Did attachment theory ruin your relationship? - Social Media Explorer
Did attachment theory ruin your relationship?
Did attachment theory ruin your relationship?

Attachment styles can change. Unlock the secrets to healthy adult relationships by discovering how attachment styles impact our behavior.


You’ve probably heard the term “attachment style” thrown around recently. Although the theory has been around for decades, it’s experienced a recent resurgence in online social media trends. Some people are even claiming that your attachment style can determine if your relationship will fail or not…is there any truth to this?

While most psychologists and mental health specialists agree that there is truth to attachment theory, its implications in adult romantic relationships are a little more complicated. This article will dive into what attachment theory is, how it influences our adult relationships, and if your attachment style could be sabotaging your relationship. 

What Is Attachment Theory? 

Attachment theory is a psychological theory that focuses on the importance of early emotional bonds between infants and their caregivers, and the impact of those bonds on an individual’s development and relationships later in life. According to the theory, a child’s attachment style is shaped by the caregiver’s sensitivity and responsiveness to their needs during infancy and beyond. The four main types of attachment styles are secure, anxious/ambivalent, avoidant, and disorganized.

  1. Secure attachment: Children with a secure attachment style tend to feel safe and secure when their caregiver is present, and they use their caregiver as a “secure base” from which to explore their environment.
  2. Anxious/ambivalent attachment: Children with an anxious/ambivalent attachment style are often anxious and uncertain about their caregiver’s availability and responsiveness. They may become clingy or overly dependent on their caregiver and have difficulty exploring their environment.
  3. Avoidant attachment: Children with an avoidant attachment style tend to avoid or ignore their caregiver, and they may seem indifferent to their caregiver’s presence or absence. They may also have difficulty forming close relationships later in life.
  4. Disorganized attachment: Children with a disorganized attachment style often exhibit contradictory behaviors towards their caregiver, such as approaching them but then quickly backing away. They may also display unusual behaviors, such as freezing or collapsing when in the presence of their caregiver. A disorganized attachment style is often associated with experiences of abuse or neglect.

Attachment theory suggests that early attachment experiences can influence an individual’s patterns of emotional regulation, communication, and behavior in future relationships. While the theory has been criticized for oversimplifying the complexity of human relationships, it remains relevant in many areas of psychology and continues to inform research and clinical practice.

How Do Attachment Styles Influence Our Adult Relationships?

Attachment styles influence our adult relationships by setting up our expectations for how others will react to us in relationships. Let’s look at some examples:

Scenario: Your partner comes home from work and instead of hanging out with you, says they’re really tired and need some introvert time alone in their room.

Secure attachment style: A person with a secure attachment style will understand that their partner needs to meet their own needs, and that them spending time alone is not a signifier of mistrust, ill-will, or bad feelings. 

Anxious Attachment: However, someone with an anxious attachment style will hear that and believe they are being abandoned, their partner doesn’t like hanging out with them, or they aren’t good enough for the relationship. Because of this expectation, they may respond with hostility (“How dare you not want to spend time with me!”), passive aggressiveness (“Fine, I guess I’m not fun enough to hang out with.”), or anxiousness (“Are you mad at me? Did I do anything wrong? What happened?”)

The attachment style is not driving the action; rather, it is driving our understanding of what our partner is thinking and feeling (something we can’t truly understand unless we ask them). 

In general, adults will form expectations according to their attachment styles as follows: 

Secure Attachment Style as an Adult

Individuals with a secure attachment style typically have positive views of themselves and their partners. They are comfortable with intimacy and autonomy, have effective communication skills, and are more likely to form and maintain healthy relationships.

Anxious Attachment Style as an Adult

On the other hand, individuals with anxious attachment styles tend to seek excessive reassurance and validation from their partners. They often worry about being abandoned, have low self-esteem, and engage in clingy or dependent behaviors. This can lead to relationship difficulties, including frequent conflicts and emotional turbulence.

Avoidant Attachment Style as an Adult

Individuals with avoidant attachment styles tend to prioritize independence and may have difficulty forming deep emotional connections. They often suppress their emotional needs, avoid intimacy, and have a fear of dependency. This can lead to challenges in forming and sustaining intimate relationships.

Disorganized attachment Style as an adult

People with a disorganized attachment style may exhibit inconsistent patterns of behavior in relationships. They may struggle with emotional regulation, have difficulty trusting others, and experience fear and confusion in intimate connections. This attachment style is often associated with unresolved trauma or abusive experiences.

Can attachment styles be changed? 

Yes! Attachment styles are not fixed traits and can be influenced by later experiences and therapeutic interventions. Understanding attachment styles can provide insight into relationship patterns and provide steps toward building healthier and more fulfilling connections.

As an adult, becoming aware of your attachment style can help you take control of your behaviors and how you approach relationships. If you think you may be presenting an anxious, avoidant, or disorganized attachment style, it is possible to change to a secure attachment style. 

Here are some compassionate and empowering strategies that individuals can consider in their journey towards changing their attachment styles:

  1. Self-awareness: Take the time to reflect on your attachment style and its impact on your relationships. Understand how your early experiences may have shaped your attachment style and recognize any patterns that may be affecting your current connections.
  2. Therapy and counseling: Seek support from a licensed therapist or counselor who can help you explore and understand your attachment style, address any underlying emotional wounds, and develop healthier relationship dynamics.
  3. Mindfulness and self-care: Engage in mindfulness practices, such as meditation or deep breathing exercises, to become more attuned to your emotions and reactions. Prioritize self-care activities that nurture your well-being and help you build a stronger sense of self.
  4. Communication skills: Work on enhancing your communication skills, expressing your needs and boundaries, and actively listening to your partner in order to foster healthier and more secure relationships.
  5. Healing past wounds: If applicable, seek healing for any past trauma or adverse experiences that may be contributing to your attachment style. This may involve processing emotions, seeking closure, and integrating new perspectives with the help of a therapist.
  6. Challenging negative beliefs: Identify and challenge any negative beliefs or assumptions you hold about yourself, others, and relationships. Cultivate more positive and realistic perspectives that can support secure attachment styles.
  7. Building secure relationships: Surround yourself with supportive and caring individuals who can provide positive experiences of trust, security, and intimacy, which can help reshape your attachment style over time.

Remember, changing attachment styles is a journey that takes time and patience. It’s okay to seek support and guidance along the way. Find a therapist who specializes in attachment theory and can help you navigate the interpersonal conflicts that may arise. Mental health therapist offices such as Lifebulb, Grow Therapy, or Thriveworks are good examples of online and in-person options near you. 


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About the Author

Sitetrail Research Team

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