Attachment Styles and Dating: Things to Keep in Mind

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "How to Not Die Alone" by Logan Ury. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What exactly are attachment styles in psychology? How does your attachment style influence your dating life?

Attachment styles are the beliefs and behaviors that determine how you function in intimate relationships. Your attachment style is the key to understanding the ways you could be sabotaging your attempts to find true love.

Here are some things to keep in mind about attachment styles and dating.

The 3 Attachment Styles

People fall into one of three dating attachment styles:

  • Anxious attachers are preoccupied with making their relationship solid and constantly seek reassurance from their partner.
  • Avoidant attachers don’t trust that others can meet their desire for intimacy, so they strive to maintain emotional distance from their partner.
  • Secure attachers are nurturing, responsive, and comfortable with intimacy.
Perspectives on Attachment Styles and Dating

Ury focuses exclusively on secure, anxious, and avoidant attachers, but not everybody agrees on the names of the attachment styles nor their number. While secure is a universal term, anxious attachment is also known as anxious-preoccupied attachment, and avoidant attachment is also known as dismissive-avoidant attachment

Moreover, some psychologists suggest a fourth attachment style: fearful-avoidant. People with this attachment strive to maintain emotional distance from their partner—but unlike their dismissive counterparts, who view themselves positively, they have a negative self-image that often causes turmoil. For example, they might create drama if dating a secure partner because they don’t trust that the relationship can be happy. 

If you’re an anxious or avoidant attacher, Ury recommends two strategies to ensure that your attachment style doesn’t sabotage your dating life. First, date secure attachers, who are better able to meet your intimacy needs. Second, practice managing your knee-jerk reactions in pursuit of happiness. Instead of panicking, anxious attachers should learn productive ways to soothe their nerves when their partners don’t provide immediate reassurance. Instead of withdrawing, avoidant attachers should learn to communicate when they want emotional distance. 

(Shortform note: How exactly can you date secure attachers, learn productive ways to soothe your nerves, or communicate that you want emotional distance? To date secure attachers, look for people who fit the acronym CARRP: Secure attachers tend to be consistent, available, reliable, responsive, and predictable. To soothe your nerves, think of a calming image and take deep breaths to help you focus on it. And when you tell your partner you need some distance, also telling them how important they are to you can soften the blow.) 

Attachment Styles and Dating: Things to Keep in Mind

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Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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