Anxious-Avoidant (Attachment Theory)

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[ ]  According to psychologists, there are four attachment strategies people adopt: secure, anxious, avoidant, and anxious-avoidant.

Secure: People with secure attachment strategies are comfortable displaying interest and affection. They are also comfortable being alone and independent. They’re able to correctly prioritize their relationships within their life and tend to draw clear boundaries and stick to them. Secure attachment types obviously make the best romantic partners, family members and even friends. They’re capable of accepting rejection and moving on despite the pain, but are also capable of being loyal and sacrificing when necessary. They have little issue trusting people they’re close to, and are trustworthy themselves. According to research about 40% of the population are solidly secure attachment types. Secure attachment is developed in childhood by infants who regularly get their needs met, as well as receive ample quantities of love and affection.

Anxious: Anxious attachment types are often nervous and stressed about their relationships. They need constant reassurance and affection from their partner. They have trouble being alone or single. They’ll often succumb to unhealthy or abusive relationships. They have trouble trusting people, even if they’re close to them. Their behavior can be irrational, sporadic, and overly-emotional and complain that everyone of the opposite sex are cold and heartless. This is the girl who calls you 36 times in one night wondering why you didn’t call her back. Or the guy follows his girlfriend to work to make sure she’s not flirting with any other men. Women are more likely to be anxious types than men. Anxious attachment strategies are developed in childhood by infants who receive love and care with unpredictable sufficiency.

Avoidant: Avoidant attachment types are extremely independent, self-directed, and often uncomfortable with intimacy. They’re commitment-phobes and experts at rationalizing their way out of any intimate situation. They regularly complain about feeling “crowded” or “suffocated” when people try to get close to them. In every relationship, they always have an exit strategy. Always. And they often construct their lifestyle in such a way to avoid commitment or too much intimate contact. This is the guy who works 80 hours a week and gets annoyed when women he dates want to see him more than once on the weekend. Or the girl who dates dozens of guys over the course of years but tells them all she doesn’t want “anything serious” and inevitably ends up ditching them when she gets tired of them. Men are more likely than women to be avoidant types. Avoidant attachment strategy is developed in childhood by infants who only get some of their needs met while the rest are neglected (for instance, he/she gets fed regularly, but is not held enough).

Anxious-Avoidant: Anxious-avoidant attachment types (also known as the “fearful type”) bring together the worst of both worlds. Anxious-avoidants are not only afraid of intimacy and commitment, but they distrust and lash out emotionally at anyone who tries to get close to them. Anxious-avoidants often spend much of their time alone and miserable, or in abusive or dysfunctional relationships. According to studies, only a small percentage of the population qualifies as anxious-avoidant types, and they typically have a multitude of other emotional problems in other areas of their life (i.e., substance abuse, depression, etc.). Anxious-avoidant types develop from abusive or terribly negligent childhoods.

[ ]  What all of this adds up to, is the same conclusion I propose in my book, that in relationships, insecurity finds insecurity and security finds security, even if those insecurities don’t always look the same. To put it bluntly, to all of the guys who have emailed me over the years complaining that all of the women they meet are insecure, or have trust issues, or are needy and manipulative… well, let’s just say I have some bad news for you.

[ ]  Using this model as a roadmap, one can begin to navigate oneself to a more secure attachment type. Anxious types can work on developing themselves, creating healthy boundaries and fostering a healthy self-image. One of my most common pieces of dating advice is for men to find something they’re passionate about and good at and make that a focal point of their life rather than women. Avoidant types can work on opening themselves up to others, and enrich their relationships through sharing themselves more. Another one of my most common pieces of advice to men is that it’s your responsibility to find something great in everyone you meet; it’s not their responsibility to show you. Become curious. Stop being judgmental.

And of course, some of you may be reading this and thinking, “I like being alone. I have a baller lifestyle and bang tons of girls. I wouldn’t change a thing.” And it’s true, many people lead happy, successful lives as avoidant or anxious types. Some even have successful long-term relationships as an anxious or avoidant. But research shows secures are consistently more happy, feel more supported, are less likely to become depressed, are healthier, retain more stable relationships, and become more successful than the other types. And I can tell you from my personal experience, I’ve felt myself drift out of a strong avoidant (and slight anxious) attachment type to a more secure attachment type over the past six years of working on myself in this area. And I can unequivocally say that I’m happier and more fulfilled in my relationships and with the women I date now than I ever was back then — even though there were times where I was dating more girls or hotter girls. I wouldn’t trade it back for anything.

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