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Did you know that how you form connections in adulthood is strongly dictated by how you formed connections in your childhood?

As children we learn how to connect from how our parents and caregivers connected to us. Attachment patterns are passed down from many generations back. Based on how your needs were met in childhood we form an attachment style. Let’s dive into how attachment styles can dictate our relationship dynamics in adulthood.


Attachment Styles


Attachment styles are formed when we are children and dictate how we interact as adults. Our attachment style dictates how we view relationships, if and how we get close to others, how we respond to conflict, our emotional availability, and how we connect with children. There are four main attachment styles: Avoidant, Anxious-Avoidant, Anxious, and Secure. 

  • AVOIDANT: You avoid close relationships (even if you are in a relationship) due to fear of being suffocated, dismissing potential partners as they come/avoiding getting closer in relationships.
  • ANXIOUS-AVOIDANT: You are uncomfortable with intimacy and avoid getting close for fear that if you do, your partner might leave.
  • ANXIOUS: You crave closeness but are unsure if your partner wants to be as close as you would like.
  • ​SECURE: You feel safe within intimate relationships and can be autonomous and interdependent. You can connect and be vulnerable and be okay being alone.


Attachment styles: How do we get them?

Attachment is really about security and safety. We develop our attachment style as a survival mechanism when we are young, very often some attachment styles develop from childhood trauma. In childhood, many perceived threats come from emotional signals of others as well as the accessibility of the caregiver. Attachment is about inner security that we all must feel before we can go out in the world to play, create and explore. A child will seek closeness with the parent and use this closeness as her/his/their secure base to turn to when needing comfort. The relationship with the parent will be subconsciously internalized (soaked in like a sponge) as a model of what safety and security means. Now think about all the kids who did not get that and who as adults subconsciously associate safety with something else? Or they don’t know how to feel comfortable in safety or are still looking for that safety.

Anxious and Avoidant Relationships

Anxiously attached individuals may be attracted to avoidant partners because the dynamic is similar to the relationship they had with their caregivers growing up. Research shows that anxiously attached individuals tend to be attracted to avoidant Individuals and vice versa. When the avoidant partner gets close to the anxious partner, this temporarily soothes the attachment system of the anxiously attached, creating a feeling of a “high” (dopamine rush). This closeness is then perceived as a threat by the avoidant partner who withdraws and distances self (which creates anxiety for the anxiously attached who then tries to get close again.) ​Due to this push and pull dynamic, avoidant individuals tend to feel independent and powerful when their partner feels needy and incapable. Another important factor at play is that it is likely that each partner has dealt with the opposite attachment style with their caregivers and therefore feels a sense of familiarity. If this relationship dynamic sounds familiar, attachment- focused EMDR, attachment therapy, and couples therapy would be greatly beneficial to the success of your relationship.

For Information and Support

The good news is, attachment styles can change over time. Healing traumas from childhood and getting to the root of your attachment style can help you transition from a more avoidant or anxious attachment over to a secure attachment in adulthood. Gottman Method couples therapy can also help you and your partner find the conflict in your relationship that is due to attachment wounds and deal with it in a healthier way. 

Additional Resources:

Gottman Institute Article: