The Four Attachment Styles: Which One are You?

I decided to hit pause with dating this weekend. I had plans with friends and just didn’t feel like squeezing in another date that would potentially end on a sour note. The widower from last week was hoping to go out with me again but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I felt zero connection with him and the fact that he lied on his profile about being CEO of a real estate company when he was actually an out of work tire sales manager left a bad taste in my mouth. That and the bad kiss we had when he walked me to my car. Luckily he had popped in a mint to cover up his bad breath but it didn’t help the kiss any. I felt really bad at first. The “letdown” text is never easy for me but then when his response was, “great, next time shake hands” it validated my opinion that this 60-year-old man had the emotional maturity of a twelve-year-old. His aspiration was to be a DJ at a bowling alley for god’s sake! Turns out the claim of being a CEO on his profile was a “joke” referring to how he runs his household full time because he lives off of his deceased wife’s life insurance policy. I’d still like to know how his wife died.

Another one bites the dust and another example of what I don’t want in my life. Being happily single is looking better and better with each date. I won’t give up on finding my person but I don’t think looking is going to bring me any closer. He’ll just show up randomly one day out of nowhere and I will be fully healed and ready for love.

I’m focusing on myself by reading and researching how to nurture healthy relationships. I was listening to a podcast discussing the book “Getting the Love You Want” by Harville Hendrix. The main concept of this book that I read years ago when I was trying to save my broken marriage is that we always choose a partner that mirrors the places in us that we need to develop ourselves. So for example, if you grew up with a critical parent you tend to find someone that is critical towards you because you find it “normal” and that’s a part of you that you want to heal by bringing it to the surface. Conversely, you can also be the one that criticizes in the relationship because that’s what was modeled in your childhood. Hence, why I married a critical man. It’s amazing how clearly you see things when you’re out of the relationship.

The other psychological theory I’ve been diving into is Attachment Styles. Dr. Phillip Shaver and Dr. Cindy Hazan took this parent-child research and applied it to romantic relationships. According to this theory, there are four attachment styles, which will inform how you approach your relationship based on how you were parented in childhood. Here they are and the statements that coincide with each attachment style: Which one applies to you?

Secure: “I am comfortable depending on others and others depending on me. I don’t worry about being alone or others not accepting me.”

Anxious-Preoccupied: “I want to be completely emotionally intimate with others, but I often find that others are reluctant to get as close as I would like. I am uncomfortable being without close relationships, but I sometimes worry that others don’t value me as much as I value them.”

Dismissive-Avoidant: “I am comfortable without close emotional relationships. It’s important to me to feel independent and self-sufficient. I prefer not to depend on others or have others depend on me.”

Fearful/unresolved/cannot classify: “I am somewhat uncomfortable getting close to others. I want emotionally close relationships, but I find it difficult to completely trust others or to depend on them. I sometimes worry that I will be hurt if I allow myself to become too close to other people.”

If you’re a psychology geek like me, you can take this quiz to find out your attachment style. www.scienceofpeople.com

Unfortunately, I know how to answer all the questions in order to identify as securely attached, but I’m far too self-aware to know that it’s bullshit. I think I was securely attached due to my parents doing a decent job of meeting my emotional needs as a child, but as I grew up and had intimate relationships that secure attachment slowly declined.

The trauma of my ex-husband’s infidelity has definitely affected my approach to relationships in a way that makes me relate more to the “Dismissive-avoidant” attachment style. Only natural I suppose but it takes a lot of self-reflection and willingness to break these patterns in order to truly heal and attract a healthy partner.

Now, do I believe that this is the reason we may be attracting douche bags on dating sites or in our relationships? Not necessarily. We do attract something that we need to heal in ourselves but sometimes we attract that to remind us of what we don’t want. It’s important to be able to distinguish the difference. If we attract someone that is controlling and you are resistant to that happening in your new relationship because that was what you hated in your past relationship then the mere fact that you are addressing it as an issue is a huge step in the right direction. If your partner is unwilling to change and you decide to allow it—that’s when you are just repeating the same patterns of dysfunction.

Do yourself a favor and really delve into some of this psychology before you enter into a relationship. Reflecting on your old patterns from childhood trauma or relationship trauma can be the difference between ending up back where you started in a miserable relationship or the chance to evolve and grow into a healthy one.

I know damn well I have a lot of work to do. I can’t avoid relationships and continue to grow. That’s why I’m willing to get out there and keep trying. I’m able to identify exactly what I’m getting myself into. I see the red flags early on and I know that some flaws are fixable but others are life-long patterns of dysfunction that I can’t fix.

It’s not easy navigating the twists and turns of a real connection no matter which attachment style you or potential partner associate with. Being aware of these traits allows you a broader viewpoint on what makes your partner behave in a certain way that may be counterintuitive to building a stronger commitment. Knowing that you can bring it to light and open dialogue that may bring you to a resolution and the commitment to change old patterns or you can choose to walk away to find someone willing to meet you in the middle. That is true growth. The alternative is that you just end up with another douche bag in a different body. The choice is yours—choose wisely.

With Faith, Hope, and Love,