Many psychologists believe that the ways in which we attach to our primary caregivers as children remains constant throughout our life, influencing both our self-esteem, emotional maturity and our relationships as adults.
To help people better understand themselves in relationship to others, psychologists have categorized these attachment styles and the behaviors that they are defined by.
While there are numerous quizzes you can take online to better understand your own unique attachment style, it's fairly easy to understand your own just by seeing which behaviors and beliefs you identify with most.
Here are the four main styles of attachment that have been identified in adults, the behaviors and belief systems that build these attachment styles and how they can impact your relationships.
Securely attached individuals love being in relationships and are capable of being emotionally intimate with a partner. However, they won't completely merge their life with someone else's, and this is a good thing.
Although being rejected/dumped will hurt them emotionally, they're willing to accept when things don't work out.
Children with secure attachments see their parent as a base from which they can independently venture out to explore the world, and securely attached adults tend to view their partner the same way.
As a result of their attachment style, individual with a secure attachment style tend to experience much happier, healthier relationships.
Individuals with an anxious attachment tend to be desperate to form a kind of fantasy bond. Instead of experiencing open and trusting love for their partner, they are plagued by a kind of emotional thirst or hunger.
These individuals are often caught talking about how they are looking for someone to "complete" them, which comes from a parent who was inconsistent in their attention. As children, anxiously attached individuals had parents who were at times nurturing, attuned and responsive to distress, while at other times they were intrusive, insensitive or emotionally unavailable.
Anxiously attached individuals learned as a result to cling to their parents for love and affection, never knowing what to expect. As adults, this can transfer to a clinginess in relationships that is neurotic. These people need a lot of reassurance in relationships.
They may also interpret independent actions by their partner as an affirmation of their worst fear: that they will leave them, or that they don't truly love them.
Dismissive-avoidant individuals are tough to spot, often operating under the guise of independence by taking on the role of parenting themselves.
It doesn't take much to draw conclusions about where this behavior comes from, but dismissive-avoidant attached individuals had parents who were not there for them, or who didn't know how to be there for there child, forcing the individual to learn how to take care of themselves.
In order to deal with their misfortune, dismissive-avoidant types tend to withdraw from others emotionally in order to avoid getting hurt. They deny the importance of loved ones and focus on their own lives, hobbies, interests, and schedules, and avoid relationships or end them prematurely for interfering.
Dismissive-avoidant individuals don't know -- or don't believe -- that focusing on their own lives is also possible while being in a relationship.
These poor sons of bitches live in a constant state of fear.
They fear being too close to people, and fear of being too distant from them. They're like the Scorpios of the attachment styles.
Fearful-avoidant individuals try to keep their feelings at bay, but this is impossible.
Inevitably, they feel overwhelmed by their emotions and often experience unpredictable emotional mood swings. They may feel paralyzed, unable to take a leap of faith when it comes to relationships.
They have a tendency to act like, "come here, go away" with their partners, and because of this, they may struggle with relationships that often stop and start, or get into relationships with others who have this attachment style.
Fearful-avoidant types have a tendency to experience relationships which are at best tumultuous, and at worst, abusive, because they come from a parenting style that was neglectful, abusive or somehow threatening to them as children.
It's important to note that attachment styles can change, however, and that individuals raised with an attachment style that was unhealthy can rehabilitate themselves and change their own belief systems with the help of a professional.
I took the test online earlier today and found (to my surprise) that I had a secure attachment style, however I know that if I'd taken it five years ago, I would have gotten a result that more closely mirrored fearful-avoidant.
It's never too late to work on improving yourself, and remember, never use your self-knowledge as an excuse for unhealthy behavior. "This is just who I am!" can often be the biggest cop-out excuse there is.