As humans, much of what dictates how we handle relationships of all kinds—platonic, professional, and romantic—has to do with our attachment style, or how we meet our needs. This often has its roots in childhood and continues to impact even the adult relationships we go onto have. "When we're little, even before we're able to remember events distinctly, we form beliefs about the world, how safe it is and whether it's worth it to reach out to others to touch and be touched by them," explains Elizabeth Sloan, couples therapist and owner of Caring Couples, Happy Lives. "If we experienced other people as warm, safe, and responsive, we believe as adults that those we love are trustworthy and willing to be there for us when needed."
Knowing which of the four attachment styles you fall under can better help you understand how you handle your relationships. Here, experts explain how to tell which attachment style you fall under and what it says about your union.
If you fall into this attachment style category, it means you feel generally safe and connected when it comes to your relationships, explains Paulette Sherman, Psy.D., psychologist, relationship expert, and author of Dating from the Inside Out. "A person with a secure attachment style tends to trust easily, can accept support, reconnect with their partner after an upset, and do not usually feel threatened or take things personally," she says. "This helps them develop stable, healthy relationships that can withstand the ups and downs of life and relationship issues."
If you grew up dealing with your feelings mostly alone and were often anxious about what to do or how to calm down, you might fall under this attachment category, according to Sloan. "You may find it hard to trust in your partner and in your relationship and live with nagging doubts about whether your partner will stop loving you, or if he or she is secretly planning to leave the relationship," she says. "After an argument, you might be afraid that this was the last straw and your partner will start pulling away." When afraid, these partners can get clingy, needy, demanding, and controlling, explains Dr. Sherman. "They need immediate reconnection to know their attachment is okay or they feel alone." If you fall in this category, seeking the help of a therapist may be useful in teaching you techniques to help you better cope with situations that might arise in your relationship.
This is a hard attachment style to understand, but it too stems from childhood. "Perhaps, when you were little and frightened by the storm, your mommy was there, but she pretended to be asleep, ignoring your cries—or maybe, she scooped you up to comfort you, but she held you for too long, overwhelming you with her feelings, or her need own need for closeness," explains Sloan. "In either case, you might have ended up believing that your mommy, or anyone else, for that matter, would not be there for you if you were upset, or you learned that mommy would be responsive, but you would have to pay a price." Thus, in your relationships as an adult, you might be the kind of person who is hard to pin down—fleeing when commitment comes knocking or if you feel smothered by your partner, according to Sloan.
Did you have difficulty dealing with feelings of sadness and abandonment as a child? If you felt as though life was inconsistent, perhaps calm one moment and scary the next, you might fall under this attachment style, according to Sloan. "As an adult, you might be the kind of person who seems to crave closeness, but once you get it, you withdraw," she says. "No matter how your relationship is going, you may point out the problems and push your partner away—perhaps you are even numb." If you have a partner willing to work alongside you, she recommends trying to work through your attachment issues. Doing so can help you create a stable, secure attachment to each other that will produce a long-lasting, happy relationship.