Navigating love: How to identify your attachment style

Identify your attachment style and pave the way for more meaningful connections. Foster love, security, and communication in relationships.

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Relationships are complex and nuanced, and taking the time to understand attachment styles is essential for mastering the art of interpersonal communication. This makes it possible to form deeper and more meaningful connections with partners. 1

Attachment styles are formed early in life, based on the relationship quality between a child and their primary caregiver(s). In this article, we’ll cover how attachment styles shape intimacy in romantic relationships and the steps you can take to identify your own.

Looking for more fulfilling relationships in your life? Discover how communication and attachment styles shape relationship dynamics, and how to use them to your advantage.

Why attachment styles matter

Why attachment styles matter

Our attachment styles, whether positive or negative, are deeply ingrained and shape how we interact in all of our relationships. Regarding romantic partnerships, our attachment style can significantly affect how we approach intimacy. 2 

First developed by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth in the 1950s, attachment theory is based on the idea that humans develop secure or insecure attachments to their caregivers depending on how they are treated. 3 4

The four main attachment styles are the following:

  1. Secure attachment: People with this attachment style feel secure in their relationships and are comfortable expressing their emotional and physical needs. 
  2. Avoidant attachment: People with an avoidant attachment style can form close relationships but avoid intimacy or showing emotion. 
  3. Anxious attachment: People with an anxious attachment style often fear rejection and need a lot of reassurance from their partner.
  4. Disorganized attachment: People with a disorganized attachment style struggle to regulate their emotions, leading to inconsistent behavior in relationships. 

For example, if, as a child, you received a lot of warmth and affection from your primary caregiver, you likely developed a secure attachment. As an adult, you are more likely to be comfortable with closeness and vulnerability in your relationships.

On the other hand, if you had limited access to physical or emotional support from your caregiver as a child, then chances are high that you developed an insecure attachment (avoidant, anxious, disorganized). This makes trust and intimacy in your romantic relationships more difficult.

Want to know how the 4 attachment styles shape romance? Explore how secure, anxious, avoidant, and fearful styles influence relationships.

10 ways to identify your attachment style

10 ways to identify your attachment style

Now that you know about the four different types of attachment styles, it’s time to identify which one you have. Here are 10 ways to gain more insight into your attachment style:

1. Reflect on early experiences

Think about your upbringing and the quality of your relationship with your primary caregiver. As a child, did your caregiver provide you with warmth and affection? Or did you feel unsupported or neglected?

Did you get anxious or show signs of distress when your caregivers left you? How did your caregiver respond to these reactions? Reflecting on these experiences can help you better understand your attachment style.

2. Assess emotional responses

Emotional interdependence is a big part of close relationships. Notice how you respond to your partner or potential partners when they need emotional support or comfort. 5

Can you be there for them, or do you distance yourself? Do you get anxious when they need your help, or do you feel secure in providing it?

Knowing how to deal with emotions is key when opposites attract. Explore how couples navigate differing personalities for a harmonious relationship.

3. Examine communication patterns

Communication is the heart of any relationship. Pay attention to how you communicate with your partner and observe if there are patterns in the way that you interact. 6

Do you avoid talking about certain topics, or keep your feelings hidden? Do arguments tend to escalate quickly, or do you reach an understanding more easily? Identifying these communication patterns can give you insight into your attachment style.

We all have different patterns when it comes to communication. Learn how to identify your partner’s communication unique style and enhance understanding.

4. Recognize relational patterns

Look at recurring themes and behaviors in your relationships. Do you make meaningful connections with people, or do they tend to be fleeting? Do you have difficulty trusting your partner or feel secure in the bond?

This helps you understand your attachment style and how it affects the intimacy in your relationships. Can you be vulnerable with your partner, or do you feel anxious and insecure?

5. Analyze reactions to distance and closeness

Think about how you react when your partner wants to spend time apart, or when they express their love for you. Do you get anxious and try to control the situation? Are you open to expressing your emotions, or do you keep them hidden?

Pay attention to the way that closeness and distance affect you. This will help you understand your attachment style and how it shapes intimacy in your relationships.

6. Notice physical reactions

Physical touches such as hugs, hand-holding, and cuddling are important components of intimacy. Do you feel safe and secure when your partner touches you, or do you get anxious? 7

Pay attention to physical reactions when things get intimate with your partner. This can be a good indicator of your attachment style since it’s closely linked to how safe and secure we feel in our relationships.

7. Self-reflect through journaling

Journaling is a powerful tool for self-reflection and gaining insight into our feelings. Keep track of your thoughts, emotions, and reactions to your interactions with your partner throughout the day. 8

Writing down our experiences can help us make sense of them and gain insight into our attachment style. It helps us identify patterns in our behavior and understand what triggers specific reactions.

8. Seek feedback from trusted friends

Talk to your trusted friends and family about how you interact in romantic relationships. Ask for their honest opinion on how you communicate and express emotion.

Sometimes, it can be challenging to understand our attachment style by ourselves clearly. Seeking feedback from those closest to us can help us identify self-sabotaging behaviors and gain insight into our attachment style.

9. Engage in mindfulness practices

Mindfulness is a powerful tool for self-reflection and understanding our attachment needs. There are various mindfulness practices, such as meditation, yoga, or breathing exercises. 9

These activities help us be more in tune with our emotions and gain insight into our attachment style. They provide us with an opportunity to slow down and reflect on our relationships in a non-judgmental way. 

Mindfulness is just one of the ways couples can conquer insecure attachment. Discover effective strategies to build trust and strengthen your bond.

10. Visit a therapist

If you’re struggling to identify your attachment style, seeking a therapist or counselor might be helpful. A trained professional can provide insight into your experiences and help you make sense of them. 

Seeking professional help is also beneficial if you’re trying to change your attachment style. A therapist can provide guidance and support during this process. 

Knowing our attachment style is crucial for creating healthy, meaningful relationships. With the abovementioned tools, you can gain more insight into your attachment needs and foster intimacy in your romantic relationships. 

Apart from attachment styles, other factors such as communication styles deeply influence the quality of our relationships. Learn how you can navigate these factors for better communication in your relationships.

  1. Sheinbaum, T., Kwapil, T. R., Ballespí, S., Mitjavila, M., Chun, C. A., Silvia, P. J., & Barrantes-Vidal, N. (2015). Attachment style predicts affect, cognitive appraisals, and social functioning in daily life. Frontiers in psychology, 6, 296. ↩︎

  2. Bowlby, J. (1969). Attachment and loss: Vol. 1. Attachment. Basic Books; New York. ↩︎

  3. Feist, J., Feist, G., & Roberts, T. (2017). Theories of Personality (9th ed.). McGraw Hill. ↩︎

  4. Duschinsky, R. (2015). The emergence of the disorganized/disoriented (D) attachment classification, 1979–1982.History of Psychology, 18(1), 32–46. ↩︎

  5. Sels, L., Ceulemans, E., Bulteel, K., & Kuppens, P. (2016). Emotional Interdependence and Well-Being in Close Relationships. Frontiers in Psychology, 7. ↩︎

  6. De Netto, P. M., Quek, K. F., & Golden, K. J. (2021). Communication, the Heart of a Relationship: Examining Capitalization, Accommodation, and Self-Construal on Relationship Satisfaction. Frontiers in psychology, 12, 767908. ↩︎

  7. Sorokowska, A., Kowal, M., Saluja, S., Aavik, T., Alm, C., Anjum, A., Asao, K., Batres, C., Bensafia, A., Bizumic, B., Boussena, M., Buss, D. M., Butovskaya, M., Can, S., Carrier, A., Cetinkaya, H., Conroy-Beam, D., Cueto, R. M., Czub, M., Dural, S., … Croy, I. (2023). Love and affectionate touch toward romantic partners all over the world. Scientific reports, 13(1), 5497. ↩︎

  8. Sohal, M., Singh, P., Dhillon, B. S., & Gill, H. S. (2022). Efficacy of journaling in the management of mental illness: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Family medicine and community health, 10(1), e001154. ↩︎

  9. Behan C. (2020). The benefits of meditation and mindfulness practices during times of crisis such as COVID-19. Irish journal of psychological medicine, 37(4), 256–258. ↩︎

Author picture of Amy Clark
Relationship Expert

Amy Clark

Amy Clark is a freelance writer who writes about relationships, marriage, and family. She has been happily married for over ten years and loves her husband and three kids. Before …

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