If you haven’t asked yourself that question at least once in your life, surely you have a friend who has
asked it. The answer is surprisingly simple — and still requires a bit of an explanation.You have probably heard of the concept of attachment, the idea that we are biologically wired by evolution to become attached to certain people. This conveyed survival advantages — prehistoric humans who went it alone, without mutual dependence on others, often didn’t survive long enough to reproduce. There is actually a system of emotions and behaviors, called the attachment system, which is designed to ensure we stay close to our loved ones, thereby staying safe and protected.Most early studies of the attachment system were done on infants. Children 12 – 18 months old were put into a new environment, which they began to explore on their own, but with their mothers present. Then the mothers left. The kids’ reactions were grouped into one of three categories:
- Securely attached – When Mom leaves, the child becomes distraught. When Mom returns, the child wants to be held by Mom, but is quickly reassured, and then goes back to exploring the environment.
- Anxiously attached – When Mom leaves, the child becomes extremely distraught. When Mom returns, the child is ambivalent, wanting to be held and angry simultaneously. The toddler takes longer to console, and even then, it’s temporary.
- Avoidantly attached – When Mom leaves, the child acts as though nothing happened. When Mom returns, the child ignores Mom and continues to play. However, researchers have found that the babies heart rates and immune systems react just like the other children. That is, they are just as upset, even though they don’t show it.
Turns out adults fall into the same categories! Secure people (about half the population) are comfortable with intimacy and don’t obsess about their relationships.
Anxious people (about 20% of the population) are desperate for closeness and intimacy, but are very insecure about where the relationship is going. Right now, I have two anxious clients. They freak out when their ‘boyfriends’ (these women are both over 30, so I hesitate to use that word) don’t return a text message. They call me regularly to check in on their boyfriends — because even though these men say and do all the right things to tell these women that they are highly valued, the women don’t quite believe it.
Then there are the avoidants (about 25% of the population). They are uncomfortable when they get too close to someone, and find ways to back off. Check out this FaceBook comment from a ‘friend’ of a ‘friend’ (I don’t know him, and fwiw, he is most likely in his 50s). It speaks volumes, and says it much better than I ever could:
“… for the man, at least, there is no reason at all to get married these days. The whole marriage ceremony is set up for the woman to feel like a princess for one day. The man it set off to the side…
“Then you get a woman that is not ready for f@*king, but is ready for children. And who wants one of those f@*kers? Screaming, unruly shits… Then you get a life of not being able to f@*k any one else, without being able to f@*k your tired (for whatever reason) wife.
“Then, when the whole thing goes south, as it inevitably does, you get a woman that’s out for revenge–that’s out for the very shit you spent your whole life accumulating. Just because she gave you some pussy for some years. It’s not worth it. The pain is not worth it. The loss is not worth it. Shit, I’d rather get rid of my stuff on my own via EBAY than cede it to some cunt that had nothing to do with it, just because she tricked me into believing she wanted my cock forever… My hand is my wife, forever, just like my pan is my wife in the kitchen, and my toilet is my wife in the bathroom.”
If you want to identify your own attachment style more clearly, try this test. It’s enlightening, and at the end, there’s a link to research into adult attachment.
To learn about your partner’s attachment style, or how to identify the attachment style of a potential partner, check out the book, Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find — and Keep — Love.
Now, why aren’t there any good men/women out there?The simple answer is that the avoidants are in fewer relationships, which don’t last as long as those of people who are secure or anxious. That is, they’re on the dating scene more often and longer than the people with whom who you’d actually want to be in a relationship. They are overrepresented in the dating pool.
The good news in all of this is that attachment style is “stable but plastic”, that is, it can change over time. In fact, the book’s authors say that about a quarter of people will change their style in 4 years. So, with some conscious choices in both your behavior and your partner, you can become securely attached, and at peace with your relationship.
Hollis Polk is a personal coach (www.888-4-hollis.com), who has been helping people create lives they love for 15 years, using neurolinguistic & hypnotherapy techniques, decision science, clairvoyance & the common sense learned in 20+ years of business. She is an NLP Master Practitioner, hypnotherapist & has a BSE in engineering from Princeton & a Harvard MBA. She is also a successful real estate broker, investor & business owner.