The Four Major Attachment Styles and How They Affect Relationships

The Four Major Attachment Styles and How They Affect Relationships


28 February 2020


Do you want to improve your relationships at home or at work? Knowing your attachment style can help. These styles outline patterns of behavior that either foster or hinder healthy interactions.

How can you identify your attachment method? Once you do, how can you modify your behaviors to get the results you want at work and at home? Read on to discover more.


What Are the Four Attachment Styles? 

Psychologists identify four principle attachment styles that govern how we interact with other people. Identifying yours is the first step to making meaningful changes in your life.



If you fit this description, you embody a spirit of rugged independence. The problem is, you may see your relationships as incidental to your professional goals or even your hobbies. Many of these people have severe commitment issues, sometimes due to past failed relationships. They may switch jobs often, particularly if they perceive their colleagues as somehow beneath them, or if they don't receive the compensation or benefits they feel they deserve. 



If you've ever read the novel "Watership Down," you're familiar with the deer-in-headlights feeling known fictionally as "going tharn." This personality type freezes when conflict threatens. They try to run away from negative emotions, which can lead to unpredictable behavior in relationships and at work. They tend to experience struggles in both their careers and love lives and can fall prey to abusive situations.



Do you have a reputation as a drama king or queen? If so, you may manifest this attachment style that's characterized by excessive jealousy, clinginess and demands for reassurance from those in your life. Many people who fit this category need to feel needed, and that can lead them through a series of dysfunctional and tumultuous relationships. 

In the workplace, they may continually ask their supervisor for feedback. They may also feel anxiety every time they perceive they've made a mistake. In love, they may accuse their partner of cheating — even if they have no basis for doing so — merely to receive words of comfort.


Secure Attachment 

Ideally, you want to strive for this attachment style. People with this personality type support their partners when they're in need, but they don't cling to them like duct tape. They operate efficiently in the workplace, asking for regular feedback, but also proceeding with confidence in making daily decisions. They actively try to grow, and they don't allow fear to cripple them when they hit a roadblock. 

How can you identify your attachment style? You might recognize yourself in the descriptions above, or you can take an online assessment to discover your specific type.


The Attachment Styles in Love

If you are in a romantic relationship or want to take yours to the next level, knowing your attachment style is crucial. If you identify as anxious-preoccupied, your most substantial hurdle is learning how to let go and not cling. Let your partner get together with their friends — and resist the urge to text them every five minutes to see how they are. 

If you're dismissive-avoidant, you need to learn how to trust and get close. Have a heart-to-heart with your SO, and state clearly what you want — and don't want — from your union. This honesty is critical — if you never intend to get married, but your partner is intent on walking the aisle, they need to make an informed decision on how to proceed. 

If you're fearful-avoidant, you need to learn not to flee the moment conflicts arise. Wait until you feel calm, and then approach your partner. For example, if you feel unloved because they leave dirty dishes in the sink, asking them to put them in the dishwasher works more effectively than a tearful tirade.


The Attachment Styles with Family and Friends

If you have a dismissive-avoidant attachment style, your challenge is being present. Prioritize your daughter's soccer match — maybe it's only a game to you, but it matters to her. Say yes to that happy hour invitation — would it kill you to mingle for 30 minutes? If you're fearful-avoidant, you may manifest similar behaviors for different reasons. You might turn down a barbecue invite if you fear you won't know anyone there — say yes anyway. Promise yourself that you can leave if you grow uncomfortable after making an appearance. 

If you have an anxious-preoccupied style, try loosening up the reins. Let your child attend that sleepover — after you share intel with the host parents to discern it's safe. Do comfort your best friend when she sobs over a breakup, but resist the urge to set her up with the next blind date. You don't have to play fix-it.


The Attachment Styles at Work

If you want to supercharge your career, understand how your attachment style impacts how you treat your boss and colleagues. If you're anxious-preoccupied, try establishing a biweekly check-in with your supervisor to discuss your goals and progress. Then, take a nose-to-the-grindstone approach, but don't demand instant feedback. 

If you're fearful-avoidant, ask yourself what consequences you'll face if you don't open that client email or procrastinate on finishing a proposal. If you're dismissive-avoidant, work on applauding your colleagues for their contributions and ideas to avoid the impression that you think you're better than them.

Can't get enough of learning about how your attachment style influences your relationships? You can read more about the original science and delve into the theory by reading the book that started it all. You can also find podcasts like "Meditation x Attachment with George Haas" and "Deeper Dating" to help you explore the concept further.


Know Your Attachment Style — Improve Your Life

Once you know how your attachment style impacts how you interact with others, you can take proactive steps to improve your relationships. Doing so will only benefit your career and personal life, making it easier to connect with others.