How To Navigate A Relationship If You Have A Fearful-Avoidant Attachment Style

For a generation that has redefined dating culture into scrolls and swipes, we sure do have a lot of self-awareness around relationship psychology. Created by psychoanalyst John Bowlby in the 1950s, the attachment style theories have gained a stirring 600 million views on Tiktok (via Psych Central). Millennials and Gen Zers are quickly learning from educational videos which attachment style camp they belong in and how to cope. According to Bowlby's theory, there are four distinct attachment styles that define how one navigates relationships in life. Each stems from childhood experiences in relationships to one's parents that lay the foundation for adulthood romantic relationships. The four attachment styles are secure, anxious-avoidant, anxious-ambivalent, and fearful-avoidant, also known as disorganized.


A 2017 study describes people with avoidant-style attachments as those who "strive to create and maintain independence, control, and autonomy in their relationships." They typically try to create distance within relationships because they believe romantic emotional proximity is not possible or beneficial. Psychologists at Simply Psychology assert that fearful-avoidants, in particular, long for emotional connection with others but fear getting hurt. They may actually create the situation they fear the most, creating a vicious cycle of worry and detachment.

Fearful-avoidant attachments stem from trauma

In a shocking reveal, Tinder released a study announcing that despite spending nearly two hours a day on dating apps, 72 percent of Millennials are making a conscious decision to be single (via Brian MacWilliam). Somehow we have become a freedom-obsessed generation that still yearns for intimacy. If you cope with relationships by distancing yourself, feel untrustworthy of others, and want a relationship but are scared of getting close, you could have a fearful-avoidant attachment style (via Simply Psychology). Other tendencies include people-pleasing, elevated levels of anxiety, possessing a negative view of self, having a negative view of others, and focusing on your career rather than your relationships.


Fearful-avoidant attachment is actually the rarest of all attachment styles, only recorded to be present in 7% of the population (via The Attachment Project). Psychologist and media expert ​​Cynthia Vinney at VeryWell Mind claims that this attachment style can stem from traumatic childhoods or parental neglect when a child did not receive proper care or attention when needed. Unfortunately, this relationship creates negative expectations in a child that can continue through adulthood. This attachment style can make navigating romance difficult and anxiety-filled, but it's not impossible.

Rewrite old narratives

Because fearful-avoidant attachments stem from childhood trauma and unmet needs, it's crucial to create new memories that can rewrite old narratives (via Women's Health). In 1994 researchers at Harvard Review Psychiatry found that trauma can be stored in the body, creating long-term conditional responses. It's important, therefore, to recondition the body with new memories that rewrite outdated belief systems. In coming to terms with this new awareness of self, it's equally important to be kind to yourself as fearful-attachment style people tend to practice negative self-talk. Find ways to be gentle to yourself and speak positive words of affirmation around who you are and your identity.


Mental health psychologists at Envision Wellness also believe it's also important to distinguish between your feelings and facts in a relationship. Fearful attachments have been programmed to believe every relationship will end badly and can, therefore, self-sabotage by making assumptions about a partner's actions. Challenge yourself to see the relationship clearly and not through the illusionary lens of insecurity or past trauma. Most importantly, seek a counselor or therapist who specializes in avoidant attachment styles to continue to work through emotional blockages.