1. To have a relationship with someone. In this usage, a reflexive pronoun can be used between "associate" and "with." I don't associate with criminals like him. I think he's happy to associate himself with successful people like us.
2. To connect various people or things in one's mind, usually for a specific reason that is unique to that person. In this usage, a noun or pronoun is used between "associate" and "with." I associate the smell of cinnamon with Christmas because of the cookies my mother used to bake every year. He always associates Liz with me because he met us at the same time.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
associate oneself with someone or something
to join someone or something as a partner or friend. I wanted to associate myself with a prestigious law firm. She associated herself with people of low repute.
associate someone or something with someone or something
to link someone or something [in one's mind] to someone or something else. (Something and someone can occur in all possible combinations.) I always associate Walter with pizza for some reason. I associate pizza with stringy cheese.
associate with someone
to be friendly with someone; to be acquainted with someone socially in a work setting. We seek to associate with persons like ourselves. I like to associate with interesting people.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
1. To keep company with someone or some group: They are very snobbish and don't associate with people from our side of town.
2. To link something in the mind with something else: People often associate sunny weather with happiness.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs. Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.