Attachment Theory In Relationships

Attachment Theory In Relationships

Posted By: Kelly Seal Date: 08-04-2018 Comments: 0

Why do romantic relationships feel difficult to navigate or fraught with conflict? Do you wonder why you act jealous around your partner, or why you become emotionally distant when she wants to open up? We can look to attachment theory to figure out what is going on – how we relate to others, what we fear in a relationship, and how to better make sure our needs are met. How we attach to people in our most intimate relationships is a good indicator of whether the relationship can survive long-term.

First, it’s important to understand that attachments are established and developed in childhood. Our relationship with our parents provides our first experience with secure or non-secure attachment, which we typically try to recreate with our romantic partners. However, many of us are unaware of our attachment styles, and therefore we keep pursuing the wrong people, or making the same mistakes, or somehow recreating the same scenario of neediness or lack we felt as children, no matter the partner.

Once you’re aware of your own attachment pattern however, you can recognize behaviors that aren’t healthy and do something to change the dynamic. But the first step is identifying which type of attachment style applies to you.Which of these three attachments styles can you relate to the most in a relationship?


If you worry about whether your partner will stop loving you, the state of your relationship, your partner’s moods, or being single, chances are you developed an anxious relationship style. Did your parents worry about everything, smothering you or holding you back from new experiences? If you grew up feeling unsafe in the world, it transfers to your romantic relationships. Many people with anxious attachment style tend to fall for avoidants, and feed into this cycle of anxiety and stress when they sense their partners are pulling away.

People with anxious attachment styles don’t like to be alone, and therefore tend to fall hard and fast quickly. If this is your attachment style and you’re single, try giving online dating a rest. Being without a partner for a while will help you understand and meet your own needs, which is crucial to being in a healthy relationship. Explore a new hobby or neighborhood. Get out of your comfort zone, and address those inner fears.

If you’re in a relationship, test your comfort zone. Reach out to friends and spend some time apart from your partner to develop your independence. Don’t pretend you don’t want a committed relationship, but try to cultivate your life outside of one, so you have more to give when you come together with your partner.


If you tend to distance yourself when a relationship gets too intimate or serious, or you prefer your independence over committing to any partner, or you’re able to emotionally “switch off” quickly after a breakup, you likely have avoidant attachment.

This attachment style stems from feeling your parents weren’t there for you, or they didn’t properly address your needs. You learned early on to fend for yourself and not depend on others. But this pattern isn’t helpful in relationships, because it’s a false narrative. While it’s good to be independent, it’s human nature to desire relationships and bond with other people. When you keep yourself at arm’s distance from your partner, shutting him out, you only recreate the scenario you’re used to – being on your own.

Instead of pulling away when you feel vulnerable, it’s good to lean into your fears. Tell your partner how you feel, share that you are scared of risking your heart in a relationship. Vulnerability is required for any relationship to be successful, yours included. Instead of making rash decisions – like pulling away or breaking up – try taking things slowly. Learn more about your partner by spending more time together, and be willing to open up and share your feelings.


When you feel a secure attachment in a relationship, you’re able to maintain independence as well as rely on your partner. Secure attachment strikes a balance. Independence is crucial to personal growth, but we are also social creatures designed to attach to others in the context of relationships. If you’re comfortable opening up to your partner, if you’re able to share your feelings and also address your partner’s needs, you have a secure attachment style.

When you are able to form secure attachments, it’s likely your parents gave you the right amount of attention – they didn’t smother you, but yet you weren’t left to take care of yourself. You’ve grown up feeling like you can rely on a partner without feeling dependent.

Interestingly, if a secure partner is in a relationship with an insecure partner, the insecure partner tends to rise to the occasion, because the secure partner provides the balanced and healthy support. So the key for secure styles is – don’t enable your partner’s unhealthy tendencies, but instead encourage their progress toward more healthy behaviors by adhering to them yourself.

If you’re in a relationship with a secure person – no matter your previous experience in relationships – you have the capacity to be much happier in your relationship that you would with another insecure partner. So for those with avoidant and anxious attachment styles, change is very possible. You just have to be willing to do the work.