How Do Attachment Styles Affect Romantic Relationships?

Attachment Styles

Your attachment style can play a major role in how you function in your romantic relationships. Some people find it easy to connect with partners and form healthy bonds, and others feel like their relationships are always a source of emotional turmoil. You might feel scared to get too close to someone and pull away as the relationship starts to progress, or you may cling onto your partner because you’re scared that they’ll leave. Consistently running into the same challenges in your partnerships could be a sign that you have an unhealthy attachment style. Understanding how attachment styles form and how they impact your relationships can give you valuable insight that you can use to strengthen your partnerships.

Understanding Attachment Theory

Attachment theory is a psychological theory that explains how we connect to others as adults. Most psychologists recognize four attachment styles: secure, anxious preoccupied, dismissive avoidant, and fearful avoidant. Each one has unique characteristics that influence the way you connect with others and engage emotionally in your relationships.

Attachment styles develop early in childhood, but they stay with us for life. Because we’re so dependent on others to meet our needs in early childhood, our earliest experiences can shape the way we relate to other people in adulthood. This doesn’t mean that you’re doomed to a life of relationship struggles if you have an unhealthy attachment style, though. The key to successful relationships is self-awareness and self-reflection. If you discover and explore your attachment style, you can learn how to overcome the unhelpful patterns that you’re predisposed to.

How Attachment Styles Affect Relationships

Each of the four relationship attachment styles can affect partnerships in different ways. Identifying your own and your partner’s attachment styles is the first step toward understanding how attachment theory plays a role in your relationship. You can discover your attachment style by researching attachment theory on your own or by exploring your experiences with a therapist.

Secure Attachment

People with secure attachment styles experienced stability and consistency early in childhood. When your parents provide you with such a strong sense of security, you know that you can learn and grow independently while also falling back on them for support when needed. In adulthood, you find the same balance in your romantic relationships.

Secure attachment styles have a number of benefits in a relationship. You find it easy to open up to your partner when appropriate, but you don’t feel like you rely solely on them for emotional support or fulfillment. When your partner needs you support, you’re there for them without question. Typically, a relationship between two people with secure attachment styles is full of trust and connection, but both partners still maintain their sense of independence.

Anxious Preoccupied Attachment

An anxious preoccupied attachment style can develop if you experienced inconsistent support from your parents. If your parents were highly responsive to your needs at some times and withdrawn at others, you may struggle to trust partners as an adult because you’ve learned that the support is only available occasionally.

People with anxious preoccupied attachment styles can struggle intensely in relationships until they learn to overcome their challenges. You feel a never-ending conflict between your desire for emotional fulfillment and your fear of becoming too close to someone. You might cling onto your partner and frequently seek confirmation that they love you, but your fear of rejection also causes you to lash out or run away to avoid being hurt or abandoned.

Dismissive Avoidant Attachment

Dismissive avoidant attachment styles often develop in children whose needs go unmet by their parents or caregivers. If you learn from a young age to take care of yourself both physically and emotionally, you might struggle to bond with a romantic partner.

All humans need strong social bonds with others to truly achieve emotional fulfillment. However, you may avoid dating or stop yourself from becoming too close with a partner because you don’t trust others to provide you with support. You feel like you can take care of yourself and that being vulnerable with a partner will put you at risk. As someone begins to open up to you, you may feel an impulse to pull away or abandon the relationship altogether.

A relationship between someone with anxious preoccupied attachment and someone with dismissive avoidant attachment can be especially difficult if neither person is self-aware about their attachment styles. The anxious preoccupied individual needs to know that their partner loves them and won’t leave them, but this behavior can cause the dismissive avoidant individual to back away because they don’t know how to respond to this display of vulnerability. Then, the anxious preoccupied partner becomes even more fearful that they’ll be abandoned.

Fearful Avoidant Attachment

Fearful avoidant attachment styles may look similar to dismissive avoidant attachment styles, but the internal emotional experience can feel different. As a child, you may have experienced erratic, frightening, or abusive behavior from one or both of your parents. Now, you crave emotional closeness with another person, but you’re scared to enter a relationship because you expect a partner to behave unpredictably.

If you have fearful avoidant attachment, you might feel like your beliefs or emotions regarding your relationship are constantly changing. One day, you may feel like you desperately need your partner to fulfill your emotional needs. The next, your relationship anxiety may overwhelm you and cause you to run away as a way of protecting yourself. People with fearful avoidant attachment styles often seek out rocky, unstable partnerships because these experiences mirror the behavior they witnessed from their parents as children.

Knowing your attachment style can help you understand how you relate to your romantic partners. Any insecure attachment style could create challenges in a relationship, but you have the power to break free from the unhealthy patterns. Once you notice how your attachment style stops you from developing a healthy, trusting connection with your partner, you can begin to challenge these behaviors. All relationships require consistent effort and self-reflection to flourish, and understanding your and your partner’s attachment styles can completely transform your bond.

The Beverly Hills Therapy Group provides individual and couples counseling for clients who hope to explore their attachment styles and strengthen their relationships. You can contact us today to set up a meeting with a therapist in Los Angeles.

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