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How Does My Attachment Style Affect My Romantic Relationship?

You might be surprised to learn just how much your attachment style affects the relationships you develop with romantic partners. It’s important to know that our attachment style can be heavily influenced by how we bonded with our parents ( or guardians) at a young age. We often look to our parents for guidance, love, and security, especially during difficult times. How our parents respond to that need directly affects how we learn to connect with others. It makes sense that once we grow up and start cultivating new relationships, that attachment style would carry through. 

What is Attachment Style?  

Attachment style refers to the particular way in which an individual relates to others. 

Our attachment styles are learned from a young age and tend to remain the same throughout our adulthood. Research shows that while transforming your attachment style is possible, it typically requires a lot of self-reflection. To start the restorative process, you will need to identify your specific attachment style and then work to understand it. 

Secure Attachment:

In a healthy relationship, in which couples are bonded by freely given commitment. They meet their own needs as well as the practical needs of their partner. Decisions are made that benefit them as a couple, rather than one partner over the other. Individuals with healthy, secure attachment styles will have a strong sense of self. They feel worthy of love, care and are not afraid to show emotion. Because of this, they can develop relationships that are free from guilt or fear. 

Avoidant Attachment: 

Those with an avoidant attachment style are often fiercely independent and have difficulty opening up to others. This includes their partner. When conflict arises in their relationship, they tend to pull away. They may even physically walk away from their partner in the middle of a discussion or leave the vicinity altogether. This behavior can cause their partner to feel dismissed or even rejected. If you hear yourself say things like “I don’t feel like talking about this” or “ I need some space,” you may have an avoidant attachment style.

Controller-Victim / Chaotic Attachment:

Many children who are strong-willed and have had chaotic childhoods develop controller/chaotic attachment styles. Those with this type of attachment style have a habit of provoking their partners into intense, emotional, or seductive exchanges. They do this because it causes their adrenaline to rise, making life feel normal or familiar for them. They often have experiences involving parents with abusive tendencies, mental illness, or addiction. Some may have even had parents who were absent altogether. Because they never feel completely in charge, small things may threaten their sense of control. If you say something like “ It’s your fault” or “ You always ruin things,” you may have a controller attachment style. 

Children who are quiet or complacent tend to lean the other way and develop a victim/chaotic attachment style. In adulthood, they may gravitate towards controllers and mistake their intensity for passion. Victims will often take the blame for the conflict in a relationship and feel as though they had said or done things differently; everything would have been fine. Saying things like “ It’s my fault” or “ It could be worse” after a fight with a partner may indicate that you have a victim/chaotic attachment style. 

Pleaser Attachment: 

Pleasers may feel heightened anxiety when their partner wants to spend time alone or with their friends. They tend to mirror their partner’s mood and are highly sensitive when it comes to detecting emotions. Pleasers will often pursue these feelings with their partner, even if they have been told that there is nothing wrong. If you hear yourself saying things like “I want you to decide” or “ We should do what you want to do,” you may have a pleaser attachment style. 

Vacillator Attachment: 

During childhood, connections were likely inconsistent and unpredictable for a vacillator. The parents of a vacillator often act based on their own needs rather than on the needs of their children. In adulthood, vacillators will crave connections and go to great lengths to feel them. New relationships are often romanticized, but when their high expectations aren’t met, they can respond harshly. In response to their disappointment, they will teeter-totter between pushing their partners away and wanting them to come back. A vacillator may say things like “ If you loved me, you’d know what my needs are” or “ Once you fix this flaw, then I can be happy”. 

How Do I Develop A Secure Attachment Style

Although self-reflection and self-growth can be daunting, it is the only way to get to the root of your attachment style and what caused it to become what it is today. Developing the following skills for each attachment style can help you cultivate healthy, balanced, and rewarding relationships. 

Avoidant Attachment:

While working to heal an avoidant attachment style, you may want to consider working on communication. It’s important to ask for what you need and to actively listen to what your partner is saying to you when it comes to their own needs. It’s also important that you work to develop empathy and compassion towards not only your partner but for others in general. Learning to identify your own emotions is another critical skill that you can work on that will help you better understand and communicate with your partner. 

Controller /Chaotic  Attachment: 

Developing self-awareness when it comes to your emotions is a critical part of restoring your attachment style. Pay special attention to feelings of pain, fear, and anxiety. You will also want to work on being open-minded, especially when you and your partner have differing opinions. This will mean active listening and learning to apply the advice from your partner at times. At the same time, you will want to start developing your ability to feel compassion for your partner, others, and yourself.

Victim /Chaotic  Attachment: 

Creating a self-care routine, and sticking to it is a great first step for those who have a victim attachment style. The next step will be to start connecting with your inner self, to find out who you are, what your opinions are, and how you might like to start voicing them. Then you will want to start setting boundaries and learning how to stand by them. Of course, it is also important that you learn when it’s time to seek out safety. 

Pleaser Attachment: 

Learning to spend time alone is a great first step for those who are struggling with the urge to please their partners. It may be difficult at first but the more you work on it, the easier it will become. Learning to set boundaries will be another critical step in your journey as you typically would let someone walk all over you if it means avoiding conflict. We would encourage you to create a self-care routine that focuses on doing things that nurture your heart and spirit. 

Vacillator Attachment: 

Vacillators may take out their anger from past trauma or pain on their current partners. It’s important to be aware of that, as well as to begin processing that trauma in a healthy way. Because vacillators tend to have high expectations in their relationships it’s important to work on both communication and managing those expectations.

What Should I Do Now?

If you or your partner are struggling with attachment style issues, and are looking for further resources, or to speak with a counselor, we can help. Reach out to us at

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