You can have the relationship of your dreams

Have you ever wondered why your close relationships don’t feel quite right? Do you have a sense that something is missing? Are you attracting the same, and often wrong type, of romantic partner time and again? This may be due to an insecure attachment style, rooted deep in early childhood. It is very common and something that can be changed with the in-depth knowledge and expertise of the right psychotherapist.

There are four main types of attachment style based on the research of John Bowlby, into how a child bonds with parents or caregivers during very early childhood. Because these bonds are formed so early, usually between birth and the age of three, connections in the brain are made and stored which affect us subconsciously into adult life.

By identifying your attachment style, with a trusted therapist, you will be on the first part of your journey to changing the way you relate in close relationships for the better. You will begin to experience the intimacy you have always craved through finally feeling loved and supported by your current or future partner. This, in turn, will significantly improve your overall health and sense of wellbeing.

Read 'How attachment styles affect our romantic relationships'.

How do you recognise your attachment style?  

Outlined below are the four main attachment styles and their characteristics for you to consider with which one you most identify:

Secure attachment

Securely attached people find it easy to form positive relationships and are warm and responsive to their partner. They have a positive view of others and are comfortable being emotionally close. People with this attachment style are able to depend on others and have others depend on them. They are able to achieve a balance between intimacy and independence.

Anxious attachment

People who have an anxious attachment style do not like separation. They look to a partner to validate their self-worth with a constant need for approval and reassurance. Their self- esteem is usually low and they tend to blame themselves for any problems in the relationship. This creates a lot of anxiety. They may find it difficult to understand why their partner isn’t as close as they would like.


Dismissive-avoidant types value their independence in relationships and consider closeness unimportant. They find it very difficult to depend on others and feel uncomfortable if others try to depend on them. Their fear of getting too emotionally close to a partner is a defence mechanism that they have subconsciously built around themselves to avoid being rejected. They often resent their partner’s attempts to become close and may come across as superior.

Fearful (disorganised) avoidant

People with a fearful-avoidant style desire a close, intimate relationship but find it hard to trust. They are frightened of being hurt if they get too close to someone and often feel confused about their conflicting emotions. Commitment may be very difficult as their low self-esteem causes them to feel unworthy of love. As a close relationship develops, fearful-avoidant types often pull away.

Having identified your attachment style, you may now be curious as to how it has played out in your close relationships until now.  


Research suggests that like tends to attract like in the first months of a relationship. A couple who both have secure attachment styles generally go on to have a successful, healthy relationship.  

An anxious, avoidant or fearful attachment type tends to attract either a securely attached partner or one with the same attachment style, in the initial attraction phase. However, after a year or so, these couples will often no longer be together. Subconsciously, they will go on to seek partners with opposite attachment styles. Therefore, dismissive and fearful avoidants tend to settle down with anxious attachment types.

This results in codependent relationships where the avoidant partner does not want to be intimate whilst the other partner is needy and fearful of being alone. These relationships are very common but emotionally unhealthy.

It is still unclear why this happens, though there are some theories. One is that a couple consisting of two avoidant type partners would find it very difficult to commit to forming an intimate relationship, causing it to eventually fade out. A pairing of anxious attachment styles would lead both partners to seek, but be unable to give, constant assurances to each other, causing one or both to end the relationship. This would be the case for a relationship with fearful and fearful types, for the same reason. Furthermore, someone with a secure attachment style coupled with a partner with any of the insecure attachment styles may find their partner’s emotional needs too difficult to handle long term.

This suggests that opposite attachment style couples will tend to stay together longer. For example, an avoidant type with a partner who is anxious or fearful is scared of losing their independence and secretly resents their partner whilst anxious and fearful types think they are unworthy of love. This serves to reinforce both partners’ deep-rooted beliefs of themselves and each other. Since the partnership does not require change, it tends to last longer. However, it is not healthy.

Relationships made up of combinations of insecure attachment styles are usually codependent or counter-dependent. They can lead to a lack of intimacy, loneliness, reinforce low self-esteem, trigger conflict and, in severe cases, result in physical and emotional abuse.

Understandably, you may feel worried if you identify with any of the insecure attachment styles. Also, continuing as you are will enable any dissatisfaction, feelings of emptiness, lack of intimacy and, sadly, any form of abuse in your close relationships to continue.

Counsellors and psychotherapists offer a safe, non-judgemental and confidential space in which you can explore your insecure attachment style and how you feel it has impacted on your life so far. Most importantly, you will be given the tools to bring about the changes you need to transform your current or future relationship into the one you have always desired and truly deserve.


Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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