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What is Your Attachment Style?

This February we focus on relationship health as we Explore…What is Your Attachment Style?

Attachment Style Theory

Founded by psychoanalyst John Bowlby in the 1950s and expanded by Mary Ainsworth, attachment theory outlines how your bond with your primary caregivers sets the foundation for how you navigate relationships throughout life.

There are 4 Main Types of Attachment Styles:

1. Secure Attachment Style

An ability to build healthy, long-lasting relationships

Signs of a Secure Attachment Style include:

  • ability to regulate your emotions

  • easily trusting others

  • effective communication skills

  • ability to seek emotional support

  • comfortable being alone

  • comfortable in close relationships

  • ability to self-reflect in partnerships

  • being easy to connect with

  • ability to manage conflict well

  • high self-esteem

  • ability to be emotionally available

How it develops

Secure attachment is the result of feeling secure with your caregivers from childhood and being able to ask for reassurance or validation without punishment.


How it manifests in relationships

As a result, people with secure attachment styles tend to navigate relationships well. They’re generally positive, trusting, and loving to their partners. Securely attached people feel that they’re worthy of love and don’t need external reassurance.

2. Avoidant Attachment Style

Aka dismissive, or anxious-avoidant in children is defined by a struggle to build long-term relationships with others due to difficulty engaging in physical and emotional intimacy.

How it develops

In childhood, you may have had strict or emotionally distant or absent caregivers. The child has to be overly independent or parents were slow to respond to the child’s emotional needs.

Signs of an avoidant attachment style include:

  • persistently avoid emotional or physical intimacy

  • feel a strong sense of independence

  • are uncomfortable expressing your feelings

  • have a hard time trusting people

  • feel threatened by anyone who tries to get close to you

  • spend more time alone than interacting with others

  • believe you don’t need others in your life

How it manifests in relationships

Anxious-avoidant attached adults may tend to navigate relationships at an arm’s length and avoid sharing deeper emotions.


3. Anxious Attachment Style 

Aka preoccupied, or anxious-ambivalent in children is characterized by:

  • fear of rejection

  • fear of abandonment

  • depending on a partner for validation and emotional regulation

  • codependent tendencies

How it develops

This attachment style stems from inconsistent parenting that isn’t attuned to a child’s needs.

These children have difficulty understanding their caregivers and have no security for what to expect from them moving forward. Sometimes, the parents will be supportive and responsive to the child’s needs while at other times, they will not be attuned to their children.

If you have an anxious attachment style, you may have had parents that were easily overwhelmed, sometimes attentive and then push you away, or made you responsible for how they felt.

Therefore, these children often grow up thinking they are supposed to take care of other people’s feelings and often become codependent.

Signs you might have an anxious attachment style:

  • clingy tendencies

  • highly sensitive to criticism (real or perceived)

  • needing approval from others

  • jealous tendencies

  • difficulty being alone

  • low self-esteem

  • feeling unworthy of love

  • intense fear of rejection

  • significant fear of abandonment

  • difficulty trusting others

How it manifests in relationships

People with anxious attachment styles usually feel unworthy of love and need constant reassurance from their partners. They often blame themselves for challenges in the relationship and can exhibit frequent and intense jealousy or distrust due to poor self-esteem. Ultimately, there’s a deep-rooted fear of being abandoned, rejected, or left alone.


4. Disorganized Attachment Style

Aka fearful-avoidant in children: anxious-disorganized attachment is defined as having extremely inconsistent behavior and difficulty trusting others.

How it develops

The most common causes of a disorganized attachment style are childhood trauma, neglect, or abuse. Fear of their parents (their sense of safety) is also present.

Children with this attachment style may seem confused. Caregivers are inconsistent and are often seen as sources of comfort and fear by their children, which leads to their disorganized behaviors.

Signs of a disorganized attachment style include:

  • fear of rejection

  • inability to regulate emotions

  • contradictory behaviors

  • high levels of anxiety

  • difficulty trusting others

  • signs of both avoidant and anxious attachment styles

How it manifests in relationships

In relationships, people with disorganized attachment styles tend to have unpredictable and confusing behavior. They alternate between being aloof and independent and being clingy and emotional.

While they desperately seek love, they also push partners away because of the fear of love. They believe that they’ll always be rejected, but they don’t avoid emotional intimacy. They fear it, and they also consistently seek it out, only to reject it again.

They perceive their partners as unpredictable, and they themselves behave in unpredictable ways within their relationships as they continue to wrestle between the need for security and fear.

The Good News about Attachment Style, Adulthood, and Romantic Relationships

We unconsciously expect our romantic partners to act as our parents did, and therefore, we act in certain ways due to these expectations.

The great news is regardless of your primary relationships, you can change attachment styles and develop healthy and secure bonds in future relationships!

Attachment Group for Adults, Minnesota, Savage


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