The Attachment Style That Invisibly Sabotages Your Relationship

How you stand in your own way of finding love.

Self Sabotaging woman with insecure attachment style irynakhabliuk | Canva

If you have an insecure attachment style, you might just be self-sabotaging your love, intimacy, and relationships. But what is an insecure attachment style? Attachment theory, one of the most substantiated theories in psychology, tells us that patterns of relating to others are formed in early childhood and generally hold stable throughout our lives.

You develop a "secure" pattern or an "insecure" pattern. A secure attachment style emerges from consistent and reliable care in the early years as well as a felt sense of safety. In adulthood, secure people thrive from the healthy bond they had growing up and therefore tend to enjoy close, intimate relationships. They are not afraid to take risks when it comes to love. Alternatively, people who haven’t formed secure attachments from experiencing inconsistent or unreliable care and responsiveness — perhaps even a lack of safety or abuse — tend to develop an insecure attachment style in adulthood. Insecure styles are marked by fear and mixed feelings about love and intimacy.  


RELATED: If Your Partner Does These 5 Things, They Have A Secure Attachment Style

Here are the 3 types of insecure attachment styles:

1. Avoidant (dismissive)

Those with an avoidant style have an indifferent attitude towards emotional needs. Intimacy is often shunned, and the need and desire for connection are minimized.

2. Anxious (preoccupied)

On the other end of the continuum, those with an anxious style are often excessively preoccupied with their emotional needs and frequently seek reassurance of their worthiness and love.


3. Disorganized (fearful-avoidant)

The disorganized style is a sort of combination of both avoidant and anxiety as it is commonly the result of trauma or extreme inconsistency in childhood. This style is characterized by both fearing intimacy and craving it as well.

Each insecure attachment style bears behavior that can sabotage your chances of succeeding in love and relationships. Given that the quality of the initial bonds we had in early childhood still influences us in adult romantic relationships, it’s critical to figure out what might be causing love to go wrong for you now. So, how do people with an Avoidant attachment style self-sabotage their intimacy, love, and relationships?

By downplaying the importance of emotion or viewing emotion as “irrational.” Emotions helped us survive and thrive as a species. There is nothing irrational about having them and behavior in response to what you feel can be best understood in context. If you are avoidant, you have likely tuned out or turned done your emotions as others were not responsive to your emotional expressions early in life. It’s time to tune in and turn them back on! 

RELATED: 8 Little Things Men Do When They're Seriously Insecure


What other ways do people with an avoidant attachment style self-sabotage:

1. Believing you do not need anyone or that asking for help makes you weak

Like emotional responsiveness, responding to both physical and emotional needs may have been lacking in your early years. Why keep asking for help when no one responds? But things can be very different for you now. You have needs, and science tells us you would do much better in life seeking help and allowing others to help you with them.

2. Purposely putting up barriers to intimacy

Not responding right away when someone reaches out, sending mixed signals, making jokes when a serious topic is brought up, and giving vague responses to the “What’s our relationship status?” question. There’s quite a bit in your bag of tricks to maintain distance in relationships. I advise you to put the bag away and allow someone into your inner world.

3. Over-functioning, over-accommodating, and over-adapting to keep a relationship going at all costs

You have trouble saying no and always aim to please. You will do anything to maintain a relationship even if it is unhealthy. You must recognize that boundaries and limits are a good thing. Why not see what happens if you stop this behavior?


4. Difficulty being alone

The distress of not being with someone overwhelms you sometimes to the point you will take anyone, even someone bad for you, instead of being alone. Learning to embrace some independent and alone time needs to be a primary task for you to also thrive in a healthy relationship.

5. Constantly seeking reassurance of love and acceptance

You focus excessively on the relationship (or not having a relationship) and the problems that this causes. You get most of your validation from others and are hypersensitive to rejection. Finding a sense of self-worth in other ways besides romantic love will help to free you.

RELATED: How To Overcome An Insecure Attachment Style — Because It's Really, Really Unhealthy

Here is how people with Disorganized Attachment Style self-sabotage:

1. Overly controlling behavior

The lack of control you felt as a child has you trying to control whatever you can now, especially your relationships. Many things, including other people, are beyond our ability to control, and figuring out a way to tolerate the tough feelings that come up around this is a worthwhile goal.


2. Expecting the worst to happen

You have had terrible things happen to you so it makes sense you would think this way. But you are not doomed to repeat the past, and you may be creating bad situations by having these expectations (hello, law of attraction!). Look at the world through a lens of curiosity instead. We have no idea what will happen, but we can hope for and expect the best just as easily as the worst so why not choose the best?

3. Desiring closeness while also pushing it away or fearing it once you start to get it

The push-pull is a constant struggle. Getting close and trusting someone is scary, but you can go at a slow pace. One tiny step at a time. Learning to tolerate the fear more and reminding yourself that love is also healing will help you break through it. If you do not have a naturally secure style, there is the possibility of "earned security" or being able to develop a secure style in adulthood. The primary way to create earned security involves reconciling your childhood experiences and discovering how those experiences are impacting your life today.

A positive romantic relationship, one that includes mutual caring, support, respect, and love, plays an important role when changing your sense of security. Self-awareness is the initial step to stop being a victim of unfortunate life experiences. A therapist, particularly one with an attachment orientation, may be necessary to help foster these changes and bring mindfulness to self-sabotaging behaviors. If you have an insecure style, the path to secure attachment is a challenging one with a lot of emotional risk-taking and vulnerability, but it can bring you the kind of love you have always wanted.


RELATED: How To Help Someone With An Anxious-Ambivalent Attachment Style Feel More Secure

Dr. Marni Feuerman is a licensed psychotherapist in private practice, relationship expert, and author of Ghosted and Breadcrumbed: Stop Falling for Unavailable Men and Get Smart about Healthy Relationships.