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  • Writer's pictureElise Braunschweiger

Attachment Theory

Updated: May 14

How To Hack Relationship Science To Date More Efficiently

Attachment Theory is a psychological concept which relates how we were treated by our caregivers early on in development to the way that we move through and process our relationships for the rest of our life. While some parts of attachment theory remain controversial (we can’t blame our moms for everything!), it can be an immensely helpful framework for understanding your own relationship pain points and strategies for overcoming them.

If you feel like you consistently pick the wrong person to invest your time and energy into, this article is for you. 

Understanding our own attachment style can provide highly valuable insight into our dating and emotional patterns, as well as why pursuing certain types of people will likely never result in a committed relationship. Read below to learn more about the history of this research, the different attachment styles, and why, as behavioral scientist Logan Ury says, securely attached people are the unsung “heroes of the dating world.” 

Attachment Theory was founded between the 1930s and 1970s through a combined effort by John Bolby and Mary Salter Ainsworth. Bolby crafted the initial framework for Attachment Theory in the 1930s by studying the impact of maternal absence on personality development, while Ainsworth went on to continue and refine his work. In the 1970s, she completed a groundbreaking and well known study called the “Strange Situation” study, from which we derived the terms used today to describe the four types of attachment styles. 

Big picture - the theory suggests that a child’s early experiences forming emotional bonds with their caregivers will significantly affect the blueprint for how they form and maintain relationships long-term, typically falling into one of four categories of attachment style - 

  • Anxious: People who are anxiously attached deeply fear abandonment. Often possessing a negative self-image, anxiously attached individuals can be clingy, demanding, and desperate for reassurance in their romantic relationships. They highly value their relationships and are often sensitive towards any perceived threat. Anxiously attached people often worry that they’re more invested in the relationship than their partner. (I bet you have someone in mind that matches this description!)

  • Avoidant: Those who are avoidant in their attachment style typically foster a high level of independence and self-sufficiency, particularly on an emotional level. They do not want to be dependent on others and they often feel claustrophobic if someone becomes dependent on them. Many avoidant people avoid intimacy and emotional closeness, ultimately leaving them to experience high turnover in relationships (because most of us still want to be loved, even if getting close can feel uncomfortable, vulnerable, and unsafe). People in this category avoid feelings of vulnerability to protect themselves from getting hurt.

  • Disorganized: People who have a disorganized attachment style oscillate between both anxious and avoidant attachment styles, depending on a variety of factors (mood, mental health, partnership, etc). Typically associated with inconsistent caregiver behavior early on, people who are disorganized in their attachment may struggle with identifying and regulating their emotions and may be unpredictable in their social and emotional behavior. 

  • Secure: Whilst the other three categories of attachment style are insecure, in contrast the secure attachment style feels they can depend on their partners and allow their partners to depend on them. A relationship with them is likely based on honesty and trust, and they seem to naturally assume positive intent from their partners. Those who are securely attached are significantly more likely to have thriving, satisfying romantic relationships. Logan Ury, behavioral scientist and Director of Relationship Science at Hinge, calls them the “heroes of the relationship world.”

In consideration of the above, take a moment to reflect on your own relationships and attachment style.

Understanding our own attachment tendencies can bring significant insight into the reasons why our past relationships haven’t worked.

One way to “hack” this information to date more efficiently is to consider who might be incompatible with your attachment style, a classic example being that of the Anxious-Avoidant Cycle (a combination that typically brings out the worst in each other). If you crave intimacy and emotional closeness to feel more secure, you won’t likely be compatible long-term with someone who avoids vulnerability.

Another method of “hacking” your attachment style is to actively incorporate disconfirming evidence into your narrative about the other person. If you’re anxious and feel worried that he’s losing interest, ground yourself in the objective facts available which show otherwise. If you’re feeling claustrophobic and like your newfound love interest is getting clingy too soon, remind yourself that it’s normal for people to want to progress a seemingly positive relationship and actively work to internally highlight the reasons you’ve enjoyed their company thus far. We can intentionally increase awareness around positive partner traits in order to combat our insecure attachment styles.

Overcoming the barriers faced by our own individual attachment style, and the way it manifests in our relationships, can be difficult to do on our own. As an experienced matchmaker, dating coach, and relationship expert, I’d welcome the opportunity to assist in formulating a plan so you feel less stuck and more empowered while dating.  You can sign up for my newsletter here for free tips and advice, and you can schedule a free consultation with me here.

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