The book Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find—and Keep—Love, by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller, helped me gain a better understanding of what attachment theory is and how it works in intimate relationships.

There are 3 mains styles of attachment: attachment theory, attachment styles, secure attachment, insecure attachment, anxious attachment, avoidant attachment, disorganized attachment, parent-child attachment, adult attachment, Mary Ainsworth, John Bowlby

  • Secure
  • Anxious-preoccupied
  • Avoidant-dismissive

According to the authors, the basic principle is that secure people feel comfortable with intimacy and are usually warm and loving.

Anxious people crave intimacy, though are often preoccupied and tend to worry about their partner’s ability to love them back.

Avoidant people equate intimacy with a loss of independence and constantly try to minimize closeness.

Each of these attachment styles differs in the way they view intimacy and togetherness, the way they deal with conflict, their attitudes toward sex, their ability to communicate needs and wishes, and their expectations they have of their partner and the relationship.

Genetics, as well as your early attachment experiences, can set the template for your relationships throughout your lifespan.

Adult attachment theory teaches us that our brain becomes wired to seek the support of our partner by ensuring the partner’s psychological and physical proximity.

If our partner fails to reassure us, we are programmed to continue our attempts to achieve closeness until the partner does. The theory also teaches us that most people are only as needy as their unmet needs.

When their emotional needs are met (the earlier the better), they usually turn their attention outward. This is sometimes referred to as the “dependency paradox.”

The more effectively dependent people are on one another, the more independent and daring they become. Numerous studies have shown that once we become attached to someone, the two people form one physiological unit.

Our partner regulates our blood pressure, our heart rate, our breathing, and the levels of hormones in our blood.

Dependency is a fact and not a choice or preference 

attachment theory, attachment styles, secure attachment, insecure attachment, anxious attachment, avoidant attachment, disorganized attachment, parent-child attachment, adult attachment, Mary Ainsworth, John BowlbyWhen two people form an intimate relationship, they regulate each other’s psychological and emotional well-being. It turns out that the ability to step into the world on our own often stems from the knowledge that there is someone beside us whom we can count on.

A secure base is a prerequisite for a child’s ability to explore, develop and learn, and is as essential for the child’s survival as food and water.

Our brain assigns our partner the task of being our secure base, the person we use as an emotional anchor and a safe haven, the one we turn to in time of need.

One of the most important roles we play in our partners’ lives is providing a secure base, creating conditions that enable our partner to pursue their interests and explore the world in confidence.

How to know your partner’s attachment style — a cheat sheet


  • Communicates relationship issues well
  • Is able to compromise
  • Not afraid of commitment or dependency
  • Doesn’t view relationships as hard work
  • Closeness creates further closeness
  • Introduces friends and family early on
  • Naturally expresses feelings for you
  • Doesn’t play games
  • Reliable and consistent
  • Makes decisions with you
  • Has a flexible view of relationship


  • Wants a lot of closeness in the relationship
  • Expresses insecurities, worries about rejection
  • Unhappy when not in a relationship
  • Plays games to keep attention and interest
  • Has difficulty explaining what is bothering him/her; expects you to guess
  • Acts out
  • Has a hard time not making things about him/her in the relationship
  • Lets you set the tone of the relationship
  • Is preoccupied with the relationship
  • Fears that small acts will ruin the relationship, believes she/he must work hard to keep the partner’s interest
  • Suspicious that you may be unfaithful


  • Sends mixed signals
  • Values his/her independence
  • Devalues you or previous partner
  • Uses distancing strategies
  • Emphasizes boundaries in the relationship
  • Has an unrealistically romantic view of how a relationship should be
  • Fears being taken advantage of by partner
  • Uses uncompromising rules and has a rigid view of the relationship
  • Doesn’t make intentions clear
  • Has difficulty talking about what is going on between you

The secure attachment style person tends to be reliable, consistent, and trustworthy. They are programmed to expect their partners to be loving and responsive, without worrying much about losing their partner’s love. They feel comfortable with intimacy and closeness and have an uncanny ability to communicate their needs and respond to their partner’s needs.

An anxious attachment style person is more vigilant, watching for changes in others’ emotional expressions, and has a high degree of sensitivity to cues.

An anxious person tends to jump to conclusions quickly, and when they do, they tend to misinterpret people’s emotional states. They need to wait a little longer before reacting and jumping to conclusions.

An avoidant attachment style person is like a lonesome traveler on the journey of life and relationships. They can be quick to think negatively about their partners, often seeing their partner as needy and overly dependent.

Avoidant people tend to have a dismissive attitude toward connectedness. The problem is that along with a self-reliant attitude, they have also trained themselves not to care about the person closest to them, and often blame their unhappiness on their partner.

They believe it’s not their job to take care of somebody else’s well-being, and often use sex to distance themselves from their partner.

The Anxious-Avoidant relationship

There is a dangerous trap — also referred to as a dance — that relationships can fall into. It’s an anxious-avoidant relationship, where one partner is anxious, and the other is avoidant. In this kind of relationship, the partners find it hard to move toward more security because they are trapped in a cycle of exacerbating each other’s insecurities.

Avoidants often inflate their self-esteem and sense of independence in comparison to someone else. And if you are anxious, you are programmed to feel “less than” when your attachment system gets activated.

The anxious partner is usually the one who must make concessions and accept the rules imposed by the avoidant partner.

Other patterns we see in these anxious/avoidant cycles is a high degree of secrecy and blaming the other person for being jealous and needy, while finding ways to spend less time together.

If you’re an anxious person with an avoidant partner, you may feel as if you’re constantly being rejected and rebuffed. After a while you may start blaming yourself, and you might feel unattractive or inadequate.

When the two of you succeed in building a secure relationship, everyone wins. If you are anxious, you get the closeness you crave, and if you are avoidant, you will enjoy the independence you need.

Here are five secure principles for resolving conflict

  1. Show basic concern for the other person’s well-being
  2. Maintain focus on the problem at hand
  3. Refrain from generalizing the conflict
  4. Be willing to engage
  5. Effectively communicate feeling and needs

Whatever attachment style you developed as a child, if it’s causing you difficulties in relationships, please know that you can change for the better over time, particularly with counselling.

Schedule a free session with me to see whether I can help.