In recent years, ‘attachment styles’ have become quite a hot topic in the world of psychology and dating. Understanding how your attachment style shapes and influences your intimate relationships can help you make sense of your own behaviour, how you perceive your partner, and how you respond to intimacy. Identifying these patterns can then help you clarify what specific needs you have in a relationship and the best way to overcome problems.

Attachment Theory

Originally derived from attachment theory – the way you relate to other people and respond to intimacy throughout life as determined by the emotional connection you formed as an infant with your primary caregiver – attachment styles are characterised by the way individuals behave in romantic relationships, especially when that relationship is threatened. It is important to note that while attachment styles are largely shaped by the infant-caregiver connection, the strength of attachment is not based solely on the level of parental love or the quality of care that an infant receives. Rather, it is founded on nonverbal emotional communication: crying, cooing, smiling, and in return, the caregiver providing food, comfort, and affection.


Socio-economic factors such as wealth, education, ethnicity or culture don’t impact attachment styles, nor does having an insecure attachment style as an adult warrant reason to blame your relationship problems on your parent. There are many other experiences that can impact attachment styles throughout childhood, adolescence and adulthood. There are two main categories of attachment styles: insecure and secure, with three subsections within the insecure style: anxious, avoidant and disorganised.


Secure attachment style is the healthiest attachment style within romantic relationships. These individuals are empathetic, able to set appropriate boundaries, and they tend to feel safe, stable and satisfied in their relationships. While they are comfortable being on their own, they adore being in close, meaningful relationships. Having a secure attachment style does not mean you are perfect, and all your relationships are successful or have no problems. Instead, you likely feel confident enough to take responsibility for your own mistakes and are willing to seek support when you need it. You can maintain emotional balance, seek productive ways to manage conflict, and appreciate your own self-worth in a romantic relationship. You’re happy for a partner to rely on you for support and maintaining a level of independence in relationships is ideal for you. When conflict comes, you are resilient enough to bounce back and manage stress in a productive way. Interestingly enough, a securely attached person is able to influence an insecure partner to become more secure.


On the other hand, an anxiously attached person tend to be overly needy. People with this attachment style often struggle with anxiety, uncertainty and seek constant reassurance. They often lack in self-esteem yet intensely crave emotional intimacy. You may feel worn down by fear and anxiety about whether your partner really loves you or wants to be with you. Some indicators of an anxious attachment in a relationship are struggling to fully trust or rely on your partner, becoming overly fixated on the other person, difficulty observing boundaries (viewing space between you as a threat that provokes anxiety), your self-worth resting on how you feel you’re being treated in the relationship, and you may use guilt or manipulative tactics to keep your partner close. All hope is not lost – anxiously attached individuals can still have successful, lasting and fulfilling romantic relationships with securely attached individuals so long as the anxiously predisposed individuals are aware of their attachment style and are doing the inner work to heal.


Avoidantly attached individuals are the opposite of those who are anxiously attached. Instead of craving intimacy, they are wary of closeness and try to avoid emotional connection with others. They would prefer to not rely on others or have others rely on them. Individuals who are avoidantly attached are independent to an extreme – content to care for themselves and don’t feel like they need anyone. The more someone tends to get close or the needier a partner becomes, the more they tend to withdraw. If you are avoidantly attached, you may prefer fleeting, casual relationships to long-term intimate ones, or you seek our partners who will keep their distance emotionally. They may come off as not caring or quite cold in relationships, when really they have a deep-seated fear of intimacy. The worst connection between attachment styles is between anxiously and avoidantly attached individuals – with the anxious individuals’ desire for closeness and the avoidant individuals’ desire for independence, it is a constant cycle of one growing closer and one pulling away.


Lastly, disorganised attachment style is believed to come from intense fear often as a result of childhood trauma, neglect or abuse – adults with this attachment style often feel they don’t deserve love or closeness in a relationship. If you have a disorganised attachment style, you’ve likely never learned to self-soothe your emotions so you probably find intimate relationships confusing, often swinging between emotional extremes of love and hate for a partner. You may exhibit antisocial or negative behaviour patterns, abuse alcohol or drugs, or be prone to aggression or violence. When you crave the security and safety of an intimate relationship, you also feel unworthy of love and terrified of being hurt again.

If you recognise an insecure attachment style in either yourself or your romantic partner, it’s important to know that you don’t have to resign yourselves to enduring the same attitudes, expectations or patterns of behaviour throughout life. It is possible to change and you can develop a more secure attachment style as an adult. To start, learn all you can about your attachment style. The more you understand, the more you’ll be able to recognise and correct the reflexive behaviours that may be contributing to your relationship problems.

If you are curious to learn more about yourself, feel confident and ready to embark on a relationship journey, or are interested in psychological date coaching, get in touch today – we are here to help you every step of the way.