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Advice: When your learned attachment style affects your adult relationships

Everywhere you look on the internet, there are quizzes to find out your attachment style.
Sara Aloimonos, columnist, life coach and functional nutritionist. Photo Courtesy of Hannah Eden Photography

Everywhere you look on the internet, there are quizzes to find out your attachment style.

If you were like me several years ago, you’d be wondering, ‘What the heck is an attachment style?’

It’s never too late to learn and make the changes needed for a healthy relationship.

An attachment style is the way you are in a relationship. This includes the security you feel, the closeness (or distance) you want and the feelings that come up when in a relationship. This relationship may be with a partner, parent, coworker or friend.

The relationship you had with your childhood caregiver sets the stage for how your relationships unfold as an adult. These learned tendencies are carried into adult relationships whether you are aware of them or not. Most often, your behaviours in relationships aren’t thought through to the extent they should be and negative, destructive patterns are repeated over and over again.

I have a question for you: have you ever wondered why, despite dating/marrying multiple people, you keep ending up in the same situation? You may feel jealous, need constant contact with your partner or the desire to control them. When you do get that closeness, you walk away. Sound familiar?

This article is for you. Read on.

Take this attachment style quiz at

To further dig into your attachment style, try journaling. Do the quiz, document your past relationships, feelings or thoughts that came up and see how it links to the relationship you had with your caregiver(s). You may be surprised by the revelations!

The four attachment styles include: anxious, avoidant, fearful-avoidant and secure. Below is a description of each. Which one are you?

Anxious (preoccupied) — When you’re alone or without your partner, you feel anxious. You want approval from your partner and need them to be responsive. You worry your partner is not as devoted to the relationship as you are and you may become clingy and demanding. Feelings of abandonment are strong and you need attention, reassurance and support to reduce your anxiety.

Avoidant (dismissive) — You have high self-esteem, dismissive tendencies, and don’t feel you need a relationship to feel whole. You depend only on yourself and don’t seek outside support from others. You are emotionally detached, may hide emotions, and avoid closeness (both physically and emotionally). Commitment and trust is difficult for you.

Fearful-avoidant — You want intimacy and a healthy relationship but have a hard time trusting or depending on others. Regulating your emotions is a challenge and you avoid emotional attachment for fear of getting hurt or rejected.

Secure — You’re comfortable expressing emotions and being alone but also flourish in a relationship. You can depend on your partner and are open to others depending on you. You don’t seek approval from others and have a healthy opinion of yourself. Relationships are healthy and long lasting.

Bottom line: Regardless of what your primary relationship was as a child, it can be changed. You can change your attachment style. Your journey to healing can be easier once you understand why you react in a certain way and become more aware of it. Developing new patterns of thinking and behaving can pave the way to healthy future relationships. Working with a qualified professional to understand your childhood experiences and view how they affect your adult relationships can make this process less confusing.

– Sara Aloimonos is a life coach and functional nutritionist based in Yellowknife.