Have you ever had the experience where you were interested in a guy and it seemed liked he liked you but then the closer you tried to get, the further he seemed to move away? Or what about dating a woman who seemed to have trouble having distance between the two of you and would get upset when you seemed to need more time and space for yourself? Maybe you're married to someone who is sometimes really sweet and attentive and then at other times becomes very critical and insulting. Well after reading the book Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment And How It Can Help You Find-And Keep-Love by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller, it all has become much more clear to me. According to the authors, we all (primarily) fall into one of three Styles of Attachment as adults- either anxious, avoidant, or secure attachment styles. Although our relationships as adults are a product of many different things, including our personality, life experiences, and childhood upbringing, research has lead the authors to come to the conclusion that we all fit into a category which can help to explain how we will (or do) act in relationships. It can also help us to understand the types of people that we may be interested in and what the interactions will look like between us and our partners.
After reading the book I was able to better understand myself and many people from my own life, as well as better understand other couples that I have come in contact with. The authors explain that we all have a need to have close and loving relationships and it is actually quite normal to have the desire to become dependent on another person. Society has taught us that it is not acceptable to need others in such a way that someone with an anxious attachment style might express, but it is healthy and biologically functional. They go on to say that avoidants are often not as happy as those from anxious and secure styles because they have a wall up which prevents them from being able to really get close to others. When two secure people get together, their relationship will be calm, comfortable, and full of open and effective communication. This does not mean that they will never fight and will have a perfect relationship, by any means. What it does mean is that both of the parties in a secure relationship will be able to use healthy communication to express their needs and wants and they will not feel personally attacked, threatened, rejected, or suffocated by the expression of needs or even disappointments. Instead, they will use the information to try to make adjustments in themselves or their relationship, as they are able to see that their partner's needs are as important as their own.
If you would like to see what adult attachment style you possess, I would suggest taking a look at the book as they have a questionaire and some great, detailed lists of qualities to reference.
For a brief understanding of the styles, consider these descriptions:
Anxious Attachment Style:
- You become almost obessessed with thoughts of your partner (or potential partner)
- You often feel insecure about where the relationship is going
- You take things personal that they say or do and tend to over-analyze small details
- You are afraid to leave your partner even if you are unhappy out of fear of not being able to find someone else
Avoidant Attachment Style:
- You put high value on having independence and freedom, rather than feeling "tied down"
- You feel yourself moving away from your partner when they give you too much attention or want to spend a lot of time with you
- You tend to put an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend on a pedestal and feel that no one can compare or live up to their standards
- You feel uncomfortable talking about what is going on in the relationship
- You may feel the need to get away during an argument
There are also rare cases of Anxious-Avoidant Attachments in which the person may feel uncomfortable getting close but also has a fear of being left or rejected.
Are you doomed if you are not secure? No, not at all! It is just a matter of understanding yourself, your partner (or potential partner) and figuring out what works for both of you. If you are anxious and with someone who is avoidant, then it is important to be able to communicate with each other what you need and come to some common ground, for example, the avoidant person may need to express their desire to have some alone time on a regular basis, but will want to let their anxious partner know that it is nothing personal. It's imperative to be able to think about how your actions and the way you communicate your needs affect your partner in order to both be happy in the relationship and meet each other's needs. The authors of the book do explain that if an anxious or avoidant person gets into a relationship with someone who has a secure attachment style, the secure person often helps to sort of water down the sometimes extreme thoughts/feelings/behaviors of their partner. As a result, it is favorable to have one person in the relationship be secure, but it isn't absolutely necessary for success and happiness in the relationship.
The bottom line, after reading and understanding the main points of this book, is that it's invaluable to understand why you act and feel a certain way in the context of a relationship and to use this information to chose a potential partner or learn how to function better within an existing relationship. I think these attachment styles can be generalized to understand people within the context of many different types of relationships, including family, friendships, and even work relationships. Once you become better aware of who you are, you have the ability to decide if you comfortable with what you bring to relationships, or if you would like to work on changing things about your needs and communication style. We are all a work in progress, but knowledge is power, for sure!
Has this article shed any light on your attachment style? Feel free to share your thoughts below!