Does Your Attachment Style Affect Your Relationship?

Marriage Counseling Insights brought to you by California Psychotherapeutic Resources, Inc.

You may have read about or even researched various personality types. A relatively well known example is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) developed by Isabel Myers and her mother Katherine Briggs. The duo were fascinated by Carl Jung’s theory of psychological types and developed an indicator of personality types back in the 1940s.

Mommy holding baby

The striking thing that many people find about the MBTI is how almost eerily accurate it is. It’s designed to find out where you stand in relation to four opposite pairs of personality traits: extraversion/introversion, sensing/intuition, thinking/feeling and judging/perceiving. You’re inclined to be one or the other, and your tendencies let you categorize your personality in one of 16 types. An “ESTP,” for example (extrovert, sensing, thinking, perceiving) is characterized as: “Out-going and dramatic, they enjoy spending time with others and focusing on the here-and-now.”

Myers-Briggs weren’t the only ones working on such theories. British psychologist John Bowlby began developing a theory of attachment back in the 1950s. Recently, that concept has been growing in popularity. Writing for, Maryn Liles defines attachment theory as “a psychological, evolutionary, and ethological theory concerning relationships between humans — specifically how humans bond with one another. According to attachment theory, how we relate to others, especially in adult romantic relationships, all depends on how we were treated as infants. This first early bond is what ultimately shapes our view of how relationships (of any sort!) should feel and work.”

If all of this sounds a bit too theoretical for your taste, take a moment to reflect on how your attachment style may affect how you react to your romantic partner — or they react to you — without being completely aware of the reasons why.

With that mind, consider the accepted descriptions of attachment style:

  • Secure
  • Anxious
  • Avoidant
  • Fearful-avoidant

Even if you understand which style you have, the equally important part of the equation is understanding why you have that style. For example, Liles says, “People with an avoidant attachment style tend to have trouble trusting others in relationships or getting close to friends. They typically maintain some distance from their romantic partners or are largely emotionally unavailable, preferring to rely on themselves. Some 25% of adults have the avoidant attachment type.”

So if that description rings true for you or your partner, it helps to think back to your childhood. Then, it helps to know that, as Liles says, “When someone has an avoidant attachment, it probably means that the caregivers were not only unresponsive but also dismissive and often distant. This constant emotional disconnect results in the child believing that their needs won’t get met.”

Fortunately, attachment styles can change. That involves identifying your style, exploring why you developed it and then working on aspects of your behavior that you are able to change.

For links to attachment style quizzes and a full discussion of attachment styles, read Liles’ full article here.