Whether you’re a clingy girlfriend, a clingy friend or have a phobia of commitment, psychologists Dr Amir Levine and Rachel Heller reckon they can help you build a secure relationship
Research about relationships, and how we form and behave in them (called attachment theory), shows that pretty much everyone falls into one of three categories: anxious, avoidant or secure. Here’s the breakdown: about 20 per cent of people are anxious, roughly 25 per cent fall into the avoidant camp and the remainder are considered secure, according to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Life experiences and genes play a role in how you form love connections, but your romantic MO mostly stems from your childhood. Yep, the way you learned to bond with your parents as a baby follows you into adulthood, affecting your romantic relationships which also, in turn, continue to shape your attachment style. Identifying your attachment style (and your partner’s) can give you the information you need to move into the secure group – and if you’re already there, realising it can help make your relationship even stronger.
People who have an anxious attachment style crave intimacy and closeness. They love being coupled up, but they also consider relationships fragile and are sensitive to even minor shifts in their partner’s mood.
If you’re anxious, little things your partner may do, such as not calling when they said they would, leave you feeling vulnerable and insecure. But because anxious people generally have a harder time telling someone what they want, you’re more likely to mope, withdraw or even lash out. You ignore the calls you were so anxiously awaiting, or flirt with others to make your boyfriend jealous. This method of reacting doesn’t bode well for creating the communicative, stable relationship you need to feel secure.
YOUR STRATEGY Speak up! When your partner says or does something that triggers insecurity, such as opting for a blokes’ night out when you were hoping for cosy lounge time together, take a deep breath and stop yourself from picking a fight or retreating. Then communicate how you feel rather than expecting him to read your mind. If you voice your needs in a calm, clear way, he will probably respond by being more available to you. Of course, this can be tricky if you’re partnered up with an avoidant (studies show that anxious and avoidant types are often drawn to each other because they validate each other’s fears). But the confidence and empowerment that comes from asserting yourself can help you feel more secure and emotionally suited to deal with an avoidant partner.
These evasive types tend to run hot and cold. You may miss your husband while he’s away, but then feel the need to do your own thing after the two of you have spent some time together. That’s because avoidants equate intimacy with being stripped of their prized independence. When people in this category sense that someone is getting too close, they can feel uncomfortable or suffocated. Although avoidants might seem to be prime candidates for eternal singlehood, they do crave intimacy beneath it all. But to protect themselves from potential heartbreak, they often repress those feelings and create distance between themselves and their partner. For example, if you’re avoidant you may feel annoyed or even angry if your boyfriend seems “needy” and opt to keep him at arm’s length. Or you may fixate on small flaws, like how your significant other chews or dresses, and allow those minor imperfections to mute your romantic feelings. These tendencies make it nearly impossible to achieve and enjoy real closeness.
YOUR STRATEGY Whenever your partner annoys you or makes you feel claustrophobic, ask yourself if this is really more about your need for space than it is about his doing anything wrong? If that’s the case, resist the urge to get all snippy at them and remind yourself that you really care about this person.
If you feel the need to bolt, find a way to get your me-time while still being sensitive to his feelings (like, say, spending the night with him, then meeting up with friends for brunch the next day). And as dicey as it sounds, you have to explain your issues: it’s important to underscore that your occasional space craving isn’t a reflection of your feelings for him; it’s a personal need you have in any relationship. Having this insight will help him feel more comfortable with the situation, especially if he’s an anxious type who requires extra affirmation.
Dependable and loving? You got it. Comfortable with intimacy? Totally. Trusting and open? Yep. People who fall into the secure category are reliable, relationship-oriented and total pros at communicating what they want as well as responding to their partner’s needs. When disagreements do crop up, secure people tend to stay calm and are ready to talk things out.YOUR STRATEGY When it comes to love, you’re pretty golden: you already get that it’s crucial to be straightforward about what you want while being sensitive to your partner’s feelings. Got an anxious fella? Be receptive to his desire for security and allay his fears when he seems to be second-guessing or smothering you. If your husband is the type to clam up and keep you at a comfortable distance, talk to him about how you can give him the space he may not even realise he wants. Once you get him talking openly, you’ll be headed towards a stellar relationship.
(Quickly) suss out his love style If he’s ANXIOUS he…
… expects you to mind read
He waits for you to pick up on clues that he’s upset, instead of telling you what’s up.... suspects that you’re cheating
He’ll sneak peeks at your texts or Facebook page, fearing that you’re hooking up with someone else.... is fixated on the relationship
He gets in touch several times a day. If you’re out with friends, he’ll text to “check up” on youIf he’s SECURE he…
… is reliable and consistent
No game playing here. He calls when he says he’ll call, and does what he says he’ll do.… communicates
He makes you feel comfortable enough to bring up difficult issues and is willing to have serious talks about your relationship and where it’s headed.… creates genuine closeness
He reassures you that he’s always going to be there for you and tells you how much you mean to him.If he’s AVOIDANT he…
... sends mixed signals
Even if you’re in a serious relationship, there may be some question marks. Eg, he’ll talk about moving in together, but then act all noncommittal when you suggest flat hunting.… distances himself
He prefers to do things on his own. When he takes a holiday, it’s by himself or with his mates, and he tends to walk a stride ahead of you.…doesn’t communicate
He makes you feel uncomfortable if you ask where the relationship is headed, and certain topics are totally off-limits.