How Attachment Styles Influence Relationships


Relationships are an essential part of human life, from the moment we are born and start forming attachments to primary caregivers to adult relationships with friends, family, and romantic partners. How people develop and maintain these relationships is influenced by attachment styles established in early childhood. 

Attachment theory asserts that these early relationships shape our attachment styles, impacting our ability to form and maintain relationships in adulthood. Understanding the different attachment styles and how they influence adult relationships is crucial for building and sustaining healthy connections with others. 

Why Are Attachment Styles Important?

Initially developed by psychotherapist John Bowlby, attachment theory states that early relationships inform every relationship in adult life. When babies are born, they have an innate drive to form attachments, predominantly to their primary caregivers.

The actions of their caregivers dictate which of the four attachment styles children develop:

  • Anxious 
  • Avoidant 
  • Disorganised 
  • Secure

Understanding different attachment styles and how they present in adulthood is vital for recognising healthy or unhealthy behavioural patterns and cultivating healthy relationships. People can work towards changing these patterns and establish more secure, fulfilling relationships with their romantic partners, friends, and families. 

Attachment Styles and Relationships

The four different types of attachment styles affect relationships differently:


Anxious attachment styles develop when a child’s primary caregiver does not consistently respond to their needs. At some points, they may be very responsive and attuned; at others, they are unavailable and distracted by work or personal difficulties. Children may respond by becoming needy or struggling with their self-esteem.

In adult relationships, people can struggle to trust their romantic partners fully yet crave closeness and intimacy. Any boundaries between them and a loved one can be perceived as a threat, provoking fear and anxiety that they do not love them. People with an anxious attachment style can also struggle with jealousy when away from their partners and use guilt or manipulation tactics to keep them close. 

Anxiously attached people can also struggle with codependent relationships, which promote unhealthy relationships and affect self-worth. Codependent people enable the unhealthy behaviours of their partners out of fear they will leave them if they set a boundary and always put their loved ones before themselves. 


Also known as fearful-avoidant attachment, it stems from an intense fear of a caregiver. When caregivers are abusive, neglectful, or intimidating, as well as a source of comfort, children can become confused and disoriented about their relationship. 

Adults with this attachment style can find close relationships intimidating and unsettling, swinging between emotional extremes with a partner. They can exhibit negative behaviour patterns and refuse to take responsibility for their actions, even when they harm others. However, they also crave secure, loving relationships while simultaneously terrified of them. 


Children who develop an avoidant attachment style may have had caregivers who rejected their needs in infancy. Their parents or caregivers never met their needs reliably or predictably, so children learn to try and self-soothe. This can cause people to crave independence and avoid intimacy in adulthood.

In adult relationships, people with an avoidant attachment style may withdraw from people the closer they get. If they perceive a partner as too needy, they can become closed off and distant and may even minimise their partner’s emotions to protect their freedom and independence. 


Securely attached children are raised by engaged, responsive caregivers who respond to them in distress and make them feel safe and secure. This provides people with a solid foundation for forming healthy relationships for the rest of their lives. 

A secure attachment style does not mean that all relationships are perfect and problem-free. However, it does mean that people can more easily rely on their partners for love and support, set and maintain healthy boundaries, and express themselves and their emotions in intimate relationships. 

Cultivating Healthy Relationships 

Those with insecure attachment styles can struggle with their relationships, fearing getting too close to their partners or clinging to them too tightly in case they leave. However, attachment is not a permanent trait. With work, everyone can foster healthy relationships. 

Healthy relationships require several things:

  • Good communication – Talking about any issues, challenges, or negative emotions that arise and listening to the other person is essential in every relationship. Effective communication involves listening and speaking, avoiding interrupting the other person and expressing feelings and emotions clearly and respectfully. 
  • Time apart – Time together in any relationship is important, but so is time apart. Healthy relationships are interdependent, in which people rely on each other for support, but they still maintain their identities as individuals. Each person enjoys quality time together but also spends time pursuing their hobbies and spending time with friends and family.
  • Trust – When people are secretive or dismissive in relationships, it can damage the trust between both parties. Healthy relationships involve trust and honesty, where people are assured that their partner respects them and will not hurt them intentionally. 
  • Respect – Even in arguments or disagreements, healthy relationships are built on respect. This includes respecting boundaries, opinions, and autonomy. 

Insecurely attached people can struggle with some of these elements. For example, someone who is anxiously attached can struggle to take time apart from their partner as they fear they will lose interest in them. Alternatively, avoidantly attached people may take too much time apart from their loved ones. 

Improving and cultivating healthy relationships can take time. Many people may not consider that their attachment and early childhood experiences could influence their current relationships and dismiss difficulties as being caused by incompatibility with their partner. However, they may find they can resolve many challenges within their relationships by exploring their attachment style.

If you have a client or know of someone struggling with anything you have read in this blog, reach out to us at Khiron Clinics. We believe that we can improve therapeutic outcomes and avoid misdiagnosis by providing an effective residential program and outpatient therapies addressing underlying psychological trauma. Allow us to help you find the path to realistic, long-lasting recovery. For more information, call us today. UK: 020 3811 2575 (24 hours). USA: (866) 801 6184 (24 hours).