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Emotional Attachment: How It Works & 34 Signs You’re Getting Attached & Close

For some people, it feels good to be emotionally attached to another person, but not for others. Here’s everything to know about emotional intimacy.

Emotional Attachment signs you're getting attached to someone

When you go deeper and deeper into a relationship, it becomes difficult to decipher genuine, complex feelings and just infatuation. The difference is infatuation can be very fleeting and often built around lust, and nothing much deeper. But understanding if you are truly emotionally attached to someone can be tricky, and at times, even dangerous.

A new phase in a relationship

When you start to realize that you’ve left the infatuation phase, it won’t hit you straight away. Instead, you notice certain emotions evolving or your feelings for your partner intensifying.

There are little signs of becoming emotionally attached that show up slowly over time, but you just have to be willing to look out for them.

Sometimes you’re unprepared for it because you only wanted the relationship to be casual, but real emotions can’t be fended off or ignored until they subside. Once you’re emotionally attached, you must accept that you’ve entered a new stage of the relationship. [Read: 9 relationship stages all couples go through]

Emotional attachment styles

First, we need to discuss the different emotional attachment styles before we talk about why we get attached to some people. But what exactly is an attachment style?

A person’s emotional attachment style is their way of relating to other people when they are in a relationship. This theory – Attachment Theory – was first developed by psychologists Mary Ainsworth and John Bowlby in the 1950s. 

A person’s attachment style is shaped and developed in early childhood in response to the relationships we had with our parents and/or early caregivers. As we get older, our adult attachment styles mirror the dynamics we had with those parents as infants and young children.

There are four attachment styles.

[Read: The 4 attachment styles and how they impact your relationship]

1. Secure attachment

The secure attachment style refers to the ability to form secure, loving relationships with other people. Someone with this style can trust others and be trusted, love and accept love, and get emotionally close to other people easily.

They are also not afraid of intimacy, nor do they feel scared when their partners need time or space away from the relationship. They’re able to depend on their significant others without being completely dependent on them.

2. Anxious attachment

The anxious attachment style is a form of insecure attachment. These people have a deep fear of abandonment. Because of this, they are very insecure in relationships and worry that their partner will leave them. They also require constant validation. [Read: Insecure attachment – the different types and how they affect you]

People with this style are often perceived as needy or clingy. For example, if their partner doesn’t text back quickly enough for their liking, they don’t feel like the person loves them.

3. Avoidant attachment

This attachment style is also a form of insecure attachment. However, people who are like this fear intimacy. They tend to have trouble getting close to others and trusting people. Being in a relationship can make them feel smothered or suffocated.

Because of this, they maintain distance from their partners as much as possible. They are seen as emotionally unavailable in their relationships. They prefer to be very independent and rely on themselves and not their partners. [Read: How an avoidant attachment style could doom your relationships]

4. Fearful-avoidant attachment

The fearful-avoidant attachment style is a combination of both the anxious and the avoidant attachment styles.

People with this style simultaneously crave affection and want to avoid it at all costs too. They are reluctant to develop a romantic relationship, but at the same time, they have a deep need to feel loved by other people.

This style is also sometimes called the disorganized attachment. It’s not very common, but it is associated with significant psychological and relational risks. Some examples include heightened sexual behavior, increased risk for violence in relationships, and difficulty regulating emotions.

How do people become emotionally attached to each other?

As you can see, there are different attachment styles that people have. However, there are some common ways that people can become emotionally attached to one another. Here are some of them. [Read: Love vs. attachment – is there a vital difference between the two?]

1. Sexual intimacy

This is a very common way that people get attached – especially women. Men can have sex without becoming emotionally attached, but it’s more difficult for women. Regardless, both sexes’ brains release oxytocin during sex, which promotes bonding between two people.

2. Deep talks

When two people stay up late and have deep talks about themselves or the world in general, that is also a way two people become emotionally attached. They may think that the other person is the only one they can really have those conversations with.

3. Traumatic event

Sometimes going through a traumatic event together can bond two people together. For example, if they were in a car accident together and survived, then they have a special experience that they have not gone through with anyone else. [Read: Ambivalent attachment style – is it a recipe for heartbreak?]

4. Spending time together

Merely spending time together is also how people become emotionally attached to one another. Think about arranged marriages. Maybe the two people don’t love each other on their wedding day, but as time goes on, they grow to love each other because of the time spent together.

5. Confessions

Everyone has their secrets. And a while a lot of people keep them to themselves, others share them with only a few people. So, if both people share those confessions with each other, it also builds a special relationship and causes them to become emotionally attached.

The indications that you have become emotionally attached

Emotional attachment is not something to be scared of or a negative issue in your relationship. It just means you grow closer to becoming a team. It is a beautiful thing that shows you truly care about one another and appreciate the bond you share.

Let these complex emotions work their magic naturally, because, like quicksand, the harder you struggle against it, the deeper you sink. [Read: Emotionally invested – 18 things to consider before going all in]

Maybe you’re not used to feeling this way, or maybe you’re in denial, but being emotionally attached can be a really great start to true connection and, potentially, love. Because it’s not always immediately apparent, it slowly creeps up on you until one day you look at the person you’re with and can’t believe there was ever anyone else before them.

1. You’d do anything to see them smile

Whenever they flash you a cheeky grin or a wide smile, it makes your insides go all fuzzy. To you, their smile is one of the prettiest things in the world.

You find yourself doing anything and everything in your power to see it as much as possible, even if it means acting a fool. [Read: 50 ways to start someone’s day with a smile]

2. Seeing them sad makes you sad

You seem to be more in tune with their emotions than you once thought. Their mood affects yours. When you see them feeling a bit down, you can’t help but feel the same way. You want to do everything possible to turn their mood around and ensure nothing gets them down.

3. You get jealous easily

Before, when you saw them around someone else, you didn’t think much of it. It never bothered you. But now when you see them flirting with someone that’s not you, you can’t help but feel a sharp pang of jealousy.

This is normal. It just means you now worry about losing them to someone else, whereas before you weren’t. [Read: The differences between jealousy and envy]

4. You can’t imagine them not being around

You become so accustomed to having them around, hearing about their day, going for dinner, and having long phone conversations that you forget what it was like before they came into your life. The thought of not having them involved in your typical day-to-day anymore sounds inconceivable.

5. They’re always on your mind

You constantly talk about them to your friends, to the point that they’re all sick of hearing about them. And when you’re not talking about how awesome they are, you think about where they are or what they’re doing.

You don’t even remember the last time you woke up and they weren’t the first thing on your mind. [Read: Am I in love? 21 signs to decode that fuzzy feeling]

6. When they leave, you can’t wait to see them again

Even when you’ve spent the entire day together, it just never feels long enough. The moment they leave, you find yourself missing them, and automatically text them to stay in contact. You always look forward to the next time you’ll hang out together.

7. You’d drop all your plans for them

Another big sign that you are emotionally attached is that you find yourself blowing off other plans just to spend time with them. You shift meetings and errands around just to meet them for lunch.

And if they call you randomly in the middle of the day to ask you for help or advice, you won’t think twice about canceling whatever you had arranged for the rest of the day, just to give them a helping hand.

8. You feel comfortable around them

You find you have fun together no matter what—even if it’s just hanging out alone doing nothing. You’d gladly trade having a massive night out at the club for a quiet night in with them.

You enjoy their company so much that you just want to relax and not pretend to be someone else around them. [Read: How to Netflix and chill the right way]

9. No one else is as important

When you’re in a crowded room together, it’s like you have tunnel vision. They’re the only one in the room that you’re interested in, and other potential partners don’t matter to you.

You get that butterfly feeling when they’re around, and it’s like everyone else disappeared. You even find that you don’t particularly flirt with anyone else anymore, but you don’t care.

10. You want to introduce them to everyone you know

They’re so special to you that you’ve been dying to introduce them to your friends and family because you think they’d really get on. You want to know what your friends think of them, and you want people to see what you see in them. But deep down you already know they’ll vibe well with all the important people in your life.

11. You’re able to open up to them

You’ve never felt so comfortable being open and honest with someone. You feel like you can tell them anything.

You’ve told them so much about yourself that it feels like you’ve known each other forever. Whenever you need advice or someone to talk to, they’re the first person you call—and vice versa. [Read: 19 sure signs you’re in an exclusive relationship already]

12. They call/text/speak to you all the time

When you’re not talking on the phone, you text each other. And when you’re not in contact over the phone, you tag each other in memes online or tweet each other.

You love the constant communication, and you couldn’t go without the good morning or good night texts anymore. [Read: 8 small ways to build a happily ever after]

13. You’re invested in what they’re interested in

You now spend all your time trying to impress them, even with small gestures. You wear the shirt they like, read that book they mentioned, or binge-watch their favorite TV show so you can talk about it. Anything that you can do to surprise them or show them you’re interested, you do without hesitation.

[Read: Dating vs. relationship – 14 signs to know your true status]

Can emotional attachment ever be bad?

You should feel as strongly as you can for someone. We all need to have a bit more emotion, especially in today’s world. However, having too strong of an emotional attachment to someone can be the complete opposite of a good thing.

People who latch on to others too strongly don’t often know they have a problem. They assume that they just have a lot of feelings. But when those feelings get in the way of your day-to-day life, it can be really unhealthy for all people involved.

How to know when your emotional attachment is unhealthy

For all of you love-struck folk out there, you might be wondering where you can draw the line between healthy attachment and unhealthy obsession. Because that’s what being overly emotionally attached to someone is; an obsession.

If you feel like you or someone you care about is feeling a little too strongly for someone, this is how you can determine if it’s unhealthy or not.

1. You can’t be without them or you get panicked

This is obsessive behavior and, for obvious reasons, it’s not healthy. You shouldn’t have to go into panic mode when you’re not with your partner.

You should be able to go about your life without worry. If you feel anxious, nervous, or panicked whenever you’re not together, it’s a sign your emotional attachment to them could be very unhealthy. [Read: How to stop obsessing over someone you really like]

2. You fell in “love” within a couple of weeks

Some people can truthfully fall in love this quickly, but that’s the norm. If you seem to be falling in love very fast with a lot of people after only two weeks, that’s a problem.

It’s a level of emotional attachment that’s unhealthy for both of you. Not only that, but when you think you love so many people, it’s stopping you from actually knowing what love is like.

3. You freak out when you don’t get an immediate text back

Despite knowing that your significant other is probably just busy at work or going about their day. If they can’t find the time to text you back immediately and it results in anxiety and apprehension, you’re too emotionally attached. This isn’t healthy. [Read: 11 realistic reasons they’re not responding to your texts]

4. You automatically think they don’t like you if they’re not all over you

Just because your partner doesn’t want to be completely on top of you all the time when you’re together doesn’t mean they don’t like you. Your thoughts immediately going to that are very unhealthy and even harmful.

You should know that someone can still like and love you even if they’re not actively showing this 100% of the time.

5. Excessive jealousy

A really big sign of unnatural emotional attachment is excessive jealousy. You can be jealous occasionally, but if it’s all the time, you have an issue.

Firstly, you’re way too attached to them if you think you should be the only person in their life. Secondly, you have trust issues if you think they’re always going to run off with someone else. [Read: 6 little ways to stop being so jealous in a relationship]

6. You cry over them super easily

This can be over anything. Whether they do something nice and you get emotional or if they don’t text you back within the hour and you break down crying, it’s not healthy. This heightened response to simple, everyday occurrences signifies you’re way too emotionally attached.

7. You’re planning way too far into the future way too soon

If you’re hearing wedding bells only after a few dates, there’s a big problem. Obviously, it’s great to be excited to have a future with someone.

However, the problems arise when you’re literally planning a wedding and children’s names for a future with someone you hardly know.

This shows you’ve become too attached way too soon. You need to tone it back and get to know someone fully before you can plan a future with them. [Read: 9 effective ways to stop being so clingy and needy]

8. Your friends tell you that you’re too attached

Your friends can see things a lot more clearly than you can. This means if they see an issue, they’re probably right. You probably hear them tell you to slow down with your relationships all the time.

If that’s the case, you definitely have an issue with emotional attachment. Take a step back and hear your friends out. They’re only trying to help you.

9. You’re always the first to initiate anything

This can be with texting, dates, sex, and everything you do. If you’re always the first person to put in all the effort, it could signify you have emotional attachment issues.

However, keep in mind that this is also proof that you’re dating a jerk. The best way to tell the difference is if you cannot cope without spending time together every single day. That’s not healthy and you need to be able to spend time apart.

10. You only talk about them

You could have a hundred different things going on in your life but if you only ever talk about them, it’s a problem. This is a form of obsessive behavior and it’s not healthy at all. If your friends have to tell you to shut up about that person, it’s an issue. [Read: 15 subtle signs you’re addicted to being in love]

11. You ditch your friends and hobbies for them

Aka, your entire life gets put on hold because they’re suddenly the most important thing. A lot of people do this when they start dating someone new because the relationship is so fresh and exciting. The difference that makes this unhealthy, however, is when you don’t pick up your friends and hobbies again after a while.

You can’t forget your entire life just because you have feelings for someone. If you do, it’s a sign that your emotional attachment has clouded you from feeling passionate about the other things in your life.

12. You overthink everything they do

If you really have to sit and debate if you should go see a friend or not because you want to spend time with the partner you see every single day, that’s not okay.

Your life is yours. You shouldn’t have to sit and think about what outfit your significant other will like best every single time you get dressed. That’s a big sign of unhealthy emotional attachment.

[Read: 15 ways to tell if your love is real or really unhealthy]

Being able to connect with someone emotionally is never a bad thing. As a human, it’s in your nature. However, there’s a limit to when that emotional attachment is healthy and when it’s harmful and unhealthy.

[Read: Emotional dependency – and 20 signs you’re overly emotionally dependent on someone]

With all that said and done, becoming emotionally attached to someone sneaks up out of nowhere, but there’s no need to be worried. The best relationships are sometimes the ones that are the most unexpected, so just go with the flow and enjoy watching your romance blossom!

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Carol Morgan LP
Dr. Carol Morgan
Dr. Carol Morgan has a Ph.D. in communication and is a professor at Wright State University where she loves corrupting young minds. As a relationship and succes...