For most of my dating life, I was missing a crucial piece of information about myself: my attachment style.
Whether it was a middle school crush, a teenage heartthrob, a college sweetheart, or a twenties boyfriend, I consistently found myself repeating a pattern in my romantic relationships.
I never felt loved enough.
No matter how attentive or aloof my partner at the time was, my heart craved more. If we talked on the phone every night while I was away, but he didn’t offer to pick me up from the airport? I was hurt. If he talked to other people more than me at a party? I felt insecure. If he didn’t pick up on my oh-so-sublte cues of irritation? I’d get even more angry.
I found reasons to feel unloved in every relationship – whether they existed or not. And when I felt most neglected or under appreciated, I’d actually throw myself into loving my partner even more, just to underscore my sense of injustice.
When I met my now-husband, I could feel myself spinning into a similar pattern of distrust and insecurity. Even if my fears were founded, my emotional outbursts of pain were putting a strain on our relationship.
If I wanted this relationship to get to the next level, I was going to need to take my relationship skills to the next level.
Thankfully, during our first year of dating, a friend recommended the book Attached. What I learned has fundamentally impacted how I show up in our relationship. We even quoted from this book in our marriage ceremony!
What is Adult Attachment?
It’s not just infants who rely on another person to feel physically and psychologically secure – so do adults. Though we’d like to think that adults are emotionally self-sufficient, Attachment research has proven that humans are hardwired to seek out a supportive partner in order to feel more secure in the world.
“Most people are only as needy as their unmet needs.” – Attached
The “Dependency Paradox” is that when we depend on another person to be our “secure base”, we actually feel more empowered to go out into the world and chase our dreams.
Though it’s completely natural to feel drawn toward a romantic relationship, we each may experience that draw in a different way. Most of us fall into one of three different categories for how we most naturally attach to another person. Depending on our attachment style, the way that we show up in a relationship may look dramatically different.
The Anxious Attached person has a deep capacity for intimacy and craves feeling close to their partner. This desire for closeness can be accompanied by a fear that their partner doesn’t love them back to the same degree. They often feel insecure about the future of the relationship and can become angered by small misunderstandings.
The Avoidant Attached person tends to value independence, autonomy and freedom above closeness in a relationship. They rarely spend time worrying about the relationship and can feel uncomfortable with intimacy. They are particularly sensitive to any sign of being controlled by another person. Partners of an Avoidant Attached person may complain that they feel distant.
The Secure Attached person naturally feels comfortable with intimacy and can easily communicate their needs and feelings. They don’t tend to obsess over a relationship or worry about whether their partner loves them back. They aren’t easily upset in the relationship and feel comfortable supporting their partner through times of need.
About half of the population is Secure Attached, a quarter is Anxious Attached and another quarter is Avoidant Attached. It’s not better or worse to be one type or another. But it is important to know which type you and your partner (or potential partner) are in order to work toward building security in a way that suits each other’s needs.
If you can’t tell already – I am Anxious Attached! Before I had a name for it, I just felt needy and insecure. But after learning more about my attachment style, I’ve been able to work through some of my fears and learn how to attach more securely.
My partner Charley is Secure Attached. It used to annoy me so much when I would be freaking out about something he would stay calm! His relaxed manner reinforced my fear that he didn’t care about me as much as I cared about him. Once I realized that this was his tendency as a secure attached person, I could start my own process of learning to stay calm when I felt threatened or nervous.
What type of Attachment Style are you? Find out with the Attached Compatibility Quiz!