They're like magnets, for better or worse.
Attachment styles are the unique ways we connect with other people, and it is believed they are determined by the relationships we have with our caregivers as children. There are four main types. First, there’s the “secure” attachment style, where people feel comfortable with intimacy and independence. They're comfortable in relationships and okay doing their own thing, too.
Second, there's the “anxious” style, where people often worry about their relationships and need extra reassurance that everything's okay. Third, people with the “avoidant” attachment style value independence and become uncomfortable when people get too close.
Lastly, there's the “anxious-avoidant” style. They are a complex mix of wanting to be close while afraid of getting hurt.
Obviously, the best chance of having a healthy relationship is being with someone with a secure attachment style. Relationship expert Julie Menanno says that people with anxious and avoidant attachment styles often push away those with a secure attachment style. “Secure partners aren’t comfortable with the anxious partner’s insecurity and overbearing ways, and they aren’t compatible with the avoidant partner’s lack of autistic emotional engagement,” Menanno wrote on Instagram.
However, anxious and avoidant attachment styles attract each other like magnets, and those relationships can be challenging to navigate.
Menanno says that people with anxious and avoidant attachment styles are drawn to one another because the avoidant partner is often the “dating persuer” who makes the anxious partner feel wanted and loved. The avoidant partner falls for the anxious person’s vulnerability because it helps them “connect to feelings they don’t get to experience within themselves.”
So, in the beginning, both partners are brought together through their unique attachment styles. But then things will start to change.
“People with an anxious attachment style may pursue closeness and reassurance from their partner. People with an avoidant attachment style may feel overwhelmed by what they perceive as neediness or demands for intimacy,” Stephanie A. Sarkis, Ph.D., writes in Psychology Today. “This difference between the two attachment styles can lead to a cycle of pursuing and distancing behaviors in which no one gets their needs met in the relationship.”
So when people with avoidant and anxious attachment styles fall in love, are they doomed to break up or stay together and suffer from being on a constant emotional roller coaster? Menanno believes that there’s hope for them to find happiness.
"The good news is: both partners can use the relationship as a platform for healing,” Menanno writes. “Each can learn how to manage their attachment experiences and behaviors in ways that create a new environment, one that fosters secure attachment."
There is no simple solution where people can change their attachment style overnight. But hope begins the moment they realize their attachment style so they know how to ask for help. It all starts with self-awareness and a willingness to change.
“Developing self-awareness, understanding attachment styles, attending therapy, and learning effective communication can help people navigate anxious-avoidant relationship dynamics and build healthier and more securely attached relationships,” Dr. Sarkis writes.