This was a good book. I was already familiar with the studies on the attachment styles in babies and had heard so many people rave about this framework, that within the first few pages the pleasure of finding out they were one and the same was great! And the rest did not disappoint.
It seeks to describe different attachment styles in romantic relationships as either: anxious, avoidant or secure; the characteristics of each, how the individuals behave in their various combinations, how to manage your own emotions depending on which you are, and which combinations work best.
I feel slightly cautious when reading books like this that attempt to simplify and boil down the complexities of human nature into very simple frameworks. I do think they can lead to huge generalisations and rules that we can apply a bit too fast to our own life, with little regard for the nuances and grey areas that form our own psyche’s and those of the people around us. I did definitely get this sense often when reading this book.
Having said that, I absolutely love the fact that they organise our thoughts and feelings, give a level of understanding to what are otherwise messy, emotionally painful and tightly wound up anxieties of our past or present, and above all, give us a common language to be able to verbalise exactly what we are feeling, why and what we need.
I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone and their potential/current partners as a framework for approaching your conversations and behaviours. An absolutely solid read.
The Attachment Styles first:
For some context, here’s an excerpt that explains the attachment styles in brief. I’d definitely take the questionnaires in the book though to determine yours!
“The three primary adult attachment styles, which, like those of children, are: anxious, avoidant or secure. Our attachment styles reveal themselves in romantic, emotionally intimate situations — for example, during a fight, a breakup, or that precarious, weird moment when a relationship goes from casual dating to a serious prospect.
In these situations, people with anxious attachment styles can instinctively crave emotional intimacy, and can become frenetically preoccupied with love and their ability to have, or lose, it (see: the aforementioned spinning out).
People with avoidant attachment styles tend to reflexively align this intimacy with losing independence and being suffocated, shutting down or pushing it away (again, see: the aforementioned shutting down).
And those with secure attachment styles don’t feel threatened or spun out by romantic intimacy — they communicate warmly, and honestly.”
- You should always clearly express your needs in a relationship, because this is a very efficient litmus test of the other persons capacity to meet them. In the long term, no-one has ever regretted being honest about their needs in a relationship. No matter what the result is in the short term, in the long term it will bring you closer to finding a parter you can get along with.
- If a partner is cold, we respond by seeking reassurance. This is how an avoidant partner creates an anxious partner (even in someone who is otherwise secure).
- If you are anxious, you should sit with your anxiety when you have doubts and have been triggered. If after a while you are still certain of your read of a situation, you can respond in a more mature way. This is how anxious people can have a unique insight into someone’s behaviour - just as long as they don’t act too soon.
- True love means peace. Passion and anxiety which is relieved with brief periods of elation and joy is is an activated attachment style, not love.
- It’s not ok for people to have discussions with you that feel as though you are “in the court of law”, where they are just looking at the facts without paying any attention to your feelings.
- People with a secure attachment style always score highest in relationship satisfaction, both when they are in a relationship with someone else who is secure, and when they are with someone who isn’t.
- Secure people often end up forgiving their partners too much, feeling responsible for taking care of their partners during their low points in life, and sticking around bad relationships for too long. This is a risk of being a secure person.
- Resolving conflict leads to more attachment and closeness, so these are often avoided by avoidants and craved by the anxious.
- People in bad relationships often think that “everyone in a relationship has these kind problems behind closed doors, ours aren’t that bad”, but this isn’t true. Not every relationship is awful behind closed doors - this is not to say that others don’t have conflicts, but the difference is in how they deal with them. Is your partner treating you like a best friend or like an enemy?
- Most people in the dating pool are avoidants: they date a lot, they break up easily, they are less likely to be in a relationship. Secure attachment is most likely to be taken out of the dating pool the fastest.
Most people are as needy as their unmet needs.
Don’t let emotional unavailability turn you on.