Dating and Relationship Advice

The issues we experience in our adult relationships can always be traced back to our parents. Just kidding! Sort of.

Attachment styles are exactly what they sound like. They describe how a child psychologically attaches to the adults around them. Whether a child adopts an insecure or secure attachment style influences their views and expectations of themselves and others. So yes, how your mom treated you 20 years ago still plays a HUGE role in your life today.

There are four distinct attachment styles that individuals fall under at some point in their life. Can you find yours?

1) Secure

Secure attachment style is just that: secure and comfortable in a warm, intimate, and loving relationship. Secure styles have a positive outlook on themselves and others. They are more likely to act with compassion when their romantic partner needs their help or support. They are comfortable depending on others and having others depend on them; if needed they will act as a grounded and present caregiver to those they care about.

2) Anxious-Preoccupied

People with anxious attachment styles are frequently labeled needy, clingy, or “too much.” They tend to worry that their partners do not love them and will leave them, even if there is no evidence that this is the case. Anxious individuals sometimes take things too personally and can be argumentative or moody, as a result of their strong ties to anxiety and emotion. They typically struggle with fear of abandonment in romantic relationships.

3) Dismissive-Avoidant

Individuals with avoidant styles tend to feel uncomfortable with close intimacy. They are often seen as independent, which can occasionally be misconstrued as selfish. People with this style don't like to depend on others, so they similarly do not expect or enjoy others depending on them. They are the “lone wolves” of the types, and like to focus on their own needs and wants.

4) Fearful-Avoidant (or Disorganized)

Individuals who fall under this category usually have unresolved trauma, and sometimes depression and PTSD. They may desire closeness in relationships but have built walls up for the sake of self-preservation. Their own negative experiences may cause them to be antisocial and unknowingly pass their trauma and attachment style onto their own children, thus continuing the cycle of neglect.

The Takeaway

Understanding a person's attachment style creates space for clear communication, understanding, and intimacy. Developing awareness of patterned behavior leads to positive change and growth—and it's the first step to developing secure attachment. (If you aren't there already.)

While it's important to consider a person’s attachment when getting to know them, it's also worth noting that styles and behaviors can evolve over time. Since human beings are complex, it's totally possible to exhibit traits and behaviors from more than one style.

Focusing on how and why we relate to each other erases shame from our own misunderstandings. If two individuals with differing attachment styles fall in love, learning about each other's attachment style can bridge communication gaps and help the couple grow into a meaningful relationship. If attachment styles are discussed before delving into a new relationship, all the better.