When it comes to the subject of love, you’ve probably been given a lot of romance advice typically telling you how you should act in a romantic relationship: Don’t be too needy, don’t get too jealous, and have a strong sense of independence from your partner.
But according to the book “Attached,” researchers Amir Levine and Rachel Heller say that none of this advice is actually “good advice.”
Levine and Heller say that you can listen to people who say things like this and always try to not feel jealous, to not get annoyed at every little thing your partner does, or not feel too needy, but we are who we are.
The explanation behind why we sometimes feel and behave this way lies in “attachment theory.”
Attachment theory is based on the idea that we’ve evolved to single out certain individuals in our lives and make them precious to us. And although we have a basic need to form these special bonds with individuals, the way we create these bonds vary.
According to attachment theory, everyone in our society, whether they have never dated someone before or have been married for 50 years, fall into one of three attachment styles: secure, anxious or avoidant.
About 50% of people in the world are secure. Around 20-22% are anxious. 25% are avoidant. And the remaining 3-5% are a rare combination of anxious and avoidant.
None of these attachment styles are labeled “healthy” or “unhealthy.” They’re simply a style of how you act in romantic relationships. They’re not a judgment.
People with a secure attachment style typically feel comfortable with intimacy and are usually warm and loving.
If you’re secure, you’re pretty straightforward, you don’t play games, and you’re not overly dramatic.
People with an anxious attachment style generally crave intimacy. They’re often preoccupied with their relationship and tend to worry about their partner’s ability to love them back.
If you’re anxious, you withdraw during conflict, you get jealous and worried easily, and you may act busy when you’re not.
People with an avoidant attachment style equate intimacy with a loss of independence and they constantly try to minimize closeness.
If you’re avoidant, you might feel that you’re not ready to commit, you focus on small imperfections in your partner, and you notice when people try to infringe on your independence.
People with an avoidant attachment style tend to think that being in a relationship will “tie them down” in the pursuit of their goals.
What to do if you’re anxious or avoidant
Each of these attachment styles exist for a reason, meaning the way you act in your romantic relationships, whether you need your space or you need closeness in your relationships, you act that way for a specific reason.
But even though each of these three attachment styles exist for a reason, they can still negatively affect your happiness if you’re not able to identify them.
If you have an anxious attachment style, you will naturally pull towards the avoidant, but someone with an avoidant attachment style is the worst person you could ever date if you’re anxious because the anxious partner will want intimacy while the avoidant partner will want space.
If you’re anxious, you’re better off with someone who’s secure.
In fact, in every relationship there should be at least one person with a secure attachment style.
If you’re someone with an anxious attachment style, stop thinking that you shouldn’t be needy. There’s nothing wrong with being needy. The key is to find someone with a secure attachment style because the secure person will be able to handle you being needy, and the relationship will be healthy.
Researchers actually found that the happiest relationships were relationships where both people were secure.
Interestingly though, they also found that relationships where only one person was secure were just as happy as relationships where both people were secure.
This is very important because this means that if you’re not secure, you should aim to be with someone who is.
Now although we’re programmed to act in a predetermined manner within our romantic relationships, Levine and Heller do say that this does not mean you’re a slave to your DNA. You can always learn to change the parts of your attachment style that don’t serve you well.
Being able to understand attachment theory and being able to identify the three attachment styles is an easy and dependable way to understanding and predicting people’s behavior in any romantic situation. Not being able to identify them can negatively affect your happiness.
If you want to find out what you or your partner’s attachment style is, you can take the attachment theory test here.