Facebook pixel 5 Characteristics of Healthy Attachment in Online Relationships - Relationship IQ Blog | Boone Center for the Family | Pepperdine University Skip to main content
Pepperdine | Boone Center for the Family

5 Characteristics of Healthy Attachment in Online Relationships


Over the last 5-10 years, technology has rapidly advanced and more people are using virtual platforms to maintain relationships.

There are many positive impacts of technology advancements, such as connecting with people across the globe, the convenience that comes with being able to log on to virtual meetings, and even some increases in safety with more access to security devices. With these advantages, there are also some negative consequences such as cyberbullying, people using fake profiles to deceive, and lack of secure attachment within relationships.

With so many more relationships beginning or being developed over the internet, it's essential to understand what healthy attachment and security look like online to help individuals engage while maintaining independence. Here are five key traits that often mark secure relationships: acceptance, playfulness, curiosity, empathy, and truth.

1. Acceptance

When a person feels accepted, they often feel less pressure to sound perfect or change the way they look. Acceptance can also be seen in someone sending unfiltered pictures or unedited texts. It could also be evidenced by a person sending longer text messages or shorter ones because they don't feel the need to articulate every detail, or they feel open to express themselves honestly.

2. Playfulness

When a person feels safe and accepted, they are naturally playful with one another. Playfulness in a virtual form could look like someone using emojis in text messages, sending memes in a direct message, or even making jokes over an email.

3. Curiosity
When individuals feel secure in their virtual relationships, genuine curiosity about the other person's interests, feelings, and goals occurs. The characteristic of curiosity can be displayed by a person asking questions through email or a direct message about the other's passions. It can also be shown through a person sharing increasingly more about their interests and asking for feedback from others.

4. Empathy

Empathy, meaning compassion for another's emotional experience, can be more tricky to identify in a virtual relationship. Marks of empathy can be directly communicated through a person's response to emotions being expressed over a phone call, email, or text message. Empathy could also be displayed by a person responding more intentionally in their messages or communicating validation of what was shared.

5. Truth

When a secure attachment is present in a relationship, people feel free to tell the truth. Security and a level of comfort in a relationship are often prerequisites for people to openly communicate through pain, anxiety, or discomfort. When telling the truth means voicing an unwelcome perspective, people who feel secure in their relationships can place the interest in the other person's life and wellness as more important than the temporary discomfort of expressing concern or having a difficult conversation to help the other person grow. We can show up truthfully using technology through unfiltered text messages, emails, phone calls, or a request to talk in person.

Technology has changed the ways people interact with each other and has shaped the concept of a secure attachment in relationships. Secure attachment is attainable in virtual relationships, and individuals can be available and responsive while maintaining their independence. If an individual is developing a connection online, reflecting on the healthy characteristics of securely attached relationships helps to evaluate and improve the relationship intentionally.

Learn more tips to use technology well with the Technology & Relationships module from the Relationship IQ Curriculum.