Imagine that you’re on your way to the airport. You’ve been in a cab for just twenty minutes when you get a text from your partner: “Did you get there okay? Will you call me when you land? I miss you already!” You ignore it, thinking, “Ugh, so needy. Didn’t I just leave the house?” Or maybe you’re the one sending the texts. You don’t hear back and you think, “That’s so inconsiderate! How much effort does it really take to text back? I shouldn’t have to put up with this!” By the time you finally do get a call, you’re ready to explode.
Know Your (and Your Partner’s) Attachment Style How comfortable each of us feels with intimacy and independence in relationships is what psychologists call our “attachment style.” It’s essentially our way of relating to other people and it affects all of our relationships—from work and family to friends and flings.There are two basic ways of being attached to others: securely and insecurely.
People who are securely attached are warm and loving, happy to be close but comfortable being alone. They’re rarely bothered by the little frustrations that might get under someone else’s skin and they’re harder to offend or upset.
The majority of people—about 60 percent—are secure. “It’s a silent majority,” says Amir Levine, M.D., psychiatrist and author of “Attached.” He explains that you rarely hear a peep from people in a secure relationship—they just go about their business. Not so for insecure couples, where friends and strangers hear about every fight, email, worry and text. “They’re a louder minority,” he says.
Insecurity comes in two basic flavors: anxiety and avoidance. You might be mostly anxious (known as preoccupied attachment, if you take our Close Relationships Quiz), mostly avoidant (dismissing attachment), or a combination of both (fearful attachment).Anxious people worry about others leaving and try to pull them closer. They’re extremely perceptive, but tend to jump to conclusions, often imagining stories about why someone else did what they did.
Avoidant people are the opposite. They’re scared of getting close to others and tend to keep them at arms’ length. They feel easily smothered and are quick to assume that others are being hostile. Their approach is often glorified as independence, but Levine says that’s masking a deeper fear: “Their defensive approach is not coming from a place of strength.”
A secure person can actually help others become more secure. “They’re like the superstars of relationships,” says Levine. By providing a warm, loving presence with no strings attached, the relationship becomes less threatening.The key for an insecure person is learning to do what the secure person does.
Tap Into a “Secure Mindset” Imagine that you and your partner are on a romantic vacation in Paris. It’s dusk and the city is lit up beautifully, the lights reflecting in the Seine as you stroll by. Your partner is walking several paces ahead of you (an avoidant effort to get away from the intimacy of a stroll in the City of Lights). Levine explains that an anxious person would respond by thinking, “I can’t believe this. I didn’t come all the way to France for him to act like he doesn’t know me! What kind of life is this? I deserve better!” By the time you get back to the hotel, that anger has reached a boiling point.