Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and how it can help you find and keep love

Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and how it can help you find and keep love

Each of these problems is deeply painful, touching upon the innermost core of people’s lives. And yet no one explanation or solution fits the bill. Each case seems unique and personal; each stems from an endless number of possible root causes. Deciphering them would require a deep acquaintance with all the people involved.

Past history, previous relationships, and personality type are just a few of the avenues that a therapist would need to pursue. This, at least, is what we, as clinicians in the field of mental health, were taught and believed, until we made a new discovery—one that provided a straightforward explanation for all three problems described above and many more. The story of this discovery, and what came after it, is what this book is about.

-Only two weeks into dating this guy and already I’m making myself miserable worrying that he doesn’t find me attractive enough and obsessing about whether or not he’s going to call! I know that once again I’ll manage to turn all my fears about not being good enough into a self-fulfilling prophecy and ruin yet another chance at a relationship!

-What’s wrong with me? I’m a smart, good-looking guy with a successful career. I have a lot to offer. I’ve dated some terrific women, but inevitably, after a few weeks I lose interest and start to feel trapped. It shouldn’t be this hard to find someone I’m compatible with.

-I’ve been married to my husband for years and yet feel completely alone. He was never one to discuss his emotions or talk about the relationship, but things have gone from bad to worse. He stays at work late almost every weeknight and on weekends he’s either at the golf course with friends or watching the sports channel on TV. There’s just nothing to keep us together. Maybe I’d be better off alone.

The common belief that many of us grow up with: The belief that love conquers all. And so I let love conquer me. I shrugged the red flags off, confident that with me, things would be different. Of course, I was wrong.

Research findings first made by Cindy Hazan and Phillip Shaver indicated that adults show patterns of attachment to their romantic partners similar to the patterns of attachment of children with their parents.


Adult attachment designates three main “attachment styles,” or manners in which people perceive and respond to intimacy in romantic relationships, which parallel those found in children: Secure, Anxious, and Avoidant.

Basically, secure people feel comfortable with intimacy and are usually warm and loving; anxious people crave intimacy, are often preoccupied with their relationships, and tend to worry about their partner’s ability to love them back; avoidant people equate intimacy with a loss of independence and constantly try to minimize closeness.

All people in our society fall into one of these categories. Just over 50 percent are secure, around 20 percent are anxious, 25 percent are avoidant, and the remaining 3 to 5 percent fall into the fourth, less common category (combination anxious and avoidant).

In addition, people with each of these attachment styles differ in:
-their view of intimacy and togetherness
-the way they deal with conflict
-their attitude toward sex
-their ability to communicate
-their wishes and needs
-their expectations from
-their partner and the relationship

Understanding attachment styles is an easy and reliable way to understand and predict people’s behavior in any romantic situation. In fact, one of the main messages of this theory is that in romantic situations, we are programmed to act in a predetermined manner.

Although it’s not impossible for someone to change his or her attachment style—on average, one in four people do so over a four-year period—most people are unaware of the issue, so these changes happen without their ever knowing they have occurred (or why).

Wouldn’t it be great, we thought, if we could help people have some measure of control over these life-altering shifts? What a difference it would make if they could consciously work toward becoming more secure in their attachment styles instead of letting life sway them every which way!


Attachment theory is based on the assertion that the need to be in a close relationship is embedded in our genes. It was John Bowlby’s stroke of genius that brought him to the realization that we’ve been programmed by evolution to single out a few specific individuals in our lives and make them precious to us.

It is impossible for infants to survive on their own, and we all need someone to provide safety and security for us to grow and develop throughout our lives. Survival becomes the common need we all share, and is the basic building block in development.

Bowlby argued that infants need a relational space in which the child’s need for attachment is satisfied by the caregiver, who provides protection, nurturing, and care. The child feels he can return to and rely on this space during high levels of stress in order to be soothed by the caregiver. At this stage of development, the child is not able to soothe himself on his own and therefore must rely on an adult to recognize and respond to his emotional needs. Within this space, the child begins to learn a sense of safety and connection. -Nurturing Resilience

“Man cannot live by milk alone. Love is an emotion that does not need to be bottle-or spoon-fed,”- Harry Harlow of the University of Wisconsin, a renowned and controversial scientist. Harlow helped to answer a seemingly obvious question in a non-obvious way. He raised infant rhesus monkeys without mothers. Instead, he gave them a choice of two types of artificial “surrogate” mothers. One pseudo-mother had a monkey head constructed of wood and a wire-mesh tube resembling a torso. In the middle of the torso was a bottle of milk. This surrogate mother gave nutrition. The other surrogate mother had a similar head and wire-mesh torso. But instead of containing a milk bottle, this one’s torso was wrapped in terry cloth. But not the baby monkeys—they chose the terry-cloth mothers. Kids don’t love their mothers because Mom balances their nutritive intake, these results suggested. They love them because, usually, Mom loves them back, or at least is someone soft to cling to.
-Why Zebra’s Don’t Get Ulcers

In fact, the need to be near someone special is so important that the brain has a biological mechanism specifically responsible for creating and regulating our connection with our attachment figures (parents, children, and romantic partners). This mechanism, called the attachment system, consists of emotions and behaviors that ensure that we remain safe and protected by staying close to our loved ones.

Attachment style is no different from any other human characteristic. Although we all have a basic need to form close bonds, the way we create them varies. In a very dangerous environment, it would be less advantageous to invest time and energy in just one person because he or she would not likely be around for too long; it would make more sense to get less attached and move on (and hence, the avoidant attachment style).

Another option in a harsh environment is to act in the opposite manner and be intensely persistent and hypervigilant about staying close to your attachment figure (hence, the anxious attachment style). In a more peaceful setting, the intimate bonds formed by investing greatly in a particular individual would yield greater benefits for both the individual and his or her offspring (hence, the secure attachment style).


None of the attachment styles is in itself seen as “pathological.” On the contrary, romantic behaviors that had previously been seen as odd or misguided now seemed understandable, predictable, even expected.

You stay with someone although he’s not sure he loves you? Understandable. You say you want to leave and a few minutes later change your mind and decide that you desperately want to stay? Understandable too.

But are such behaviors effective or worthwhile? That’s a different story. People with a secure attachment style know how to communicate their own expectations and respond to their partner’s needs effectively without having to resort to protest behavior. For the rest of us, understanding is only the beginning.

2. Dependency Is Not a Bad Word

Getting attached means that our brain becomes wired to seek the support of our partner by ensuring the partner’s psychological and physical proximity. If our partner fails to reassure us, we are programmed to continue our attempts to achieve closeness until the partner does.

Attachment principles teach us that most people are only as needy as their unmet needs. When their emotional needs are met, and the earlier the better, they usually turn their attention outward. This is sometimes referred to in attachment literature as the “dependency paradox”: The more effectively dependent people are on one another, the more independent and daring they become.


Before the groundbreaking work of Mary Ainsworth and John Bowlby, the founders of attachment theory in the fifties and sixties, psychologists had no appreciation of the importance of the bond between parent and child.

The idea that the infant and small child would be active in their survival efforts by how they bonded with their care providers had not been considered before. Prior to this, infants were considered passive in their role as dependents, and it was thought that bonding would happen as a natural side effect of their physical needs being met by the caregiver. -Nurturing Resilience



Mary Main discovered that adults, too, can be divided into attachment categories according to the way in which they recall their early relationship with their caregivers, which, in turn, influences their parental behavior. Cindy Hazan and Phillip Shaver, independently of Mary Main’s work, found that adults have distinct attachment styles in romantic settings as well.

The three statements corresponded to the three attachment styles and read as follows:

-I find it relatively easy to get close to others and am comfortable depending on them and having them depend on me. I don’t often worry about being abandoned or about someone getting too close to me. (Measure of the secure attachment style)

-I am somewhat uncomfortable being close to others; I find it difficult to trust them completely, difficult to allow myself to depend on them. I am nervous when anyone gets too close, and often, love partners want me to be more intimate than I feel comfortable being. (Measure of the avoidant attachment style)

-I find that others are reluctant to get as close as I would like. I often worry that my partner doesn’t really love me or won’t want to stay with me. I want to merge completely with another person and this desire sometimes scares people away. (Measure of the anxious attachment style)

Remarkably, the results showed a similar distribution of attachment styles in adults as that found in infants: Here too most respondents fell under the “secure” category and the remaining subjects were divided between anxious and avoidant.

The researchers also found that each style corresponded to very different and unique beliefs and attitudes about themselves, their partners, their relationships, and intimacy in general.

The bottom line is that the need for intimate connection and the reassurance of our partner’s availability continues to play an important role throughout our lives.


The codependency movement and other currently popular self-help approaches portray relationships in a way that is remarkably similar to the views held in the first half of the twentieth century.

Today’s experts offer advice that goes something like this: Your happiness is something that should come from within and should not be dependent on your lover or mate. Your well-being is not their responsibility, and theirs is not yours.

Each person needs to look after himself or herself. In addition, you should learn not to allow your inner peace to be disturbed by the person you are closest to. If your partner acts in a way that undermines your sense of security, you should be able to distance yourself from the situation emotionally, “keep the focus on yourself,” and stay on an even keel.

If you can’t do that, there might be something wrong with you. You might be too enmeshed with the other person, or “codependent,” and you must learn to set better “boundaries.”

If you develop a strong dependency on your partner, you are deficient in some way and are advised to work on yourself to become more “differentiated” and develop a “greater sense of self.” The worst possible scenario is that you will end up needing your partner, which is equated with “addiction” to him or her, and addiction, we all know, is a dangerous prospect.

While the teachings of the codependency movement remain immensely helpful in dealing with family members who suffer from substance abuse (as was the initial intention), they can be misleading and even damaging when applied indiscriminately to all relationships.

(Insert co regulation of social engagement theory)


Numerous studies show that once we become attached to someone, the two of us form one physiological unit. Our partner regulates our blood pressure, our heart rate, our breathing, and the levels of hormones in our blood. We are no longer separate entities.

The emphasis on differentiation that is held by most of today’s popular psychology approaches to adult relationships does not hold water from a biological perspective. Dependency is a fact; it is not a choice or a preference.

When two people form an intimate relationship, they regulate each other’s psychological and emotional well-being. Their physical proximity and availability influence the stress response.


Once we choose a partner, there is no question about whether dependency exists or not. It always does. An elegant coexistence that does not include uncomfortable feelings of vulnerability and fear of loss sounds good but is not our biology.

He or she is part of me, and I will do anything to save him or her; having such a vested interest in the well-being of another person translates into a very important survival advantage for both parties.

Despite variations in the way people with different attachment styles learn to deal with these powerful forces—the secure and anxious types embrace them and the avoidants tend to suppress them—all three attachment styles are programmed to connect with a special someone.

How can we act more independent by being thoroughly dependent on someone else?
If you want to take the road to independence and happiness, find the right person to depend on and travel down it with that person.

As adults we want to be highly functional at work, at ease and inspired in our hobbies, and compassionate enough to care for our children and partners. If we feel secure the world is at our feet. We can take risks, be creative, and pursue our dreams.

And if we lack that sense of security?

If we are unsure whether the person closest to us, our romantic partner, truly believes in us and supports us and will be there for us in times of need, we’ll find it much harder to maintain focus and engage in life. As in the strange situation test, when our partners are thoroughly dependable and make us feel safe, and especially if they know how to reassure us during the hard times, we can turn our attention to all the other aspects of life that make our existence meaningful.


When our partner is unable to meet our basic attachment needs, we experience a chronic sense of disquiet and tension that leaves us more exposed to various ailments. Not only is our emotional well-being sacrificed when we are in a romantic partnership with someone who doesn’t provide a secure base, but so is our physical health.

It seems, then, that our partners powerfully affect our ability to thrive in the world. There is no way around that. Not only do they influence how we feel about ourselves but also the degree to which we believe in ourselves and whether we will attempt to achieve our hopes and dreams.

Having a partner who fulfills our intrinsic attachment needs and feels comfortable acting as a secure base and safe haven can help us remain emotionally and physically healthier and live longer. Having a partner who is inconsistently available or supportive can be a truly demoralizing and debilitating experience that can literally stunt our growth and stymie our health.

3. Step One: What Is My Attachment Style?

Attachment styles are stable but plastic. Knowing your specific attachment profile will help you understand yourself better and guide you in your interactions with others.

(Insert link for tool box download)

The more statements that you check in a category, the more you will display characteristics of the corresponding attachment style. Category A represents the anxious attachment style, Category B represents the secure attachment style, and Category C represents the avoidant attachment style.

Anxious: You love to be very close to your romantic partners and have the capacity for great intimacy. You often fear, however, that your partner does not wish to be as close as you would like him/ her to be. Relationships tend to consume a large part of your emotional energy. You tend to be very sensitive to small fluctuations in your partner’s moods and actions, and although your senses are often accurate, you take your partner’s behaviors too personally. You experience a lot of negative emotions within the relationship and get easily upset. As a result, you tend to act out and say things you later regret. If the other person provides a lot of security and reassurance, however, you are able to shed much of your preoccupation and feel contented.

Secure: Being warm and loving in a relationship comes naturally to you. You enjoy being intimate without becoming overly worried about your relationships. You take things in stride when it comes to romance and don’t get easily upset over relationship matters. You effectively communicate your needs and feelings to your partner and are strong at reading your partner’s emotional cues and responding to them. You share your successes and problems with your mate, and are able to be there for him or her in times of need.

Avoidant: It is very important for you to maintain your independence and self-sufficiency and you often prefer autonomy to intimate relationships. Even though you do want to be close to others, you feel uncomfortable with too much closeness and tend to keep your partner at arm’s length. You don’t spend much time worrying about your romantic relationships or about being rejected. You tend not to open up to your partners and they often complain that you are emotionally distant. In relationships, you are often on high alert for any signs of control or impingement on your territory by your partner.

4. Step Two: Cracking the Code—What Is My Partner’s Style?

Without even knowing it, most people give away almost all the information you need to determine their attachment style in their natural, day-to-day actions and words. The trick is to know what to look for, be a keen observer and ardent listener.

(Insert Questionnaire download link)

As a rule of thumb, the higher the score, the stronger the inclination toward that style. Any score of 23 or above indicates a strong likelihood of a particular attachment style. If your partner is high on two attachment styles, chances are that those are the avoidant and anxious ones.

Score of 23 or above for group A: It seems that your partner/ date has an avoidant attachment style. This means that you can’t take closeness and intimacy for granted.

Score of 23 or above for group B: Your partner/ date has a secure attachment style. Such people want to be close; at the same time they are not overly sensitive to rejection.

Score of 23 or above for group C: Your partner/ date has an anxious attachment style. Someone with an anxious attachment style craves intimacy but is also very sensitive to even the smallest of perceived threats to this closeness.

If you’re still in doubt, here are what we call the five Golden Rules to help you home in on his or her attachment style:

1-Determine whether s/ he seeks intimacy and closeness. If the answer is no, you can be pretty sure your partner/ date has an avoidant attachment style.

2-Assess how preoccupied s/ he is with the relationship and how sensitive s/ he is to rejection. Does he get easily hurt by things you say? Is he worried about your future together or about whether you love him enough to stay faithful? Is he very sensitive to details in the relationship that suggest distancing, such as when you make decisions that don’t take him into account? If the answer to these questions is yes, it is likely he has an anxious attachment style.

3-Don’t rely on one “symptom,” look for various signs. There is no one characteristic that can establish someone’s style but rather a combination of behaviors and attitudes that together create a coherent pattern.

4-Assess his/ her reaction to effective communication. What often happens when we’re dating is that we censor ourselves for different reasons: We don’t want to sound too eager or needy or we believe it’s too soon to raise a certain topic. However, expressing your needs and true feelings can be a useful litmus test of the other person’s capacity to meet your needs. The response, in real time, is usually much more telling than anything he or she could ever reveal of their own accord:

If s/ he’s secure—s/ he’ll understand and do what’s best to accommodate your needs.

If s/ he’s anxious—you’ll serve as a useful role model. He or she will welcome the opportunity for greater intimacy and start to become more direct and open.

If s/ he’s avoidant—s/ he will feel very uncomfortable with the increased intimacy that your emotional disclosure brings and will respond in one of the following ways: “You’re too sensitive/ demanding/ needy.”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Stop analyzing everything!”
“What do you want from me? I didn’t do anything wrong.”
He or she will consider your needs on a certain matter only to disregard them again very soon after.
“Geez, I said I was sorry.”

5-Listen and look for what he or she is not saying or doing. What goes unsaid or undone by your partner can be just as informative as what he or she is doing and saying. Trust your gut feeling.


5. Living with a Sixth Sense for Danger: The Anxious Attachment Style

Baruch Spinoza said:
“All happiness or unhappiness solely depends upon the quality of the object to which we are attached by love.”


The attachment system is the mechanism in our brain responsible for tracking and monitoring the safety and availability of our attachment figures. If you have an anxious attachment style, you possess a unique ability to sense when your relationship is threatened.

Even a slight hint that something may be wrong will activate your attachment system, and once it’s activated, you are unable to calm down until you get a clear indication from your partner that he or she is truly there for you and that the relationship is safe. People with other attachment styles also get activated, but they don’t pick up on subtle details that people with an anxious attachment style do.

People with an anxious attachment style are indeed more vigilant to changes in others’ emotional expression and can have a higher degree of accuracy and sensitivity to other people’s cues.

If you just wait a little longer before reacting and jumping to conclusions, you will have an uncanny ability to decipher the world around you and use it to your advantage. But shoot from the hip, and you’re all over the place making misjudgments and hurting yourself.

(Insert the four agreements summary)

Once activated, they are often consumed with thoughts that have a single purpose: to reestablish closeness with their partner. These thoughts are called activating strategies. Activating strategies are any thoughts or feelings that compel you to get close, physically or emotionally, to your partner. Once he or she responds to you in a way that reestablishes security, you can revert back to your calm, normal self.

(Insert the love language summary/ apology summary)


(Insert Piture of the graph)

Protest Behavior—Letting Your Attachment System Get the Best of You

Excessive attempts to reestablish contact: Calling, texting, or e-mailing many times, waiting for a phone call, loitering by your partner’s workplace in hopes of running into him/ her.

Withdrawing: Sitting silently “engrossed” in the paper, literally turning your back on your partner, not speaking, talking with other people on the phone and ignoring him/ her.

Keeping score: Paying attention to how long it took them to return your phone call and waiting just as long to return theirs; waiting for them to make the first “make-up” move and acting distant until such time. Deciding not to leave a message, after having your calls screened is keeping score (“ If she’s not answering my calls, I won’t leave her a message”).

Acting hostile: Rolling your eyes when they speak, looking away, getting up and leaving the room while they’re talking (acting hostile can transgress to outright violence at times).

Threatening to leave: Making threats—“ We’re not getting along, I don’t think I can do this anymore,” “I knew we weren’t really right for each other,” “I’ll be better off without you”—all the while hoping s/ he will stop you from leaving.

Manipulations: Acting busy or unapproachable. Ignoring phone calls, saying you have plans when you don’t.

Making him/ her feel jealous: Making plans to get together with an ex for lunch, going out with friends to a singles bar, telling your partner about someone who hit on you today.

Protest behavior is any action that tries to reestablish contact with your partner and get their attention. There are many ways that protest behavior can manifest itself, anything that can jolt the other person into noticing you and responding to you.

Protest behavior and activating strategies can cause you to act in ways that are harmful to the relationship. It is very important to learn to recognize them when they happen.

The process of attachment follows its own course and its own schedule. This means you will continue to think about the other person and will be unable to push them out of your mind for a very long time.

It turns out that people with anxious attachment styles are particularly susceptible to falling into a chronically activated attachment system situation. The brains of people with an anxious attachment style react more strongly to thoughts of loss and at the same time under-recruit regions normally used to down-regulate negative emotions. This means that once your attachment system is activated, you will find it much harder to “turn it off” if you have an anxious attachment style.


A number of studies have looked into the question of whether we are attracted to people based on their attachment style or ours. Avoidant individuals actually prefer anxiously attached people. Anxious women are more likely to date avoidant men.

These attachment styles actually complement each other in a way. Each reaffirms the other’s beliefs about themselves and about relationships.

The avoidants’ defensive self-perception that they are strong and independent is confirmed, as is the belief that others want to pull them into more closeness than they are comfortable with.

The anxious types find that their perception of wanting more intimacy than their partner can provide is confirmed, as is their anticipation of ultimately being let down by significant others. So, in a way, each style is drawn to reenact a familiar script over and over again.


But there’s another reason you might be attracted to an avoidant partner if you are anxious. Living in suspense, anticipating that next small remark or gesture that will reassure you. After living like this for a while, you start to do something interesting. You start to equate the anxiety, the preoccupation, the obsession, and those ever-so-short bursts of joy with love. What you’re really doing is equating an activated attachment system with passion.

If you’ve been at it for a while, you become programmed to get attracted to those very individuals who are least likely to make you happy. Having a perpetually activated attachment system is the opposite of what nature had in mind for us in terms of gratifying love.

As we’ve seen, one of Bowlby and Ainsworth’s most important insights is that in order to thrive and grow as human beings, we need a secure base from which to derive strength and comfort. For that to happen, our attachment system must be calm and secure. Remember, an activated attachment system is not passionate love.

Next time you date someone and find yourself feeling anxious, insecure, and obsessive—only to feel elated every once in a while—tell yourself this is most likely an activated attachment system and not love! True love, in the evolutionary sense, means peace of mind. “Still waters run deep” is a good way of characterizing it.

If You’re Anxious, You Shouldn’t Be Dating Someone Avoidant Because:

You: want closeness and intimacy.
They: want to maintain some distance, emotional and/ or physical.

You: are very sensitive to any signs of rejection (vigilant attachment system).
They: send mixed signals that often come across as rejecting.

You: find it hard to tell them directly what you need and what’s bothering you (effective communication), and use protest behavior instead.
They: are bad at reading your verbal and nonverbal cues and don’t think it’s their responsibility to do so.

You: need to be reassured and feel loved.
They: tend to put you down to create distance as a means to deactivate their attachment system.

You: need to know exactly where you stand in the relationship.
They: prefer to keep things fuzzy. Even if your relationship is very serious, some question marks still remain.


Consider the following three facts:

-People with an avoidant attachment style tend to end their relationships more frequently. One study found that of individuals who entered a new marriage following a divorce, the avoidant ones were more likely to divorce again. They also suppress loving emotions and therefore “get over” partners very quickly so they can start dating again almost immediately. Conclusion: Avoidants are in the dating pool more frequently and for longer periods of time.

-People with a secure attachment style usually don’t go through many partners before they find one that they happily settle down with. Once things click, they form a long-lasting, committed relationship. Conclusion: People with a secure attachment style take a very long time to reappear in the dating pool, if at all.

-Studies have found that avoidants are unlikely to be in a relationship with other avoidants, because they lack the emotional glue to stay together. In fact, one study that looked at dating couples didn’t find even one pair that was avoidant-avoidant. Conclusion: Avoidants don’t date each other; they are more likely to date people with different attachment styles.

When you meet someone new, the probability that they have an avoidant attachment style is high—much higher than their relative size in the population—25 percent. Not only are they recycled back into the dating pool more quickly, but they are not dating one another (at least not for long) nor are they dating secure people, that much because secures are less available. Who are they meeting? That’s right: You and other potential partners with an anxious attachment style.


Let’s say you get past the statistical obstacles and do meet someone secure. Do you realize you’ve stumbled upon a gold mine or do you let it pass you by?

Have you ever turned down the perfect catch? Because, you never felt the spark of interest?

If you are anxious, the reverse of what happens when you meet someone avoidant happens when you meet someone secure. The messages that come across from someone secure are very honest, straightforward, and consistent. Secures are not afraid of intimacy and know they are worthy of love. They don’t have to beat around the bush or play hard to get. Ambiguous messages are out of the mix, as are tension and suspense.

As a result, your attachment system remains relatively calm. Because you are used to equating an activated attachment system with love, you conclude that this can’t be “the one” because no bells are going off. You associate a calm attachment system with boredom and indifference. Because of this fallacy you might let the perfect partner pass you by.

Anyone can have a happy ending the trick is not to get hooked on the highs and lows and mistake an activated attachment system for passion or love. Don’t let emotional unavailability turn you on.

If You’re Anxious, You Should Be Dating Someone Secure Because:

You: want closeness and intimacy.
They: are comfortable with closeness and don’t try to push you away.

You: are very sensitive to any signs of rejection (vigilant attachment system).
They: are very consistent and reliable and won’t send mixed messages that will upset you. If you become distressed, they know how to reassure you.

You: find it hard to tell them directly what you need and what’s bothering you (effective communication), and use protest behavior instead.
They: see your well-being as a top priority and do their best to read your verbal and nonverbal cues.

You: need to be reassured and feel loved.
They: feel comfortable telling you how they feel, very early on, in a consistent manner.

You: need to know exactly where you stand in the relationship.
They: are very stable; they also feel comfortable with commitment.


1-Acknowledge and accept your true relationship needs.
The key to finding a mate who can fulfill those needs is to first fully acknowledge your need for intimacy, availability, and security in a relationship—and to believe that they are legitimate. They aren’t good or bad, they are simply your needs. Don’t let people make you feel guilty for acting “needy” or “dependent.” Don’t be ashamed of feeling incomplete when you’re not in a relationship, or for wanting to be close to your partner and to depend on him.

Instead of thinking how you can change yourself in order to please your partner, as so many relationship books advise, think: Can this person provide what I need in order to be happy?

2-Recognize and rule out avoidant prospects early on.


Sends mixed messages—about his/ her feelings toward you or about his/ her commitment to you.

Longs for an ideal relationship—but gives subtle hints that it will not be with you.

Desperately wants to meet “the one”—but somehow always finds some fault in the other person or in the circumstances that makes commitment impossible.

Disregards your emotional well-being—and when confronted, continues to disregard it.

Suggests that you are “too needy,” “sensitive,” or “overreacting”—thus invalidating your feelings and making you second-guess yourself.

Ignores things you say that inconvenience him or her—doesn’t respond or changes the topic instead.

Addresses your concerns as “in a court of law”—responding to the facts without taking your feelings into account.

Your messages don’t get across—despite your best efforts to communicate your needs, he or she doesn’t seem to get the message or else ignores it.

-3 A new way of dating: Be your authentic self and use effective communication.

The next step is to start expressing your needs.

First, you are being your authentic self, which has been found to contribute to our general feelings of happiness and fulfillment, and being happy and fulfilled is probably one of the most attractive traits you can offer a partner.

Second and no less important, once you are your authentic self, if your partner is incapable of meeting your genuine needs, you can determine that early on. Not everyone has relationship needs compatible with your own, and that’s fine. Let them find someone else who wants to be kept at arm’s length, and you can go about finding someone who will make you happy.

-4 The abundance philosophy.

Try giving several people a chance, without settling on one person very early on, making sure to give a wide berth to those with potential smoking guns. There are many charming, intelligent people out there who can make you happy, but there are also many who are not right for you.

The only way to make sure that you meet potential soul mates is to go out with a lot of people. It’s a simple law of probability—the more you meet, the greater the chances you’ll find the one who is a good match for you.

But it’s much more than just a probability issue. If you have an anxious attachment style, you tend to get attached very quickly, even just on the basis of physical attraction.

One night of sex or even just a passionate kiss and, boom, you already can’t get that person out of your mind. As you know, once your attachment system is activated, you begin to crave the other person’s closeness and will do anything in your power to make it work even before you really get to know him/ her and decide whether you like that person or not! If you are seeing only him/ her, the result is that at a very early stage you lose your ability to judge whether he or she is really right for you.

Your system will no longer get so easily activated by one person because it will be busy evaluating the availability of a lot of different people, and you won’t be as likely to obsess about anyone in particular. You can quickly rule out people if they make you feel insecure or inadequate, because you haven’t built all your hopes on them.

5-Give secure people a chance.

But the abundance philosophy loses its effectiveness if you fail to recognize a keeper when you find one. Remind yourself that you might feel bored at first—after all, there is less drama when your attachment system isn’t activated.


A final word for you—the anxious reader. There is no one for whom attachment theory has more to offer than men and women with an anxious attachment style. We have witnessed people who have managed to walk away from loneliness to find the companionship they longed for, using the principles outlined in this chapter. We’ve also witnessed people who have been in long-term relationships that brought out the worst in them, but understanding and utilizing attachment principles marked the beginning of a new phase of their relationship—a more secure phase.

6. Keeping Love at Arm’s Length: The Avoidant Attachment Style

It’s important to remember that the avoidant attachment style always manifests itself. It determines to a great extent what you expect in relationships, how you interpret romantic situations, and how you behave with your date or partner. Whether you are single or involved in a relationship, even a committed one, you are always maneuvering to keep people at a distance.

Researchers found that avoidants are quicker than other people to pick up on words such as “need” and “enmeshed,” related to what they consider negative characteristics of their partner’s behavior, but slower to recognize words like “separation,” “fight,” and “loss,” associated with their own attachment-related worries.

Avoidants, it appears, are quick to think negatively about their partners, seeing them as needy and overly dependent—a major element in their view of relationships—but ignore their own needs and fears about relationships. They seemingly despise others for being needy and are themselves immune to those needs. But is that really the case?

The experiments show that although you may be avoidant, your attachment “machinery” is still in place—making you just as vulnerable to threats of separation. Only when your mental energy is needed elsewhere and you are caught off guard, however, do these emotions and feelings emerge.


So how do people with an avoidant attachment style suppress their attachment needs and maintain a distance in their relationships?

If you’re avoidant, you connect with romantic partners but always maintain some mental distance and an escape route. Feeling close and complete with someone else—the emotional equivalent of finding a home—is a condition that you find difficult to maintain.

Employing techniques known as deactivating strategies. A deactivating strategy is any behavior or thought that is used to squelch intimacy. These strategies suppress our attachment system, the biological mechanism in our brains responsible for our desire to seek closeness with a preferred partner.

Remember the experiment in which researchers showed that avoidants have the need for closeness in a relationship but make a concerted effort to repress it? Deactivating strategies are the tools employed to suppress these needs on a day-to-day basis.

Some Common Deactivating Strategies

Saying (or thinking) “I’m not ready to commit”—but staying together nonetheless, sometimes for years.

Focusing on small imperfections in your partner: the way s/ he talks, dresses, eats, or (fill in the blank) and allowing it to get in the way of your romantic feelings.

Pining after an ex-girlfriend/ boyfriend—( the “phantom ex”—more on this later).

Flirting with others—a hurtful way to introduce insecurity into the relationship.

Not saying “I love you”—while implying that you do have feelings toward the other person.

Pulling away when things are going well (e.g., not calling for several days after an intimate date).

Forming relationships with an impossible future, such as with someone who is married.

“Checking out mentally” when your partner is talking to you.

Keeping secrets and leaving things foggy—to maintain your feeling of independence.

Avoiding physical closeness—e.g., not wanting to share the same bed, not wanting to have sex, walking several strides ahead of your partner.

If you’re avoidant, these small everyday deactivating strategies are tools you unconsciously use to make sure the person that you love (or will love) won’t get in the way of your autonomy. But at the end of the day, these tools are standing in the way of you being happy in a relationship.