Attachment Theory, Dating, and YOU
I’m a driven individual who is career and children oriented with goals and ambitions that don’t wait for the perfect moment, but instead, create it. Relationships have not ranked high on the list of must haves. However, I seem to land into some “situationships” more often than not with highly motivated, driven men who are career and child(ren) oriented, too. After some time I seem to develop emotions and they develop an escape plan. It’s never a BAD disconnect, but it hurts a helpless romantic all the same. They’d always hold me in high regard and would tend to continue as friends with no hard feelings, yet….I couldn’t put my finger on WHY it would end the same every time. I’m a catch, right? They’d pursue ME first and want exclusivity first and then once they had my trust and love it was game over.
Then I read “Attached” by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller. I was familiar with attachment theory between mother’s and their children and how to raise a secure child, but I had never heard of attachment theory in dating. It made all the sense in the world. I was, in essence, a secure person dating avoidant/dismissive men.
So let me back up…..There are 3-4 “Attachment Styles” in Dating/Relationships. We all land on the spectrum of 2 or more of these styles.
- Secure– Those with Secure attachments have a high emotional intelligent. They are able to communicate their emotions effectively to their partner. They can give and receive intimacy properly. Secure people draw healthy boundaries, feel secure alone as well as with company, have an overall positive view of relationships and are able to love, lose, grieve, learn and move on.
2. Anxious-Preoccupied- These types tend to be more nervous in love. They are afraid of being abandoned, look for any sign that they are in fact being discarded (both real and imagined) and may come across as needy, jealous, sensitive, obsessive and in need of constant validation. The thrive on negativity when interpreting other people’s intentions, tend to be in the midst of drama, a storm chaser if you will and cannot handle being alone. They have a history of turbulent affairs and manifest their own destiny by driving a loved one away with these characteristics.
3. Dismissive-Avoidant- These types are uber independent and emotionally self sufficient. They demand freedom in relationships and tends to be emotionally unavailable. Dismissive-Avoidant types are career driven, family oriented, with endless passion projects, travel plans that rarely if ever include a partner. These are the types with commitment issues, forever single and even if they do commit tend to keep their partner at arms length without showing vulnerability or allowing them in their emotional circle. They have few close relationships and don’t need to be validated much if at all.
4. Fearful-Avoidant Attachment Style- These types of attachment styles come from a tough life full of grief, abandonment, and most often, abuse. They do a pull and push act with those they love. Even though they want intimacy it scares them even the same, get close and they will shut down or run away only to come back and try again if you let them. They are also suspicious of other’s intent when getting close and are just waiting to get hurt again like they have so many times in their past. They tend to have very few close relationships and fear being vulnerable while still seeking validation in love. Like the anxious types they end up being a self fulfilling prophecy and end up abandoned, picking up the pieces in the end.
We all strive to be secure people attracted and in love with other secure types. When a Secure person attracts an anxious person, depending on the depth of the anxiety, the secure person COULD give the validation the anxious type needs and swing them into the secure spectrum. Or a Secure person dates a fearful avoidant type, and again based on the severity of the past the latter has experienced, can love them through the fear of abandonment. However, an Dismissive-Avoidant type can enter a relationship with a secure person and will still be Dismissive and ready to run. Until the person who is Dismissive is ready for change, they will always avoid intimacy and being vulnerable at all costs. Those attracted to or currently in relationships with the Dismissive type should come to terms with the fact that they will never be ready for a relationship, they will continually run, and act accordingly.
More often than not, opposites attract and the anxious-preoccupied and the Dismissive-Avoidant find themselves fulfilling each others fears- the anxious is needy pushing the dismissive away, the dismissive running for the hills, and both fall back on always “being right”. Anxious will say “I knew they would leave me, it happens everytime.” The Dismissive will reply, “They were too needy. I’m better off alone, I don’t have time for this.” You can only imagine the song and dance the Fearful-Avoidant has with the Dismissive or Anxious….each one exposing their fears on a grand scale, creating a true recipe for disaster!
So what can be done?
Know your attachment style. If you are Anxious, get to the root of WHY you are anxious. Were you abandoned by your parents as a child? Did you not get the validation you so desperately needed in childhood? If you’re a Fearful Avoidant it is most likely due to past abuse and trauma. Both of these types of attachments would benefit from therapy. Work through your fears, forgive your past, and overcome the negative relationship cycles you find yourself in. Without the proper work you will keep on attracting the wrong attachment types and acting out accordingly. Stop the cycle! Do work.
If you are Fearful Dismissive then you probably don’t see anything wrong with your attachment style. You’re just not “ready for a relationship” because your too focused on other things. Even though that might be true and perfectly okay, life may pass you by quickly. You may find yourself old and alone, wishing you had made different choices. Maybe you won’t regret your decision, but I can only imagine what it would be like to be near death with no one to love and support you like an intimate partner would. Perhaps it would do you some good to figure out what frightens you so much about being vulnerable, and work through that.
In the end, I truly believe any person, no matter attachment style or background, will benefit positively from therapy/counseling. Just like we change the oil in our car and maintain it before it breaks down, we should also do so with ourselves. I have grown tremendously by talking to license professionals that have no relationship with me other than being a doctor/counselor that listens, and then tells me what I need to hear. You are not weak or less than for reaching out for help. Secure mental health is sexy.
If you would like to find out what your attachment style is, take this test by Dr. Diane Pool Heller.
Let’s all try to get ourselves back to secure.