How Attachment Styles Affect Relationships

by Gideon Hanekom
December 22, 2021

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In this post, we are looking at how attachment styles affect relationships and what to consider doing when you become aware of the dangers of anxious attachment style signs in your relationship.

Have you ever moved from relationship to relationship every few months, wondering why you can’t find the perfect partner?

Perhaps you’ve been perplexed as to why the people you chose are constantly emotionally unavailable.

What if you knew that your relationship preferences and the way you attach to others were predetermined from the moment you were conceived?

Attachment theory describes how you relate to and rely on others.

Attachment theory also reveals patterns in how we present ourselves in our relationships.

We must grasp the difference between being attached and relying on others in order to be emotionally healthy and make appropriate relationship choices.

How Attachment Styles Affect Relationships

Attachment, according to Sarah-Len Mutiwasekwa of, is the emotional connection between an infant and caregiver, and attachment patterns in childhood can affect relationships later in life.

Consider how it would feel to find a companion who could entirely please you.

Consider meeting someone who did not meet your needs but was able to turn them around so that you were taken care of.

Imagine being able to love and trust someone without first taking care of them.

Consider having a partner for whom you could be present at all times and who would always be pleased to return home to you.

That is the idea behind attachment theory.

The theory is based on the idea that we are born and develop attachments, and that these attachments are hardwired into us.

These attachments offer a quick and easy method to discover safety and security.

According to the theory, the more deep and powerful the attachment, the stronger our relationships.

Before continuing, you may take a relationship attachment styles test right here.

What Are The 4 Attachment Styles and How Do They Affect Our Relationships?

Attachment styles are categorized as secure, anxious-ambivalent, avoidant, or disorganized.

Secure attachment is defined by sentiments of trust and faith in others, as well as susceptibility to the acts of others.

People who exhibit anxious-ambivalent attachment may have deep feelings for others, but they also have an irrational dread of being abandoned.

Avoidant attachment is distinguished by a lack of intimacy or comfort with others.

People with disorganized attachment do not appear to have acquired a strong sense of confidence in their partners, and their relationship is not marked by a strong sense of security.

People with secure attachment are said to be “securely attached” because they can be confident in their partner’s dependability and have a broad sense of trust and faith in other people.

How Attachment Styles Affect Relationships

Let’s look at the secure attachment style a bit closer.

What Is “Secure Attachment”?

Secure attachment has its roots in the theory of attachment created by John Bowlby (1907–1990).

Bowlby’s research reveals that babies build secure relationships with the adults who care for them, whereas other attachment styles may follow distinct patterns.

Secure attachment promotes feelings of safety and security, which are vital in healthy growth.

Secure attachment allows children to explore their environment and feel comfortable with others while they are growing up.

When these children are separated from their caregivers, they do not appear to be distressed or scared at all.

Important for us in the context of this post is the fact that people with this attachment style tend to feel comfortable with intimacy.

Why Does This Matter?

Attachment types are critical since we rely greatly on our capacity to build relationships with others as social animals.

Thus, it has been discovered that children who have secure attachments have a greater chance of maturing into people capable of coping with life’s challenges.

They frequently develop into dependable, trustworthy, and consistent partners who understand how to convey expectations and respond to the needs of their partners.

Additionally, research indicates that a secure attachment style correlates with better happiness and fulfilment in partnerships.

Secure attachments have been associated with increased life satisfaction, reduced substance misuse and violence, and improved emotional regulation and social skills development in children.

Understanding and appreciating attachment theory is especially critical for parents of young children.

From an early age, the process of developing secure attachments requires a great deal of care and feeding.

How Attachment Styles Affect Relationships

As previously stated, when you are sensitive and receptive to your baby’s signs, she will feel secure in her environment, which contributes to her feeling loved.

In comparison, being insensitive or neglectful to your baby’s needs may result in dread and insecurity, as well as undesirable tendencies such as dependency on others to supply her needs rather than establishing autonomy and self-sufficiency.

It’s crucial to understand that both our exterior environment and our internal thoughts contribute to the development of secure attachments.

If your attachment experiences have been solid, consistent, and predictable, you may more easily create secure attachments with others and protect yourself from a wide variety of negative emotions.

However, if you have an insecure attachment, you are more prone to experience trauma at any point in your life.

We need to be patient and compassionate with ourselves and others now more than ever.

We must recognise that each individual is unique and endeavour to meet their as well as our own needs.

How Does Each Of The Four Attachment Styles Manifest In Adults?

The four attachment styles are: secure, anxious-ambivalent, avoidant, and disorganized.

Each of the four attachment styles manifests in adults in different ways.

Secure adults are more likely to be independent, confident, and trusting.

Anxious-ambivalent adults may show discomfort with closeness and conflict, but they also tend to show more empathy and warmth than other adults.

Avoidant adults tend to be more private and socially detached, but they may show independence in the workplace.

Lastly, disorganized adults may struggle with regulation, clinginess, and addiction; however, they also tend to have high self-esteem and are more creative than other adults.

But, what are the most dangerous attachment styles for relationships that we need to be aware of and look out for?

The 2 Attachment Styles That Ruin Relationships

According to a 2017 study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships by Cooper et al., certain types of anxiety can result in dramatic ups and downs in relationships, while partners with attachment disorders can contribute to significant relationship instability.

One such type, which psychologists refer to as ‘attachment anxiety,’ involves see-sawing emotions, and around one in five persons exhibit an anxious attachment style.

According to the study, persons who suffer from attachment anxiety spend a lot of time thinking about what the other person wants, and they can easily shift from feeling highly attached to desiring independence in the space of a few minutes.

When someone fears their lover may abandon them, the typical reaction is to feel extremely uneasy and afraid.

These emotions can cause people to withdraw, and they may even seek to leave the relationship, putting the partner in a state of desperation and perhaps resulting in even more destructive relationship behaviours and dynamics.

This can result in major relationship difficulties and, in the worst-case scenario, separation.

How Attachment Styles Affect Relationships

According to Cortes and Wilson (2016), in another study published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, anxiety attachment can be extremely detrimental to relationships since anxiously attached individuals are more likely to be unfaithful to their partners.

Attachment anxiety is frequently associated with a fear of abandonment, and nervously attached individuals are particularly ‘needy.’

As a result, when an overly attached individual does not receive the reassurance they require in their current connection, they frequently seek it elsewhere.

Additionally, nervously attached individuals are quite prone to be depressed and worried, as these conditions are highly comorbid.

According to, anxiety and depressive disorders are among the most prevalent psychiatric illnesses; they are highly comorbid, and collectively they are classified as internalising disorders.

According to Cooper et al., the second most troublesome type is attachment avoidance (2017).

This is someone who wishes to avoid being overly attached to the other person, and approximately one in every four people has an avoidant attachment style.

In comparison to the increased ups and downs associated with anxiety attachment, low relationship satisfaction is associated with an avoidant style.

According to researchers, this attachment style is associated with decreased relationship satisfaction since avoidant individuals do not communicate their emotions or demonstrate their bond with their partners.

Another argument is that avoidance is connected to the fact that avoidant persons frequently desire to socialise and avoid becoming disturbed by displaying excessive emotion.

In general, your attachment style has an effect on adult relationships, is a significant factor in why partnerships fail and is frequently an impediment to couples forming a permanent relationship.

However, regardless of how your newborn caregiver relationships were and how they formed your attachment style as an adult, you may still learn to form better, healthier bonds.

What If You Don’t Have a Secure Attachment Style?

Today’s research demonstrates that you are not permanently bound to that attachment style.

You can choose to have a secure attachment style consciously.

If you are anxious or avoidant, you can take efforts to improve your relationships and transition to a stable attachment type that results in greater fulfilment.

No matter what your attachment style is, it’s important to realise that the way you were parented during early childhood does not necessarily have to dictate how you live your life now.

How Attachment Styles Affect Relationships

In fact, it’s entirely possible to change how you interact with others and how you feel about yourself depending on the type of relationships you form over time.

Consider These 6 Ideas for More Fulfilling Relationships:

1. Understand what you need in a relationship

It is critical to make an effort to understand your partner’s needs if you wish for them to be met.

However, you must also learn to discuss and express your needs clearly, openly, and honestly with your partner if you want them to be aware of them and meet them.

If you are avoidant, refrain from speaking negatively about your partner.

Rather than that, focus on what you require from the partnership.

If you are nervous, consider what you require and develop the ability to articulate it.

2. Be in tune with when your attachment system might be activated

If your attachment type is avoidant or anxious, you may confuse love with anxiety.

Familiarize yourself with the sensation of tranquilly that comes with love.

Allow your lover to be close by learning to relax.

And, perhaps most significantly, recognise that love does not have to be painful.

Develop the confidence to believe that someone does love you.

However, if there are specific relationship concerns preventing you from trusting your partner, address those issues rather than dismissing your partner’s love for you.

3. Make yourself available to your partner

Maintain dependability, consistency, and trustworthiness, and communicate with your spouse on a frequent basis.

Be a dependable rock that your partner can lean on.

Consider yourself a partner, not a parent.

Your partner is an adult who is capable of self-care.

They require a companion, not a parent or an obnoxious protector.

Assume that your partner will carry out their responsibilities without you badgering them.

And if they don’t, call them out on it lovingly.

Then provide assistance, but make it clear that you are assisting, not taking responsibility for their choices and behaviours.

4. Set aside time to communicate about how you feel in the relationship

It is critical to communicate continuously about how you and your partner can help one another.

What do you require in order to be happy in your relationship?

What gives you the feeling that you are loved?

What can your partner do to make you happy? You will be unhappy in the relationship if you do not receive what you require.

Discuss what they appreciate and hate about your behaviour.

What are their main expectations for the relationship?

What are their main concerns about the relationship?

You want your partner to feel wanted in the relationship at all times.

They are not being asked to give up what they enjoy or to give up who they are as individuals.

This will have a significant impact on your relationship’s satisfaction.

5. Encourage your partner

Encouraging your partner is important in any relationship since it affects how they feel around you and, as a result, the quality of the connection.

As a result, ensure that you are your partner’s primary support network.

Be their champion.

Encourage and empower them as they pursue their goals and dreams.

It astounds me how many older couples who have been married for years do not comprehend or practise this.

Many people continue to feel that criticism is the most beneficial sort of “honesty” for both their spouse and marriage.

Nothing could be further from the truth, because criticism nearly always leads to defensiveness, bitterness, and a desire to leave the partnership.

6. Be willing to walk away if your partner cannot meet your needs

It takes two to tango.

If you and your spouse are unable to reach an agreement to meet each other’s needs, it may suggest that you are incompatible and that it is time to call it what it is and split ways.

Do not continue to do the same thing and expect a different outcome.

I’ve witnessed this in marriages, and it astounds me how easily individuals can be misled and conned into staying in an unpleasant relationship.

Stop attempting to work things out when it’s evident that you’re simply not compatible.

Give it your all to try to fix things, but keep in mind that a few chats and compromises will not solve your problem, so don’t waste any more time or effort trying to fix it if you’re unwilling to undertake some serious introspection and make personal behavioural changes.

Of course, this is not always the case.

Couples who have been together for a long time and have formed a deep bond may be able to sort things out with each other.

Understand, however, that only new actions, not hollow promises and words, will result in new results.

Take Away Thoughts

Understanding your attachment style might help you develop deeper and more rewarding relationships.

When you take the time to figure out what you and your partner need in a relationship and communicate how you feel on a regular basis, both partners have a far better chance of feeling secure and supported in the end.

It can help you learn to communicate more effectively and recognise how the other person is feeling, allowing you and the other person to handle conflicts more smoothly.

It may also assist you in getting along better with others.

Remember that the attachment style theory is based on real-life scenarios but may not apply in all cases.

It is not true that you are bound to relive your life with the same unhappy patterns indefinitely.

With knowledge, you can make changes to your attachment style to avoid a recurrence of unsatisfying relationships.

By learning to communicate and understand your spouse better, you may build stronger connections that provide more support and security.

About the author 

Gideon Hanekom

Gideon Hanekom is the creator of, a renowned relationship blog that ranks among the top 50 relationship blogs in 2024. The website shares valuable insights on creating healthy relationships life. Gideon holds a Master's degree in theological studies and transitioned into professional counseling more than a decade ago. In addition, he since completed post-graduate studies in Psychology at Massey University. With over seventeen years of marriage to his wife and two children, Gideon brings both professional and personal experience to his relationship advice. His articles have been featured on respected platforms such as and The Good Men Project.

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