Since the 60’s when psychologist, John Bowlby, developed Attachment Theory, we have had a plethora of information about dating, conscious coupling, and relationships. I don’t think there is anything that consumes us more than discovering the A, B, C’s of a great romantic relationship. With all of the information out there, no one will warn you about this one attachment style to avoid. But I will.
John Bowlby studied children and how they attached to their parents. He concluded that children are “born with a biologically-programmed tendency to seek and remain close to attachment figures for nourishment and security.” And then, in the ’70s, Mary Ainsworth devised the three phases of attachment, based on her conclusions during her “Strange Situation” study. Finally, in the ’80s, Main and Solomon expanded the three phases to include one more.
So, we know that this stuff isn’t just made up, but what does it mean for you as you navigate a new life after divorce or break-up? As much as I despise labeling people, that’s all we have to figure out why we do things. It’s challenging to make sense of our attraction to the bad girls or bad boys who break our hearts unless we dissect their behavior and categorize it.
Let’s do this now by breaking down each attachment style. Then I’ll tell you which attachment style to avoid.
Which Attachment Style are you?
There are Four Attachment Styles:
- Avoidant – Dismissive
- Avoidant – Fearful (also known as Anxious Avoidant)
Everyone wants to think they are Secure, but the truth is that you are all of these at one time. Sure, one is your dominant form of attachment, but you will exhibit the others from time to time as you shift through life. And the key is to figure out when you fall into that attachment style and how to navigate it without pushing away a possible partner.
Let’s start with a Secure attachment style. People who exhibit this style feel they have the right to a happy and fulfilling relationship. They take care of their emotional needs and expect their partner to do the same. They exhibit an interdependence in their relationships. Meaning, they exist in harmony, as separate independent beings but connected and supportive.
Perimeters are Secure
The Secure Attacher (I know that this isn’t a word, but now it is) walks around with the, “I’m OK, you’re OK,” attitude. They are not afraid to show their vulnerability, easily ask for what they want, and have no issues with intimacy. When it doesn’t work out, they know that it will hurt but accept that there is no connection, and they will survive.
Who is the best example of a Secure Attachment Style? Noah in The Notebook. Yup, he is all that and some. That’s why we luuuuv him so much. Noah and Allie are the perfect example of an interdependent Secure Attachment Style couple. This is what we strive for.
The key is excellent communication (Noah had no problem showing his vulnerability), no games, respect, consideration, and loyalty. Sigh…
On the other hand, if you walk around with the “I’m not OK, you’re OK” attitude, then you are most likely an Anxious Attacher. This attachment style exhibits neediness, needs validation, and approval. They are prone to codependent relationships and fear abandonment.
They struggle to communicate their needs for fear of rejection and will use passive-aggressive tactics when they don’t get their needs met. Oh yeh, and they use sex as a tool for manipulation. You’ve seen this style with women who freak out in public if they see their boyfriend look at another woman; or male stalkers.
Avoid at all costs
The Avoidant- dismissive Attacher is someone who walks around with the “I’m OK, You’re not OK” attitude.
They believe that they don’t need to be in a relationship. Independence is always their primary concern above anything else and will push potential partners away when they feel their boundaries have been compromised. Anxious Attachers repel them.
They will claim that they don’t need intimacy and will bolt when they feel caged in. In social media terms, they will “ghost” you easily. And they will more likely have an affair. They tend to be defensive and behave this way to avoid pain and rejection.
This attachment style will most likely have long-distance relationships or affairs with married men/women. In the movies of old, we used to call them “bachelors.”
And the Avoidant- fearful (the rarest type) Attacher is very insecure, always afraid of issues with the relationship, and will play manipulative games to try to feel secure. This behavior will ultimately push suitors away.
Want it, don’t want it
Figuring out which one is your attachment style is a significant first step to becoming aware of your part in the breakdown of your relationships. Once you have this awareness, then you can figure out which attachment style works for you.
Regardless of your attachment style, you will always do well by picking a Secure Attacher because they will accept you and be willing to work through your insecurities. Of course, there are no guarantees if you don’t do your work, but it’s your best bet.
The Anxious and Avoidant- fearful styles are similar in that they both display manipulative, passive-aggressive, controlling techniques that create a push-pull dynamic. This ultimately creates breakdown if you have a partner who isn’t willing to work through the undesirable behavior with you.
The One to Avoid
Paying attention to these attachment styles and how you exhibit these tendencies will give you some idea as to why you can’t seem to find Mr./Ms. Right. Then, with that information, you can work towards overcoming your tendencies by effectively communicating your needs. This will either let you know if a potential is willing to work with you or not. Either way, you can find out if you’re compatible or not pretty early in the relationship and you avoid weeks, months or years of the relationship rollercoaster.
Being a Secure with a slightly Anxious Style Attacher, I was making the mistake of picking this one type over and over. Unbeknownst to me, I did this because they reignited my anxiousness, which fed into my story that I wasn’t worthy of a good healthy relationship. Have you guessed which one it is?
Straight from my therapist’s mouth; The Attachment Style to “Avoid” is the Avoidant-dismissive. They aren’t even aware that they are being dismissive (sort of) and will do this as a means to protect themselves. And then attempt to pull you back in when they miss you. This push-pull dynamic is exhausting.
No matter which attachment style you identify with, find your Noah. Clearly state your needs at the beginning of the relationship, and see if she/he will work with you to overcome your tendencies. Eventually, they will help you move toward being more secure in your relationships.