“I have a type: a**holes. I keep dating a**holes,” said Maggie*, 31.
“I keep dating losers that I have to ‘mother,’” sighed Kate, 27.
“I keep dating guys with commitment issues,” complained Becky, 38.
Sound familiar? “If you seem to have an endless string of failed relationships, then you’ve got to try to figure out why is it [not working out]?” asks Rachel Sussman, couples counselor and author of “The Breakup Bible.”
Understanding Your Attachment Style
Your attachment style is based on the way you bonded with your parents or caregiver back when you were a baby. This bonding evolved into three kinds of attachment styles: secure, avoidant and anxious. (There’s a fourth type, fearful, that’s a combination of avoidant and anxious, but we’ll stick to the basics here.)
People with a secure attachment style often give their significant other what they need before they even have to ask because they’re attentive and caring. And the good news is, they’re the majority at roughly 60 percent of people.
It’s no surprise that people who are avoidant say they want a relationship, but when they actually get close to someone, they freak out and keep whomever they’re dating at arms length—or in our modern times, make them wait a week before they text again. “They think the problem is that they haven’t found the one and that they will be willing to settle down when they find the right person, even though they’ve been single for forty years!” says Dr. Levine, describing a common form of avoidant behavior.
Last but not least, anxious people love closeness so much they’re often obsessed and emotional about every detail of their relationships. Or as Dr. Levine puts it, “they have a very sensitive radar screen.” People who are anxious crave being in a deeply committed relationship.
But like doesn’t always fall for like and in many cases, opposites attachment styles attract. Researchers have found that avoidant individuals are often drawn to anxiously attached people, particularly in the anxious female/avoidant male combination. Hence the common laments: “Why does every guy I date turn out to be an emotionally unavailable douche bag?” and “Why is every girl so clingy?”
Attachment styles may also partly account for the saying that “nice guys finish last.” Dr. Levine blames part of the problem on avoidant behavior being seen as a manly trait—in other words, the idealized stone-cold cowboy in a movie who stares far off into the distance, stoic and emotionless—rather than the secure, emotionally available, relationship-oriented guy.
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