Attachment Styles in Relationships: How They Affect Dating

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Let’s face it, dating is hard: trying to find the “right” person and dealing with all the emotions and uncertainty that unfold can be challenging and exhausting. Much of this can be alleviated simply by understanding the types of attachment styles in relationships.

Attachment is such a key part of romantic and intimate relationships that it has a major impact on dating. Attachment theory states that our attachment style offers the blueprint for how we feel about dating and relationships, as well as how to respond to others.

Securely attached people navigate dating with relative ease, but this doesn’t mean that they are flawless. Secure types still have challenges when it comes to dating. However, overall, they date with confidence and self-assurance.

Two people forming a heart with their hands in the sunset

If you’re more anxious in relationships, you might spend dates trying to convince the other person you’re worthy of their love and commitment, though you may not believe that to be true yourself. 

For those with an avoidant attachment style, you may expect the other person to try to convince you why you should date them. You may search for flaws and red flags on dates, even where there are none.

Attachment styles define how we navigate relationships. Our style informs our beliefs, attitudes, expectations, and behaviours in relationships.

These attachment styles typically develop in early childhood based on the bond we had with our primary caregiver. For many of us, that caregiver was a parent. However, our attachment styles can also be influenced by other intimate relationships throughout life.

In Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment by Amir Levine and Rachel S.F. Heller, the authors explore how humans are wired to seek attachment.

Interested in more relationship concepts? Check out our article on the five love languages and how they influence your dating life.

Here are some key details about how attachment styles are formed:

  • People with a secure attachment style are more likely to have formed loving bonds with childhood caregivers.
  • People with an insecure attachment style likely did not have the same level of attention to their emotional needs as children. Insecure attachment styles include anxious-preoccupied attachment, avoidant-dismissive attachment, and avoidant-fearful attachment.

Attachment styles in relationships affect how we treat partners as well as how we approach dating. Securely attached people have a secure base from which to create healthy relationships, without fear of intimacy nor fear of abandonment. However, for other less secure styles, relationship struggles from childhood often repeat themselves in adult relationships.

Read on to learn more about the types of attachment styles in relationships, how they may affect your relationship, and how you can change your attachment style.

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4 main types of attachment styles

Our relationship beliefs and habits can vary greatly depending on our type of attachment styles. There are four attachment styles that range from secure to insecure:

  1. Secure
  2. Anxious-preoccupied
  3. Avoidant-dismissive
  4. Avoidant-fearful

Getting to know your attachment style based on a few key signs is the first step to developing a healthier love life and more fulfilling adult relationships.

Are you a highly sensitive person? Then here are some tips for dating successfully.

Two people taking each other's hand

How to identify compatible attachment styles in relationships

In order to have the most secure relationship, you may be wondering which style you should seek when dating. Here are some compatibility suggestions.

  • The best compatibility is found between two partners with secure attachment styles. However, all other attachment styles have good compatibility with a secure attachment style. 
  • The worst attachment pairing, on the other hand, is with an anxious-preoccupied partner and an avoidant-dismissive one. Here, the anxious partner will be looking for external validation while the avoidant one will want emotional distance. This leads to a destructive dynamic.

Two people on a date bumping elbows

Decoding a date’s attachment style in relationships

To increase your chances of having a happy, healthy future with someone, there may be a few clues to look for even on a first date.

However, be aware that you likely can’t determine someone’s attachment style with 100% certainty from just one meeting. Still, you may be able to see some characteristics of different attachment styles in action during your date.

  • A securely attached date will likely have a positive, level-headed attitude about the date and getting to know each other. They may ask you basic questions and will keep the conversation going.
  • Anxious-preoccupied types may seem to move a little too quickly, and they might try to create deep emotional intimacy during the first date. For example, they may overshare details about their emotional and mental health, early on.
  • Avoidant-dismissive dates may hold back or even seem a little distant. They are also more likely to complain about an ex or a previous date compared to secure or anxious types.
  • Finally, avoidant-fearful types can be a wildcard, from the first date and into a relationship. They may seem open and interested one moment, and then pull away and grow quiet the next.

When on a first date, keep in mind that many signs of attachment style become more obvious as intimacy and familiarity increase. Regardless of attachment style, people tend to try to seem as secure as possible early in dating.

If you sense that a date is anxiously attached, try to be reassuring and stay in touch as you get to know each other. If you sense that a date is more avoidant, take it slow and give them space early on.

Can you change your attachment style in relationships?

Whether you’re anxious, avoidant, or a combination of both, you may find that your attachment style is having a negative effect on your dating life. Thankfully, there are ways you can actively work to feel more secure in adult relationships – and it’s possible to even change your attachment style over time. In fact, it’s possible for one person to have more than one attachment style, depending on the relationship.

For example, you may be secure in your friendships, yet anxious-preoccupied in romantic relationships. Or you may be secure in dating, yet avoidant-dismissive in strained family relationships.

That’s why it’s important to find romantic partners that complement your attachment style and encourage a more secure attachment. When dating an incompatible attachment style, you may find that the other person actually triggers more insecurity in you and vice versa.

Start dating with attachment styles in mind

If you’re looking to find a partner who’s compatible with your attachment style, try using dating apps and sites geared towards serious dating.

When you date with the intention of starting a committed relationship, you can work to build a secure bond with someone you feel comfortable with – and by doing so you can learn how to have a healthy attachment style too.