How Your Attachment Style Can Affect Your Friendships

More often than not, we treat our friendships as secondary relationships and consider them low-maintenance. Friendship problems aren't as much of a hot topic compared to the issues we might face in a romantic relationship. But dealing with a friendship that is drifting apart or worse, healing from a friendship breakup, can be just as challenging. While there is a lot of information out there about improving your relationship based on your attachment style, there isn't as much covering how they can affect your friendships. However, learning your attachment style is a helpful tool for navigating any friendship issues.

If you're unfamiliar with the concept, your attachment style is the behavior pattern you tend to follow when building a relationship with another person, and you often learn it from your interactions with caretakers in early childhood (per Psychology Today). By learning what your attachment styles look like, you can better understand what you need from your friends and what you can do to be a better friend.

Discover the healthiest attachment style

There is a spectrum of attachment styles, but generally, most people will fall into one of four major kinds. Sarah Epstein, a marriage and family therapist, told Forbes that we usually develop one of these four attachment styles as infants. Epstein explained that "the bond between a caregiver and the level of responsiveness that caregiver gives to their baby when that baby feels distressed forms the foundation for the child's well-being and ability to form healthy relationships." However, because most of us don't have any conscious memory of this time, we can examine our adult behavior to figure out what our style is.

Forbes lists the four attachment styles as anxious, avoidant, disorganized, and secure. Psychologists have defined each by a list of traits and a description of what those traits say about how you were taken care of as a kid. The healthy category to be in is secure, which means that a person can trust their friends, communicate well, and maintain healthy, caring friendships.

But even if you tend to be more secure, no one is perfect, so you may exhibit tendencies of the other styles. Once you know how you tend to stray from secure, you can use this information to improve your friendships.

Why your attachment style could hurt your friendships

While secure is the attachment style that will set you up for healthy, mutual friendships, if you are anxious, avoidant, or disorganized, you could run into some issues. Anxious and avoidant types are practically opposites, which might make for a bad mix in a friendship. Anxious types may act clingy, overstep boundaries, and become overly sensitive and easily jealous, according to Forbes. On the contrary, avoidant types have difficulty opening up to people, may value their independence highly, and are prone to being inattentive to their friendships. Meanwhile, disorganized is a somewhat sporadic mashup of avoidant and anxious traits. They may want companionship but are afraid of being hurt, and may react unpredictably to challenges.

It's important to look into these attachment types as they can help you identify what you can work on to be a better friend for the people you care about. Linda Carroll, M.S., a licensed marriage and family therapist, notes in an article for mindbodygreen that "Practicing mindfulness is essential for any change. In relationships, shifting from reactiveness to responsiveness can lift us out of our early attachment patterns toward a healthier, more secure style."