Is My Partner Right For Me? Understanding Compatibility
Find out your attachment style to improve the types of relationships you seek
When I work with a new client, one of the first things I help them determine is their attachment style. Your attachment style is determined by your relationship with your early caregivers, and it affects your relationships as an adult. In particular, your attachment style affects your love relationships and dating style. Knowing your attachment style is priceless when it comes to making changes in how you approach dating and relationships. It's also super helpful to learn about the attachment style of the person you are involved with if you are dating someone or in a relationship. Your attachment style is not something that you consciously choose, it’s how you adapted to your childhood.
Types of attachment style
Attachment styles are a huge area of research, but I’ll do my best to give a brief summary here:
- If your caregivers were consistently available for you, you most likely have a Secure Attachment Style. Those who were lucky enough to develop Secure Attachment find it easy to give and receive love. You may need some help getting clear on what you want in a partner, or recovering from a past relationship, or maybe you need help developing your dating skills. Once you find someone who is a good match, you will be able to have clear boundaries balanced by an open heart.
- If your caregivers were inconsistent in their availability, you might have developed an Ambivalent/Anxious Attachment Style. Those with an Ambivalent/Anxious Attachment Style find it hard to trust that love will stick around, and can be chronically dissatisfied in relationships. You may find yourself dating unavailable partners over and over again, getting stuck in a loop of longing and disappointment. It is easy for you to really want someone and to focus all your energy on them very quickly. It’s important for you to keep your options open until the relationship is clearly moving forward, to set good boundaries with your dates, and to learn to allow into your life only potential partners who are actually available..
- If your caregivers were emotionally unavailable, insensitive, or abusive, you may have developed an Avoidant Attachment Style. Those who have an Avoidant Attachment Style find it hard to feel their emotions and connect with others. When it comes to dating, you may find that it’s hard to hold on to your desire to have a partner, and it’s probably a challenge to consistently put energy into dating. You may feel smothered and fearful when someone tries to get ‘too close’ or wants to move ‘too fast’ in the relationship..
If you want to dive deeper into this topic, here are two great resources:
Here is a short quiz on attachment styles by Dr. Amir Levin and Rachel Heller. They have both a quiz you can take about yourself and a quiz you can take about the person you are involved with (if you are dating someone). You can take it for free on their website by following this link.
I recommend this book to both clients and friends, and everyone comes back and raves about it. It’s called Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find-And Keep-Love.
Whatever you learn about yourself and your attachment style, don’t despair! We are always growing and changing, and you are not doomed to stay stuck in old patterns.
You can change your attachment style with healthy adult relationships - with close friends, a good therapist, or a healthy partnership. All secure attachments are going to help you develop new ways of being in a relationship, and you can increase your ability to thrive and relax into a loving partnership (if that is your goal).