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  • Writer's pictureAmaia Oiz

Understanding Attachment Styles in Relationships: A Therapeutic Journey to Growth

Understanding Attachment Styles in Relationships

Attachment Theory: A Brief Overview

Attachment theory, developed by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth, provides a framework for understanding how our early relationships with caregivers shape our behavior in romantic relationships. The theory has been improved upon by experts in the field of marriage and family therapy Sue Johnson and Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt. According to this theory, there are four main attachment styles:

  1. Secure Attachment: Individuals with a secure attachment style are comfortable with intimacy and independence. They tend to have healthy, long-lasting relationships.

  2. Anxious Attachment: Anxiously attached individuals often fear abandonment and may require constant reassurance and attention from their partners.

  3. Avoidant Attachment: People with avoidant attachment tend to distance themselves emotionally from their partner. They value their independence to the point where they may appear aloof or uninterested in intimacy.

  4. Fearful-Avoidant Attachment: This style is characterized by a mix of anxiety and avoidance. These individuals crave closeness but are afraid to get too close.

Case Study: Emily and Alex's Journey


Emily and Alex, a couple in their early thirties, came to therapy to address ongoing conflicts in their relationship. Emily, an anxious attacher, constantly sought reassurance from Alex, who had an avoidant attachment style. This dynamic led to a cycle of push and pull, creating stress and dissatisfaction in their relationship. We often see anxious and avoidant in relationships; drawn together like magnets.

Therapeutic Insights

Through therapy, Emily and Alex learned to understand and empathize with each other's attachment styles.

  • Empathy and Understanding: Emily came to understand Alex's need for space and independence wasn't a rejection but a part of his attachment style. Similarly, Alex learned that Emily's need for reassurance was not clinginess but a way to feel secure.

  • Communication Skills: They were taught effective communication skills, helping them express their needs and fears without triggering each other.

  • Self-Reflection: Individual therapy sessions helped them delve into their personal histories, understanding how their childhood experiences shaped their attachment styles.

Growth and Transformation

As they progressed through therapy, Emily and Alex began to adapt their behaviors.

  • Breaking the Cycle: Alex worked on being more emotionally available, making an effort to reassure Emily, which in turn helped her feel more secure and less anxious. Alex also learned to self soothe so he was able to tolerate closeness without wanting to run and in turn experiencing true intimacy.

  • Creating a Secure Base: They established routines and rituals that fostered a sense of security and belonging in the relationship. Together they created a committment to relationship and removed the threat of ending the relationship each time they fought. Resulting in a safe place for each of them to be themselves.

  • Fostering Independence and Togetherness: They found a balance between togetherness and independence, respecting each other's needs. In therapy they also leanred to check in with thier own needs and affectivly express those needs to each other in a safe and loving way.

A Relationship Transformed

Emily and Alex's story is a testament to how understanding and working through attachment styles can transform a relationship. Through therapy, they not only gained insight into their patterns but also learned how to create a relationship that was both secure and fulfilling. This journey, while challenging, led them to a deeper connection and a shared path of growth and understanding. This is just a quick outline of the work that is possible in therapy. If you identified with any of this article and want to expereince true intamacy, call me today and schedule and appointment. 775-750-0766



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