Adult Relationship Attachment Styles and Helpful Tips for Each Kind

Adult Relationship Attachment Styles

As adult children move away from dependance on their primary attachment figure and form other significant intimate relationships, we learn more about ourselves, our relational needs, and how to communicate in ways that help us feel understood, seen, and loved in relationships.

Understanding attachment styles is a common interest for adult clients seeking therapy for themselves or their partner(s).

The four primary attachment styles are secure or insecure (anxious-pre-occupied, dismissive-avoidant, and fearful-avoidant).

I’ll briefly outline the major characteristics of each and provide some tips that can be helpful as you move towards a more secure attachment.


*Positive/ stable view of self and others


*Able to trust self and others

*Comfortable with intimacy

*Able to self-regulate and seek appropriate support

*Healthy boundaries

Tips: Surround yourself with others who help reinforce a positive view, engage in routine maintenance therapy to be emotionally strong as an individual and within relationship(s) as you process and work through thoughts/ feelings within various relational dynamics.

Insecure (Anxious-Pre-occupied, Dismissive-Avoidant, Fearful-Avoidant)


*Negative/ insecure view of self but positive/stable view of others

*Dependence or clinginess (tends to be a pursuer in relationships)

*Low self-esteem

* Fearful of losing relationships/ fear of rejection

*Seeks approval & validation from others

*Porous boundaries

Tips: Improve self-esteem. Build self-confidence. Increase tolerance of being alone. Work on receiving internal validation. Do some work on setting and maintaining boundaries. Consider individual therapy first to help find your voice and feel stronger as a person.


*Positive/unstable view of self and negative/ insecure view of others

*Independent and self-reliant

*Comfortable without close relationships

*Afraid of intimacy (tends to be a withdrawer)

*Independence is prioritized; may self-isolate

*Suppression of emotions

*Rigid boundaries

Tips: Explore factors influencing your view of self and others, work on becoming more comfortable asking for help, work on fears of intimacy and becoming more vulnerable within relationships, increase comfortable naming and expressing emotions. Consider adding couples therapy to individual sessions.


*Negative/ insecure view of self and others

*Seeks but avoidant of closeness/ intimacy

*Difficulty trusting and opening up emotionally

*Afraid of being hurt by others

*Discomfort with expression love and emotions

*Inconsistency with patterns, including with setting and maintaining boundaries (e.g. supportive then unavailable)

*Pursuing and withdrawing (to avoid being hurt)

Tips: Build a positive view of self and others, explore underlying fears that impact intimacy & trust, address underlying traumas, try building a foundation of trust and opening up in therapy to learn a healthy model to practice outside of session.

Learn more about your attachment style by taking Dr. Diane Poole Heller’s attachment-styles-quiz and discussing this with your therapist.

Written By: Charlotte Johnson, MA, LPCC

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