Why is it so hard to find a life partner? Why are dates often so disappointing? If you want to find your perfect match, you should use your head - as well as your heart. That's why it's worth understanding the connection between attachment styles and dating.
If you’ve ever stopped to ask yourself ‘Why don’t my dates work out?’ or wondered how you can feel more comfortable on a date, then rest assured - you are not alone. You may have noticed a consistent pattern of behaviour in your dealings with others – or simply don’t like any of your dates – but reassuringly, this may not be just a coincidence or down to bad luck.
The fact is, that we all have a responsibility to discover not only what we need from our own relationships, but how our dating behaviour might impact others, depending on compatibility and existing psychological dispositions.
A British scientist by the name of John Bowlby introduced the concept of attachment theory back in the 1950s, which suggests that there are three main ways that humans connect to each other when pursuing a partner for a relationship. These specific styles are developed in our youth, as a direct result of child development and parenting.
Let’s take a closer look at these distinctive behaviours and how yours can affect the way you relate – and date.
Known as one of the most common forms of attachment today, the secure approach is demonstrated by those who find making connections with others very easy. This type of person is open with their feelings and has no issues with expressing themselves freely, despite the risk of judgment. In relationships, the secure type seeks to attain long-lasting, deeper connections.
If you identify as secure, you may be less likely to adopt poor online behaviours such as ghosting. This is because your strengths include empathy, compassion and conscience, giving you the ability to consider how your actions affect others. It’s true that you may take longer to reply to messages, however – those who possess a secure attachment style are able to manage impulses and feelings – so they will rarely feel an ‘urgent’ need or pressure to provide responses in good time.
Secure people also tend to have high levels self-esteem and frequently show affection to those round them. It is important to remember that this can become intimidating to people with different attachment styles, who can develop feelings of unworthiness or paranoia when formed together as a couple.
Frequently referred to as ‘preoccupied’, the person who exhibits a more anxious style typically deals with low self-esteem and an overall negative outlook. Additionally, this individual usually has an internalised fear of rejection and abandonment that can manifest itself in relationships as clingy and cynical.
People with anxious attachment styles are much more likely to use filtered photos on dating apps, or falsely elaborate details on their profiles. This is because they might use the responses of others – especially members of the opposite sex or those whom they wish to attract - as a form of validation.
It is important to note that these people are also likely to experience heightened anxiety if they are subject to ghosting, or if there are delays when exchanging messages from potential matches. They have a fear of people not wanting to be with them – and often, of being alone – so may react very emotionally if they receive negative feedback, if a potential relationship doesn’t come into fruition, or a date is cancelled at the last minute. This can sometimes result in abrupt behaviours and rudeness, as an impulse reaction to the hurt or rejection they might be feeling.
If you think that you might possess some of these qualities yourself, or become involved with someone who might have an anxious attachment style, then all is not lost, by any means. These people also tend to devote themselves to their partners fully, are willing to work on relationships, and are highly attuned to the needs of others, once relationships are established.
Also referred to as ‘anxious-avoidant’, a person who demonstrates this attachment style is often seen as unenthusiastic and emotionally distant. In their personal lives, it may be more difficult for this individual to build and maintain healthy relationships, as emotional connectedness is the foundation by which strong partnerships are based.
There is also a sub-category of the Avoidant attachment type, known as ‘Fearful-Avoidant’. Often perceived as being disorganised, people who display this style most often have a history of being the victim of abuse, whether that be verbal, sexual, or physical, and this has often been experienced during their childhood. This approach manifests itself in relationships as being distrustful and behaving in an inconsistent manner.
People in these categories are likely to adopt online behaviours such as ghosting, or ‘zombieing’ – namely, people who ghost you, and then, after some time has passed, appear to ‘rise from the dead’ to make contact with you again. They’re also likely to avoid others altogether if something is upsetting them (even if they actually really do like you..) so it’s important to remember that, if you’re dating someone with an avoidant attachment style, their apparent distance may not be personal.
On the plus side, avoidant attachers are less needy and clingy with their partner; thus, they will be less demanding and suffocating within a relationship than other attachment styles. Of course, the attachment style of their partner will determine how they respond to this amount of space.
REDDI to meet your match?
Stacy Thomson, Founder of exclusive new dating platform, REDDI is using her passion and expertise as a clinician to revolutionise the way that people meet. She explains, “Regardless of what attachment style you currently have - it can change, depending your day to day experiences and relationships. People who fundamentally have a harder time connecting and maintaining healthy relationships can radically improve their behaviour, as well as their outcomes, by developing self-awareness and building knowledge of their potential compatibility with other attachment types. It is also important to recognise that whilst some relationships are more harmonious, others if less compatible relational wise, with work (both parties putting in the effort) it can still be a good relationship.