You’ve heard it all before. She’s a Capulet and he’s a Montague. He’s a Cancer and she’s an Aquarius. The doomed star crossed lovers, battling against the qualms of society for their love. The idea of an expectation-shattering love that prevails through all odds is heavily glorified by television dramas, books, and more… Although it is widely believed that true love can overcome anything, what if there was scientific reasoning that predisposes some love stories to failure?
Psychological Attachment Theory
One scientific theory attributed to why some individuals are simply not compatible is the scientific attachment theory. Dr. Amir Levine and Rachel S.F Heller provide an exemplary explanation of attachment theory in Attached: Are you Anxious, Avoidant, or Secure? The attachment theory, according to Dr. Amir Levine and Rachel S.F. Heller, explains that there are three different types of attachment that adults can have within their relationships. These attachment styles can be influenced by a variety of factors such as upbringing but also genetics.
Firstly, an anxious attachment style describes those who feel more dependent on their partners and are more inclined to be insecure about their partners’ feelings towards them. Those with avoidant attachment styles, seemingly opposite of those with anxious attachment styles, tend to feel trapped or overwhelmed by their partners and often seek distance. It has been found that these attachment styles do not complement eachother or themselves, and can make it very difficult for partners to coexist in healthy relationships with one another.
Like oil and water, anxious and avoidant attachment don’t like to mix. As anxious partners often feel afraid of losing their avoidant partner, they look for excess affirmation, using methods that often fluster and disrespect their partner. These tactics can be defined as protest behavior. Protest behavior is an often subconsciously motivated strategy to seek reassurance or get attention from their partner. Examples of protest behavior can include leaving excessive phone calls or text messages, withdrawing from a partner, acting hostile, and generally disrespecting a partner's boundaries. This behavior can make avoidant partners feel trapped, influencing them to look for escapes from their partners. This search for an escape in turn can instill more insecurities into the anxious partner, causing the anxious partner to engage in more protest behavior, and the cycle continues. This relationship pattern can create an unhealthy, and unhappy relationship for both partners.
Even those with matching insecure attachment styles are subject to relationship issues. Two partners with avoidant attachment styles often aid in the perpetuation of each other's distant behavior, both avoiding the closeness intimacy needed for a strong relationship to flourish. With both partners focusing on their independence rather than fostering closeness with their partner, these relationships often fizzle out. Interestingly, many individuals with anxious attachment styles find themselves less attracted to other anxious individuals. It has been found that adults with anxious attachment styles are afraid of losing a partner’s love within romantic relationships, and tend to subconsciously seek partners who fit this definition of love. As they expect love to cause feelings of anxiety, they often will find themselves in relationships that are deemed to be riskier, involving themselves with those who avoid giving love. This may seem counterproductive, but it is because anxious individuals often associate love with insecurity, that they subconsciously search for partners that perpetuate this idea, mirroring past relationships in which they felt love. As anxious individuals do not fear losing other anxious individuals, they often cannot consider themselves to be “in love” with other anxious individuals.
So What Is The Solace?
You’re probably wondering by now how you’re supposed to find love under these circumstances. Is everyone so incompatible with one another? And is there truly someone who is scientifically likely to compliment you best? These questions can be answered by the third style of attachment. In contrast to the forms of insecure attachment, are those with secure attachment styles. Adults with secure attachment are attentive to their partners' needs, finding ways to provide for their partners and feel confident in their relationships. These adults tend to have higher self-esteem, enjoy emotional intimacy, and are effectively able to communicate their needs and feelings within a relationship. Additionally, secure individuals are comfortable being vulnerable and make an effort to have a mutual understanding of one another in relationships. As these partners are not insecure, they have a great deal of trust in their partners and themselves. This allows them to emotionally commit to relationships without overwhelming their partners. It would then make sense that they are proven to be better long-term partners, as relationships with at least one secure partner tend to last longer.
Tips for Finding and Keeping Love
Dr. Levine recommends that the first step in finding your ideal partner is understanding your personal attachment style. There are many online resources available that can aid in determining this. Once you better understand your own attachment style and the traits that align with it, you can better adjust to how you engage with partners. Recognize that if you have an insecure attachment style, you may be more prone to certain behavior. Watch out for unwanted behaviors associated with your attachment style such as distancing yourself or disrespecting your partner's boundaries. This will allow you to change your behavior to better suit your partners’ needs.
After better understanding yourself, you can apply your learning of attachment theory to your surroundings. Looking for those with more secure attachment styles will aid in finding a longer-lasting, healthier relationship. Remember that key indicators of these individuals are characteristics such as openness, empathy, honesty, trust, and being comfortable with commitment. While these may already seem to be obvious as attractive qualities in an individual, there is a reason that these qualities seem so attractive. These qualities indicate that an individual is secure— they are ready to meet your needs and voice their own.
Lastly, it is important to note that people often subconsciously look for individuals that do not reflect these qualities. What may seem attractive on paper is different than what people need to reaffirm their ideals of love. As aforementioned, anxiously attached individuals may believe they search for emotionally intimate partners but often find themselves attracted to individuals who deepen their insecurities. As anxious individuals are used to feeling insecure when they experience love, they often associate the two feelings together and may unknowingly look for partners who make them feel more anxious. This is why it is important to reflect on why you are attracted to someone and ponder what characteristics you have been subconsciously searching for. Are you attracted to someone who is truly good for you? Or are you attracted to someone because they perpetuate your view of love?
Edited by Ahlem Mahdhi
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