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What Does My Attachment Style Mean About Me?

Sad woman on bed with her husband in the background

Secure, anxious-preoccupied, dismissive-avoidant, or disorganized, do you know your attachment style? The idea of identifying your attachment style, and perhaps that of your romantic partner to determine compatibility, has been around for a while. Attachment styles have been used to determine relationship factors such as longevity, conflicts within the relationship, and much more. Here is what you need to know about attachment styles and how accurate it is as a predictor of the dynamics of a relationship.

Understanding Attachment Styles

The theory in which the concept is grounded, first studied in the 1950s, has a large body of evidence indicating that people’s behaviors in close adult relationships tend to follow patterns of behavior that are influenced by relationships with primary caregivers in early childhood.  Many mental health professionals believe, however, that the way it is commonly presented, particularly on social media, is reductive and potentially misleading.

Origins Of The Theory

Attachment theory originated with the study of how babies relate to their primary caregivers. Human infants come into the world entirely dependent on their caregivers for safety and survival, and the quality and consistency of how caregivers respond to the baby’s needs have a strong influence on one’s attitudes and behaviors in future relationships. The attachment styles themselves were identified based on the way babies in an experiment reacted when their parents left a room and then returned shortly afterward. Babies who had learned that their parents could be relied upon to take care of their needs showed concern when the parents left, and then were comforted when the parents returned.

Reaction To Emotionally Unavailable Parents

Babies whose caregivers were inconsistent or physically or emotionally unavailable reacted with indifference at the parent leaving or returning. They could also be very anxious, and this would not change with the parent’s return. The application of the theory in adulthood is, therefore, most applicable to how an individual reacts when some sort of threat to a relationship, whether real or perceived, is presented. The theory would supposedly give us an understanding of our tendencies in situations of uncertainty

Weaknesses In the Theory

However, interpreting an attachment style as a diagnosis, a blanket explanation for any relationship behavior or challenge, a litmus test for a couple’s compatibility, or a marker of a relationship’s health or future, would be oversimplifying and inaccurate. Here are some reasons why this is the case.

Romantic Relationships Have a Different Dynamic

It’s important to remember that attachment theory is based on the relationship between a parent and child. Adult relationships, including romantic ones, are based on interdependence, mutuality, and conscious choice. That is not to say that we are not influenced in our romantic relationships by the beliefs and habits we formed as young children. However, the expectations we have of a romantic partnership or a friendship are inherently different from what a child can expect of a parent.

Attachment Styles Vary

Research has shown that life course events as well as overall personal growth and maturity can lead to changes in one’s attachment styles over time. One may also relate differently in relationships with different people, behaving and reacting differently in platonic friendships, for example, than in romantic relationships. It is also possible to exhibit different behaviors even within the same relationship at different times. Many people find that they don’t neatly identify with any one attachment style. People are complex, and when you have people interacting with one another in close relationships, the complexity can be exponential.

Attachment Styles Are Manageable

Any attachment-style test that you find online is not like a blood-type test. It should never be interpreted as a diagnosis or a judgment on who you are as a person or the quality of relationships of which you are capable. It is not a verdict of compatibility between partners. By examining our attitudes and behaviors in relationships, we are capable of making changes to our learned responses. This is primarily driven by our perception of how well these responses serve us at the current time.

Gain Deeper Insights Into Your Personality

Understanding our patterns of thought and behavior in relationships is, without a doubt, worthwhile. Instead of relying on a label, you might try asking yourself some probing questions. This can be done either on your own through introspection, in discussion with your partner, or in therapy. Here are some of the questions that will give you better insight into your personality.

  • What did I learn in my family of origin about intimacy and vulnerability?

  • What makes me feel safe in a relationship?

  • How well are these behavior patterns serving me?

  • What sorts of situations and behaviors make me feel anxious or threatened in relationships?

  • What are my behavior patterns when I feel anxious or threatened in relationships?

Remember that attachment styles, like all attitudes and behaviors, are not rigid. If your early childhood relationships led to struggles in your adult relationships, growth, and healing are always possible. At The Hellenic Therapy Center, 567 Park Avenue, Scotch Plains, NJ, we have a team of licensed professionals with day, evening, and weekend hours available for individual, couples, or family therapy. Our range of therapy solutions includes not only individual, adolescent, and children's counseling services but also couples therapy, marriage counseling services, anxiety, panic, and depression counseling services.

For more information about our breakup counseling services, do not hesitate to fill out our contact form, and we will get in touch with you shortly.


Fraley, R. C., Gillath, O., & Deboeck, P. R. (2021). Do life events lead to enduring changes in adult attachment styles? A naturalistic longitudinal investigation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 120(6), 1567–1606.

Umemura, T., Lacinová, L., Kotrčová, K.,  & Fraley, R. (2018) Similarities and differences regarding changes in attachment preferences and attachment styles in relation to romantic relationship length: longitudinal and concurrent analyses. Attachment & Human Development, 20:2, 135-159, DOI: 10.1080/14616734.2017.1383488


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