Attachment styles are defined as the behaviors and patterns one displays in relationships. Different types of attachment styles will create different types of character relationships. When writing your characters and developing the dynamic within their relationships, you can use Psychology’s attachment style theory to inspire you.
Attachment styles are typically developed during childhood and are heavily influenced by the relationship one has with both parents.
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The 4 Types of Attachment Styles
There are four distinct attachment styles that can influence the dynamic of relationships both in real life and in the lives of your characters.
A character with this attachment style displays anxiety when they are separated from their partner. They would typically have low-self esteem and have a constant fear of losing their significant other. Most of their fears are based on the belief that their partner is their “better half” and they feel as though they are not good enough for them.
They seek approval and validation from their partners. When they don’t receive the attention they so crave, they can become clingy and overbearing.
A character with this attachment style is extremely independent and doesn’t feel the need to have a partner in order to feel complete. They hate having to depend on others and will avoid getting emotionally close to their partners. They have difficulty with intimacy (emotional intimacy rather than physical intimacy) and tend to engage and enjoy casual sex.
They don’t tend to be very supportive or affectionate towards their partners and they aren’t distraught when the relationship ends.
Disorganized/Fearful – Avoidant
A character with a disorganized attachment style wants intimacy but avoids it because they are afraid of getting hurt. They avoid getting too attached in the beginning and display a mixture of behaviors that can be very confusing to their partners.
They can sometimes come across as warm and loving because deep down they yearn for intimacy and closeness. However, other times, they come across as cold and distant because they fear that if they let themselves love, they will eventually get hurt in the end.
A character with a secure attachment style is comfortable with emotional intimacy. They are secure in themselves and know how to cultivate healthy long-lasting relationships. They are effective in reassuring their partners and they are not clingy or dependant.
The Different Types of Relationship Dynamics
The combination of different attachment styles will create different relationship dynamics you can explore in your writing. Let’s briefly review what some of those dynamics may look like.
Anxious – Anxious Relationship
A relationship where both characters have an anxious attachment style is very codependent. Both partners are insecure within the relationship and are constantly searching for validation from the other.
In some ways, this relationship dynamic can be successful. Both partners are clingy and receive the attention and affection they desire from the other. However, this dynamic could also turn toxic where both partners lose their own individuality and become one. They lose sight of where they end and where their partner begins.
Anxious – Avoidant Relationship
A relationship where one partner has an anxious attachment style and the other has an avoidant attachment style is almost always toxic. The anxious partner is in constant need of affection whilst the avoidant partner needs space.
Over time, the anxious partner will feel neglected whilst the avoidant partner will feel suffocated. The more the avoidant partner seeks space, the more the anxious partner becomes clingy which will drive the avoidant partner away. This becomes a vicious toxic cycle of push and pull.
Anxious – Disorganized Relationship
A relationship where one partner has an anxious attachment style and the other has a disorganized attachment style would be very up and down. When the disorganized partner is warm and supportive, the anxious partner will feel secure in the relationship.
However, when the disorganized partner becomes cold and distant because they feel overwhelmed by the intimacy, the anxious partner will become insecure and clingy which will push the disorganized partner away.
Avoidant – Avoidant Relationship
A relationship where both partners have an avoidant attachment style will be extremely cold, distant, and disconnected. Both partners will avoid emotional intimacy and the relationship will remain very surface level.
Avoidant – Disorganized Relationship
A relationship where one partner has an avoidant attachment style and the other has a disorganized attachment style will also be cold and distant.
The disorganized partner will avoid getting attached but will secretly crave intimacy. They will be extremely unsatisfied within the relationship. The avoidant partner, however, won’t mind this type of relationship because they’ll be able to maintain their independence and won’t have to deal with an overbearing partner.
Disorganized – Disorganized Relationship
A relationship where both partners have a disorganized attachment style will be very confusing and have a lot of ups and downs. Depending on the stages each person is going through the relationship will look different.
At times, both partners will be warm towards each other and seek intimacy. However, other times, both partners will push each other away out of fear. Sometimes, one person will seek intimacy whilst the other won’t and vice versa. This relationship dynamic is the most confusing of all of them because of how unstable it is.
Secure – Other attachment styles
A partner with a secure attachment style can create a healthy and balanced relationship with all the other attachment styles. This mostly depends on the amount of patience and compromise both partners are willing to display.