How 3 'attachment styles' can explain everything that’s gone wrong in your relationships.

When we look back on past relationships, it can sometimes be hard to pinpoint exactly what went wrong. 

Whether we feel like the other person was too needy, too distant or we were the ones who made things difficult, it's not always easy to see why two people didn't work out. 

But a popular book called Attached attempts to explain why some relationships thrive while others don't go the distance. 

Watch: The Mamamia team confess our relationship deal-breakers. Post continues below. 

Video via Mamamia.

Written by psychiatrist and neuroscientist Dr. Amir Levine and Rachel Heller, the book explores how we have a genetic need to be in close relationships with other people because it makes us stronger. 

And they do that by looking at a concept called attachment theory.

It sounds like something you'd find in a old high school textbook you were supposed to read, but the theory actually explains a lot about how we behave in relationships and what we look for in a partner. 

First defined by British psychiatrist and psychoanalyst John Bowlby, attachment theory suggests that we behave in three distinct ways when it comes to relationships; secure, avoidant or anxious.


Researchers Dr Phillip Shaver and Dr Cindy Hazan found that 60 per cent of us have a secure attachment, 20 per cent are avoidant and 20 per cent are anxious.

Here's what you need to know about the three different attachment styles, and how they may have affected your relationships. 


Someone who has an anxious attachment style might suppress their needs to please and accommodate their partner, and may worry their partner will leave them. They'll also want to be very close with their partner and might get attached too quickly. These people will also need reassurance in a relationship and might withdraw or play games in order to get their needs met. Another characteristic is that they'll tend to only remember their partner's good qualities while turning a blind eye to their flaws. 

People with an anxious attachment style are best suited with people who have a secure attachment style because a partner who provides security and reassurance will help them move past their insecurities. 

Unfortunately, these people will often go for a partner who is avoidant because they make them feel more self-reliant and powerful.

The Mamamia Out Loud team discuss the different attachment styles in a relationship. Post continues below.


Someone who has an avoidant attachment style is more focused on being independent and autonomous in a relationship. They are more easily annoyed by their partner and may feel uncomfortable with too much intimacy. They might also feel trapped when they're in a relationship and could start pulling away after things are going well. 


People with this attachment style might find it difficult to say 'I love you' and aren't the best at opening up. They also might send mixed messages, keep secrets or reminisce about an ideal ex.

Avoidant types won't tend to date each other and unconsciously look for anxious types. 


Someone who has a secure attachment style is more warm and loving in nature and is responsive to their partner’s needs. They have high self worth, know how to effectively communicate their needs and are great at resolving conflict. They'll also feel comfortable with intimacy, but don’t depend on it in order to be happy and feel complete. These people also forgive quickly and don't play games or manipulate their partners. 

So how do we get these attachment styles? Well, our genetics, life experiences and upbringing all play into it. 

But the good news is, by learning our own and our partner's attachment style, we can tap into the inner workings of our relationships and find out what best suits us in a partner.

Relationship psychologist Beth Walker previously told Mamamia that it's also possible to change attachment styles over time, "if we reflect and question our behaviours and increase our tolerance for being alone so we’re not desperate to fill a void". 

Although she also finds that "after about five years in a relationship it generally becomes secure anyway".

What do you think your attachment style is, and do you think it’s affected your relationships? Let us know in the comments below.

Feature Image: Getty.