One of the biggest fears of entering the dating world again is making another mistake. How does a person minimize the risk? Or is it all a gamble where you're reliant on your relationship with Lady Luck? The truth is that there is a science to developing a healthy dating relationship. The first step to understanding the science is to know the type of person you are and how you relate to others.
Sorting it out
Scientists have worked hard to understand the complex dynamics that make all of us part of the uniquely human equation. While it does serve some purpose to take tests and name types, it's always important to remember that each human being is unique and will never fit entirely into any one category. With that in mind, take a few minutes to answer the questionnaire below to determine which general attachment style you may fit into.
Which attachment style best describes you:
1. Do you find it: a) easy to become close to others b) common that others seem reluctant to become close to you c) hard to trust people and you don't want to take the chance of getting hurt
2. When it comes to depending on someone: a) You want someone you can totally depend on and who will take care of you b) You believe that if you want something done right you've go to do it yourself c) You feel comfortable depending on others and want them to depend on you as well
3. When you are alone: a) You don't feel the pressure of having to satisfy someone else's expectations b) You don't feel right when you're not in a relationship. You want to be with your love interest all the time c) You're comfortable when your alone-times come along and you don't rely on someone else to fill any voids for you.
4. Are you: a) Independent but also enjoy intimacy b) Worried that your partner doesn't love you as much as you love him/her c) Inclined to feel nervous and anxious if someone gets too close to you
5. Concerning trust: a) You are the only person you really trust b) You generally trust someone unless they give you reason not to c) You worry that those who you are in relationship with won't be there when you need them
6. Are your relationships here to stay: a) You believe love is a forever thing b) Relationships come and go c) You're always afraid those in relationship with you will eventually drop you
7. Would you say you have close relationships: a) Not as close as you'd like b) Yes, you cultivate close relationships c) So-called close relationships are overrated in your opinion.
If you answered 1-a, 2-c, 3-c, 4-a, 5-b, 6-a, 7-b, you likely enjoy a secure attachment style.
If you answered 1-b, 2-a, 3-b, 4-b, 5-c, 6-c, 7-a, you are likely the anxious-ambivalent style
If you answered 1-c, 2-b, 3-a, 4-c, 5-a, 6-b, 7-c, you are probably avoidant in your relationships.
What does it all mean?
The secure attachment style. This "way of being" is probably the category most of us would like to fall into. The people who tend to be secure feel that their relationship partners are available, responsive, and compatible. Here is an example of what a secure attachment style-type would say if asked to articulate his or her feelings:
* "I find it easy to become close to others. I have friends I care about and who care about me. I feel comfortable depending on others, and I want them to depend on me as well. Conversely, I am happy when I am alone. I like my own company. I don't need others to make me feel worthwhile. I don't worry about whether or not others accept me, but I don't avoid people. I like people. I am independent, but I also enjoy intimacy."
These feelings are not at opposites with each other. Rather, they blend into a happy, healthy psyche. Generally, people who can honestly say they fit into the secure attachment style were raised by caregivers who loved them and showed it. They gave and received warmth and affection. This equated to positive feelings about people and relationships as they matured. Quite often those with strong secure-attachment styles enjoy satisfying, long-term relationships, with a healthy balance between intimacy and independence. While relationships may be easier for secure attachment styles, those who did not have the benefit of a nurturing childhood can work to modify or change the issues about themselves that stand in their way achieve secure-style.
The anxious-ambivalent attachment style. As implied by the description, people who discover themselves in this category often feel anxious about their relationships. They have doubts about whether the people they love feel the same way they do. They fear that their partners will not be there when needed. Sometimes, those with anxious-ambivalent styles of relating to others experience intensely powerful reactions to separation. If asked, someone with an anxious-ambivalent style might say:
* "Other people seem reluctant to get as close to me as I want and need. I worry that my partner doesn't love me as much as I love him/her. I worry that he/she will leave me. My dream is to have a relationship that is so close we are like one-merged completely, body and soul. It breaks my heart that this desire seems to scare people and make them avoid me. All I want is to be intimate. I don't feel right when I am not in a relationship. Something is lacking. Then when I am in a relationship, I often feel that my partner doesn't value what I offer. I need approval. I crave total response. I want to be dependent upon someone and to feel like he/she will take care of me."
Often, those with an anxious-ambivalent attachment style don't have high self-esteem. They may have been neglected or abandoned either physically or emotionally when they were young. They tend to blame themselves for everything that goes wrong in a relationship, especially a lack of affection or responsiveness. These feelings bleed into a lack of trust of their partners. Often they will believe that their partners have secret agendas, or that their intentions are bad. Those people who would place themselves into the anxious-ambivalent attachment style tend to worry a lot and act impulsively. When it comes to their personal relationships, they sometimes blame themselves for "choosing the wrong person."
Lastly, there is the avoidant style of attachment. The people who would label themselves as this have usually been hurt. Pain and rejection cause them to back away from relationships, and they often reject those who try to get too close. A person who has been hurt in the past often becomes defensive, in an attempt to avoid being hurt in the future. Many in this category are convinced that they can never really experience love, and many others decide they are unwilling to go through the pain to get it. Some scientists have broken down the avoidant style into two subcategories, the "fearful-avoidant" and the "dismissive-avoidant." The fearful-avoidant person might say:
* "It's hard to trust people. I know I'll be hurt if I allow myself to depend on anyone. I feel nervous and anxious if someone gets too close to me. Partners often complain that I am never intimate, and they want me to open up. That is so hard for me to do, even though I want to be close to people, and I long to have an intimate relationship."
In many cases, these people have poor self-esteem. They see themselves as unworthy, and they tend to suppress or hide their feelings. The dismissive-avoidant is similar to the fearful-avoidant, but they might be categorized as having successfully eliminated their need for intimacy. This person might get caught saying:
* "I don't want a close relationship. I depend upon myself. I am the only person I can trust. If you want something done right, do it yourself. I am independent, and I won't allow myself to get caught up in relying on anyone else, down that road lies disaster. I am completely self-sufficient."
Sometimes these styles might seem happy, and maybe they are on certain levels. They might break up with someone who tries too hard to get close. They might enter into shallow physical relationships. These people tend to hide or suppress their feelings, sometimes so successfully that they truly don't know they are experiencing them.
The truth is, humans are wired to need intimacy, and therefore the dismissive-avoidant is fooling himself/ herself when claiming complete happiness and satisfaction while actively avoiding intimate relationships. And as said above, many of these types believe it's impossible to have close connections with others. They may choose not to go through the pain of developing connections.
A few things to consider
Now that we've taken a peek into how and why we may choose certain relationships, it's time to reflect on what we've learned. Maybe you had qualities that fit into one category, and perhaps you had some of each. The trick is to mull over what you've learned about yourself and just "be" with it for a while. Eventually you can use this information as a tool to not only work on things you'd like to change, but to examine the thought processes of those you are in relationship with or those you are in the process of developing an association with. There's much more to learn about relationship attachments and connections, and I'll cover additional information on this website. So, stay tuned!