attachment stylesAdults have three main attachment styles (patterns of thinking and behavior with respect to intimacy in romantic relationships):

  • Secure
  • Anxious
  • Avoidant

Attachment Styles

Attachment styles are deeply embedded although they can change. The following chart, adapted mainly from pages 65-6 of “Attached – The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find – and Keep – Love” by Levine and Heller, summarizes characteristics of each style in intimate relationships:


Attachment system suppressed
Send mixed signals
Values independence
Quick to devalue partners
Uses distancing strategies
Emphasizes boundaries
Unrealistic romantic ideals
Rigid view of relationships
Doesn’t state intentions
Difficulty talking about issues
Represses emotions
Hard to be happy in relationships
Emphasizes self-reliance


Attachment system healthy
Reliable and consistent
Makes decisions with partner
Flexible view of relationships
Communicates issues well
Willing to compromise
Not afraid of commitment
Relationships aren’t hard work
Closeness creates more of same
Expresses needs / expectations
Doesn’t play games
Naturally expresses feelings
Keeps an even keel under threat
Good at helping others open up


Attachment system too active
Wants lots of closeness
Worries about rejection
Unhappy if no relationship
Tries to keep your attention
Difficulty explaining concerns
Acts out
Makes it all about themselves
Lets partner set the tone
Fearful about ruining things
Suspicious of unfaithfulness

Here are some interesting research findings about the three styles and romantic relationships:

  • Avoidants rarely form long-lasting relationships with other avoidants;
  • Avoidants are in the dating pool more frequently than the other styles and for longer periods;
  • Avoidants actually prefer anxiously attached people;
  • Anxious-style people tend to date and form relationships with avoidants;
  • Secure-style people aren’t long in the dating pool and then tend to form long-term relationships;
  • Secure-style people fare better and are happier in relationships, regardless of their partner’s style;
  • Secure-style people often create a buffering effect, raising their avoidant or anxious partner’s relationship functioning and satisfaction towards their own high level.

Particularly noteworthy (as related to the subject of divorce) is that anxious-style people and avoidants are attracted to each other and often form long-term combustible relationships.

If you are interested in determining both your own and your partner’s attachment styles, the book referred to above, “Attached – The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find – and Keep – Love” by Levine and Heller, provides fairly simple ways to help you do so.

Another good book is “Wired for Love: How Understanding Your Partner’s Brain and Attachment Style Can Help You Defuse Conflict and Build a Secure Relationship” by Stan Tatkin.

Divorce mediator attachment styles may have a bearing on how they conduct divorce mediation.