What are the 4 attachment styles and how do they affect our relationship?

Have you heard of the 4 attachment styles? Even if you have, you may not know how they affect our relationships. This article aims to answer those very questions. But first, let’s get into the theory of attachment styles.

Attachment theory studies the nature and dynamics of human connection, with a particular focus on romantic attachment. It helps us to understand how we feel in relationships, which in turn determines our attitudes towards attachment. According to this theory, babies need an emotional connection with their caregivers. These bonds are best formed through loving and responsive care. Attachment theory doesn’t stop there. It also looks at how these patterns that are established at a very young age influence future relationships with intimate partners. Many of us don’t realize that the degree of care we give our children, in their very first moments of this life, is significant to their future relationships.  Attachment style shows how you relate to intimacy, emotional security, self-interest and protection through the lens of fear or anxiety. This is just one factor that explains how your close relationships develop.

Attachment is the most important factor that determines how people respond to their romantic partners. Our ability to form secure attachments to caregivers is critical to building the foundation of healthy adult relationships. Knowing your own attachment style and that of your partner helps to extinguish a deeper bond and healthy communication.

Our attachment style helps us to know ourselves

Knowing the characteristics of the attachment style to which we belong helps us to know ourselves more deeply and to answer questions about our relationships with others. Uncovering your attachment style can explain why you may feel overwhelmed in relationships or why you tend to reject intimacy altogether. You can better understand what leads you to unhealthy relationships and how to create healthier ones. On the other hand, no matter what your attachment style is, it doesn’t fully define human nature and poise. You can always work on it to change it if you are unhappy with its impact on your life. As you know, all change comes with the first step of acceptance. When you accept that this is your attachment style and agree with the good and bad influences it brings, you can begin to work on refining and improving the negatives.

Shaping your attachment style

Before we look at the 4 types of attachment I want to give a clear idea of how they are formed. According to the founders of the theory, there are 3 ways to form an attachment: 

genetic: it is transmitted during gestation and most often depends on the conditions in which the mother lives and her surroundings;

through the parent-child relationship: it is acquired after birth during the child’s first years. As we know, the care of the parent is crucial for the child’s survival;

through life experience: it is acquired once the child becomes more independent and begins to understand the world around him;

According to different psychologists, each way of formation carries different weight, but no one rejects the existence of the three ways in the formation of attachment style. 

What is attachment actually?

Attachment is that warm feeling we have for an intimate partner, friend, pet, or place that has formed over time. It is the emotional connection we feel to our surroundings. Feelings of attachment can bring us both good emotions and deep disappointments. 

What are the 4 attachment styles and what do they say about our relationships?

I want to point out that identifying your attachment style cannot solve all the problems you have in intimate relationships, but knowing it will certainly help you understand why the same scenario repeats itself in every relationship you have.

A secure attachment style: 

People with a secure attachment style are most often self-confident and have no doubts towards their relationship. They are self-reliant and independent and can set healthy boundaries in their relationships with others. These people manage to create healthy intimate and friendly relationships. They are also the most satisfied with their relationships and create the longest relationships relative to people of other attachment styles.  Interestingly, people with secure attachment styles experience rejection in a lighthearted way and manage to move on even when they are hurt badly. They are themselves loyal and sincere partners who show care and consideration for their partner. They are reliable people for whom trust is most important in a relationship. 

This is the style that many people aspire to. This is also the place to turn my attention to how we can transform our attachment style from another type to a secure one.These are some of the ways:  

To start connecting with your own emotions and feelings. This step may be more difficult than it seems, so I recommend consulting a coach to guide you.

A person who wants to have a secure attachment style must not avoid every situation of discomfort, but learn to accept it and face their fears. 

To find a circle of people with whom he feels at ease and can express himself.

Qualities of people with a secure attachment style: 

Confidence, vulnerability, self-control, openness, not hiding their emotions;

According to studies, 50% of the Zambian population have a secure attachment style. 

Anxious attachment style

People exhibiting this attachment style are characterized by nervousness and anxiety about their relationship. They need to constantly feel loved and valued by their partner. They often demand affirming words and actions from their partner and if they do not receive them they become anxious about whether he/she loves them enough. They have a tendency to jump from relationship to relationship because they cannot stay alone for long. Sometimes this leads to having toxic relationships where they stay in just to be in a relationship. They can recognize themselves by blaming the other gender for their relationship failures. Constantly living in fear that their relationship could end at any moment. They are very sensitive to their partner’s emotions and are influenced by them. 

Anxiety styles are formed from a very young age when the parent changes their behavior. At one moment he is affectionate and at another indifferent to the child. 

Signs, of an anxious attachment style: 

Fear of rejection, jealousy, seeking intimacy in a compulsive way, mood swings, need for validation, and low self-esteem;

According to psychologists, 20% of people have an anxious attachment style.

Avoidant attachment style

People who fall into this attachment style are highly independent and often avoid intimacy. For them, a partner’s display of intimacy is a sign that he or she wants to control them. The intrusion of another person into their personal space frightens them. They always have an escape strategy from commitment if the relationship becomes too serious. They do not express their emotions and do not show warmth and caring easily. People expressing this attachment style are usually the people who care less in the relationship, which also makes them the ones in control of the relationship. They need space all to themselves and if the partner crosses that boundary, they start to feel suffocated. Men are more likely to exhibit this attachment style, but that doesn’t preclude the existence of women with an avoidant style. 

Studies prove that people with an avoidant attachment style have just as great a need for intimacy as others, but they simply suppress it. They tend to focus on their partner’s negatives, which in turn makes avoiders less happy in their relationship. 

Parents of people exhibiting an avoidant attachment style encourage their children to become independent earlier than they are ready. The parents may have shown neglect and disinterest in the child in infancy. 

Signs of an avoidant attachment style:

Need to belong, need for security, the need for acceptance, sexual need, and need for physical contact;

According to psychologists, people with an avoidant attachment style make up 25% of the population.

Cautious attachment style

This style combines the most destructive signs from the anxious and avoidant attachment styles. People exhibiting the cautious attachment style do not avoid intimacy, but they are also suspicious of anyone who tries to get close to them. Cautious people most often have low self-esteem and suppress their emotions. The reason they avoid intimacy is that they are afraid of being hurt. This is most often the result of past upsets in relationships with others and in order to avoid future ones, cautious people do not form new relationships. Even if the relationship has potential, they are more likely to end the relationship at an early stage because they are afraid that if they become attached, they will be hurt. 

If you are a person with a cautious attachment style or are in a relationship with one, don’t be intimidated. There is a way to make things better. What’s required is patience, accepting your partner (or yourself) as they are, setting healthy boundaries, therapy.

According to psychologists, people who have a cautious attachment style are only 4-5% of the population. 

You may have exhibited a different attachment style at a particular time in your life or in a particular relationship. Having one attachment style now does not determine your future intimate life. 

People with a secure attachment style have no difficulty relating to people of an anxious or avoidant attachment style. As I mentioned, they are confident enough to know they can handle it. According to studies, people with anxious and avoidant attachment styles can also create healthy relationships. It’s a different situation with people with a cautious attachment style, who most often date people of the same style. Unfortunately, these relationships often turn toxic.

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