Unlocking Adult Relationships: Exploring the Impact of the 4 Attachment Styles on Your Life

by Trauma and Emotional Healing

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Angie Ramos

Clinical Hypnotist , Havening Techniques® Certified Practitioner, Somatic Practitioner

Did you know our attachment style affects everything from who we choose as partners to how well our relationships progress and, unfortunately, how they end? That’s why recognizing our attachment pattern can help us understand our strengths and vulnerabilities in a relationship.

Something many don’t realize is that attachment forms in early childhood and continues operating as a working model for adult relationships. This attachment model influences how each of us responds to needs and how we go about meeting them.

It’s true we’ve all heard advice about avoiding attachment at all costs, or things like attachment is the root of all evil – but attachment is a natural part of our human nature. As you’ll see below, it’s actually the model through which we relate to other people.

What I personally, believe regarding spiritual references to attachment is that becoming attached to material things and deriving rewards from external factors keeps us forever seeking happiness outside ourselves. True security comes from within.

It’s not our fate

While early experiences influence us, it’s not our fate to repeat past patterns. With self-reflection and effort to forge nurturing bonds, even those from difficult beginnings can develop secure relationships based on mutual care, respect and fulfilment found together rather than from one another. Our highest purpose involves conscious growth into our full humanity.

But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have deeper personal relationships. On the contrary, what we aim for is deepening our closest relationships. Understanding yourself and how you operate will help you do just that. Today I want to discuss attachment theory and how you can identify your own attachment style. This self-awareness will enable you to strengthen your relationships but also understand some of your patterns.

Attachment theory proposes that the way we interact with important caregivers in early childhood shapes our expectations, needs and behaviors in future relationships. We all develop an innate attachment system, but sometimes experiences lead to insecure patterns like anxious or avoidant attachment.

Knowing your attachment style provides valuable insight. You’ll better understand instinctive reactions like wanting more closeness or withdrawing when emotions run high. With this insight, you can make conscious efforts to meet your own needs and those of loved ones in a balanced, healthy way.

Through open communication with our partners and emotional awareness practices, insecure patterns can transform over time. Healthy attachment means recognizing our intrinsic worth is independent of others, yet connecting from that place of strength.

My hope is that exploring your attachment style brings more empathy, acceptance and peace to your relationships. Our shared humanity is in how we support each other’s need to both give and receive love.

What is Attachment Theory?

Attachment theory primarily focuses on relationships and bonds between people, particularly long-term relationships like those between parents and children, and romantic partners.

Attachment theory was originally developed by John Bowlby, a British psychoanalyst who worked in a Child Guidance Clinic in London during the 1930s, where he treated many children with emotional disorders. In his research, he sought to understand the intense anxiety and distress experienced by children when separating from their primary caregivers.

Thanks to Bowlby, we now know attachment is an evolutionary process. While other behavioral theories saw it as learned, he demonstrated that parenting and response capability were the main determinants of attachment.

In other words, many of us have heard grandparents and mothers say things like “don’t carry the baby so much or they’ll get used to it,” thinking it was learned behavior. But in reality it’s a need for the baby to form this close bond with its primary caregiver.

The core idea of attachment theory is that available, responsive primary caregivers allow an infant to develop a sense of security. The baby knows the caregiver is reliable, creating a secure base from which the child can then explore the world.

Our first family relationships are extremely powerful. According to attachment theory (a fancy term for how we connect with other people), those relationships set the tone for the rest of our lives. Tim Clinton.

Your attachment style impacts your personal relationships - Angie Ramos Hypnosis

The 4 Attachment Styles in Childhood

Attachment behaviors are instinctive responses to threats a child perceives as part of survival, accompanying being cared for and attended to by their primary caregiver. Since babies that engaged in these behaviors were more likely to survive, those instincts were naturally selected and reinforced over generations.

These behaviors form what Bowlby called an “attachment behavioral system,” the system guiding our patterns and habits of forming and maintaining relationships.

Research on Bowlby’s attachment theory showed babies placed in an unfamiliar situation and separated from parents would generally respond in one of three ways upon reuniting with parents:

  • Secure attachment: These babies showed distress upon separating but sought comfort and were easily soothed when parents returned.
  • Anxious-resistant attachment: A smaller portion experienced greater distress and, upon reuniting, seemed both to seek comfort and try to “punish” parents for leaving.
  • Avoidant attachment: Babies in the third category showed minimal or no stress when separating from parents and ignored or actively avoided parents upon reuniting.
  • In later years, researchers added a fourth attachment style to this list: disorganized-disoriented attachment, referring to children with no predictable attachment behavior pattern.

This research demonstrated the child’s response reflects their attachment style, largely a result of how they were cared for in early years. Children appearing secure in unfamiliar situations, for example, tend to have parents responsive to needs.

Children appearing insecure (anxious-resistant or avoidant) often have parents insensitive, inconsistent, or rejecting of care provided. Several studies linked early parental sensitivity and responsiveness to secure attachment.

Your attachment style impacts your personal relationships - Angie Ramos Hypnosis

In insecure relationships, we disguise our vulnerabilities so our partner never really sees us.

The Lasting Impact of Early Attachment

Research suggests an inability to form secure bonds early in life can negatively influence behavior throughout childhood and into adulthood.

Children diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), conduct disorder (CD), or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often demonstrate attachment issues, possibly due to early abuse, neglect, or trauma. Doctors note children adopted after six months face greater risk of attachment problems.

It’s vital to recognize that attachment styles displayed in adulthood may not mirror those in childhood. Nonetheless, formative attachments can profoundly impact later relationships. Individuals with secure attachment as children tend to possess strong self-esteem, fulfilling romantic bonds, and an ability to openly connect with others.

Infants who experienced secure attachment tend to cultivate sturdier self-esteem and self-sufficiency as they develop. These children also exhibit greater independence, perform better academically, establish successful social connections, and experience less depression or anxiety.

While early experiences carry weight, attachment patterns also evolve through time, encouragement and personal growth. Even those emerging from difficult beginnings can transform into secure, nurturing partners and parents through awareness, nervous system regulation, and commitment to nurturing relationships.

Effects in Our Adult Life

While Bowlby primarily studied infant attachment patterns, he did believe they were reflected throughout an adult’s life. However, it wasn’t until the 1980s that Hazan and Shaver began examining adult attachment processes.

According to Hazan and Shaver, the emotional bond developing between adult romantic partners is partly a function of the same motivational system – the attachment behavioral system – that gives rise to the emotional bond between infants and their caregivers.

Our adult attachments also correlate to our childhood experiences. For example, adults who experienced consistent care as children tend toward secure attachments as partners. They view relationships optimistically and find it easy to trust and depend on others.

Those with insecure attachments as adults often had caregiving relationships marred by neglect, abuse or inconsistency. They may struggle with intimacy, combining needs for autonomy and closeness.

The good news is attachments can evolve. With self-awareness and healthy relationships, bonding styles demonstrating as anxious, avoidant or disorganized tendencies in the past do not necessitate perpetuating those relationship patterns forever.

Structuring interactions consciously to foster trust, communicate needs and respect boundaries encourages security. Inner work developing self-worth independently of others also strengthens foundations for fulfilling connections.

Your attachment style impacts your personal relationships - Angie Ramos Hypnosis

When there is a secure attachment pattern, a person feels safe and calm and is easily able to interact with others, meeting both their own needs and the needs of others. However, when there is an anxious or avoidant attachment pattern, and a person chooses a partner that fits with that pattern of maladaptation, they are most likely to choose someone who is not the ideal option to make them happy.

For example, a person with an anxious/preoccupied functional attachment model feels that to get close to someone and meet their needs, they must be with their partner all the time and obtain reassurance. To support this perception of reality, they choose someone who is isolated and difficult to connect with.

A person with a disorganized functional attachment model tends to be distant, because their internal model is that the way to meet your needs is to act as if you don’t have any. Then they choose someone who is more possessive or demands too much attention.

In a sense, we predispose ourselves to seeking partners who confirm our unconscious underlying mental patterns and models. If we grew up with an insecure attachment pattern, we can project or seek to duplicate similar relationship patterns as adults, even when these patterns hurt us and are not in our own best interest.

By understanding our attachment style we gain insight that can help break intergenerational patterns to form balanced, nourishing bonds. Communication, compromise and personal growth pave the way to secure connections.

The 4 Attachment Styles in Our Adult Life

It’s possible to identify your own attachment style by learning about these 4 styles and how they may impact relationships. It’s important to note that in different situations your style may vary, although generally one will guide you more.

Secure Attachment

Typically, children with secure attachment are more likely to view others as supportive and themselves as competent and worthy of respect. They relate positively to others and show resilience, engage in complex play, and have more success in school and interactions with other children. They are better able to take others’ perspectives and have more trust in others.

Adults with secure attachment tend to be more satisfied in their relationships. A secure adult has a similar relationship with their romantic partner, feeling secure and connected while allowing themselves and their partner freedom of movement.

Secure adults provide support when their partner feels distressed. They also turn to their partner seeking comfort when feeling worried themselves. Their relationship tends to be honest, open and egalitarian, and both people feel independent yet loved.

Dismissive and Fearful Avoidant Attachment

Children with an anxious-avoidant attachment style are generally less effective at handling stressful situations. They are likely to withdraw and resist seeking help, preventing them from forming satisfying relationships with others. They show more aggression and antisocial behaviors like lying and bullying, and tend to distance themselves from others to reduce emotional stress.

This is one of the two types of adult avoidance attachments – people with this style generally keep others at a distance. They may feel they don’t need a human connection to survive or thrive, insisting on maintaining independence and isolation from others.

People with a dismissive-avoidant attachment tend to emotionally distance themselves from their partner. They may seek isolation and feel “pseudo-independent,” assuming a self-parenting role. They often seem self-focused and may pay too much attention to their own comforts.

Pseudo-independence is an illusion as every human needs connection. However, dismissive-avoidant people tend toward more inner lives, both denying the importance of loved ones and easily separating from them. They are often able to “switch off” emotionally when potentially hurtful scenarios arise, like a serious argument with their partner or a threat to the relationship’s continuation.

Even in heated or emotional situations, they can “switch off” feelings and not react. For example, if their partner is distressed and threatens to leave, they may respond saying “I don’t care.”

Anxious and Preoccupied Attachment

These children are at the opposite end of the spectrum from children who avoid anxiety. They are likely to lack self-confidence and stay close to their primary caregivers. They may show exaggerated emotional reactions and keep distance from peers, leading to social isolation.

Those forming less secure bonds with partners can feel desperate for love or affection and feel their partner must “complete” or solve their problems. While longing for security and protection in romantic relationships, they may also be acting in ways that push their partner away instead of inviting them in. Behavioral manifestations of their fears may include clinginess, demands, jealousy or being easily upset by small issues.

Unlike securely attached couples, people with an anxious attachment tend to be desperate to form some kind of bond even if fantasy. Rather than feeling real love or trust for their partner, they often feel emotional hunger. They frequently turn to their partner for rescue or completion. Though seeking a sense of security from clinging to their partner, they take actions that push their partner away.

Despite acting desperate or insecure, most of the time their behavior exacerbates their own fears. When feeling unsure of their partner’s feelings and insecure in the relationship, they often become sticky, demanding or possessive of their partner. They can also interpret their partner’s independent actions as affirming their fears. For example, if their partner starts socializing more with friends, they may think “See? They really don’t love me. This means they’ll leave me. I was right not to trust them.”

Fearful and Disorganized Attachment

Children with a disorganized attachment style generally fail to develop an organized strategy for coping with separation anxiety and tend to show aggression, disruptive behaviors, and social isolation. They are more likely to see others as threats rather than sources of support and may fluctuate between social isolation and aggressive or defensive behavior.

This is the second type of adult avoidant attachment manifesting as ambivalence rather than isolation. People with this style generally try to avoid feelings because it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by them. They may experience unpredictable or abrupt mood swings and fear being hurt by a romantic partner. These individuals are simultaneously drawn to and fear drawing near a romantic partner or potential. As expected, this style hampers forming and maintaining meaningful, healthy relationships with others.

A person with fearful-avoidant attachment lives in an ambivalent state, fearing being too close or too far from others. They try to keep feelings at bay but can’t. They can’t simply avoid anxiety or flee feelings. Instead, they feel overwhelmed by reactions and often experience emotional storms. They tend to be confusing or unpredictable in their moods.

They view relationships from a working model that needs to go to others to meet needs, but if they get close to others, they’ll get hurt. In other words, the person they want to go to for safety is the same person they fear being near. As a result, they have no organized strategy for others to meet their needs.

As adults, these individuals tend to find themselves in difficult or dramatic relationships with many ups and downs. They often fear abandonment but also struggle with intimacy. They may cling to their partner when feeling rejected and then feel trapped when close. Often there seems no middle ground between them and their partner. A person with fearful-avoidant attachment may even end up in an abusive relationship.


The way we behave today and our experiences have much to do with how we grew up. However, this certainly does not define us forever—it is possible to change our experiences, how we feel about ourselves, and how we relate to others.

The way we form bonds with partners stems from the attachment style received from parents. But this does not mean it has to remain the same forever. As I mentioned before, gaining self-awareness by understanding how you think of yourself and relate to others can help gradually change experiences.

I also recommend working on self-esteem and cultivating self-love. This has much to do with the ideas we developed, our beliefs, and starting to change current experiences. With effort, past patterns need not limit future connections.

You have the power to rewrite your story. By reflecting on what you learned from relationships and where you want to grow, you can consciously work towards secure bonds. Committing daily to self-care, setting boundaries, and actively listening to loved ones nurtures healthy attachments.

Please reach out if you’d like support transforming attachment patterns and finding fulfilment in relationships. The journey begins within.

Tell me what you thought and what attachment style did you recognize in yourself.

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