Do you jump into relationships like you’re playing leap frog? Avoid calling someone your boyfriend even after living together for 8 months, sporadically freak out about not getting a reply to a text, or are you so nonchalant you’re practically horizontal? These seemingly minor and reactionary behaviors are more ingrained in our psyche than we think. Attachment Theory (as analysed out by John Bowlby & Mary Ainsworth) stems from developmental psychology and addresses the fundamental concept of how we conduct ourselves in a relationship based on three styles of attachment. The idea of the defining the attachment type is to shed light on how much security and stability an individual needs to be in a healthy and loving relationship whilst maintaining their sanity.
Attachment Theory is helpful in providing insight into why some of us dive so quickly into relationships, why others are more cautious of commitment, crazy jealous and insecure or completely apathetic about the whole thing. As always there’s a bunch of psychological influences both learnt and innate to be considered but for the most part, everyone fits into one of these three categories…
If you fit into the anxious category, chances are you know it and you probably tell everyone because you feel deeply apologetic for just being the way that you are. Sorry. Anxious partners (bless their little cotton socks) get wound up over analysing everything, and for the most part just can’t help it. They will be worried if your tone seems off, you don’t reply to a text or if the wind blows the wrong way. Anxious types can be riddled with self doubt and criticism and they often make the mistake of seeking validation from outside means. Unfortunately being in a relationship with an anxious type is a complex dance of helping them to understand how they can love themselves as much as possible, without seeming disingenuous or, doing it for them and forcing codependence. Funnily enough, with a personal commitment to self love, anxiety will dissipate.
The anxious subscribe to a masochist way of life and will likely blame every problem in a relationship (or a break up) on themselves . They also have convoluted preservation tactics like the silent treatment or one-upping in place of articulating their concerns. These are simply avoidance strategies that displace the problem so that hopefully they won’t be abandoned when they express their true feelings. Handle with care.
For hints: Read my article about being in a relationship when you’re ANXIOUS AF here.
Textbook commitment phobes are pervasive in the cross cultural representation of (men in) romantic relationships in the media. The avoidant is every man (in movies) that doesn’t text back, falls off the face of the earth after 2 great dates, cheats, refuses to partake in monogamy and runs away from feelings. They’re classic purveyors of mixed messages and run hot and cold quicker than a broken tap. Whole TV series are scripted around their manipulative and negligent behaviour, and its subsequent interpretation by the opposite sex. They carefully manufacture themselves (and their image) in order to avoid closeness and foster distance, except when they want it (and allow themselves to have it). Like the rest of humanity, they do crave intimacy and connection but they employ stringent coping mechanisms to make sure they maintain their independence and distance.
No prizes for guessing what the secure type implicates, which is rather fitting really. Those with the secure attachment type are easily defined as boring, but these definitions are probably languidly applied by either the anxious or the avoidant who ultimately struggle with the concept of security and do their best to fuck with it. Two secure types together are likely to live a drama free, satisfyingly static life with very few bumps out of the ordinary. This is because they’re secure enough not to feel the need to act out, behave erratically or pull away. Of course, this doesn’t mean that they will never nose dive into emotions or make mistakes, it just means their baseline level of self assurance is solid enough to provide them with stability. In a relationship they’re not needy, don’t over dramatize situations and provide a great source of support for their partner.