Attachment Style in Relationships and How it Affects Your Relationships

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Originally, the concept of attachment styles was introduced by a psychiatrist named John Bowlby. Attachment is defined by Bowlby as "a balance between attachment behaviors toward parental figures and environmental exploration behaviors." (John Bowlby, Attachment and Loss, Paris, PUF, 1978). In short, Bowlby attributed to the child different ways of being connected to the main attachment figure (usually the mother). It is the quality of this attachment that gives the "color" of the attachment style.

Attachment Style in Relationships

Bowlby described four attachment styles:

  • Secure attachment style
  • Avoidant attachment style
  • Anxious preoccupied attachment style
  • Fearful avoidant attachment style

According to these different ways of being connected with his mother, the baby who has become an adult will adopt more or less the same style of attachment in his future love relationship.

Secure attachment style


People with a secure attachment style are quite comfortable in their intimate and emotional relationships. They do not have unreasonable fears of others and are quite trusting. Commitment is not a problem for them and the absence of the other person for X and Y reasons is experienced rather serenely. Moreover, they easily distinguish between moments of shared intimacy and moments of personal intimacy, which they respect, both for themselves and for their partner.

In general, people with a secure attachment style have good self-esteem, feel "lovable" (i.e. worthy of being loved) and are aware of their value(s). They are aware of the satisfaction or dissatisfaction of their needs and know how to express them. They thrive in both single and loving relationships.

In summary, for people with a secure attachment style, love is not a problem. They love themselves as much as they are loved.

Avoidant attachment style


People with a tendency toward an dismissive avoidant attachment style generally have difficulty with anything that is psychologically intimate. Their involvement in relationships is mostly on the surface, with a strong desire to avoid negative emotions in the background. However, they are not very comfortable with positive emotions either. As a result, one of their fundamental beliefs is that "You are never better served than by yourself".

In love, avoidant people set up their independence, freedom or autonomy as a dogma. Thus, anything that takes the form of a commitment, from near or far, gives them hives and can make them react in an inappropriate way (sudden rupture of the relationship as soon as the partner evokes projects or situations that are a bit more involving).The advantage of avoiders (so to speak) is that in the event of a break-up, they seem to suffer less. Indeed, the emotional detachment they show allows them to preserve themselves at least from the pain of the break-up. However, it is not excluded that what cannot be expressed emotionally cannot be expressed in another way; somatically for example. In fact, avoiders are more likely than others to "somatize". Their body expresses itself when their heart cannot.

In summary, for people with an avoidant attachment style, love becomes a problem when the relationship becomes "serious" (as seen from their window).

Anxious attachment style

People with an anxious preoccupied attachment style have a heightened need for care and attention from their partners. They have a disproportionate amount of anxiety about their relationship and are often dependent on it for reassurance. Their main concern is rejection or abandonment. As a result, when they perceive their partner moving away (even without the slightest hint of separation) they are overwhelmed by a flood of negative emotions that they cannot always control. This leads to inappropriate behaviors such as a tendency to be aggressive (reproach, jealousy, sarcasm) or to suffocate (possessiveness, harassment, repeated requests, calls at all times and places).

Then follows one of the great classics of human relationships: Generating the very object of our fear. In this case, the person with an anxious attachment style (whose main fear is rejection and abandonment) will make his or her partner flee, feeling pressured and suffocated by so many demands.

In summary, for people with an anxious preoccupied attachment style, love becomes a problem when it seems to escape them.


Fearful avoidant attachment style


People with a fearful avoidant attachment style (disorganized) are a mix of the first two. Not only are they uncomfortable with intimacy, but paradoxically they have a great need for contact. Generally they find themselves dissatisfied in their relationship because their lack of self-esteem can never be filled by their partner.

Instead, they adopt an ambivalent behavior such as "I love you, I don't love you" or "Follow me I run away from you, run away from me I follow you". In short, their relationship is as stable as a case of nitroglycerin can be on a thrill ride at Disneyland.

In summary, for people with a disorganized attachment style, love is a problem; always, everywhere, all the time, with everyone (if that's not a generalization...)

Attachment style combinations in relationships


You will have understood that, depending on the attachment styles of each person, love relationships can be more or less harmonious or chaotic. There are combinations that seem to be more favorable to a certain balance in the couple than others. Of course, this balance cannot be summed up in these combinations, but it is clear that they weigh heavily in the balance. All the more so since, I remind you, these attachment styles come from our early childhood. Therefore, in order to change a style that is not very favorable to relational stability in a couple, it is a good idea to start cleaning out the ghost closet and dislodge those who pull the strings of the attachment.

Secure with Secure


No particular worries. Things are done in a flexible way and in a certain form of harmony. Each one is an actor of the relationship in a balance by respecting as much the shared moments of intimacy as the individual ones.

Avoidant with Avoidant


Strange as it may seem, the relationship can work because each partner satisfies their need for independence in the same way. Thus, even if no commitment is made for years, the partners thrive in a form of distant relationship where "day to day" living is the primary goal. The minimum risk for this combination is a form of weariness that sets in over time, even before the partners are more involved in their relationship (but there are no rules in this matter, let's be clear).

Anxious Preoccupied with Anxious Preoccupied


Here again, the relationship can be in balance. Indeed, both partners will be very present for each other and will show a lot of affection. It can be the so-called fusional couples where the idea of living one without the other is simply inconceivable to them. The minimum risk for this combination is to want to burn through some of the steps necessary to build the couple, before making any significant commitments (but there are no rules in this matter, let's be clear about that too).

Secure with Avoidant


The trick can work as long as the Secure is OK with the Avoidant's need for independence. If he feels free enough in the relationship, without pressure or feelings of suffocation, he will be able to flourish in his relationship. He will then be more open and receptive when topics related to commitment come up. However, the Avoidant is not exempt from working on himself in order to develop the confidence he may have in the other person and to leave a little more room for emotions.

Secure with Anxious Preoccupied


Here again, the relationship can work as long as the Secure person easily and regularly shows his feelings to the Anxious person and reassures him in the relationship. Of course, within the limits of his own needs. Indeed, the postulate is that nothing external will be able to sufficiently fill an anxious person whose lack is situated inside himself. He will therefore have to learn to calm himself in the relationship.

Avoidant with Anxious Preoccupied


Well, I won't hide from you that this is the worst combination. Imagine an anxious person with an exacerbated need for recognition giving and/or asking his or her partner, who is rather uncomfortable with commitment and emotions, for signs of emotional demonstration or making promises of love and medium and long-term projects... You might as well want to mix water and fire.

The antithesis of a fulfilled, balanced and harmonious relationship is found in this explosive combination.

Attachment Style in Relationships


I'm curious to have your comments and opinions on the matter...
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Anna Igor

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