Secure Attachment: Relationships That Last

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Attached" by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Are you in a secure attachment relationship? How can you learn to become a secure attacher? What are the dangers of being a secure attacher?

Ober half of the population are secure attachers, meaning they are dependable and responsive partners. Secure attachers even have the ability to change an anxious or avoidant partner into a secure attacher as well. However, sometimes secure attachers have trouble recognizing when a relationship is toxic.

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about secure attachment relationships.

Your Life as a Secure Attacher

If you’re currently looking for love, remember this happy statistic: More than half of the population are “super mates” who will provide a secure attachment relationship. These dependable partners use effective communication to get their needs met without putting others on the defensive. They pay attention to their partner’s needs and can easily respond to them. They have a natural gift for easing others’ emotional and physical worries.

The research: A secure attachment style is the single best predictor of happiness in any relationship. When both partners have a secure attachment style, they report high levels of fulfillment, commitment, and trust. Even when a secure partner is paired with an anxious or avoidant partner, both partners tend to report satisfaction with their relationship. The secure partner creates a buffering effect by bringing out the best in their anxious or avoidant partner. 

How Secure Attachers React to Their Partners

Secure attachers come in all ages, genders, shapes, and sizes, but they have a few things in common: Other people, including potential romantic partners, aren’t threatening to them. They are predisposed to expect their partners to love them, so they don’t worry much about the relationship falling apart. They are comfortable being close and intimate, and they’re able to keep their emotions fairly steady even when faced with adversity. 

If you’re a secure attacher, you experience the following fairly often: 

  • You communicate openly and honestly about your needs starting from the first date. 
  • You recognize avoidant or anxious behavior early. You tend to ward off these people quickly so you can focus on dating potential partners who are secure.
  • You embrace the idea that the world contains an abundance of great potential partners for you. 
  • You go into every date fully expecting to be treated with respect, dignity, and kindness. 
  • If a potential partner behaves offensively, you don’t take it personally. (Secure attachers understand that another person’s bad behavior is merely a reflection of them.)

How to Find a Secure Partner 

Given how secure attachers behave, it’s not surprising that they tend to be very good at picking partners who share the same secure style. By focusing only on potential partners who can meet their emotional needs, they often wind up with fulfilling, long-lasting relationships. 

For everybody else, there’s good news: Even if you don’t naturally have a secure attachment style, you can take a few lessons from those who do. If you’re trying to find a romantic partner, adopt the behaviors and attitudes of a secure attacher (in other words, follow the guidelines in the bullet list above).  

How to Make Your Partner Feel Secure

Even if you’re an anxious or avoidant attacher, you can adopt the behaviors of a secure attacher for your partner’s benefit (no matter what their attachment style is).

The research: A study out of Carnegie Mellon University found that three specific behaviors are required to create a secure base for your partner. If you want to provide a secure base for your partner, focus on adopting these behaviors: 

  • Be there when they need you. Make yourself available and respond sensitively to their needs. In times of stress, offer comfort. 
  • Don’t undermine their confidence. Make sure that the support you’re offering is behind the scenes. Don’t take over their problems or undermine their power to solve them. Support them without micromanaging, so you don’t crush their self-esteem.  
  • Encourage them to flourish. Cheer them on to learn and grow; support their efforts toward personal growth. 

When Secure Attachment Goes Awry 

It might seem like people who are secure attachers have a guarantee of rosy relationships, but that’s not always the case. While it’s true that secure attachers can often transform anxious or even avoidant people into stable, happy partners, sometimes despite their best efforts, they can’t. 

Secure attachers who are in long-term relationships may have a difficult time knowing when the relationship is bad enough that it’s time to cut the cord. Why? Secure attachers feel responsible for taking care of their partners, so they’re more likely to keep giving them second, third, and fifth chances when it might be better to end the relationship. 

When Secure Attachers Should End Their Relationships

If you’re a secure attacher, don’t let that mean you’re stuck forever in an unhealthy relationship. Having a secure attachment system is a precious gift—one that shouldn’t be squandered. Just because you can “get along” with your partner—no matter how difficult he or she has become—doesn’t mean you should. 

Here are two red flags that may indicate it’s time to end the relationship: 

  • If you’re normally a secure partner, but you start to find yourself feeling anxious, jealous, worried, or nervous about your relationship. 
  • If you catch yourself not speaking up about your feelings or starting to play emotional games with your partner. 
Secure Attachment: Relationships That Last

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  • Why your partner behaves the way they do
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Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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