I have been asked on several occasions, which attachment styles pair best.
Well, here is the moment you have all been waiting for!
We have laid the foundation of the various attachment styles and their differing needs in relationships. Going through and understanding the varied needs is helpful and gives us great insight into why some styles function better together than others.
Before anyone starts freaking out thinking that I am going to condemn their current relationship—take a deep breath and relax. These are simply guidelines to help you be aware and have a better understanding of your relationship. It will provide you with more awareness when selecting your partner. On the other hand, if you are already dating or married, it will help you understand the dynamics of your relationship in a new way. Either way, I hope this article provides insight to prevent breakdowns and distance in your relationship, and ensure both of your needs are being met.
Green Light: Go for it!
I’m sure that you have probably guessed that two secure partners paired together would foster a healthy relationship, and you are right! They are both open to intimacy and are very effective at communicating their needs. They have a secure view of themselves and their partner, which helps to eliminate defensiveness and blaming.
That all sounds just wonderful, but what if you are not a secure attachment style? Is there hope for you to have a secure relationship? Absolutely! I’m so excited to tell you how! There is this really cool thing that happens when insecure attachment styles pair with securely attached partners. Psychological research calls it the secure buffering effect. Essentially, what that means is that the security of a secure partner often nurtures the insecure partner towards a more secure stance. The responsiveness and support of the secure partner actually helps to foster stability in the relationship! So much so that there is no observable difference in secure couples and “mixed” couples. Fascinating isn’t it? Now you see why secure partners are considered super-mates!
Here’s the recap on green light pairings:
- Secure + Secure
- Avoidant/Dismissive + Secure
- Anxious/Preoccupied + Secure
- Anxious Avoidant/ Fearful Avoidant +Secure
Yellow Light: Slow Down!
All right, here is where is starts to get interesting. You would think that pairing any of the same attachment styles together would create a secure relationship because they are similar and understand each other’s needs. Well, not exactly. Let’s take a look at avoidant dismissive paired with avoidant dismissive.
Given that the avoidant attachment style has a strong need for independence and self-reliance, when two avoidant partners are paired together intimacy is repelled. There is very little that pulls them towards each other as they both desire space from intimacy. They cohabitate, can have a very functional relationship but will lack the emotional closeness that they subconsciously long for (because remember we all have a universal need for love and belonging!). Is it horrible? No, because on some level they are both getting their needs met. This relationship could benefit from them being aware of their dynamics, and working to foster closeness so that they don’t grow apart.
The other pairing that warrants some caution is the anxious/preoccupied couple. Opposite to the avoidant couple, anxious couples have a strong desire for intimacy and closeness. They have a very strong ability to pick up on small emotional cues and shifts in the relationship, and these shifts or inconsistencies can very easily activate their attachment system. Anxious couples could potentially work together quite nicely if they could learn to communicate their needs, control their protest behaviour, and not jump to conclusions. If they cannot learn to do these things, the anxious relationship can be a jealous resentful battle. The good news is that your needs are the same as your partner and you both want the same thing. But you will have to learn to implement some of the traits of a secure partner to ensure you effectively communicate with one another.
Here’s the recap of the yellow light pairings:
Red Light: Stop!
So what pairing are we left with? Can you guess?
The pairing that I would caution against the most is an anxious partner paired with an avoidant partner. I call this pairing the roller-coaster relationship and here is why: the needs of the avoidant and anxious partner are polar opposite. The first needs independence, self-sufficiency and distance from intimacy, while the other needs closeness, intimacy and interdependence. Their needs are divergent.
Is it hopeless for this couple pairing? No. Relationships are never hopeless. Is it going to be difficult for them to build a mutually rewarding relationship? Yes. It will be challenging and both will need to be on board to both communicate their needs and understand the needs of their partner. Neither attachment style is more correct or better then the other—they simply have different needs. Recognizing your needs and working towards meeting both these and your partners needs will start to steer your relationship in a different direction.
If you feel like this rollercoaster dynamic explains your relationship, I strongly suggest that you read Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller, and seek professional counsel or advice to help kick start your growth.
Here’s the recap of red light pairing:
No relationship is ever doomed! With conscious effort and understanding, relationships can become strong and more satisfying. Don’t give up hope; seek to understand the dynamics and what your partner needs.
Random side note: People often mention to me that they don’t know which attachment style they fall into because in many different situations they feel they experience all of them. I know the feeling, most of the time I would say that I am a securely attached individual. However, put my relationship on the line or “back me into a corner” and my true anxious patterns will surface. If you are struggling to know where you fit, ask yourself how you behave when your relationship is on the line. If you are still wondering, head to the ATTACHED book website where they have a profile that you can complete.
I trust that this has been helpful and would love to hear your comments and feedback. If you know someone who could benefit from this article don’t forget to hit the share button—sharing is caring
Wishing you love and connection,
*Ps: I am not making up the information on the best pairings, they come from legitimate psychological research. To learn more about them check out the book Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller!
Levine, A. & Heller, R. (2010). Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find—And Keep—Love. Penguin Group, NY: New York.