Gone are the days of asking for your hobbies and favorite meal. Instead, when it comes to dating, many are now asking the newest, most important questions: what do you value, what are your goals, and “what’s your attachment style?”

In fact, name any of your favorite TV shows and you’re bound to easily pscyho-analyze any of the main characters, based on their attachment styles.

Marshall and Lilly? Securely attached.

Carrie Bradshaw circa the first series of Sex and the City? Disorganized/fearful attached.

Lorelei Gilmore? Avoidant attached.

But what does that really mean?

What is attachment style and theory?

When it comes to attachment styles, no, we’re not asking if you prefer attaching PDFs or PowerPoints to your emails—we’re talking about how you find, keep, function through, and end relationships.

The concept of attachment styles first began in the 1950s, when developmental psychologiss John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth, explored a child’s relationship with their caregivers, and how, as they grew, it manifested in their adult relationships. At its core, attachment styles are impacted by how our parents (more specifically, mothers) responded to our needs as children—and can even start as early as in the womb. No pressure, right? But for parents who are attentive to their child’s needs and cries for help, they:

  • raise them to actually experience less fear than children who aren’t raised that way
  • build this feeling of trust, which will influence their future relationships
  • give them positive caregiver experiences, to help them trust that others can do the same

In simple terms, how our parents were there for us—whether close or distant—is now reflected and repeated when it comes to our intimate relationships, as seen in one of these styles of attachment:

  • Anxious/Preoccupied
  • Avoidant/Dismissive
  • Secured or Earned Secured

But the best part about attachment styles? You’re not stuck in them forever. Unlike our horoscopes, we can always work towards changing our attachment style for the better.

And if you’re unsure what your attachment style might be, don’t worry—we’re here to help break it down.

What is your attachment style—and what do they look like?

1. Anxious/Preoccupied Attachment

Ever get that instant feeling of dread when your partner hasn’t texted back right away? Constantly afraid they’ll leave no matter what you do? Do you worry that you’ll never be good enough or are unlovable? Or that you find your moods greatly affected—and connected—to how your partner may be feeling? And, when it comes to fights, do you ever feel the need to reconnected—and fix it—ASAP?

Those with this attachment style tend to be insecure about their relationships, often hyper tuned to their partner’s responses. For these anxiously attached individuals, a deep connection is a constant longing, however thanks to parents who were often inconsistent with their love and affection, trust does not come easy for this group.

Often, these types are “waiting for the other shoe to drop” mentality, and any lack of response from their partners can often lead them down a spiral of worst-case scenarios.

For these individuals, consistency truly is key.

Photo by Milan Popovic

2. Avoidant/Dismissive Attachment

Do you find it hard to trust others? Can you admit you might have commitment issues, that relationships make you feel suffocated? For those with this attachment style, the best way to not get hurt is to avoid situations that can get them hurt altogether. Intimacy is scary and it’s easier to just rely on the age old “me, myself, and I.”

Those with this attachment style often had parents who were often emotionally unavailable, hence why avoidants tend to embrace the concept of monkey see, monkey do and avoid emotions—or the conversations surrounding them—too.

For these individuals, patience is a virtue and it’s key to remember that it sometimes takes them time to truly express how they feel.

3. Secured Attachment

Just like the name suggests, secure attachment styles mean you have a sense of security when it comes to your relationships. For those with secured attachment styles, trust, acceptance of love, and the act of building close relationships come easy. You won’t see any metaphorical running shoes in these individuals, as they often embrace intimacy, while also holding space for, well, space.

For those with secured attachment styles, boundaries aren’t something to shy away from and they tend to feel safe, stable, and more satisfied in their close relationships. 

Does this sound like a fantasy, yet? Well, if it does, you’re not alone. While some research indicates that about 50 to 60 percent of people are in this category, it doesn’t mean you can’t be either.

That’s where earned security comes in. Through therapy and working through past traumas and tendencies, individuals do have the chance to find that security that many strive towards.

Want to find out yours and your partner’s attachment styles? Want an even more in-depth analysis of what this all means?  Download Couply on Android or Apple and take the quiz.