Table of Contents
INTRODUCTION - The New Science of Adult Attachment
Chapter 1. - Decoding Relationship Behavior
Chapter 2. - Dependency Is Not a Bad Word
PART ONE - Your Relationship Toolkit—Deciphering Attachment Styles
Chapter 3. - Step One: What Is My Attachment Style?
Chapter 4. - Step Two: Cracking the Code—What Is My Partner’s Style?
PART TWO - The Three Attachment Styles in Everyday Life
Chapter 5. - Living with a Sixth Sense for Danger: The Anxious Attachment Style
Chapter 6. - Keeping Love at Arm’s Length: The Avoidant Attachment Style
Chapter 7. - Getting Comfortably Close: The Secure Attachment Style
PART THREE - When Attachment Styles Clash
Chapter 8. - The Anxious-Avoidant Trap
Chapter 9. - Escaping the Anxious-Avoidant Trap: How the Anxious-Avoidant ...
Chapter 10. - When Abnormal Becomes the Norm: An Attachment Guide to Breaking Up
PART FOUR - The Secure Way—Sharpening Your Relationship Skills
Chapter 11. - Effective Communication: Getting the Message Across
Chapter 12. - Working Things Out: Five Secure Principles for Dealing with Conflict
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
JEREMY P. TARCHER/PENGUIN
Published by the Penguin Group
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Copyright © 2010 by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Attached : the new science of adult attachment and how it can help you find—and keep—love / Amir Levine and Rachel Heller.
1. Attachment behavior. 2. Interpersonal relations. 3. Intimacy (Psychology).
I. Heller, Rachel, date. II. Title.
Neither the publisher nor the authors are engaged in rendering professional advice or services to the individual reader. The ideas, procedures, and suggestions contained in this book are not intended as a substitute for consulting with your physician. All matters regarding your health require medical supervision. Neither the authors nor the publisher shall be liable or responsible for any loss or damage allegedly arising from any information or suggestion in this book.
While the authors have made every effort to provide accurate telephone numbers and Internet addresses at the time of publication, neither the publisher nor the authors assume any responsibility for errors, or for changes that occur after publication. Further, the publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
To my father, who taught me how to dive into
the biggest waves, and to my mother, who made
scientific discovery part of growing up
To my family
The New Science of Adult Attachment
Decoding Relationship Behavior
• Only two weeks into dating this guy and already I’m making myself miserable worrying that he doesn’t find me attractive enough and obsessing about whether or not he’s going to call! I know that once again I’ll manage to turn all my fears about not being good enough into a self-fulfilling prophecy and ruin yet another chance at a relationship!
• What’s wrong with me? I’m a smart, good-looking guy with a successful career. I have a lot to offer. I’ve dated some terrific women, but inevitably, after a few weeks I lose interest and start to feel trapped. It shouldn’t be this hard to find someone I’m compatible with.
• I’ve been married to my husband for years and yet feel completely alone. He was never one to discuss his emotions or talk about the relationship, but things have gone from bad to worse. He stays at work late almost every weeknight and on weekends he’s either at the golf course with friends or watching the sports channel on TV. There’s just nothing to keep us together. Maybe I’d be better off alone.
Each of these problems is deeply painful, touching upon the innermost core of people’s lives. And yet no one explanation or solution fits the bill. Each case seems unique and personal; each stems from an endless number of possible root causes. Deciphering them would require a deep acquaintance with all the people involved. Past history, previous relationships, and personality type are just a few of the avenues that a therapist would need to pursue. This, at least, is what we, as clinicians in the field of mental health, were taught and believed, until we made a new discovery—one that provided a straightforward explanation for all three problems described above and many more. The story of this discovery, and what came after it, is what this book is about.
IS LOVE ENOUGH?
A few years ago, our close friend Tamara started dating someone new:
I first noticed Greg at a cocktail party at a friend’s house. He was unbelievably good-looking, and I found the fact that I caught his eye very flattering. A few days later we went out for dinner with some other people, and I couldn’t resist the glimmer of excitement in his eyes when he looked at me. But what I found most enticing were his words and an implicit promise of togetherness that he conveyed. The promise of not being alone. He said things like “Tamara, you don’t have to be home all by yourself, you can come and work over at my place,” “You can call me any time you like.” There was comfort in these statements: The comfort of belonging to someone, of not being alone in the world. If I’d only listened carefully, I could have easily heard another message that was incongruent with this promise, a message that made it clear that Greg feared getting too close and was uncomfortable with commitment. Several times he’d mentioned that he’d never had a stable relationship—that for some reason he always grew tired of his girlfriends and felt the need to move on.
Though I could identify these issues as potentially problematic, at the time I didn’t know how to correctly gauge their implications. All I had to guide me was the common belief that many of us grow up with: The belief that love conquers all. And so I let love conquer me. Nothing was more important to me than being with him. Yet at the same time the other messages persisted about his inability to commit. I shrugged them off, confident that with me, things would be different. Of course, I was wrong. As we got closer, his messages got more erratic and everything started to fall apart; he began telling me that he was too busy to meet on this night or that. Sometimes he’d claim that his entire work week looked “crazy” and would ask if we could just meet on the weekend. I’d agree, but inside I had a sinking feeling something was wrong, but what?
From then on I was always anxious. I was preoccupied with his whereabouts and became hypersensitive to anything that could possibly imply that he wanted to break up. But while Greg’s behavior presented me with ample evidence of his dissatisfaction, he interspersed pushing me away with just enough affection and apologies to keep me from breaking up with him.
After a while, the ups and downs started to take a toll and I could no longer control my emotions. I didn’t know how to act, and despite my better judgment, I’d avoid making plans with friends in case he called. I completely lost interest in everything else that was important to me. Before long the relationship couldn’t withstand the strain and everything soon came to a screeching halt.
As friends, we were happy at first to see Tamara meet someone new that she was excited about, but as the relationship unfolded, we became increasingly concerned over her growing preoccupation with Greg. Her vitality gave way to anxiousness and insecurity. Most of the time she was either waiting for a call from Greg or too worried and preoccupied about the relationship to enjoy spending time with us as she had done in the past. It became apparent that her work was also suffering, and she expressed some concern that she may lose her job. We had always considered Tamara to be an extremely well-rounded, resilient person, and we were starting to wonder if we were mistaken about her strength. Although Tamara could point out Greg’s history of being unable to maintain a serious relationship and his unpredictability, and even acknowledged that she would probably be happier without him, she was not able to muster the strength to leave.
As experienced mental-health professionals, we had a hard time accepting that a sophisticated, intelligent woman like Tamara had so derailed from her usual self. Why was such a successful woman acting in such a helpless way? Why would somebody whom we’ve known to be so adaptive to most of life’s challenges become powerless in this one? The other end of the equation was equally puzzling. Why would Greg send out such mixed messages, although it was clear, even to us, that he did love her? There were many possible complex psychological answers to these questions, but a surprisingly simple yet far-reaching insight into the situation came from an unexpected source.
FROM THE THERAPEUTIC NURSERY TO A PRACTICAL SCIENCE OF ADULT LOVE
At about the same time that Tamara was dating Greg, Amir was working part-time in the Therapeutic Nursery at Columbia University. Here, he used attachment-guided therapy to help mothers create a more secure bond with their children. The powerful effect that attachment-guided treatment had on the relationship between mother and child encouraged Amir to deepen his knowledge of attachment theory. This eventually led him to a fascinating discovery: as research findings first made by Cindy Hazan and Phillip Shaver indicated, adults show patterns of attachment to their romantic partners similar to the patterns of attachment of children with their parents. As he read more about adult attachment, Amir began to notice attachment behavior in adults all around him. He realized that this discovery could have astounding implications for everyday life.
The first thing Amir did, once he realized the far-reaching implications of attachment theory for adult relationships, was to call his longtime friend Rachel. He described to her how effectively attachment theory explained the range of behaviors in adult relationships, and asked her to help him transform the academic studies and scientific data he’d been reading into practical guidelines and advice that people could use to actually change the course of their lives. And that’s how this book came to be.
THE SECURE, THE ANXIOUS, AND THE AVOIDANT
Attachment theory designates three main “attachment styles,” or manners in which people perceive and respond to intimacy in romantic relationships, which parallel those found in children: Secure, Anxious, and Avoidant. Basically, secure people feel comfortable with intimacy and are usually warm and loving; anxious people crave intimacy, are often preoccupied with their relationships, and tend to worry about their partner’s ability to love them back; avoidant people equate intimacy with a loss of independence and constantly try to minimize closeness. In addition, people with each of these attachment styles differ in:
• their view of intimacy and togetherness
• the way they deal with conflict
• their attitude toward sex