5 Tiny Things You Do That Unknowingly Hurt Your Partner, Based On Their Attachment Style

Understanding our patterns is the first step to changing them.

man and woman sitting next to each other Joshua McKnight / Pexels

Attachment styles fall along a continuum of different aspects, typified by anxiety and avoidance. There are four main attachment styles measured along those dimensions: secure attachment, avoidant-dismissive attachment, anxious-preoccupied attachment, and fearful-disorganized attachment.

A secure attachment style in adult relationships creates a trusting and stable connection characterized by a balance between intimacy and independence.


Our attachment styles aren’t written in stone. If we do the emotional work of healing our traumas and triggers, we can shift how we connect to our loved ones. Yet until we embark on that journey, we might repeat patterns that do us a disservice and damage our relationships.

Here are 5 tiny things you do that unknowingly hurt your partner, based on their attachment style:

1. Focusing on their faults

Relationship coach Esther Ku offers advice that helps couples communicate efficiently and understand themselves better. She has also shared triggers that can hurt people in partnership, depending on their particular attachment style.

@yourtango How does attachment theory work? Researcher and therapist Stan Tatkin explains on the latest episode of our podcast, 'Open Relationships', available now #attachmenttheory #therapist #podcast #relationship ♬ original sound- YourTango

RELATED: The Attachment Style That Invisibly Sabotages Your Relationship

For those who have an avoidant attachment style, nitpicking their annoying traits and zeroing in on their faults can be extremely damaging.

Of course, it’s okay to express critique in a healthy way by using “I” statements instead of tearing your partner down because they load the dishwasher wrong or have a hard time communicating how they feel during a fight.


Yet when one partner digs into the avoidant partner’s qualities that are harder to put up with, that person might internalize the negative criticism as a sign that they’re not appreciated or loved and will then put up walls to protect themselves from further harm, whether real or imagined.

@the_dating_decoder Attachment theory in 3 minutes. I could talk for hours but here’s the tip of the iceberg. I didn’t get to talk about why DAs shut down, why FAs fight, or why the anxious emotionally dump. Follow me for more! #attachmentstyle #science #psychology #relationships #fyp #foryoupage ♬ original sound - Dr. Sarah Hensley

2. Ignoring their need for space and recovery

Someone with an avoidant attachment style tends to need time on their own to reset. This behavior can come off as them ignoring their partner, when really what they’re doing is trying to re-regulate their emotions and center themselves so that they can show up as their fullest selves in partnership.

Criticizing the time they spend on their own can make an avoidant-attached person feel as though they aren’t good enough or that they need to change the way they process their feelings.

@juliethe_therapist The anxious-avoidant trap is a common pattern that can develop in relationships where one partner has an anxious attachment style and the other partner has an avoidant attachment style. This pattern can be difficult to break because the anxious partner craves intimacy and closeness, while the avoidant partner is uncomfortable with emotional vulnerability and may withdraw when the anxious partner tries to get closer. Here are some strategies that can help break the anxious-avoidant trap: Recognize the pattern: The first step in breaking the anxious-avoidant trap is to recognize that it exists. Both partners need to acknowledge that they are in a cycle of anxious-avoidant behavior and commit to breaking the pattern. Communicate openly: Both partners need to be willing to communicate openly and honestly about their feelings and needs. The anxious partner can express their desire for closeness and reassurance, while the avoidant partner can communicate their need for space and independence. Both partners need to be willing to listen to each other without judgment or defensiveness. Seek professional help: If the pattern of anxious-avoidant behavior is deeply ingrained or if the relationship is particularly challenging, it may be helpful to seek professional help. A therapist or counselor can help both partners understand their attachment styles and provide tools and strategies for breaking the cycle of anxious-avoidant behavior. Practice mindfulness: Both partners can benefit from practicing mindfulness techniques, such as meditation or deep breathing exercises. Mindfulness can help reduce anxiety and promote emotional regulation, which can make it easier to break the anxious-avoidant cycle. Work on individual issues: Both partners may have individual issues that contribute to the anxious-avoidant pattern. The anxious partner may need to work on building self-esteem and reducing anxiety, while the avoidant partner may need to work on developing emotional intimacy and learning to trust others. Breaking the anxious-avoidant trap requires commitment, communication, and a willingness to change. #anxiousavoidanttrap #therapistsontiktok #therapytiktok #avoidantattachmentstyle ♬ original sound - Julie The Therapist

There’s nothing wrong with taking some time apart to regroup after a conflict, as long as you and your partner make sure to come back together and continue the discussion after your emotions have cooled off a bit.

RELATED: 10 Men Reveal The Worst Things They've Said To Their Wives In An Argument

3. Avoiding discussions about the future.

People who have an anxious attachment style often feel triggered when their partner avoids talking about future plans.


This attachment style tends to rely on immediate connection to soothe their high levels of anxiety, which can prove challenging if they’re in a relationship with someone who’s avoidant, as those people often need to separate to figure out how they’re feeling.

When you brush off an anxiously attached person’s concerns about the future, they’re likely to interpret that as a sign that you don’t actually care about them, which, of course, feels hurtful, even if it isn’t based in reality.

Finding ways to communicate with each other is crucial to maintaining a long-term relationship.


There’s nothing needy about wanting to know where you stand with your partner, no matter what society’s larger messaging says.

Asking for words of affirmation is a grounding practice and it lets your partner know how to meet your emotional needs.

4. Doing sweet things only as a way of saying sorry

We all make mistakes in our relationships, whether they’re intentional or not. Focusing on repairing those chasms and communicating our emotions is essential to having a healthy, stable partnership.

When one partner messes up, owning what they’ve done and holding themselves accountable is the first step to healing.

man giving flowers to a woman Vija Rindo Pratama / Pexels


But if you only offer acts of kindness after a fight, it’s likely to make your anxiously attached partner think they’re not actually worthy of love or that you only treat them with care after you’ve done something wrong.

Incorporating small moments of joyful appreciation goes a long way: Surprising them with flowers, writing a tiny love note, or making their favorite meal are all ways to express how you feel.


Do an anonymous act of kindness. ❤️

♬ Sunset Lover - Petit Biscuit

5. Making special plans without considering them

A person who has an anxious attachment style often believes that they’re being left behind or disregarded by their partner.


Everyone is entitled to take part in their own individual activities. In fact, doing so is a sign of a healthy, stable partnership. But it’s also important to communicate those needs to your partner so that they don’t feel left out.

man and woman smiling on couch Andres Ayrton / Pexels


Making plans without checking in can unwittingly lead your partner down the rabbit hole of endless worry. This is an issue with a simple solution: Just make sure to run your plans by your partner, even if you’re doing something that doesn’t include them.

Cultivating a strong and lasting relationship is a practice. Stable romances don’t just appear out of thin air. They take commitment, emotional labor, communication, and self-awareness. The more we know ourselves and recognize our patterns of attachment, the more we’re able to show up for ourselves and our loved ones in ways that nourish us. 

RELATED: How People Who Form Insecure Attachments Can Create Secure, Healthy Relationships

Alexandra Blogier is a writer on YourTango's news and entertainment team. She covers social issues, pop culture, and all things to do with the entertainment industry.