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The 4 Attachment Styles

By Melissa Lipari

There are four key attachment styles that explain the psychological theory of how humans connect with one another. These methods are said to be the blueprint for how a child builds their relationships into adulthood. A brief overview from the University of Illinois summarizes that, “Research on adult attachment is guided by the assumption that the same motivational system that gives rise to the close emotional bond between parents and their children is responsible for the bond that develops between adults in emotionally intimate relationships.” From the moment we establish a relationship or lack thereof with our parents, we begin to develop the traits that will carry into our emotional relationships as adults. In order to better understand the attachment styles, here is a list of each style, broken down by their defining components.

Attachment Style 1: Secure

A secure attachment style means that you have the ability to trust people easily. You are also probably very in tune to your own emotions, which means that you have great prioritization and time management skills. Due to the security within your emotions, you can express yourself well and do not often seek conflict. You are usually a cooperative and easy-going partner when it comes to your intimate relationships. These traits can probably be chalked up to having a supportive family life that was based on structure - but not too much of it. You might have an excellent relationship with your parents and may even model some of your relationships after qualities you see in your own family.

Attachment Style 2: Anxious

The opposite of the secure attachment is the anxious attachment style. An anxious style means that you are typically more sensitive, which doesn’t necessarily amount to a bad thing. You might have problems expressing yourself, which could have stemmed from not feeling safe enough to open up and share your emotions as a child. If you tend to get anxious, you often have a fight-or-flight response in play at all times, which could lead you to making rash decisions when it comes to relationship quarrels. Just because you didn’t receive the best support at home, doesn’t mean that this needs to translate into your adult life. You also could have developed this attachment from having a supportive family but a lack of self-confidence - this style doesn’t necessarily stem from parental guidance. People with anxious attachments can fare well with support from peers or partners who have something in common with them. Note that if you often feel spiteful when it comes to your relationships, it is probably due to your attachment style’s somewhat insecure nature. With this said, you can still have a healthy relationship with this style if you work on your communication, confidence, and prioritization skills.

Attachment Style 3: Avoidant-Dismissive

If you have an avoidant-dismissive attachment style, you probably think you know best. This might be true, but it’s important to listen to your partner when you’re in a relationship, as healthy communication is key. Perhaps growing up, you felt like you were not superior to those around you or were bossed around. It is also common with this relationship style to downplay situations because they don’t seem important to your personal goals. While you might be self-reliant, it is crucial to think about how others might feel towards situations that do not seem “ideal” or have meaning to you. Having empathy towards others is key with this attachment style. You also don’t have to feel the need to always take care of yourself. People with dismissive attachment can feel overwhelmed when situations become explosive due to their constant self-reliance. Give yourself a chance to open up to others, even if you have felt hurt in the past; it will give you some personal relief and a stronger connection with others.

Attachment Style 4: Avoidant-Fearful

In an avoidant-fearful attachment, many people often feel as though they have similar qualities to that of the anxious style but don’t have the confidence to fix what is bothering them. Perhaps you were raised in a situation where you often lacked confidence or felt that you could not deliver in a way that others were proud of. This might trigger the need to be more codependent in relationships. Due to this nature, rejection is probably a big trepidation for those who have fearful avoidance, so breakups or arguments are often taken much harder. Additionally, there could be a lack of trust within the self and the partner involved. For this style of attachment, you need to be able to grow into trusting yourself. By allowing yourself the space to try new things, without the fear of rejection, you will live a much happier and less stressful life. You can take on relationships with confidence, knowing that regardless of the outcome, you will be alright.

From these four attachment styles, we can all gain a better sense of how we are as partners. It’s important to acknowledge your style in order to healthily approach relationships. If you have past trauma from your childhood, understand that these traumas do not have to define your next intimate relationship. The same goes for trauma that has happened in your adult life. By better grasping the way we love and more importantly, the way we need to be loved by others, we can help create a healthy love life with a current or future partner.

If you are unsure as to what category of attachment you are, take a quiz from somatic attachment and trauma expert Dr. Diane Poole Heller.

*Disclaimer* All attachment styles were guided by the


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