Are You Anxious, Avoidant or Secure?

As you know, I’m not a psychologist, but rather a film school dropout who liked writing and was prolific at online dating. But just because I don’t have any academic training doesn’t meant that I don’t take my profession seriously. Since I hung out my shingle in 2003, I have read more articles and books on dating and relationships than most people – many of which I’ve shared with you on Thursdays since 2008.

And although I’m proud of many of the things I’ve written, most recently “Believe in Love: 7 Steps to Letting Go of Your Past, Embracing Your Present and Dating with Confidence,” I am often awed by the power and simplicity of other people’s work. I even put together a full bibliography, if you’re interested.

Secure people have little patience for anxious and avoidant people.

But the specific reason I’m writing this post is that I have two books that I consider my bibles. One is “Kiss Your Fights Goodbye” by Dr. Jamie Turndorf, which gives you communication skills that can save your relationship.

The other is “Attached” by Dr. Amir Levine and Rachel Heller.

I talk about both of these books at length in my Love U program, but I recently happened upon a thoughtful and lengthy explanation of Attached that I wanted to share with you.

In short, “Attached” overlays childhood attachment theory onto adult relationships – labeling people in three broad and malleable categories: Secure, Anxious and Avoidant.

50% of people are secure – which means they are easily able to foster intimate relationships. I’ll bet that if you know a happily married couple, both partners are secure.

But that means that half the population really struggles to foster intimate relationships.

Anxious people are always on edge with a partner. They never know where they stand, they take offense at tiny slights, they’re always looking for signs that a partner is pulling away. They are, in short, highly insecure and are used to volatile relationships.

But that’s because they’re drawn to avoidant partners – people who always keep them guessing. Avoidants like to have the upper hand in relationships and are usually critical of their anxious partners. They claim to want intimacy, but they always pull away from it.

My advice: never date an avoidant person. Problem solved.

Secure people have little patience for anxious and avoidant people. If you’re secure, it’s tiring walking on eggshells and analyzing the tiniest details of your relationship incessantly, which is common among anxious types. Similarly, if a secure person dates an avoidant person who is being hot and cold, the secure person is quick to move on and find a mate who has the capacity to go all in.

You may notice that all of my coaching is about telling you how to act like a secure person – which involves a lot of confidence, trust and vulnerability.

If you struggle with such things, you’re not alone. But that leaves a lot of anxious and avoidant people coming together, which is a toxic match made in hell. Usually, in my experience, it’s anxious women who are jaded by avoidant men.

My advice: never date an avoidant person. Problem solved.

Anyway, if you find this attachment styles conversation interesting, be sure to click on the link to this blog at The Love Compass, which goes even deeper.

And if you’re really feeling it, pick up a copy of Attached. It will explain your entire romantic past and lay out a course to a better romantic future.

Your thoughts, below, are greatly appreciated.

Join our conversation (53 Comments).
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Comments:

  1. 1
    ScottH

    I was talking to my shrink about this very topic just yesterday!  Very pertinent topic to this blog.  However, I find it hard to believe that 50% of all people are secure.  It must be much lower.  Another favorite blogger of mine likes Attached a lot.  I’m  going to have to read it.  There’s another great book about transference, When the Past is Present by David Richo.  Everybody should read that book.

    Here’s a quote from an article I recently read: Science shows that the people who are back on the mating market over and over, across decades, are more likely to have an avoidant way of relating—one that makes it unlikely they’ll be fully there for you. Avoidant folks tend to hold their lovers at arm’s-length; being with them feels like being out in the emotional cold, looking in towards a beautiful fireside you can’t quite reach.

    Thanks Evan.

    1. 1.1
      Christy

      I’ve read this book and a couple of others on attachment. I do believe that 50% of the population is secure… they are mostly still married to their secure partners! The discouraging thing is that what’s left in the dating pool are those who are anxious and avoidant (mostly speaking of those of us who are 30+). The take away I got from reading this is most people who are secure marry “young” and then stay married. Those who have failed marriages or failed to settle down into a committed relationship at an earlier age will have a much harder time finding a secure partner simply because there are not many left. Ouch!

      1. 1.1.1
        Christine

        It would be interesting to see this broken down into married vs. single populations.  Well, sometimes it feels like there aren’t that many secure people left in the 30+ dating pool.  But I just wanted to give some encouragement that there are at least some!  And in the end, you only need one person.  I’m 36 years old, and met my boyfriend (in his early 40s) at age 35.  We were just talking the other day about how anxious we used to be at younger ages, and how we were fortunate to have met each other later rather than sooner.  Not that we’re so perfectly secure now, but we are at least far more secure  than we used to be after acquiring more life experience.  There are people in the dating pool, like us, who used to be anxious and/or avoidant (so didn’t secure a relationship sooner) but then evolve into more secure people as they grow and develop.

         

    2. 1.2
      ScottH

      I just finished reading Attached and believe that it is a must-read.  I’ve heard about it before but this blog pushed me over the edge to actually read it.  One of my favorite quotes:  “in a true partnership, both partners view it as their responsibility to ensure the other’s emotional well-being.”  We alone are not responsible for our emotional needs.  Our partners share responsibility (paraphrased).

      Another must-read for this community, IMO, is Getting the Love You Want by Hendrix.

      And I stand corrected: half of the population is indeed secure.  That says a lot about me.

      Thanks Evan.

    3. 1.3
      ScottH

      Is it 500 days of summer that Levine talks about in the epilogue?

  2. 2
    Mary

    Thank you.  We are fortunate to have your advise.  We need to pick wisely.

  3. 3
    KK

    Love posts like this that are so super practical and easy to put into practice. I do think that someone can be secure and unknowingly get involved with an avoidant type, which in turn, makes you anxious. With this information, it helps to recognize the signs earlier, and instead of seeing such a relationship as a challenge to be won, you simply bow out. The same goes for getting involved with anxious partners. I think in my marriage I felt secure in the relationship and he was anxious. In retrospect, I don’t recall seeing those signs until after we were married though. I thought he felt just as secure, but more and more frequently, he would give me the silent treatment for some perceived hurt and I started to walk on eggshells, not wanting to hurt his ever growing more sensitive feelings. In time, I felt like I had changed and could no longer be myself. I grew up in a family that joked and teased a lot. Not in a mean or hurtful way, but just a way to be silly and lovingly rib each other. All of my friendships and relationships have always had that element, so it was hard to navigate a marriage where this was no longer allowed.

  4. 4
    Michelle H.

    Very helpful post, Evan. Thank you for spotlighting these insights.

    It’s always better to deal with the root cause of  an issue, than just trying to trim the symptomatic branches!

  5. 5
    Annie

     

    As a recovering avoidant, “Never date an avoidant” is great advice, Evan! I also happen to be a woman. I think back to some of the ways I used to act, and I can’t believe that anybody stayed with me, but understanding attachment theory helps to explain it. I used to act horribly and these guys would stay with me, which would reinforce my crappy behavior-it’s like we were drawn to each other. In hindsight, the best thing that could have happened to me was that they break-up with me, but they never did.

    After reading Attached a few years ago, I had my “Ah-ha!” moment. It’s taken a lot of therapy and hard work to change my long-standing patterns and move into a more secure mindset, but I am still single. I think it’s because there are a lot of avoidant men in the dating world and when I meet them, I think “Yuk, who would ever date or stay with these guys?” It kind of makes me chuckle, because that’s the way I used to act. I’ve also learned to be more compassionate to the men that have an anxious style, there are a few of them, but I won’t date them either.

    As we age, there are a lot less secures in the dating world and a lot more of the anxious and avoidant types. It’s best to figure out your attachment style early on to avoid a lot of suffering for everyone involved-I wish I had.

     

  6. 6
    Jules

    The books you referenced are great reads and for sure, quite insightful.  In Attached, the author explains that while the majority of “secures” couple up and stay coupled up, the online dating pool has a higher proportion of anxious and avoidant types.  At this point in my life I’m as secure as I’ve ever been, having done the hard core-internal-work it took to get there; lots of self-awareness through the journey, aided by books like these and more, and counseling.

     

    What is interesting to me is that I can almost spot-on read the clues that men give off in moving through the online dating process……which makes me more able to determine if a man is meeting my basic needs or not.  And if he’s not, I simply move on because I don’t want to waste my time after I’ve given a reasonable amount of effort to getting to know him.  I’m not walking on eggshells for anyone.  I’m not putting up with blowing hot and cold.  I’m not wondering in the background of my mind “what does he think of me, did I say the right thing?”  Nope.  These days, with self-love and acceptance, I find it much easier to accept men for who they are, and BELIEVE what they are telling me, or believe their actions, especially when the actions don’t match the words.  It makes online dating much easier.

    Bottom line–know what you want, set boundaries, have confidence, don’t put up with BS and games, and practice accepting men for who they are.  This, in turn, gives me the power to follow and mirror a man without getting ahead of myself…..the “relationship” is never more that what meets the eye.  It simply is what it is.  And if that makes me feel good, and he’s not busting my boundaries, I keep going.  Otherwise, I move on.  And I’ve got a whole bunch of ways of saying that in so many words when I let him know.  I never blame him for what he did or didn’t do, I just state what I want.  Like:   “Hey Jim, no worries (when he told me at 30 miles away I lived too far away and kept hemming and hawing….blah blah blah), I’m looking for a man for whom a half-hour drive on the freeway wouldn’t be an issue, and I’d prefer to focus on like-minded men going forward.”  Their reactions are priceless! “What, wait a minute, huh?”

    The funny thing is that when I first started working my grown up girl boundaries, it felt uncomfortable.  Now, it’s becoming second nature.  I’ve even worked them into my adult family and friend situations and people are reacting to them.  I don’t do it in an aggressive way, I just state what I’d like, and what I can accept, and take it from there.  For example, I have a lifelong friend who drones on and on about how everybody else is to blame for things in her life.  I finally told her that she has every right to see it that way, and I could continue talking and listening if she wanted to share how she was learning, changing, or growing, and taking responsibility for her own life, otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to continue listening.”  (didn’t say ‘to your broken record).  And I didn’t.  I used to think she was dumping on me, and she was, but I was allowing it.  I had to change.  And the same thing applies with men.

    On a final note, I’ve found that books like those above have helped me handle conflict.  It seems the anxious and avoidant don’t handle conflict all that well to begin with, and I’ve had to learn and practice new behaviors myself.  Watch out for the people who deflect conflict by trying to pin it on you.  THAT’s a huge red flag.  That is, when you raise an issue (I do it by explaining how it is I feel, w/o making him wrong), if he can’t hear you and turns the issue on to you as in “well if you didn’t blah blah blah…..” then I throw a red flag on the play, so to speak.

     

    PS–there is a new book out by Dr. Craig Malkin called Rethinking Narcissism–The Bad–and Surprising Good–About Feeling Special.  It’s also a good read.

    PPS–I’ve come to realize that all the tools and skills to be good at dating won’t work unless you’re really in tune with yourself.  If you’re not, you’re bound to repeat dating patterns that look a lot like what you’re comfortable with….because everyone has their “normal.”  Not everyone has the temerity to dig deep down inside themselves to examine why they are a certain way.  But when you do, an amazing thing happens–there is simply nothing that compares to self-acceptance and self-love, loving your flaws, your past, right along with your strengths.  And you simply cannot give unconditional love to anyone if you don’t first have self-love.  It’s just not possible.  And acceptance, of self and others, feels so good.

     

    1. 6.1
      Cherry

      Thanks Jules. Great comment!

    2. 6.2
      BarbiJo

      Jules – You nailed it! Your comments are very insightful and I love your mindset. I only wish I could be more like that. I used to be secure when I was younger before I got married, but an avoidant husband turned me into someone who is anxious, and I have unfortunately continued in that pattern post divorce. I will need to check out “Attached” to see how to better deal with the people and relationships in my life. Thank you also Evan for presenting this very real and true take on the psychology of people in relationships. It does make some things way more clearer!

    3. 6.3
      Jules

      One more thing 😉 it seems as though the anxious-avoidant matchup creates quite a bit of “combustion” if you will.  Unfortunately, many people view the intensity, the passion, the excitement, the CHEMISTRY! if you will as, wait for it…..Love!  When in fact, it’s not love at all.  It’s simply a misalignment of attachment styles that gives the less-aware folks the illusion of love.

      After I posted my reply above, I immediately thought of all the men who write in their profiles, either in the main body of the profile or under the first date section, words like these:  “It only takes a few minutes to see if there’s any chemistry, so a first date should be short and simple.”  Big red flag.  I don’t even message them……I have enough experience from past online interactions to know they’re chasing the illusion of chemistry, and I’ve already slayed that dragon!

       

       

      1. 6.3.1
        Kim

        Jules, I need you to be my friend!  🙂  I’m struggling with everything you write about right now.  I’m trying to make the necessary changes, and I’m just realizing that, while I’m able to set healthy boundaries in virtually every other aspect of life–friends, family, work, child, ex, etc.–I have a SUPER hard time doing it with the guy I’m dating (or wanting to date).  I feel like I could learn SO much from you!!

      2. 6.3.2
        Christine

        Spot on Jules.  I can speak from experience because I had that anxious-avoidant matchup before.  If you ever get this obsessive, clingy feeling about the other person, that is NOT a feeling of love at all, but a big red flag.  It’s more about anxiety and fear of abandonment than anything else.  For instance, when I dated an avoidant man, I would obsessively wait by my phone, waiting for any call or text from him.  Every minute that went by without one felt like agony.  Then I felt incredible relief when I did get one.  He was both the disease and the cure all at the same time.  He’d make me anxious with his withdrawals, then bring relief by popping back in once in a while.  If you ever get that obsessive, push-pull with someone, don’t just walk from them–run!

        On the other hand, with my boyfriend now, it’s more like how Evan describes dating his wife before he married her.  I always enjoy his company and love hearing from him, truly I do.  Yet I don’t act as obsessive with him as I did with the avoidant man.  I don’t obsessively wait by the phone as I did before, but check my phone when I’m able to get to it.  If I send my boyfriend a text or leave him a voicemail, I don’t obsessively count down the minutes to when he replies–but figure he really is somehow otherwise busy (i.e. in his car, stuck in traffic) so he’ll get to it when he has free time (then sure enough, he really does respond as soon as he’s home).  Some people might mistake the first obsessive scenario as “love”, and this scenario as somehow “lacking chemistry”.  However, this second scenario with my boyfriend is the truly healthy love and attachment.  My boyfriend makes me feel really safe and secure , so I don’t have this obsessive fear of losing him as I did with the other one (thus don’t have to cling to my phone) Really seek this calm, secure feeling over the obsessive feeling!

      3. 6.3.3
        Kyra

        Jules, your comments are perfect and the exact same lessons I’ve learned and cultivated myself after discovering and understand my anxious tendencies. I attract to and cling to Avoidants (specifically those who are high functioning addicts to something – alcohol, weed, work, sex, etc.)  like a moth to a flame and then wonder, “Why don’t you LOVE ME the way I want you to love me?!!?!?!” And this is a pattern I learned as a little girl with a dad who was present in body, but absent in support/unconditional affection/etc and a high functioning alcoholic.

        And the first thing that always snags me about these avoidants is the out of this world physical and conversational chemistry I have with them. I believe, immediately, it is love and is meant to be. They go along with that as well until, of course, their avoidant tendencies come out and they begin distancing.

        I now understand long term compatibility is what I should focus on identifying and cultivating, not chemistry. And, I’m equally as attentive with men who post or talk about needing or looking for “immediate chemistry.” It’s a red flag for me. It’s as if they want that familiar immediate spark they get from meeting someone new (an actualized version of the “perfect woman” their avoidant selves have created in their mind), only to run and distance themselves the moment their avoidant fears of that woman “trapping” them take hold.

      4. 6.3.4
        Buck25

        Nice fallacy. What you’ve done, as I see it, is take a form of emotional attraction, LABEL it as “chemistry”, and then declared that since that kind of “chemistry” (at least for you) is unworkable, therefore, anyone who seeks  anything called “chemistry” (a/k/a sexual attraction) in a relationship is wrong, unhealthy, emotionally disordered, to be avoided at all costs, and condemned.  This is what happens, when you use pop psychology buzzwords to tie up complex emotions AND physical feelings into  a nice, neat bundle simple enough for a very narrow mind, then judge anyone else who doesn’t see it the same way you do as “WRONG”. Glad it makes you feel better,  (not to mention oh so superior),but intellectually speaking, that’s not a rational argument. Logically, it’s a fallacy; specifically of the form “some a is b, no b is c, therefore no a is c. ” I’d draw you a Venn diagram to make it clearer, but I can’t do that here, and since your mind is made up, I won’t endeavor to confuse it with facts.

        1. Jules

          You’re simply projecting your label on to me.  My comments, are based on my experiences as I’ve lived them.  To me, chemistry is the heat that builds with some initial attraction, to be sure, but is founded on being in the company of someone who is:  1) reasonably self-aware of who he is, and how he got to where he is in his life; 2) able to communicate openly who is is by being real, not a phony; 3) able to communicate openly and transparently, in time, what his intent is, i.e. is he open to a long-term relationship and pursuing that or simply dating but not wanting anything serious; 4) able to have a HEALTHY relationship with someone, which means showing trust, respect, dignity, honesty, and ability to communicate and handle conflict; and 5) about to show up consistently and with internal integrity and self love.  That’s MY definition of chemistry.  What I’ve learned is you simply cannot see that within 5 minutes of meeting someone, and yet so many people seem to think that that initial date, or even the first 5 minutes, that you should “just know.”  And, I’m sorry, but you don’t “just know.”  That’s why, for me, it’s simply time put in that tells ME whether or not I’m realizing “triggered” chemistry or the real deal.  That’s what I’m describing above.  You can call it what you want, and that’s your choice.  But your view of labels on what I put forward here is all about you and your own projections.  You call it a label, I call it self-awareness from my own mistakes, learning, and growth.  Further, I’m not diminishing the need for chemistry, just saying that unhealthy chemistry is a yellow flag to watch for.  Especially in the early days of dating.  Without it a man goes right in the friend zone.  And yet, a nice guy can have the attributes I mentioned above and make himself significantly more attractive to me.  Because those are the things that ring MY bell…and that simply takes time.

        2. Buck25

          I’m “projecting ” NOTHING. I took you comments on “chemistry”,  explained how the emotional fireworks you LABELED as “Chemistry”  are different from (and not to be conflated with) Physical (read sexual) attraction. I then illustrated the logical fallacy which which you indulged in after  your (apparent)conflation of  two similar -feeling but physically entirely different emotional states. Did you fall asleep in critical thinking or elementary logic class, or do you simply want to argue from emotion instead of logic?  I described your argument in your original post quite impartially and fairly. Nowhere do you refute that, or explain where I unfairly characterized your original argument; instead you’re off on another rant, this time extolling the virtues of “compatibility” as opposed to “chemistry”. That’s fine (I don’t even actually disagree with most of your points), BUT, (1)that’s not what your original premise was, and (2) you STILL haven’t made a case for the value of a relationship that may be perfect in compatibility, but completely lacking in physical attraction. Look, Jules, you’re free to take whatever set of feelings you choose to select, and label the combination as “chemistry”, so long as yo understand that “definition”, such as it is, is personal to YOU, and is not the same thing that most other people think of as “Chemistry” or “sexual attraction”. Assuming that others subscribe to the same definition of physical attraction as you, when in fact, MOST people do not, is the equivalent of calling a mule a horse; It may look like a horse to you, but most other people would agree it’s STILL a mule. My comment here is not about men-vs. women, or even me vs. you; it’s about logic, and conflating emotional upheaval with sexual attraction. Q.E. D.

      5. 6.3.5
        Jules

        Dear Buck, I’m sure I mixed my metaphors too and left plenty of participles dangling……but let’s put my comments in my original context, which were also in the original context of the subject of this entire post—attachment styles.  Let’s back up, shall we?  I’ll elaborate and fill in a few gaps.
         
        The context I used was strictly within the Anxious-Avoidant match up, and the false sense of chemistry that that matchup alone often triggers because of its inherent push-pull, hot-and-cold dynamic.  For many people in that dynamic, the emotions triggered create a certain kind of combustion that people do equate as chemistry.  And make no mistake, it most certainly IS chemistry.  It’s the kind of biologic chemistry, the stuff of peptides attaching to receptors on cells, that for many creates a feeling that replicates emotions that were attached to love all the way back to a person’s childhood.  For every emotion (anger, happiness, fear, etc) there is a corresponding  peptide.  It might be easier with an example.  Let’s take an anxious woman.  Let’s say she grew up with an angry, emotionally detached alcoholic father.  Now, she’s dating an avoidant man.  This is a very common pattern.  She may be chemically (at a cellular level) drawn to Mr. Avoidant.  Or, shall I say she’s drawing him to her.  In fact, unless she has healed the wounded inner child in herself, and grown up those littler girl parts of herself with love and self care and is consciously aware of what’s happening, it’s likely she’s not even aware of why she’s attracting “the wrong kind of guy” into her life.  All she knows is that this is what love feels like to her.  It’s familiar.  Many people do equate this “chemistry” as normal, because it truly IS their normal.  That doesn’t make it healthy.  My point before was that many people do believe that this kind of “chemistry” is what it’s supposed to look like.  Sadly, they’re miserable.   But it’s all they know.  It takes a tremendous amount of self-awareness to see the difference between unhealthy, healthier, and healthy, in the context of the anxious-avoidant pairing.  That was my point.  Many people stay in that familiar pattern, thinking it’s love, and for them it truly is….I’m not faulting anybody for that.  Trust me, I’ve stayed in unhealthy relationships beyond their expiration date myself.  But it’s founded on a broken attachment in their childhood which made for an emotionally unhealthy adult relationship(s) in a misaligned adult attachment that’s triggering old wounds.  Patterns repeat until one day we wake up and say ‘‘hey this isn’t working for me any more, something’s gotta give.”  Quite frankly, that’s why many of us are likely here because we’re on our own life journeys.
         
        I’ll move on to sexual chemistry.  It’s raw.  It’s real.  And it’s powerful.  I made NO mention of it earlier.  Nope.  Because I wasn’t talking about sexual chemistry, not in the context of this discussion.  Therefore, when you made the assumption that my omission of sexual chemistry meant that emotional  chemistry was all that mattered, you made a false assumption.  When you said everybody had to feel the way I do, that, too, was an assumption.  When you said seeking some level of sexual attraction was wrong, unhealthy, emotionally disordered, to be avoided at all costs, and condemned, that too was an assumption. 

        I would appreciate it if going forward you would clarify your own assumptions before drawing conclusions.  It feels good to me when people ask questions for clarity and I have an opportunity to respond.  Could you do that going forward, Buck? 
         
        Let’s move on to sexual chemistry.  Sexual chemistry absolutely matters.  Too much can be blinding.  To me, a good dose is healthy.  For ME, emotional chemistry (based on my previously outlined elements) can easily kick up the sexual chemistry because that rings MY bell.  To each his own.  What feels great to me is a healthy dose of sexual chemistry, solid emotional chemistry, and long-term compatibility. 
         
        Missed assumptions aside, declaring that this all “makes me feel better” and that I “judge anyone else who doesn’t see it the same way I do is ‘wrong’” is indeed pure projection on  your part as you perceive parts in me that you don’t like or acknowledge in you.  That’s all projection is…..and I’m calling it as I see it.  I do welcome differing points of view and challenges to my own ideas any day, as long as they are offered in a healthy, non-judgmental way.  In fact, I EXPECT to be able to post comments on this site w/o judgment, with the default setting that we are all posting based on our own opinions and experiences, regardless of whether or not people agree with them.  Regardless of our levels of self-awareness.  Regardless of the mistakes we’ve made.  If in your future responses you judge me or who you think I am through outright statements or projection, I simply won’t respond to you any more.  It’s just that simple.  We all deserve decency, respect, and acceptance, and I won’t respond to anyone here who can’t give me that at a minimum.

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        Finally, the best part…..Yes!! Absolutely!! I fell asleep in critical thinking!!  How did you know!!!?   Now that my secret’s out, I’ll admit  I know I’ve called a goat a sheep, and a sheep a goat.  But make no mistake, I know my horses from my mules!!  And my leopards from cheetahs!  

        TTYL!!

        1. Buck25

          Jules,

          If that’s what you wished to say, wouldn’t it have been simpler to just clearly differentiate the “anxious-avaoidant”  sort of “chemistry”, from the “physical attraction” sort of “chemistry” (the latter being the more commonly understood meaning of the word “chemistry”), and leave it at that? It might even be more useful , in  that context, to call both terms by other labels entirely, so as to help those who might be confused in the matter  to avoid conflating what I think we both recognize as two very different emotional states.

    4. 6.4
      Stacy

      Jules

      Best Comment Ever

  7. 7
    Tiffanie

    This blog has truly been a dating lifesaver for me. I admit I used to be the anxious basket case doing everything wrong. I finally started to be very mindful of how I would approach online dating and interacting with men and using tips From this site. Even still when I would meet someone I was interested in, I’d usually feel slightly panicky and anxious for no reason. I often think certain men give off a certain vibe that made me react a certain way…or maybe not? I finally met someone a few months ago that makes me feel incredibly calm. I never worry when or if I will hear from him because I always do. He always makes plans in advance and always acts like a perfect gentleman. I realize how I feel now is how I should have always been feeling when dating…secure and comfortable and able to have fun and relax without overthinking things and becoming neurotic. I with some of my friends would take my advice and read this blog…

  8. 8
    Sunflower

    I haven’t read any of these books, but would be interested in knowing if whether people who exhibit these styles/traits are prominent within certain age groups?  I must admit, when I was younger…20-30’s, I would have classified myself as “anxious” and always being attracted to the “avoidant” type. However, now, I am definitely “secure” being over 50 and wouldn’t tolerate anything less than all in.

    1. 8.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      It’s not an age group thing, per se. And your attachment style can change over time, especially with different partners. Avoidants can make even secure people feel anxious, for example.

      1. 8.1.1
        Cherry

        It goes another way around too. As per my shrink I am a secure type. My ex bf is extremely insecure and anxious, so I looked like avoidant in our relationship.

        1. Jules

          You may have looked like an avoidant, but what could also have been at play is that you simply didn’t “trigger” him, and without that “trigger” you may have looked boring to him.  I’m quite sure that many a secure type faces this situation all the  time when we come across as secure, calm, and stable which to many translates to boring, no chemistry, just didn’t feel it, etc.  What could be more “boring” (ahem, healthy!) to a person with unhealthy habits, expectations, or behaviors?  It’s a bummer, but there are people out there who can pair up nicely with the secure types and be happy.  It just may take a little more time……

        2. ScottH

          Jules- I think I’m experiencing exactly what you said.  I believe this person I’m dating is secure and after dating two avoidants and divorcing a BPD, it feels really weird not to be yelled at and left wondering all the time, and having the ups and downs of drama.  Is this what it’s supposed to be like?  Sad….

      2. 8.1.2
        Cherry

        ScottH,

        Why you are saying that it is sad. Are you missing highs and lows of your unhealthy relationships?

        Still there is a difference between dating a secure woman or a woman with whom there is no chemistry. Still trying to figure it out myself. I had a date yesterday. Nice guy, I had fun and we enjoyed interesting conversation. He did all the right things (called, paid the bill, asked for another date on the first date). He is physically attractive. The only thing I didn’t like is that he didn’t try to kiss me after the date… So, getting to the point… Did I feel chemistry? NO.

         

        1. Cherry

          With my ex bf who is very wrong for me (anxious & insecure)… I felt aroused just being in one room with him, watching him doing household stuff, just sitting there. And he is not handsome. It was chemistry. With my ex husband who was very wrong for me (abusive phyco), I felt chemistry after 10 yrs of marriage. If I think about it… it is kind of sick chemistry. So, my point is, if the sex itself is good with your date, learn to live without highs and lows or sick relationships.

        2. ScottH

          If the only thing he did wrong was not try to kiss you, then I would suggest overlooking it.  I usually will not kiss on the first date, certainly not if she doesn’t make it abundantly clear that a kiss would be welcome and then it’s iffy.  The last person I dated before this apparently secure one, I didn’t kiss her until the 4th date and we lasted over 4 months.

          What’s sad is that normal seems abnormal and uncomfortable to me and I don’t know what to do with it.  She’s very nice and there’s been no drama yet.  I just need to spend more time getting to know her and us and see where it goes.  That’s dating.

        3. Buck25

          Cherry,

          Careful; don’t conflate “”Chemistry”, as in sexual attraction, with the emotional rush that can come with say, an anxious/avoidant matchup. Both can FEEL exciting, and just to add to the confusion, with some situations and people they can even co-exist; but they definitely are NOT the same thing.  Maybe part of  the confusion for women, stems from the fantasy, romance-novel drama many women come to believe initial attraction is supposed to be. That stuff is entertaining, precisely because it IS overdrawn, over-dramatic, and over-the-top; but it’s not the reality of even a pretty intense, albeit stable and secure relationship; that’s a lot calmer. Men can fall into the same trap for a different reason; a guy who’s been in an exciting,sexually charged relationship (or maybe a succession of them) that wasn’t stable and secure, may well find a more secure/secure relationship artificially calm, even missing something, like Scott, above. It doesn’t matter that what’s “missing” is actually toxic, and doesn’t need to be there; the feeling is still that something’s “not right”. In both cases, the person  who feels that, has simply adapted to a sort of “false normal”; it took time to do that, and it takes time to re-adapt to something more truly normal and healthy.

          So I guess my question about your date is this; was there really NO chemistry or was it simply something less than you have been accustomed to? I’d say it could be either; it’s certainly possible to feel no real physical attraction to someone whose looks and behavior would seem perfectly ok. Nothing wrong with that; it happens more often than not. We’re not meant to “click” with everybody, or even most people we meet, and we don’t; not because either they or we are inadequate, but because we just…don’t. That’s life. I wonder, if we’re not actually more likely to run into that toxic emotional rush from an inappropriate attachment. than real “attraction chemistry”; it certainly seems possible, for a lot of us. Maybe the resultant bad consequences, are what drive many to conclude that compatibility is everything, while “chemistry” doesn’t (or “shouldn’t”) matter. I think that’s going to the other extreme, and throwing the baby out with the bath water. For me, a truly good, healthy LTR takes BOTH “chemistry” (the good kind), AND compatibility: Note the “AND” , not “OR’ or “INSTEAD OF”.

  9. 9
    Peter 51

    I don’t think that I qualify as anxious but I do have a knack for finding/attracting avoidants. I trust cool relationships more than intense ones.

  10. 10
    Lisa

    Attached has been my bible as well.. I’ve even posted the very statement on Facebook.

    It’s the first book to actually give me validation. I am anxious, it isn’t wrong, it’s just who I am. It’s normal to need another, it doesn’t make me a needy person. When I’m in secure relationships, I’m not anxious. I seem to draw the avoidants to me, however, now I know how to discern the red flags and realize the relationship will never work.

    1. 10.1
      Josie

      We sounds similar.  As someone pointed out above, men have the propensity to be avoidant more often than women.  I would agree that the men who are still out there dating in their late 30s -early 40s (my target age group) are more likely to be avoidants than the general male population.

      I have also identified a few “early dating stage” red flag characteristics of avoidant men:  men who prefer to keep arms length communication (lots of texting) so that they can carefully prepare their thoughts and responses;  men who come on quite strong and then suddenly begin to pace the relationship; men who seem to have less than a normal amount of friend/family contact.

       

      1. 10.1.1
        Cherry

        Jules, we were a perfect storm. I triggered all his insecurities. And chemistry was 10 out of 10, compatibility, when we were acting like a functioning adults, was amazing- household chores, blending with 5 kids, entertaining… too good to be true. It took me 3 break ups and councelling to realize why I am terrified of all “let’s get married and have a baby” talks. The guy was suffocating me with his anxious love, I was pulling back, having my own subconcious stuff (not worth to be loved, Marilyn syndrome)… I acted like avoidant, but I am secure. My prioir relationships were 10 and 8 years.

        1. Cherry

          Somehow I attract anxious partners now. I had 2 boyfriends after divorce and they were the same: I was the love of their lives, they wanted move in with me after 3 weeks of knowing me, marry me, etc.. they wanted to be committed from second date. I guess i didn’t  ran away as i was married since I was 19, so had no clue what to expect and what to run away from.

  11. 11
    KK

    Obsidian,

    You said, “By the argument you’re proffering above, if 50% of the country’s marrieds are “secure” and the other half are “anxious/avoidant”, that means one very powerful thing:
    That those who are secure are not likely to be in venues like these. Why would they? After all, they’re happily paired off, right? Hanging out in a venue like this would be superfluous for them.”

    That doesn’t make much sense.  You’re taking a stat about married people and then applying it to singles.

    There are many different variables involved when trying to figure out why someone who wants to be paired up is still / currently single.

    If you don’t like or agree with the information here, why are you wasting your time??? Find something that works for you. Shooting down everything Evan says, then insulting him as if he’s only in it for the money is uncalled for.

    Furthermore, look around and you’ll see mismatched couples (in looks) all the time. Haven’t you seen drop dead gorgeous women with below average looking men? Of course, you’ll say he probably has money. Yes, that happens too. But sometimes it’s because he’s a great guy who treats her well. Your looks aren’t keeping you fr

    1. 11.1
      KK

      from finding love. It’s your attitude.

  12. 12
    judy

    Thank you Evan.

    I recently one out with an avoidant who started to play with my emotions.  It did not take me long to work out his behaviour and decided to stop it straight away.

    He has now blown into my life again but this time, I’m so much wiser.  Should he cross my path again, I will be polite and courteous but no way would I accept another date with him.  He’s too much trouble.

  13. 13
    Erin

    I was a Secure until 4 years ago, when my partner of 2.5 years left me.  He had all of his things moved out of our house while we were together celebrating Christmas with my family, and then he drove me to the airport (he was taking a business trip) and kissed me goodbye.  I flew home alone and walked into a house that was stripped of his possessions.  No note.  He did not answer the phone when I called him.

    I basically do not date since then.  On the rare occasion that I try to date, I am either avoidant or anxious.  I’m just so broken. 

  14. 14
    judy

    Erin13 – maybe it’s time for time out.  Just don’t date for a while until you feel better or go on holiday for a weekend or a bit longer, with no expectations other than fun.  Wishing you love.

    1. 14.1
      Erin

      Thanks Judy.  Yes I’ve basically been on a break for several years now.  Many long weekends during that time.  Honestly I wish I hadn’t taken such a long break because now I feel too old to date – like I wasted my final years of opportunity.  Sometimes I think about buying a small cabin in the middle of nowhere just so I don’t have to be surrounded by paired people all day every day (I work remotely, so I could do this).   It is misery.

  15. 15
    Kyra

    I realized I was Anxious a couple of years ago after doing a lot of reading on attachment (and buying a copy of “Attached”). I was in about the 10th year of an off and on relationship with a man and it allowed the light bulb to switch on above my head. He was a hard core Avoidant and we were addicted to the ride of our Anxious/Avoidant roller coaster for years. I sent him select quotes from the book and the internet and we had a pretty good talk about it all. I said said, “We stop this song and dance now.”

    We haven’t seen one another since except for passing in the neighborhood and polite “Hey, how y doing?”  It’s been like I got my life back.

    I also now, very quickly, identify Avoidant behavior, characteristics and “distancing statements and/or techniques” when talking with new men in the dating scene which, when you’re 40 plus, is pretty littered with Avoidants. All of the secures are and have been in long term marriages/relationships.

    So, I may swim in a dating sea full of Avoidants, but I’m educated enough now about myself and attachment to be aware.

  16. 16
    KK

    @Obsidian,

    On another post, you commented about not being able to get 9’s or 10’s, but not having any desire to date anyone but 9’s or 10’s. On another post, you commented that short of life threatening surgery, you wouldn’t be able to improve your looks, much less your height. I took this to mean that your own opinion of your physicality is what was holding you back from getting the women you desire. You mentioned you’re short, black, and blue collar, and you sight those reasons as well.

     

    On one post, this is an exchange between you and I:

     
    I made the following comment:
    “Truth is, there are lots of wonderful people in this world; men and women. There are crappy people in this world; men and women. If you want a high quality woman, become a high quality man. Most people do not want to get involved with someone of the opposite sex if they hate their gender, are negative, and argumentative.”

    You countered with this:
    “I find such commentary to usually come from women, who tend not to like intense debate and discussion; it’s hyperbolic and florid, rarely accurate. While this is perfectly fine, I see no reason or need to change the manner of my discourse; they are views and thoughts that have waited a very long time for expression. The simple truth of this life, as you’ve pointed out above, is that there are indeed crappy people in this world, and a goodly number of them just happen to be women; I see no need to remain silent about that, do you?”

    If you can’t see how this comes across as negative and woman hating, you are in serious denial.

    I have no intention of going through every comment you’ve made and pointing this out. I have no problem debating, but with some people it really is fruitless. I have a pretty healthy view of life in general, I believe. You’re the one with the issue, so you do your own work. I challenge you to go back and re-read every comment you’ve made.

    One sure sign of a mature, evolved adult is introspection. Blaming others (all women) for your problems won’t get you anywhere. Figure out where your blind spots are. Be willing to listen and entertain others’ thoughts and ideas. Having an agenda, airing your negative views of women, anger , and bitterness will not help you in your predicament.

    In all sincerity, good luck!

  17. 17
    Jules

    Funny how certain profiles stand out once Evan has posted a topic…..and to continue the theme, here are a few excerpts from a profile of a man who viewed me today.  Note, all the CAPS below are original in his bio.

    “I am newly single following the collapse of a very intense five year relationship with a woman who I have been told was apparently entirely, entirely, the wrong sign for me.  I don’t know.”  (Elsewhere he states he’s a Pisces.)

     

    “I’m highly sexual if we have CHEMISTRY!  You have to have CHEMISTRY!  Over the long haul.  The kind of NEED that makes sex unbelievably hot and making love compelling…there is simply no substitute for chemistry and I am convinced there is no substitute over the LONG TERM.

     

    I share this because to me, this is the kind of profile that makes reading about the collapse of his 5-year relationship predictable.  Not saying he’s anxious or avoidant — just saying that some people chase the drama, the excitement, etc. as perceive that as the real deal.  Real love.  As I read it this morning the only thing that went through my mind was, he’s a real bad match for me!

     

     

  18. 18
    OKieRed

    I feel that I have become avoidant over time. I am withdrawn from dating period. And the guy I have occasional hookups with is sweet , (we had a 4 month relationship) but I don’t want to commit to him. He’s just….convenient. I don’t have to go out and look for the real thing, but every few months I can drop back in for nookie then drop out again. I was married for 8 years to a drunken manipulator who somehow managed to convince me that I was always falling short somehow. I hate online dating, and the guys I have dated just used me. I was always anxious before, now I just try to stay emotionally neutral and avoid a real relationship. It’s safer that way.

  19. 19
    Rebecca

    I would have described myself and my former husband as both secure, but when our marriage was coming apart and I couldn’t get him to try to talk it out, he told me “I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop.”  I’m still not sure what the first shoe was.  Now I wonder how to tell which describes my current boyfriend.  He seems secure in our relationship, too, so I’m aware I could be wrong again, but I don’t see any way to act besides just trusting again.

  20. 20
    ScottH

    One of my favorite quotes from Attached:  “many people who live with insecure partners cannot even begin to imagine how fundamentally different life with a secure person can be….. the people most appreciative of a secure relationship are those who’ve had relationships with both secure and insecure partners...”

    I’m 2 months into a relationship with a secure person (I think) after a 4 month relationship with an avoidant and this does seem so totally different.  We’ve had 0.000 drama so far.  In the previous one by the 2 month mark, we had tons of drama which reminds me of another quote:  don’t confuse an activated attachment system with love.  Don’t become addicted to emotional unavailability.  (Wow!!)

    What’s your favorite quote?

    1. 20.1
      Karmic Equation

      I agree that the book is terrific.

      Don’t have a favorite quote.

      The best insight from the book is that people DO tend to confuse an activated attachment system with love. That’s why so many women are addicted to *ssholes. Those *ssholes make her “feel” a lot of very intense emotions, even if they are mostly negative feelings. And that intensity of feelings signify “love” (or “chemistry”) to her instead of her attachment system being triggered. If people (mostly women) can make this distinction, she’d let the jerk go a lot faster. And latch on to the nice guy, who often doesn’t trigger her attachment system, much more quickly.

    2. 20.2
      Christine

      Thanks guys, I think I’ll need to read this book.  In the past, I did latch on to awful guys who triggered those strong feelings–but am happy with a nice guy now. Unfortunately, our culture tends to perpetuate this idea that love is supposed to be a wild, drama-filled roller-coaster ride (and calls that “passion”).  In fact, I’m probably one of the few women out there who doesn’t like “The Notebook”, and would not switch places with Rachel McAdams in that movie (no, not even for Ryan Gosling).  A volatile relationship like that, with constant fighting and making up, isn’t so great–been there, done that (but wish I hadn’t!) I have since learned that healthy love is more like the smooth and steady car ride with just a few bumps in the road–not wild peaks and valleys.

      I personally really liked the book, The Human Magnet Syndrome.  That book was truly eye-opening and gave me some light bulb “aha!” insights into why I kept being attracted to men who treated me badly (no matter how irrational that seems).  It explains how controlling and insecure people can initially seem compatible, since they have opposite qualities that seem to complement one another.  This book really helped me get off Dysfunction Junction, and on the road to a healthier relationship with my boyfriend now.  No one is doomed to keep repeating these patterns.  Like George Eliot said, “It’s never too late to be who you might have been”.

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