Attachment styles in relationships: what are they and which one are you?

Attachment styles in relationships: what are they and which one are you?

Have you struggled with relationships in the past? It could stem from your attachment style. Here’s a breakdown of each one and how it develops, plus some pointers to figure out which one you are.

Although the goal is to become secure, there are a couple of superpowers your attachment style can give you when expressed healthily. You’ll also get a glimpse into that.

Anxious attachment style

Anxious attachment is characterised by the fear of abandonment, uncertainty and low self-esteem.

While you crave a relationship and feelings of closeness, a part of you struggles to trust or rely on your partner. You may feel like you’re less worthy of love, which causes anxiety when you think about being alone or without your partner.

You could’ve experienced inconsistency from a parent or primary caregiver that made you anxious. They’d been engaged and responsive in some moments, then unavailable in others, making you unsure if your relationship needs could be met.

You might’ve also internalised that speaking up is unsafe or ineffective, which caused you to fear boundaries.

How it manifests in adult relationships

Your superpowers in relationships are that you put in a lot of effort. You’re highly sensitive to your partner’s needs and thoughtful with your actions.

However, the other side to your attachment style is:

  • Becoming overly fixated on a partner and the relationship
  • Needing constant attention and reassurance from your partner
  • Difficulty keeping boundaries and feeling like space is a threat to the relationship
  • Feeling like your self-worth depends on how your partner treats you.

Avoidant attachment style

The key characteristics of the avoidant attachment style are the preference for independence and emotional self-sufficiency.

You may feel like you don’t need or can’t depend on others but may allow others to rely on you. Although you crave intimacy and emotional closeness deep down, you may shy away from seeking support or close bonds with people.

Your parents may have been unavailable (physically or emotionally) when you were a child. You might’ve also experienced rejection in your younger years or never had your needs met regularly.

As a child, you developed the ability to distance yourself, which turned into craving independence – even if it means a lack of intimacy.

How it manifests in adult relationships

Your superpowers in relationships are that you respect your partner’s freedom and boundaries. You have a positive view of yourself and feel confident in the relationship.

The other side to your attachment style is:

  • Withdrawing when you feel someone trying to get close to you
  • Feeling uncomfortable with emotions in intimate relationships
  • Keeping secrets or wanting to end a relationship to feel a sense of freedom
  • Preferring casual relationships or partners who are also emotionally distant.

Disorganised attachment style

If you have a disorganised attachment style, you may alternate between being avoidant and anxious, depending on the circumstances.

You could have intense fear from childhood trauma that causes you to behave in confusing ways when it comes to relationships.

If you have a disorganised attachment style, you crave intimacy but fear it, or you feel you aren’t deserving of closeness or love in relationships. You struggle to take responsibility for your actions, and when it comes time to fix problems, you may shy away in hopes the problems will solve themselves without action on either party’s part.

Your parent or caregiver may have had some unresolved trauma that caused them to be both a source of fear and comfort. They either ignored your needs or behaved in ways that were traumatising.

How it manifests in adult relationships

Your superpower in a relationship is you can retain individuality. You see your partner in a very positive light and are attuned to their needs. The opposite aspect of this attachment style is:

  • Swinging between extreme love and hate
  • Feeling confused or unsettled in intimate relationships
  • Being insensitive, untrusting or controlling toward your partner
  • Being hard on others and yourself.

Secure attachment style

If you have a secure attachment style, you can depend on people and allow them to rely on you. These relationships are based on honesty, intimacy and tolerance.

Your connection to your partner doesn’t determine your self-worth, and you know how to self-regulate and bounce back from relationship issues.

If you’re securely attached, you’re more likely to experience higher psychological wellbeing and emotional stability. Expressing your feelings, needs and desires is easy, and you know how to manage conflict. You know how to set boundaries and can show up as yourself fully and truthfully to your partner without fear.

Your parent or caregiver was present and attentive to your needs. They knew how to calm and soothe you when you were distressed, which developed a good foundation for secure connections where you feel confident, trusting and hopeful in relationships.

Which attachment style are you?

Childhood and upbringing significantly impact relationships, and unhealthy experiences can hinder healthy intimacy. Step one is figuring out where you could improve or where you need to heal to experience beneficial connections. 

Remember, attachment is a spectrum of whether you’re anxious, avoidant or disorganised. You may not fit into one profile exactly, but it’s a good indicator of where you may sit and what you may need to work on.

Mia Barnes - Writer - She Defined

Mia Barnes

This article was written by Mia Barnes.

Mia is a freelance writer and researcher who specialises in women’s health and lifestyle. Mia is also the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Body+Mind Magazine.

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