What made your last relationship fail? Was it their bad taste in music? The fact they voted for Trump (good call)? Was mercury in retrograde? Whatever you think it might be psychologists Amir Levine and Rachel S.F. Heller want you to take a step back and examine what lies beneath these issues. Authors of the groundbreaking book Attached, Levine and Keller study the psychology of adult attachment and what it means for you and your partner.
So what is attachment theory? At the basest level, attachment theory posits that humans have the need to form close relationships embedded in our genes, but, when it comes to forming these bonds there are 3 distinct styles of attachment that each person falls into. There’s secure: meaning you are comfortable with intimacy making it easy to be warm and loving to your partner, anxious: meaning you crave intimacy but worry about our partner’s ability to love you back, a difficult combo which too often puts your relationship status at the center of your life and self-image, and finally the avoidant who sees intimacy as a loss of independence and is thus constantly working to minimize closeness.
While we might all want to think of ourselves as perfectly secure attachers, there’s power in knowing your type – and knowing the type of your partner. You can learn your own type through taking this questionnaire. Knowing your type can help guide you in the type of partner you seek and in your relationship with current and/or future partners. Below are a few markers Levine and Heller lay out for identifying others attachment styles.
- Avoidant attachers will:
- Send mixed signals
- One day they’re telling you they love you and the next you see them live tweeting The Bachelor in Paradise while screening your calls and ignoring your texts
- Greatly value their independence
- You might have been dating for months but they refuse to call you their boyfriend/girlfriend
- Devalues you (or past partners)
- You mistakenly led the two of you down the wrong block and all of a sudden they’re blowing up at you
- Secure attachers will:
- Be reliable and consistent
- They said they were going to call and they did. They promised to take you to Red Lobster and they did.
- Make decisions with you
- It can be as small as what movie you’re going to see together or as big as if they should take that promotion which means moving to France (we’re looking at you Mr. Big) – either way they want your input.
- Introduce friends and family early on
- Yeah, you might find it creepy that everyone in his family kisses each other on the mouth, but they’re a big part of his life and so are you.
- Anxious attachers will:
- Want a lot of closeness in the relationship
- You’ve been on two dates, and while both were great, they’ve already changed their relationship status on Facebook to “taken”
- Express insecurities and worries about rejection
- Everything’s going great in your mind, but they’re constantly anticipating a breaking up.
- Unhappy when not in a relationship
- This might be harder to spot while you’re seeing them – but if they express a need to constantly be in a relationship they’re likely anxious attachers.
Knowing your and your partner’s type gives you the power to take stock of your “working model” – that is what you want out of your partner, what they’re giving you, and how it makes you feel. Armed with knowledge, it’s possible to more effectively and loving communicate your needs.