All healthy relationships take hard work, but some relationships seem to constantly be in turmoil. If you’ve ever been in a relationship that started off like the Fourth of July, but suddenly grew to be toxic where behaviors of clinginess and avoidance became the norm – then this article is for you.

Understanding attachment styles may be one of the most insightful tools to use when reflecting on old and new relationships. Attachment styles describe the different styles that each of us bring into our relationships. If you are or have been in a toxic relationship, attachment styles can explain why you feel the way you do. We’ll first explain what attachment style is, then we’ll describe the different styles, and how these styles can affect the way you love.

Attachment style is the way in which we feel and behave in a close relationship, either with family, friends, or lovers. The behavior is driven by either your desire for closeness and intimacy, or your desire for distance and self-sufficiency in relationships. Attachment styles are molded by our parents and/or past relational experiences throughout our lives. Although the way we behave in our relationships can be impulsive, transforming our styles into more healthy attachments is entirely possible.

There are three main styles of attachment to date:

Secure Attachment: Individuals with this style are typically trusting, warm, and loving. They tend to have less worries when it comes to their relationships and are less preoccupied. This is the healthiest of attachment styles.

Anxious Attachment: Individuals with this style are typically preoccupied with thoughts of their partner if they sense that something is wrong. They are often great at reading facial expressions and can sense that something is wrong but may jump to conclusions too soon. When they feel their partner’s distance, they will behave in a way that society has labeled as ‘clingy’.

Avoidant Attachment: Individuals with this style value self-sufficiency and often feel anxiety when their partner gets too close. They tend to feel less independent when their partner gets too close and equate the closeness as loss of independence.

*We highly recommend reading “Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How it Can Help You Find – And Keep – Love” by Amir Levine, M.D., and Rachel S.F. Heller, M.A.

To learn your attachment style, take a quiz here.

How can these styles affect the way you love?

In the toxic relationship described earlier, it’s useful to know that one partner has the anxious attachment, and the other partner is avoidant. These two styles are euphoric when they begin, but each partner’s needs clash eventually. The anxious individual needs closeness and intimacy when they feel anxious, and the avoidant partner needs distance to maintain their sense of independence when their partner seeks closeness and intimacy. Both partners may truly love each other, but their styles clash. Because these styles clash, researchers recommend that both anxious and avoidant lovers find partners that have a secure attachment style. Secure partners are able influence anxious and avoidant individuals with their ‘secure’ personality. But, you can grow your relationship to be secure if you are in an anxious and avoidant relationship. To do so, it is imperative that you and your partner work through these clashing styles through solid communication.

Relationships are require constant work. Understanding attachment styles will help you and your partner understand each other more. Anxiety happens in everyone, but the way each person responds differ. This difference is what may cause issues in relationships. The only way for these issues to resolve is equal effort from both partners and a desire for the relationship to grow.