The Role of Adult Attachment Styles in Relationships

Picture of Written by Tina & Michael LeBlanc

Written by Tina & Michael LeBlanc

In this blog post, we explain the dynamics of adult attachment styles, and how they shape the way we feel and act in our relationships.

About the Authors

Tina and Michael LeBlanc are, co-founders of Better Yourself 365, Licensed Counselling Therapists, Authors of relationship books, and a happily married couple. All of their services are tailored to busy, overstretched couples. Tina and Michael help couples work efficiently as a team by teaching them the essential habits to create a strong, loving connection.

Attachment is the word researchers use to refer to the emotional bond we form with people that matter to us. Essentially, it’s a theory of how relationships work. 

It is the safety and connection two people feel when they move closer and further away from each other or unsafe, anxious and disconnected two people feel with each other.

In this blog post, we will discuss the different types of attachment styles, the emotional bonds we form with our loved ones, and how these styles play out in our relationships.

Understanding Attachment Styles

Attachment styles can be broken down into two essential components: how we feel and how we act in our relationships. These elements form four distinct quadrants, as illustrated in the Attachment Dimensions graphic:

Secure Attachment: The ideal quadrant is one where both partners feel safe and act to approach each other to fulfill their needs. This secure attachment fosters stability and contentment in a relationship.

Anxious Attachment: Those with an anxious attachment style tend to focus on approaching behaviors such as initiating deep conversations and seeking reassurance. They are highly attuned to their relationship needs but may resort to escalated, often perceived as nagging, or controlling, attempts to get their needs met.

Avoidant Attachment: Individuals with an avoidant attachment style prioritize self-sufficiency and are not as in touch with their attachment needs. They may prefer to maintain emotional distance and find it challenging to initiate intimate conversations.

Anxious-Avoidant Attachment: A subset of individuals may exhibit both anxious and avoidant behaviors, often stemming from a turbulent upbringing where approaching and avoiding were employed interchangeably.

Attachment Styles in Action

Attachment styles are crucial because they determine how we connect and communicate with our partners. Here are brief descriptions of the three common attachment styles:

Please note: The authors have coined the terms ‘connection-seekers’ and ‘safety-seekers’ to describe the 2 main attachment styles typically referred to as ‘anxious attachment’ and ‘avoidant attachment’.

Connection-Seekers (Anxious Attachment): These individuals actively seek to strengthen their emotional connection when distressed. They often initiate intimate conversations and crave reassurance.

Some will say that most of the time this person is the female in a heterosexual couple, but it’s not always the case. 

Safety-Seekers (Avoidant Attachment): Safety-seekers prioritize maintaining emotional distance to feel secure. They may occasionally connect but usually from a safe distance. Again, we could say that often the male in a heterosexual couple is the safety-seeker, but females will also have this tendency at times. 

Anxious-Avoidant (Mixed Attachment): These individuals exhibit a “come here, go away” pattern, blending anxious and avoidant behaviours based on their past experiences.

Understanding your attachment style can significantly improve your relationship. It’s like a dance, with both partners having a role to play on the metaphorical “mat” of the relationship. Connection-seekers feel safer when their partners are on the mat, while safety-seekers prefer a bit of distance. Both partners can adapt and meet each other’s needs with communication and understanding. 

It is a back and forth process with both seeking to have their needs met in different ways. If we are not conscious of this, it results in a negative communication pattern – which we discuss in another blog.

The great news is that attachment styles can evolve, and both partners can learn to accommodate each other’s needs. Connection-seekers can practice patience and give safety-seekers space, while safety-seekers can take more emotional risks to connect. As a couple, you can learn to adapt your attachment styles and create a more fulfilling, secure, and connected relationship.

Attachment styles are not set in stone, and with effort and mutual understanding, you can create a relationship that fosters security, connection, and happiness. Your journey towards healthier attachment begins with self-awareness and a willingness to adapt for the betterment of your relationship.

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