I recently interacted with a dating group that was nearly obsessed with attachment styles. Some ladies stated they wouldn’t even consider a relationship with a man who had certain styles. Most women in the group were over-evaluating her attachment style with his attachment style. And truly, they were guessing at his because none of them knew enough about the guy to make a “diagnosis.” It felt over the top to me.
Attachment styles are like everything else, on a spectrum or in combination with another style. So, you can be predominantly one style with a little of another style. Yet, it’s not a complicated theory, a little Freudian, and for some reason, it is currently a hot button in dating.
So, let’s review a little. Attachment styles are psychological theories that explain relationships based on childhood behaviors from your parents or family unit. There are four main attachment styles. I’ve listed them below and provided the simplest of definitions.
Secure: People who can get attached and detach without high drama
Avoidant: People who choose to avoid attachments because they are reliant on themselves
Anxious: People who get into relationships and constantly worry about someone leaving
Disorganized: People who have multiple/severe traumas in their lives where formative relationships have let them down
The definitions above are about all you need to know to get a picture of your style. You can make it complicated or get deep if you fancy that. People like to play armchair psychologists even though it is not always healthy. (For those of you who need to know more to satisfy an interest or curiosity, I have attached a link to get you started and a link to a find your style quiz at the bottom of this article.)
While the roots for Attachment Style are based soundly in psychology and probably researched to infinity, I don’t think your attachment style matters deeply to your relationship success for most people. However, multiple massive traumas do matter and need addressing by a professional. Also, someone who is constantly in high conflict and drama may find using this information with a professional beneficial. Let the specialists do their job when needed.
Here is why it doesn’t matter.
Research has shown that any combination of attachment styles can create a successful relationship. True, it is best if you are both secure. However, learning the needs and nuances of your partner will keep you building your relationship despite your style.
We should all be pursuing a “secure” attachment style. If you already have this style, you can continue to refine it and make it more robust (move further along the spectrum). If you don’t know your style, it may be helpful to know where you are starting from, but I don’t think it is necessary. Seek to develop the traits of a secure person regardless of where you start.
We tend to put people in a box and not let them out. For example, by labeling someone as anxious, we tend to accommodate them rather than genuinely helping them grow to become more secure. On the flip side, some people are not genuine and put in a box and then use the knowledge to push their partner’s triggers. That is NOT cool but happens.
Let the rabbits go down a rabbit hole and not you. Please don’t spend a bunch of time overanalyzing behaviors and try to make it a positive and productive time. Seriously, “were you attached to your parents growing up?” should not become a first-date question. Dating is fun. So, Let it be fun, and rather than trying to determine your date’s attachment style, try looking at the entire person and what they bring into your life.
So, let’s take a moment to identify why do care about attachment styles.
Primarily we care because pursuing secure attachment is healthy. Knowing what that looks like turns it into a pursuit. Healthy attachment looks like this.
Someone who finds enjoyment in a caring, loving relationship but doesn’t need it to survive.
This person is a great communicator and has positive dialogue regarding the good and happy things, issues of conflict, and the other sad and dire circumstances in life.
As a partner, you can depend on them, and they also have trust that you are dependable.
This partner encourages a healthy amount of independence. For example, a secure partner would support spending with friends, hobbies, interests, and so on, without feeling like that person is leaving them or uninterested in them.
Alternative viewpoints are heard and understood. A secure partner can accept a view different from their own and not try to change another person’s mind or fix it. They are ok with people having other thoughts.
Manages emotions clearly, as in not overly angry, upset, passive-aggressive, or thriving in drama.
Discussions and training are out there, and some people do find it helpful. I personally wouldn’t spend money on this stuff. But since it’s out in the dating world, let’s consider why it does matter.
If you find it interesting, it can help pursue healthy traits. Some things are simply blind to humans until something or someone points them out. It may help to talk about it with someone you are in a serious relationship with to widen your view. Try close friends or family if you are not in a relationship worthy (yet) of this discussion. Make personal growth your standard and continue this standard with relationships of all kinds. As you developed your secure attachment traits this improves all of your relationships as well.
The traits of secure attachment are imperative for healthy relationships but don’t overthink this stuff. If you have a secure attachment style, you can have more confidence in your relationship skills. And it would help if you still kept refining them. If you have something other than a secure style, plan to become more confident in your style and keep moving forward. You can then have more confidence in your behaviors as well. Know you are growing and progressing either way. That’s positive work.