Types of Attachment in a Relationship

All relationships are made up of a blend of attachments, but they’re not all healthy. It’s better to establish a healthy and nurturing relationship with your partner to help both of you grow together.
Types of Attachment in a Relationship
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 27 May, 2022

People need attachment and bonding for building feelings of security as well as for maintaining their self-esteem. The form that those bonds take largely depends on how happy you are. There are many different types of attachment and bonding.

But not all types of attachment are appropriate or even healthy. Some of them, rather than building confidence, generate negative emotions, such as bitterness. Do you know what types of attachment you’ve developed with your partner?

In today’s article, we invite you to delve into this interesting component of human relationships.

1. An anxious or insecure attachment

Let’s use this simple example to help you understand an attachment that’s anxious or insecure. You have a working dinner with one of your colleagues. You haven’t even gotten to the restaurant yet when you suddenly start getting messages from your partner.

You might have been looking forward to the dinner, to seeing your peers, but not even an hour into the meal your partner is already getting nervous. They want to know who you’re with. They ask if you already miss them. Your partner might even question whether you wouldn’t rather be at home with them instead out with others?

Gradually you’ll start trying to put their anxieties and fears to rest and ease their distrust. Yet it may not be enough for a person who’s too anxious.

You should also be aware of the qualities that people with this instance of our types of attachment have:

  • They need constant demonstrations of your love to the point that you’re essentially being forced to show that you continue to care for them. Sometimes even sex seems almost like an expression of “ownership” instead of true affection.
  • They’re extremely focused on how you react to things. They worry about unimportant details. Your partner might imagine that something bad’s going to happen in the relationship or that you’re going to leave them.
  • Their moods change quickly. Sometimes you’re the best thing that could be in their life. The next moment, though, they become apathetic or distrustful as if you’ve done something wrong.
  • Emotional manipulation is used as a subtle and effective weapon. They’ll get what they want through blackmail or “ultimatums.” People with this trait may play the role of the victim in order to get what they want.

2. The distant or cold attachment

People with this kind of attachment see relationships differently than most people. They don’t require intimacy. Aside from that, their needs for personal space or other emotional requirements aren’t expressed.

That doesn’t mean that they don’t love you, but their way of being and expressing themselves doesn’t match yours. The absence of that bond of love and affection can cause a lot of suffering in a couple.

But what are the common aspects to look out for?

  • They don’t know what to make of their partner’s emotions. They may not have a strong sense empathy and aren’t able to identify the needs that their partner may have.
  • These people always need some degree of space. This can be both physical and personal. If you overstep your bounds and infringe on that need, they might feel angry, hurt, or even betrayed. It’s as if you’ve deliberately invaded their privacy. At the same time, they’re completely oblivious to your suffering.
  • They often prefer to be alone. That way they can avoid serious commitments and only have casual encounters.
  • Although they come across as cold, it doesn’t mean they don’t have emotional needs. Instead, they simply choose to hide them.
  • These people usually have their own unique idea of what the relationship should be like. They might even have a complete concept of their “ideal partner.” But it’s an ideal that no one can possibly attain, which again only causes a lot of pain.

3. The secure attachment – the best of the types of attachment

People in a relationship that’s built on a secure bond between them are more stable emotionally and they gain more from the relationship personally. But what’s the secret? What creates this secure attachment?

  • This kind of bond is based on mutual trust. A mature, balanced, and self-confident person isn’t afraid of commitment and building a future with the person they love.
  • There’s no jealousy or suspicion. No one tries to control the other because the relationship is built on trust.
  • Of course you need your own personal space, but you also recognize that your partner does as well. You respect each others need for distance as well as togetherness, and understand the importance of working as a team.
  • You create dialogue and treat your discussions with respect. This means understanding that every relationship will have its differences, but you learn how to let go of the need to be in the right and build bridges, reaching agreements democratically.
  • There’s no manipulation or selfishness. You listen to each other and don’t lose your trust or worry every day about getting into arguments. That’s taking care of the person you love.

In conclusion, remember this important discussion. The healthiest relationships are built on a secure bond between the couple. But in practice, every relationship will have some aspects of all three types we described above.

It’s not always a bad thing to be jealous on occasion. And sometimes we need more personal space just to be alone for a bit. But you want the base of your relationship – say, 80% – to have characteristics of the secure kind of attachment. The rest of the time it’s normal to experience those other extremes.

So now can you tell us why you love the way you do? And how your partner loves you in return?

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.