If adult romantic relationships are attachment relationships, then the way adult relationships “work” should be similar to the way infant-caregiver relationships work. For the most part, research suggests that adult romantic relationships function in ways that are similar to infant-caregiver relationships. Naturalistic research on adults separating from their partners at an airport demonstrated that behaviors indicative of attachment, such as crying and clinging, were evident and that the way people expressed those behaviors were related to their attachment style. For example, while separating couples generally showed more attachment behavior than non-separating couples, people with avoidant attachment styles showed much less attachment behavior.
There is also research that suggests that the same kinds of features that mothers desire in their babies are also desired by adults seeking a romantic partner. Studies conducted in numerous cultures suggest that the secure pattern of attachment in infancy is universally considered the most desirable pattern by mothers. Adults seeking long-term relationships identify responsive caregiving qualities, such as attentiveness, warmth, and sensitivity, like most attractive in potential dating partners. Despite the attractiveness of secure qualities, however, not all adults are paired with secure partners. Some evidence suggests that people end up in relationships with partners who confirm their existing beliefs about attachment relationships, even if those beliefs are negative.