their attachment style? Yes, but it can take a lot of hard work. In most cases, therapists have been helpful. But it is important to be aware of your attachment style and the choices you make with your partner. A therapist can only guide your development.
How can Now&Me help you?
Now&Me is a platform that can help you understand your attachment style by providing a range of resources and tools. First, Now&Me has a team of experts who can provide insights and guidance on attachment theory and how it applies to your specific situation. These experts are available for one-on-one consultations or free chat online to help you explore your attachment style and work through any challenges you may be facing.
Amazingly, Now&Me also offers affordable therapy options, starting as low as Rs. 30, which is 1/4th of the cost of traditional therapy. This means that you can access the help you need without worrying about the financial implications of therapy.
In addition, Now&Me offers a community of people who are also exploring their attachment styles and experiences. By engaging with this community, you can share your story, receive support, and learn from others' experiences. You may find that hearing from others with similar experiences can help you gain insights and perspective on your own attachment style.
Now&Me has a range of quizzes and resources that you can use to learn more about your attachment style. These quizzes can help you identify your attachment style and better understand how it impacts your relationships and emotions.
Download the app now and explore your attachment styles.
Attachment styles refer to the patterns of behavior and emotional responses that people develop in close relationships. The way we are treated by our caregivers when we are young can shape how we interact with others in the future. This can impact our relationships throughout our lives.
The main difference between secure and insecure attachment styles is that secure style people generally feel comfortable with intimacy and are able to trust others, while insecure ones may struggle with closeness and may have difficulty trusting others.
Yes, attachment styles can change over time, although it may require conscious effort and therapy to do so. Developing more secure attachment styles may involve examining and working through past relationship experiences and learning new skills for healthy communication and emotional regulation.
Attachment styles can have a significant impact on adult relationships and social interactions. People with secure attachment styles tend to have more satisfying and stable relationships, while those with insecure attachment styles may struggle with trust, intimacy, and emotional regulation.
There are 4 attachment styles: secure, anxious-preoccupied, dismissive-avoidant, and fearful-avoidant.
The rarest attachment style is the fearful-avoidant style, which involves a combination of the anxious and avoidant styles and is characterized by a deep fear of rejection and a tendency to avoid closeness.
The hardest attachment style is subjective and varies from person to person. However, the anxious-preoccupied and fearful-avoidant styles can be particularly challenging to navigate in relationships due to difficulties with trust and intimacy.
Yes, there can be different attachment styles for different types of relationships. For example, an individual may have a secure attachment style in romantic relationships but an anxious or avoidant style in familial relationships.
Recognizing your own attachment style can involve self-reflection and examining your emotional responses and behaviors in close relationships. Signs of an insecure attachment style may include difficulty with trust, fear of abandonment, and a tendency to either cling to or avoid closeness.
Yes, going to therapy can be super helpful for people who struggle with feeling secure in their relationships. The therapist can create a safe and supportive environment where they can talk about your past relationship experiences and learn new ways to communicate and manage your emotions. Over time, this can help them develop more secure attachment patterns.
Yes, trauma or adverse childhood experiences can impact attachment styles later in life. Early experiences of neglect, abuse, or inconsistent caregiving can lead to insecure attachment patterns, but therapy and other interventions can help you overcome these challenges and develop a secure attachment style.