Based on our early childhood experiences with our caregivers, we theoretically form one of three unique attachment styles: secure, anxious, or avoidant. These attachment styles directly impact the manner in which we seek out and bond with romantic partners.
Although, there is no definite way to determine another person’s attachment style at a glance, there are certain clues you can look out for – some of which you can even pick up on a first date. The following are three indicators which can be useful in figuring out another person’s attachment style.
1. The structure of early conversations
First dates usually consist of a lot of conversation, which is great because it gives you the opportunity to observe the way a person relates to other people. If you listen closely you can pick up on signals indicating whether the person is secure (comfortable with intimacy and trusting of others), anxious (requires continual reassurance and craves intimacy) or avoidant (gravitates towards independence).
People with secure attachment styles tend to feel comfortable talking about a wide variety of topics. They are usually relaxed, pleasant and conversation flows easily.
People with an avoidant attachment style tend to avoid talking about feelings and intimacy and try to focus on more external topics such as their job, tv shows, the news, etc.
It can sometimes be challenging distinguishing if someone has either a secure or anxious attachment style based on early conversations. This is because an anxious person, fearing rejection and wanting to please, will sometimes present as funny and interested in the other person. Basically, they may appear to be confident and engaging, similar to a secure individual but they’re doing it for different reasons.
2. How much do they self-disclose?
Avoidants tend to not talk about the more personal, private topics in life, especially with a virtual stranger. Generally, they disclose very little about who they are beneath the surface, and consciously or not, convey that they don’t need a partner (although they may actually want one).
Anxious people tend to disclose too much too soon, usually way before the other person is ready for that level of closeness. They do this because they are attempting to quickly establish intimacy with the other person in order to regulate their anxiety and feel an interpersonal connection, albeit long before any has actually been made. This is why anxious attachers may appear needy and overeager.
Secure people are able to find the happy medium between these two extremes. They’re able to comfortably disclose a situationally appropriate amount of personal information without going overboard. They find relationships to be an enhancement to their lives rather than a threat to their independence.
3. Personal dating history
People with secure attachment styles tend to be comfortable and at ease whether they are in a relationship or not. If your date discloses that they have had a few periods of being in serious relationships along with considerable amounts of time being single, this could be a good indication that they are secure.
People with anxious attachment styles, on the other hand, because they yearn for intimacy and feel incomplete without human connection, will often have dating histories made up of a continuous series of relationships dating back to their adolescence. They’re what people refer to as serial monogamists.
Conversely, if your date has reached adulthood and hasn’t had one serious relationship, that may be a sign they’re an avoidant. Another sign of avoidance may be discussing a large circle of acquaintances but not indicating a close bond with anyone in that group.
Which attachment styles make good couples?
As you can imagine, having a secure attachment style comes with its advantages. You have the potential to enjoy a successful relationship with any of the attachment styles. If you pair up with another secure person, both of you will contribute to the stability of the relationship. If a secure pairs up with an anxious or avoidant, the secure can help bring stability to the relationship by understanding the attachment needs of their partner. In fact, over time, a secure partner can help an anxious or avoidant become more secure, as well.
It’s possible for an anxious-anxious pairing to work also. However, there is a strong probability for them to become highly dependent on each other. Being aware of one’s attachment style provides you the opportunity to recognize these relationship pitfalls and make the necessary adjustments when they first crop up.
An avoidant-avoidant match can also work under the right circumstances. However, the danger is that when a potentially healthy relationship hits a rough patch, both parties are more likely to call it quits rather than sticking around and trying to work it out.
The most problematic pairing tends to be anxious-avoidant. Each partner requires a different degree of intimacy and closeness. The anxious tries to pull the other in while the avoidant is busy trying to get away. When their attachment needs are not being met they respond in opposite ways. This behavioral dissonance places a large amount of stress on the relationship.
There is no attachment style pairing that absolutely cannot work. Even the most challenging matches are capable of forming a secure, harmonious bond. When both individuals are aware of their and their partner’s attachment needs and make a conscious effort to understand and support each other, love can grow. If you’re curious about how we work or simply need some more advice about love and relationships, get in touch with us today