Attachment style is a psychological theory that analyzes the different types of relationships between humans. An individual’s attachment style affects almost every aspect of relationships, such as partner selection and the duration of the relationship.
As with most things, attachment styles are established in early childhood based on the behaviors of the adults around you. It doesn’t have to define or limit you later in life, but better understanding your style of attachment can help you understand why you do certain things or are attracted to certain people.
There are four distinct attachment styles:
Securely attached adults are satisfied and confident in their relationships. These are people who grew up with parents who acted as a stable and secure home base for them. They support their significant other and feel comfortable going to them when they need help. A secure relationship will be loving, honest and willing to give way for both members to be independent.
Anxious Preoccupied Attachment
This type of attachment style is found in people who look to their partners to complete them. They are searching for a similar sense of security and safety that secure attachment people are, but they do it in a way that is not always genuine. Rather than expressing love or trust, they experience “emotional hunger” — a feeling of loneliness that turns into desperation to fill a void that cannot be fixed by another person.
Anxious preoccupied attachment tends to stem from parents who are overly protective and clingy to their children. This teaches children that without the other person, they can’t survive or be happy. When someone who is anxious preoccupied becomes unsure of their partner’s feelings, they can turn possessive and demanding.
Dismissive Avoidant Attachment
Those who have a dismissive avoidant attachment style typically fulfilled some sort of “parenting” role early on in life. They are emotionally distant and tend to lead a more introverted lifestyle — often pretending that they do not need connections to be happy. They can turn their emotions off and not seem to react. If their partner threatens to leave them, they’d likely respond with “I don’t care.”
Fearful Avoidant Attachment
A fearful avoidant attachment style means that the person is both scared of becoming too close to someone and also scared of not being close to anyone. They view their partners as someone to go to fulfill their needs, but also as someone who is going to hurt them. They want someone to go to for safety but ultimately are afraid of what happens if they get too close. Their emotions are all over the place.
Parents, in this case, were either unavailable to fulfill their children’s needs or responded to their children’s needs in threatening ways.
If you’re confused about the distinction between the last three, a TikTok user, Krishna, made a helpful series explaining the different styles.
Those who are anxious preoccupied score high in anxiety, while those who are dismissive avoidant score higher in avoidance. Anyone who is fearful avoidant scores high in both.
Krishna includes quotes to help distinguish between the definitions of “anxiety” and “avoidance.” People who are anxious preoccupied check off statements like, “I’m afraid I will lose my partner’s love.” People who are dismissive avoidant agree with statements like, “I don’t feel comfortable opening up to romantic partners.”
Interested in the science of love? Read about the five love languages here.
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