The topic of attachment styles always make me think of the episode of The Simpsons where Marge kicks Homer out for revealing scandalous details about their relationship. After some macho bravado (“Oh, fine. If that’s what you want, you’ve got it. This scene is gettin’ old, man. I’m hittin’ the road! Maybe I’ll drop you a line someday from wherever I end up in this crazy old world.”), we find Homer hiding out in the treehouse, hungry and disheveled, two days later. After trying to come up with a convincing reason as to why Marge should take him back, he comes to an epiphany: “I know now what I can offer you that no one else can – complete and utter dependence!”
Attachment style, in essence, refers to the manner in which we connect to others and conduct ourselves in relationships. Psychologists believe that the foundation for our attachment style as adults stems from our relationship with our caregiver(s). There are four main attachment styles:
1) Secure: Some with a secure attachment style is comfortable establishing close emotional bonds but is still able to maintain a sense of individuality and independence. This is considered the healthiest form of attachment.
2) Anxious-Ambivalent: People with this attachment style are fearful of being rejected or abandoned, so they respond by clinging to a partner.
3) Dismissive-Avoidant: These are people who are not afraid of being abandoned or rejected – it’s actually the least of their worries. What does bother them is when people becoming too attached to them. They have little desire to develop a close bond with others.
4) Fearful-Avoidant: A bit of an oxymoron, these are people who are fearful of being rejected or abandoned by others, so they respond by distancing themselves emotionally and perhaps even physically. It’s the “I want you, but I don’t want you to know how much I want you, even though I really want you.”
In addition to the four standard attachment styles, we included the following two styles in our Relationship Attachment Test: Dependent and Co-Dependent. The former describes individuals who take a submissive role in relationships and are entirely reliant on their partner to call the shots. The latter group is made up of people who are drawn to dependent individuals, or people who need to be “saved” (i.e. our Homer example). The co-dependents (i.e. Marge) become enablers, creating a vicious cycle of, basically, needing to be needed by someone needy.
Let’s put these styles into perspective. If we were to view each attachment style as a guest at a party, it would probably look something like this:
- The Secure type would be the host, catering confidently and compassionately to each guest.
- The Dismissive-Avoidant would be sitting away from the others, looking bored and gazing at his or her watch, deftly avoiding the Anxious-Ambivalent – who in turn would be hovering from guest to guest, yearning to strike up a conversation.
- The Fearful-Avoidant would be in a far corner observing, desperately wanting to join in the fun but worried about getting his or her hopes up.
- The Dependent would be gazing at the Co-Dependent for a look of approval, and carefully listening to every word of the latter’s advice about how to act, what to say, and what to eat…which the Co-Dependent will offer without needing to be asked.
While this may be a lighthearted way of looking at attachment styles, in reality, each style does have a significant impact on relationship satisfaction, and is often reflective of how we feel about ourselves. In essence, if you feel you have little to offer to someone, chances are that when you’re in a relationship, the bond you develop with this person will not be a healthy one.
After reviewing data from over 2,000 test-takers, Queendom’s study reveals that the majority of our sample (75%) was Securely-attached. This was followed by the Fearful-Avoidant attachment style (12%), Dismissive-Avoidant (6%), Anxious-Ambivalent (3%), Co-Dependent (3%), and Dependent (2%). When digging deeper however, we uncovered some pretty interesting results. For instance, while 75% of women were classified as Secure, the result for men was slightly lower at 69%, and at least 1% higher than women on the other five unhealthy styles, with Fearful-Avoidant coming in second at 14%.
Our theory is that men may be less comfortable revealing their feelings to a partner. This requires a great deal of vulnerability, which is something securely-attached people are comfortable with. Unfortunately, this type of intimacy, closeness, and bonding can be a bit difficult and uncomfortable for both genders, but perhaps more so for men. As one male friend put it to me, “Guys just don’t do that s**t. I’ll say ‘I love you’ and whatever, but I’m not going to break down and spill my guts or cry.”
Other interesting findings from Queendom’s relationship attachment study:
- 77% of people in a relationship have a Secure attachment style, compared to 74% of single people. The latter are slightly more likely to be Dismissive-Avoidant (6%) and Fearful Avoidant (14%).
- Of those who are satisfied with their relationship, 84% are securely attached, compared to 73% for those who are somewhat satisfied, and 63% for those who are not satisfied.
- 78% of those who consider their relationship stable and long-term have a Secure attachment style. Of those who did not consider their relationship stable and long-term and those who were unsure of the future of their relationship, 68% were Secure.
- Not surprisingly, self-esteem had a major impact on attachment style. Only 44% of people with low self-esteem had a Secure attachment style, compared to 75% of those in the mid-range, and 87% for those with high self-esteem. Our data also reveals that those with a Co-dependent attachment style had the lowest level of self-esteem, even less so than those with Dependent style.
- The level of self-esteem for Dismissive-Avoidant women was almost as high as the Secure women (77 vs. 83, on a scale from 0 to 100). Ditto for Dismissive-Avoidant men (71) and Secure men (79).
What is your attachment style? Share your comments below!
Join me for next week’s discussion social skills!