How Your Attachment Style Shapes Your Dating Experience

There’s an old theory about the butterfly effect, which states that a very small change in one location can have a much greater effect elsewhere. Our attachment styles are a bit like that. As children, we learn how to exist in relationships with those around us. Those lessons are long-lasting and difficult but not impossible to unlearn. They’re a self-defense mechanism. An adaptation to keep us safe from emotional pain or reassure ourselves when we feel insecure.

In today’s post, we’re going to take a deep dive into the world of attachment styles and how they shape our romantic lives.

Anxious Attachment Style

People with an anxious attachment style often grow up with instability and uncertainty. They may have felt alternately loved and abandoned at times. As children, they learned that love could be as unreliable as it is wonderful. Common reasons include children whose parents struggled with addiction or were absent for long stretches due to work or other reasons.

So what does an anxious attachment style look like in our dating lives? People with an anxious attachment style fear that love can be withdrawn at any time. There’s a need for constant reassurance to soothe their fear of abandonment.

People with anxious attachment styles are:

  • Frequently feel jealous or insecure.
  • Quick to commit to relationships.
  • Highly sensitive to their partner’s moods.
  • Struggle to end unhappy relationships.

Avoidant Attachment Style

Children who grow up in cold or emotionally distant families often learn early on to suppress their emotional needs in order to avoid the possibility of pain. The loss of a loved one, neglect, and abuse, can all contribute to the development of an avoidant attachment style.

When those children grow up, they do so with a desire to maintain the independence they claimed for themselves. As a result, they may approach relationships cold, distant, and uncommitted.

People with an avoidant attachment style:

  • Are reluctant to commit to relationships.
  • Avoid emotionally intimate conversations.
  • Struggle to express their feelings.
  • End relationships quickly if their independence is threatened.
  • Resent being needed by others.

couple on bench in woodsDisorganized Attachment Style

A disorganized attachment style is one that is both anxious and avoidant. These individuals learned enough about love to crave it, but they also know it hurts. Their homes may have been chaotic and unpredictable. They may have been subjected to abuse or neglect.

As adults, their relationships are defined by a push-pull dynamic A disorganized attachment style is difficult to identify at first because it includes elements of both avoidant and anxious styles. People with a disorganized attachment style rarely feel safe—they may crave emotional closeness and then feel overwhelmed by it. 

People with disorganized attachment styles are:

  • Drawn to toxic and unstable relationships.
  • Sabotage otherwise healthy relationships.
  • Have trouble expressing emotions in a healthy way.
  • Prone to contradictory behavior.

Secure Attachment Style

People with a secure attachment style value both intimacy and independence. They look for consistency in partners, and are generally effective communicators. As children, they learned to explore, understand, and express their emotional needs—and to empathize with the emotional needs of others.

When dating, they often:

  • Are comfortable connecting to new people.
  • Derive pleasure from helping others succeed.
  • Attentive and curious about their partner’s needs.
  • Able to set healthy, firm boundaries.
  • Prefer to problem solve, rather than argue.

Those with a secure attachment style tend to handle rejection well. They may be sad or even heartbroken, but their confidence and independence allows them to move forward well.

Struggling With Your Attachment Style and Dating?

Schedule a consultation if you feel like your dating life is like a song playing on repeat. These patterns we learn in childhood do not have to define our lives. I would love to help you explore your own attachment style, and how you can embrace and manage it in a healthy way. Reach out to learn more about anxiety treatment and how it can help you work on yourself while diving into the dating world.