Three years ago, my clients urged me to read “Attached” by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller. They said it changed their entire outlook and understanding of relationships.
I read it. They were right. In fact, attachment theory is enjoying a bit of a renaissance, having first been conceived and validated 50 years ago to explain human behavior based on your upbringing, and now being applied to things like, well…dating.
I was so blown away by the book that I rang the authors and asked if I could teach (with credit) their material in my Love U coaching course and I was delighted they said yes.
Attachment theory is relatively simple. Per a recent New York Times article, “By the end of our first year, we have stamped on our baby brains a pretty indelible template of how we think relationships work, based on how our parents or other primary caregivers treat us. From an evolutionary standpoint, this makes sense, because we need to figure out early on how to survive in our immediate environment.
“If you’re securely attached, that’s great, because you have the expectation that if you are distressed you will be able to turn to someone for help and feel you can be there for others,” said Miriam Steele, the co-director of the Center for Attachment Research at the New School for Social Research in New York.
Most of this imprinting stems from childhood and continues, unconsciously, to run your romantic life.
It’s not so great if you are one of the 40 percent to 50 percent of babies who, a meta-analysis of research indicates, are insecurely attached because their early experiences were suboptimal (their caregivers were distracted, overbearing, dismissive, unreliable, absent or perhaps threatening). “Then you have to earn your security,” Dr. Steele said, by later forming secure attachments that help you override your flawed internal working model.
In short, about half of children are considered secure and are able to form healthy, intimate bonds as adults. The other half – having experienced, say, verbally abusive mothers or absent alcoholic fathers – sees intimacy thru a different lens.
Anxious people crave love but are hypersensitive about minor relationship issues and are constantly insecure that their relationships are in jeopardy. This is exacerbated by the fact that they usually choose avoidant partners.
Avoidant people claim to want intimacy, but don’t act consistently. They run hot and cold. They fear losing their freedom. They find fault with others. They believe they are loving but have the inability to make their partners feel safe.
Most of this imprinting stems from childhood and continues, unconsciously, to run your romantic life. Secure people usually partner up in healthy marriages, while anxious and avoidant people are like magnets for each other, activating each others’ attachment styles. If you’ve ever seen a woman who is always freaking out about when her boyfriend last texted, she’s likely anxious. And if you’ve ever seen a man who fears commitment and acts consistently inconsistent, he’s likely avoidant.
And please, in the comments section below, share what you think your attachment style is based on what you’ve read here today.