The 4 Relationship Attachment Styles

Here’s what you need to know about them.

If you aren’t familiar with attachment in relationships, you might be wondering what the heck an attachment style is?

Psychologist Carder Stout explains,

“Many psychologists believe that our adult personalities are unconsciously planted in our childhood experiences. And the way we relate to others, too, seems to be established in our very first relationships — typically with our parents.

From the way our caregivers meet our emotional needs in early life, we develop social coping habits that collect into something called an “attachment style” — a pattern in the way we relate to others.”

There are four attachment styles, 3 of which are ‘insecure’ attachment types, and one which is, well, secure.

Let’s take a look at them:

1. Secure attachment

Folks with secure attachment often grew up with an abundance of love and support from their consistently responsive caregivers.

As secure adults, they’re able to be interdependent and connect with others in a healthy and mutually beneficial way. They’re flexible thinkers, comfortable with expressing emotions and can see situations from all angles.

They’re also able to resolve conflict without a lot of drama. They’re comfortable with accepting love from others and forgive with ease.

2. Avoidant attachment

Those with avoidant attachment often keep love and affection at a distance, or they brush off the importance of relationships.

Attachment expert Diane Poole Heller states that as kids, these folks we’re left alone a lot, neglected or rejected by their parents and their parents weren’t present/attentive enough (unless they were teaching them specific tasks.)

With avoidant attachment, these people often have disconnected from the need to attach with others — so they need to reconnect with others in a way that’s safe and healthy.

3. Anxious attachment

These folks struggle with anxiety around if and when they’ll get their needs met or feel insecure about being loved (or loveable.)

As kids, their parents might have shown them care and love, but it was unpredictable. Anxiously attached people are often on high alert for the slightest whiff of abandonment.

They can be fearful of their partner leaving them — and before anything even happens (sometimes it never does, but they often anticipate something will happen), and are left feeling angry, disappointed, sad or worried.

For anxious folks, having consistency and reassurance in their lives is essential.

4. Anxious-avoidant attachment

A combination of both avoidant and anxious qualities in an unpredictable manner. These folks are trying to survive any potential emotional threat in their relationships (and life.)

Their nervous system is on high alert for perceived danger or threats.

Their parents may have been a source of fear or worry (they may have had unresolved trauma themselves, or were abusive, etc.) — so as kids, they wanted love, comfort and protection, but felt afraid to go to their caregivers for support.

As adults, they often struggle with emotional dysregulation and their moods shift suddenly (or they dissociate.) Due to their turbulent inner world, reestablishing their ability to regulate and feel safe are highly important for anxious-avoidant folks.

To conclude, Heller explains,

“There are a lot of variables to consider ad the goal isn’t to shoehorn yourself and others into categories that don’t always fit. Rather, the idea is to see that your dominant patterns can be come more fluid and manageable.”

The key is to show ourselves compassion as we embark on our healing journey — no matter what stage we’re at in life.