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Compatibility vs The 4 Attachment Styles

By Melissa Lipari

Last week, we talked about the four attachment styles here on Lemond-Aid. For a basic summary, the four attachment styles are as follows: secure, anxious, avoidant-dismissive, and avoidant-fearful. For a full breakdown of what each style means and how they can impact your love life, check out last week’s article written by yours truly. Also, I recommend taking the attachment style quiz by Dr. Diane Poole Heller with your partner or by yourself before self-assessing or scrutinizing your relationships. This week, we’re going to build off of those attachment styles and discuss the compatibility between one style to another and which styles would hypothetically work the best (or worst) together. So, without further adieu, let’s begin. 

Secure Attachment

First, let’s chat about the secure attachment style. If you have a secure attachment, that means you are quite independent within your relationships and are usually not the jealous type. If you are currently in a relationship, you probably have a partner that aligns their stress management with yours, meaning that they are low on confrontation and high on communication. However, what we will find throughout this article, is that opposites do attract and they can work well together. I would consider the attachment styles more like a spectrum and less like a sure-fire way of understanding who is meant to be with whom. With that said, your partner or perhaps your “type” could have a fearful attachment. Which means that they are unsure of themselves and often mimic qualities of the anxious style but don’t have the proper communication tools to express these feelings. You could help build the confidence of your partner if you are secure and they are fearful or vice versa. Trust is also vastly important to those who are fearful, so establishing a reliability and accountability from the get-go could make the relationship flourish.

Best Compatibility: Secure

Opposite Compatibility: Fearful

Worst Compatibility: Dismissive

Anxious Attachment

Next up, the anxious attachment. This style is probably the most common, which is unfortunate because it is not exactly the model for healthy relationships. According to self-help author and blogger, Mark Manson, “Anxious attachment types are often nervous and stressed about their relationships. They need constant reassurance and affection from their partner. They have trouble being alone or single. They’ll often succumb to unhealthy or abusive relationships.” In our society, it is much more common to see someone who struggles with maintaining healthy relationships than someone who is vastly secure, especially with the rate of abuse, toxicity, and all of the negative relationship issues that exist. If this sounds like you, don’t panic. People with anxious attachments are fiercely loyal (hence the higher risk for codependency) and they are great at opening up to others who they feel a connection with (not so much with strangers). The best match for an anxious attachment? Definitely, the secure attachment, since you could learn so much from a partner who is reassuring, confident, and has well-developed communication skills. If you’re in a relationship, you probably have a partner with these qualities if the anxious attachment is your style. If you’re single, you probably are more into the confident “go-getter” type since it’s a quality that you would love to have yourself. Don’t forget that it’s normal for opposites to attract, just make sure you are leaning towards a partner that can help you grow in areas that you feel less secure with, instead of someone who could hinder your potential.

Best Compatibility: Secure

Opposite Compatibility: Dismissive

Worst Compatibility: Fearful

Avoidant Dismissive Attachment

If you like to say that you wear the pants in the relationship, you are probably on the dismissive side of the attachment spectrum. Those who are avoidant-dismissive typically have a “know it all” attitude, which can hinder communication skills. During stressful times, you might tend to “check-out” because you would rather not face something that could potentially hurt you or prove you wrong. For this, someone who is anxious could actually be quite compatible. Now hear me out, obviously the secure choice would be the best choice for virtually every attachment style, but that’s just not humanly possible. It is irrational to think that every person who has a “flawed” attachment style is going to only fare well with someone who is secure. It’s not like 50% of the population is secure and 50% is insecure. Therefore, I think that someone who is anxious could learn a thing or two from someone who is avoidant-dismissive because they are primarily opposites. The communication would need some work, but someone who is dismissive could bring a sense of confidence to someone who is more on the anxious side. They could also take the lead in the relationship, which removes a lot of stress from someone who is anxious and is unsure on how to trust others.

Best Compatibility: Anxious

Opposite Compatibility: Anxious

Worst Compatibility: Fearful

Avoidant Fearful Attachment

Finally, we have the avoidant-fearful attachment style. If you or your partner have this style, you probably notice a lot of similarities between your behaviors and those of the anxious style. These two styles are almost identical, except for the fact that anxious attachments are stemmed from self-awareness while fearful attachments stem from the lack of actualization of the self. Codependency is often very common in this relationship style, much like that of the anxious attachment, so that is a big relationship characteristic that should be monitored. Also, fear of rejection might cause issues with forming relationships because of how difficult breakups and arguments can be for those who are fearful. However, people who are fearful often look for those who they can either share that bond with or someone who is the exact opposite that can take them out of their comfort zone. For this, I would say that the dismissive attachment would actually be helpful in a partner for someone who struggles with self-awareness because those who are dismissive are often very hyper-aware of who they are and what they believe is right. However, due to both styles being avoidant in nature with communication, someone who is secure would probably be the best fit for someone who is fearful. It could mean a more even balance between the two attachments because they are so opposite. Regardless, this type of attachment requires someone who is secure within themselves and could help bring that reliability to the relationship. Communication will require a lot of work, but as I mentioned before, opposites have a way of attracting.

Best Compatibility: Secure/Dismissive

Opposite Compatibility: Secure

Worst Compatibility: Anxious

With all this being said, your compatibility with someone is not solely based on what your attachment style is. So, if you’re in a happy relationship and you happen to read that you are dating your worst compatibility - don’t freak out. This is all pure speculation based on the qualities that each attachment style has. Mark Manson continues to echo this in his article about attachment theory, by writing, “Different attachment types tend to configure themselves into intimate relationships in predictable ways. Secure types are capable of dating (or handling, depending on your perspective) both anxious and avoidant types.” So, just because you are the opposite of your partner, doesn’t mean that this type of relationship will fail or is uncommon. This is truly all made to better understand yourself and how you fare with others, it is not the crystal ball for relationships in the present, future, or past. Also, keep in mind that attachment styles can change if you are willing to put in the work. If you find yourself having qualities of a relationship style that you don’t like or perhaps your partner is exhibiting behaviors that are negative towards the relationship, make the conscious choice to change or help guide them in the right direction. Navigating relationships can be difficult but despite how we are hardwired, communication can do a lot for our wants and needs.


For more on attachment styles and how to better understand them, visit psychologytoday.com


References

https://dianepooleheller.com/attachment-test/

https://markmanson.net/attachment-theory#:~:text=Anxious%20attachment%20types%20are%20often,they're%20close%20to%20them.

5 comments

  • To Whitney:

    It makes perfect sense to me. I am anxious preoccupied and I have been in a relationship with a fearful. It was hell for me because he always had one foot out and I did not know whether he wanted me or not. On the other hand, he was so comfortable having me because I would always be reassuring and there for him. So comfortable he used me for more than a year knowing very well he did not want me, just because he was lonely and I could fulfill his needs.

    I was good for him, but he was terrible for me. I never felt loved by him (like I felt with a previous secure partner) and when he left me, I became so depressed and I do not know if I can recover from this.

    Anonymous
  • I know it’s all on a spectrum, but I have finally realized that I have an anxious attachment style and my husband is avoidant attachment style. Being married for all of my adult life, I agree with the post that said anxious and avoidant are NOT “best” for one another. It’s been miserable for both my husband and me, we could never figure out why. Marriage counseling was not helpful, in fact I think it really set us back. We’ve been in individual therapy for three years and nothing really has changed. I don’t know where to go from here. I would leave, but I am disabled and need someone to take care of me. I wish all therapist touched upon the attachment styles, instead of me having to read about it. We should have never gotten married. Hopeless

    Amy
  • When it comes to best compatibility (which in itself has more to do than with just attachment but values, upbringing, lifestyle, etc….) I’m not sure I agree that anxious and avoidant are “best” for one another. They’re simply attracted to each other, but they make for a terrible relationship. This is a weird post.

    Kay
  • wow this made zero sense on so many levels.
    Just one of many examples is:
    Dismissive worst match is fearful, but fearfuls best match is dismissive? Um… okay?

    Whitney
  • I think there may be an error on this post. Although, dismissive avoidants and anxious attachment styles are drawn toward each other, they’re incompatible.

    Jamie

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