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The 4 Attachment Styles and What They Mean for your Relationship

Attachment is your unique way of relating to others. It is an emotional bond that forms during the first years of life. During those first years of life, a child establishes an attachment style depending on how he or she has bonded with the caregiver and whether needs were met––or not. Once a child's attachment style is established, it becomes their way of relating to others as they grow up. It becomes a blueprint for clarifying how secure or insecure one becomes in their relationships and with their intimate partners. Knowing your attachment style is helpful because it determines how you deal with people. 

So why is it helpful to understand your attachment style? 

It is important because understanding your attachment style provides clarity and guidance in understanding your relationships and how you relate to others throughout your life. It offers insight into your emotional limitations as an adult, how you parent your children, and what you can do to improve your close relationships. 

How is your style of attachment formed? 

As a child, you look up to your caregivers for support, security, love, and comfort. Particularly when in distress you are looking for your caregivers to meet your needs. In circumstances when caregivers respond to their child’s distress in ways that meet the child’s needs, the child’s level of distress is reduced and in return, they feel loved and supported. At that moment, the child realizes they can lean on their caregivers in stressful times and learn to trust them. This is a Secure attachment style

In circumstances when caregivers respond to their child’s distress in ways that do not meet the child’s needs, the child’s level of distress is increased and in return, they don’t feel loved or supported. In such circumstances, the child forms an insecure attachment style

There are three insecure attachment styles. If a caregiver responds to their child’s distress in dismissing or demeaning ways, the child will learn to not trust their caregivers because their needs weren’t met. The child absorbs the belief that caregivers cannot be counted on and distress has to be dealt with alone. The child then suppresses their emotions which leads to an avoidant attachment style.

When a caregiver responds to their child’s distress in supportive ways that don’t meet the child’s needs, the child becomes anxious and their level of distress is increased. For example, when a child needs support and reassurance in dealing with a distressful situation, a caregiver may respond in an empathetic way agreeing with the child’s inability to deal with the distress. The child then develops a fear of autonomy and separation and thus establishes a strong desire for approval and need to be close to others. This leads to a preoccupied style of attachment. 

When a caregiver responds to their child’s distress in inconsistent ways that sometimes meet the child’s needs and sometimes not, the child becomes fearful. This leads to a fearful style of attachment. 

How does your attachment style affect your relationship? 

People with a secure style of attachment are confident in their relationships. They are comfortable expressing their emotions and being close to others. They are trusting of others and ask for help when needed. 

People with an avoidant style of attachment exhibit fear of intimacy and closeness with others. They tend to lack trust in others and suppress their emotions. They are independent and don’t ask for help when needed. They are comfortable being emotionally withdrawn and distant from others. 

People with a preoccupied style of attachment exhibit fear of autonomy and separation. They want to be close to others and find that others are hesitant to get as close as they would like. They have trouble controlling their distress level in relationships. They are usually over-invested. 

People with a fearful style of attachment exhibit fear of intimacy and autonomy. They want to be emotionally close but at the same time struggle to trust and depend on others. They can be hard to read because they alternate between being clingy when feeling rejected and rejecting when feeling trapped. They want to be close enough to get their needs met but not too close to avoid getting hurt. 

Can you identify your attachment style? 

Knowing your attachment style can help you discover ways you are protecting yourself in close relationships and how you avoid emotionally connecting with others. With this awareness, you can work toward modifying your attachment in a more suitable way for you. 

If you would like to learn more about your attachment style and ways to modify your attachment, click here to schedule a counseling session:


Sam Nabil is the founder of Naya Clinics and is a Boston therapist and a Boston Marriage Counselor.

Sam offers therapy in Boston and Boston Marriage Counseling for adults suffering from relationship challenges, life transitions and anxiety.


Naya Clinics is a top-rated Marriage Counseling, therapy and Life coaching practice.

Naya Clinics offers Marriage Counselors near me, individual therapy near me, and life coaching near me in various locations across the USA and the world.


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