Anxiously attached people are more likely to be unfaithful to their partner, research finds.
High levels of attachment anxiety are linked to a fear of abandonment.
People who are anxiously attached are extremely ‘needy’.
If an anxiously attached person does not get the reassurance they seek in their current relationship, they are likely to look elsewhere.
Around one in five people has an anxious attachment style.
A classic sign is having wildly varying feelings about the relationship from one day to the next.
People experiencing attachment anxiety spend a lot of time thinking about what the other person wants.
They can easily move from feeling strongly attached, to wanting independence.
The conclusions come from a study of over 200 newlywed couples who were followed for almost five years.
They were given tests of their personality, attachment style and relationship satisfaction.
The results showed that if either partner was anxiously attached, then they had a higher chance of being unfaithful.
One answer to the issues that anxiously attached people face may be therapy:
“…interventions such as attachment based family therapy and attachment-focused group intervention have been effective at reducing attachment anxiety and thus may help prevent infidelity among anxiously attached intimates.”
Another is for a partner of an anxiously attached person to work on being more responsive:
“…intimates report reduced attachment insecurity when they are with responsive partners than when they are with unresponsive partners.”
In contrast to anxiously attached people, those who were avoidantly attached were less likely to be unfaithful.
People who are avoidant want to avoid getting too attached to the other person.
Around one in four people has an avoidant attachment style.
Both avoidant and anxious attachment are both insecure types of attachment.
Just over 50% of people are securely attached to their partner.
The securely attached are the least likely to be unfaithful as they do not worry about their partner straying or the strength of the relationship.
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the Journal of Family Psychology (Russell et al., 2013).