Spotting the Secure Partner

secure-partnerThe secure partner in relationship attachment science is a partner who is comfortable with closeness and intimacy in relationships and is usually consistent in their feelings and actions concerning their relationship. A person with a secure attachment style may not be the most “exciting”, but their straightforward and open manner creates a comfortable atmosphere and is an asset to the health and stability of a relationship.

Secure partner are luckily fairly common in the population — one out of every two people has a secure relationship style. The bad news is that people with a secure style tend to find a partner early on and stay with them for a long time. So if you’re dating it may not be easy to find them. There are some out there though, and you may even be in a relationship with one. Here are some signs of a potential secure partner that you may want to look out for:

1. Discusses plans and makes decisions with you

The partner with a secure attachment style will rarely make important decisions about the relationship by themselves. Instead they wait and ask for your input, and make decisions that take your views into account.

2. Doesn’t believe relationships are hard work

Secure partners tend to be satisfied with their relationships, even during rough times. They don’t dwell on small problems or talk about how difficult relationships are. They are open to starting a relationship even when their life circumstances or potential partner aren’t “perfect”.

3. Trustworthy and reliable

When a person with a secure relationship style says they will do something for you, the chances are that they will. If they can’t follow through on a promise or plan they made, they will explain why, usually in advance.

4. Compromise

In disagreements secure partners like to reach compromise. They are less concerned with proving themselves right (and you wrong) than they are with understanding your point of view and coming to a mutually satisfying agreement.

5. Comfortable with commitment and intimacy

Secure partners don’t mind the closeness created by a long-term relationship. They don’t worry that you’re cutting down on their freedom or trying to trap them (as an avoidant partner might) or that you might find them inadequate or reject them (as an anxious partner might).

6. Effectively communicates

Partners with a secure relationship style share their feelings and opinion in a clear and straightforward way. They don’t expect you to guess what they are feeling or create a scene to get your attention. They are also clear about where the relationship is headed.

7. Flexible and open to adjustment

Secure partners aren’t looking for a certain kind of partner or relationship. They have a few basic requirements but they are open to various people and arrangements. In addition, they aren’t threatened by criticism and are willing to reconsider their actions.

The secure partner is not perfect — they have their flaws like everyone does. But a secure partner not only helps to create a healthy relationship but works to keep it that way for the long term.

Do you or your partner have a secure attachment style?

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The Anxious-Avoidant Trap

anxious-avoidant-attachmentWhy are people who long for closeness in relationships attracted to their complete opposites: people who prefer their independence and distance? And why are the resulting relationships unsatisfying and prone to failure?

Attachment science defines a person with a strong desire for intimacy and preoccupation with their relationships as anxious. Anxious people are sensitive to perceived threats to the intimacy of their relationships. On the opposite end of the spectrum are avoidant people. Avoidants wish to reduce closeness and intimacy in order to maintain their autonomy. They are less aware of the needs of their partner.

It would seem people with such differing needs would avoid each other, but the opposite happens. Studies have shown that in a classic case of “opposites attract”, there is a mutual attraction between avoidant and anxious people. Each has particular reasons for attraction, as outlined in the book Attached:

Why the Avoidant is Attracted to the Anxious:

  • The avoidant has built up an idea of themselves as being more capable and self-sufficient than other people. They believe that people want to “trap” them and create more intimacy than they are comfortable with. With an anxious partner their beliefs are confirmed.
  • Due to their defense mechanism of self-sufficiency, the avoidant likes to feel psychologically stronger than their partner. They can not feel stronger than another avoidant or a secure partner who would not be bothered by their behavior. They can only feel this way with an anxious partner.

Why the Anxious is Attracted to the Avoidant:

  • The anxious person’s defense mechanism is likewise supported. The anxious person believes that they want more closeness than their partner is capable of. In addition, they believe they will be let down or hurt by their partner; this is the inevitable result when they pair with an avoidant.
  • The anxious person tends to idolize avoidant tendencies. Self-sufficiency, independence, less need for another person — these are the qualities the anxious person wishes they had.
  • The anxious person, being addicted to passion, mistakes the mixed signals sent by the avoidant for sparks of love. They think the avoidant might be coming around to loving them as they feel they should be, but the avoidant is just unsure what to do: they want to be in a relationship, yet they want to keep their independence.

Some signs that you are in the anxious-avoidant trap are extreme highs and lows in the relationship, a feeling that your relationship is uncertain, and if you’re the anxious partner, a feeling that things get worse the closer you become to your partner.

Relationships between anxious and avoidant people tend to be very unstable. Even if the relationship lasts, it is stormy and unsatisfying for both partners. The avoidant person has little desire to resolve issues — doing so would create more intimacy. So the anxious person ends up conceding to the avoidant in the Anxious-Avoidant Tug of War. Any hope for a better relationship is never realized.

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Relationship Attachment: The Attachment Styles in Love

love-attachment-stylesChildren respond to their primary caregivers in specific ways that are well-known to most people, and particularly to those in the field of attachment science. But did you know that adults also become attached to their loved ones in specific ways? Adult attachment theory– the most advanced relationship science— fits these ways into three main attachment styles, or manners in which people perceive and respond to intimacy in romantic relationships. These three attachment types are secure, anxious, and avoidant.

1. Secure

The secure attachment style is the most common attachment style — just over 50 percent of the world’s population have a secure love style. If you are secure, you are comfortable with intimacy. You are effective at communicating your needs and feelings to your partner; you have an innate understanding of the give-and-take of romantic relationships. You aren’t bothered by small issues.

Being reliable and consistent, secures may seem boring at first to those with other styles because there is little drama in their love lives. But secure people have a stabilizing effect on those with less secure styles and they report the highest level of satisfaction in their relationships.

2. Anxious (Preoccupied)

Anxious people, who make up about 20 percent of the population, crave intimacy and are often overly concerned with their relationship and partner. Anxious individuals worry that their partner does not want to be as close as they do and at times experience negative emotions. If you are an anxious type, you are sensitive to your partner’s moods and actions, and take these personally. On the upside, you are good at understanding your partner’s emotions.

attachment-stylesThose who are anxious do well with secure people. But they are often attracted to people who make their anxious tendencies worse: avoidants.

3. Avoidant (Dismissive)

People with an avoidant love style make up a quarter of society. Avoidants equate intimacy with a loss of independence and autonomy. Because of this they try to minimize closeness and partners often complain that they are emotionally distant. As an avoidant you have the basic human need for attachment and love but tend to feel suffocated with too much intimacy.

Avoidants do not easily understand their partner’s mental and emotional states. But if you are not an avoidant, you are likely to meet them while dating — they are often on the dating scene due to having short relationships Avoidants do not usually date other avoidants.

A rare 3 to 5 percent of the population have a fourth style: anxious-avoidant. If you have an anxious-avoidant style you are uncomfortable with a lot of intimacy but are still concerned with the availability of your partner and the progress of your relationship.

A large number of studies have confirmed these types to exist across cultures. Knowing your type and the type of your partner or potential partners can help you to understand tendencies and motives in relationships.

What’s your attachment style?

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