According to attachment theory, how you bond with your friends and partners depends on how you bonded with your parents. Did they take care of your emotional and physical needs as often as they could? Did they let shelter you, or did they let you experience the world? Could you go to them for comfort and support whenever you needed it? All that and more affect how you act around other people.
The four attachment styles are:
Avoidant (a.k.a. Dismissive)
Preoccupied (a.k.a. Anxious)
(Note: Technically, Disorganized is an Avoidant style, too. It’s also called “Fearful-Avoidant”. But for this post, Avoidant is one style, and Disorganized is another.)
How do your figure out your style? It’s based on your levels of anxiety and avoidance:
Anxiety is how much you worry your partner will leave you or reject your feelings.
Avoidance is how uncomfortable you are relying on others or having them rely on you.
I think my chart explains it well — I’m proud of that thing ? — but let’s dive into what the different styles look like.
“I can take care of myself.” That’s the motto of the Avoidant. (Aisha says that a lot, doesn’t she? Especially to men.) They want the world to see them as strong and independent, but it’s just a mask to hide their fear.
Avoidants have high avoidance (big surprise), so they don’t like depending on others. The typical Avoidant’s parents neglected their needs, especially emotional ones, so Avoidants think their feelings don’t matter to anyone but themselves. Even in relationships, they push their partners away if they get too emotionally close. (At least since Avoidants have low anxiety, they’re not usually needy.)
It’s not that they wanna be alone. In fact, some may even have a lot of friends. But don’t expect them to ask said friends for help because Avoidants think they must solve their problems on their own.
That’s not real independence, though. Truly independent people know they can’t do everything themselves. People need each other sometimes, and that’s what Avoidants need to learn in order to become more secure.
Nex’s Attachment Style: Secure
In an ideal world, everyone would be Secure. Yep, everyone would be Nex. Take that, Winx fandom. ?
Does that mean Secures are perfect? Of course not, but they’re the best at building healthy, happy relationships that last.
That’s because the typical Secure had a healthy, happy childhood. Their parents gave them plenty of love and freedom, so as an adult, they’re confident and trusting, and they love being around other people.
In relationships, Secures are usually supportive and affectionate. When their partners need them, they’re there for them (low avoidance). After all, Secures got their needs met, so they wanna do the same for their loved ones.
Also, since Secures have low anxiety, they don’t stress over whether their partners will break up with them. So what if they had a fight, or they haven’t talked to them in a couple of days? It’s not the end of the relationship. Secures understand their partners are their own people, so they give them space and try not to pressure them.
The Other Attachment Styles: Preoccupied (a.k.a. Anxious) and Disorganized
If someone is Preoccupied (high anxiety, low avoidance), they’re probably the classic “clingy girlfriend/boyfriend”. They need a lot of attention and reassurance to feel like their partner’s feelings are real (high anxiety), but it’s never enough. Whenever they’re alone, their imagination runs wild. “Where is he? What if he’s with someone else? Is he mad at me?”
Preoccupied people are prone to possessiveness and jealousy, as well as putting their partners up on pedestals. They often believe in fairy tale romance: the knight in shining armor who will rescue them or the damsel in distress who needs their help.
Bloom is 100 percent a Preoccupied. No matter how much Sky dotes on her, she’s always worried a break up is minutes away. Plus, she throws tantrums whenever he’s too busy for her.
Winx season eight was the worst of it. She spent several episodes in a funk because he hadn’t texted her in a while. (Granted, he should have.)
Finally, Disorganized attachment (high anxiety, high avoidance) combines the lone-wolf nature of Avoidant with the nervousness of Preoccupied. Does that sound like a mismatch? Exactly. This style is all about mixed signals.
Like a Preoccupied, a Disorganized craves quality time with their partner. But once said partner gets too close, the Disorganized pulls away like an Avoidant. Yet they shudder at the thought of getting dumped. They need this person. No one else can love them.
Swift.net‘s quote says it best: “Come here. No, go away.” Let me add, “No, don’t leave me!”
We know who’s the best example in Winx Club: Riven. (There’s another way he and Nex are different.) Losing Musa is his biggest fear (high anxiety), to where Helia used it against him in season three to make him “stop acting like a jerk”. Riven gets jealous whenever he sees her with other guys, but when she’s with him, he acts like a stranger (high avoidance). And when they’re mad at each other, he walks away instead of talking things out.
Attachment Style Compatibility
If Secure is the ideal style, it’s no wonder Secure/Secure is the ideal pairing. Don’t worry, though. Insecure folks can still find love, and it’s good to know attachment theory so they can predict the challenges.
1. Avoidant/Avoidant and Preoccupied/Preoccupied
Matching styles! That’s great, right? You and your partner get each other!
Not so fast. Having the same style means you have the same insecurities, so:
Two Preoccupied partners compete with each other for attention and who feels the most neglected. Trust is at a premium in this relationship.
Two Avoidants give each other lots of space, but they can’t form an emotional connection because neither likes to share their feelings! This pairing often gets bored with each other and parts ways.
I think Bloom and Sky are a Preoccupied/Preoccupied couple, and…well, you know what their relationship has been like. Every season, they’re worried that an ex, a teacher, or a freaking Fairy Animal is gonna steal the other person’s heart. They’re engaged, for crying out loud! You’d think they would have worked out their issues by now, but Rainbow loves drama.
“You want more Diaspro? No? More Disapro it is!”
Seriously, why isn’t she in prison yet?
2. Disorganized/Any Other Type
Remember Musa’s season four song “Heart of Stone”? It summed up what it’s like to date a Disorganized:
I’ve tried to understand you But you are still a mystery Sometimes I feel you close Sometimes we’re miles away I wish I knew the secret To reach your heart ’cause lately You got me feeling so alone
One day you take me up And the next day you bring me down Stop playing with my feelings I’m about to lose my mind Just put your arms around me Why can’t you say you love me? And I can’t take this anymore
Disorganized people never seem to know what they want, so their relationships are emotional roller coasters. Expect lots of tears and fighting, which is what Musa and Riven are known for.
This is one of the most dysfunctional pairings — and it’s sadly one of the most common. The Preoccupied comes off as a patient lover, but they’re really a doormat. Quoting Jeb Kinnison, author of Bad Boyfriends: Using Attachment Theory to Avoid Mr. (or Ms.) Wrong and Make You a Better Partner (long title!):
As long as [the Preoccupied is] getting the attention they want, they will let their partner get away with being difficult in other ways — even negative attention is keeping the touch game going….They want to merge with their partner, so this type is prone to co-dependence — a dysfunctional mutual dependence where neither partner matures further.
I think the best metaphor for an Avoidant/Preoccupied relationship (from the Preoccupied’s point of view) is a slot machine. You pull the lever. Nothing. You try again. Nothing. Once more. A small payout….
Okay, let’s try again! My luck’s changing!
Nothing, nothing, nothing, another small payout, nothing, nothing, a large payout, nothing, nothing, small payout again, wash, rinse, repeat…foryears. Yeah, these couples often stay together, not because they’re happy, but because they feel trapped.
I predict Aisha and Roy’s relationship would have been like this. It already felt like it. His jealousy, his possessiveness, and how he went along with anything she wanted makes me think he was a Preoccupied. And the Preoccupied is usually the most miserable partner in this pairing, since the Avoidant controls the pace and mood.
The Winx fandom says Roy was better for Aisha, but was she good for him? A relationship is about both people, you know. Food for thought.
4. Secure/Any Other Type
What about Aisha and Nex, our Avoidant/Secure couple? Do they work? Yes!
Secures have the confidence and skills to date any type. That doesn’t mean they have easy relationships, though. For example, as I said in the relationship development post, Aisha may push Nex away again one day. I think he can handle it, but it will cause conflict between them.
But here’s the good news. According to the U.K. site Counseling Directory, even if only one partner is Secure, the relationship often feels like a Secure/Secure relationship:
The Secure partner seems to be able to step both into the dependent as well as depended upon position, therefore soothing the fear of the Anxious [Preoccupied] individual, as well as challenging the Avoidant person in assuming a position of dependency.
So the Secure can help their insecure partner overcome their weaknesses and become more secure. That’s exactly what happened in the first Sirenix arc in Winx season eight. Nex encouraged Aisha to ask for help when she needs it. At the end of “The Light of Gorgol” (Winx season 8, episode 9), when she thanked him for helping her, it’s because she made progress changing her Avoidant attachment.
Bottom line: no matter what your style is, find a Secure partner. They’re your best match.
Your attachment style isn’t the only thing that shapes who you are, so none of these characters perfectly match the descriptions of their styles. Still, I like using these behavior studies to help understand them better. Even if Rainbow didn’t use psychology to create them — although maybe they did — it’s fun when everything lines up with the show, anyway.
Some of My Sources:
PsychAlive: “What is Your Attachment Style?”
Evergreen Psychotherapy Center: “Four Styles of Adult Attachment”
Marriage.com: “The Secret to Happy Marriages – A Compatible Attachment Style”
The Love Compass: “Attachment Pairings: Finding the Best Fit”
JebKinnison.com: “Attachment Type Combinations in Relationships”
Swift.net: “What Your Attachment Style Means for Your Friendships and Relationships”
JebKinnison.com: “Type: Anxious-Preoccupied”
Counseling Directory: “How Am I in My Relationships? – Attachment Styles in Couples”
Couples Therapy Inc.: “Relationships from Hell”
The Attachment Project: “Attachment Styles & Their Role in Relationships”