I mentioned in my last blog post, “Patient, Forget Thyself,” that the last book I finished, Martin Seligman’s Authentic Happiness, had multiple take-aways. The one I described in that entry was the distinction Seligman makes regarding gratification vs. pleasure and the integral part self-absorption plays in depression.
The other huge take-away for me was an introduction to relationship attachment styles. Consider the following 3 descriptions Seligman provides in his book:
1. I find it relatively easy to get close to others, and am comfortable depending on them and having them depend on me. I don’t often worry about being abandoned, or about someone getting too close to me.
2. I am somewhat uncomfortable being close to others. I find it difficult to trust them completely, to allow myself to depend on them. I am nervous when someone gets too close, and often love partners want me to be more intimate than I am comfortable being.
3. I find that others are reluctant to get as close as I would like. I often worry that my partner doesn’t really love me or won’t want to stay with me. I want to merge completely with another person, and this desire sometimes scare people away.
Which one best describes you in romantic relationships? If it’s #1, your attachment style is secure. If you identify best with #2, your attachment style is avoidant. If you identify with #3, your attachment style is anxious.
The work is not Seligman’s own (the real credit belongs to Levine and Heller and I’ve since ordered their book to delve more deeply into the theory), but he does provide a good overview of the styles. In a quick search, I also uncovered this blog post that echoed much of the information I garnered from Authentic Happiness on love attachment styles.
It should come as little surprise that I have an anxious love style, especially in light of such an essay as “Yes, I’m the Crazy Ex,” which is basically a textbook description prettied up with a bit of poetic prose.
I talked it over with Skyspook, and it was revealed that he has an anxious style as well, though a bit more secure than my own. This was a jarrng revelation at first but makes sense when I dissect things: he had trouble with object permanence as a child and would be emotionally disturbed (apparently more than a usual amount) when things were taken away from him, and he has been very upfront and forthright about craving a deep loving connection (or connections, as we’re all mono-flexible and shit). The one sticking point for me in thinking he had an anxious love style is that Skyspook doesn’t openly worry about our relationship ending, but he told me it’s because I’m amazingly reassuring. Otherwise, he would.
I’ve struggled a lot myself with feelings of doubt and anxiety about relationships lasting, even this marriage with Skyspook, as deep and lovely as it is. I find myself ruminating on my divorce, the collapse of my first marriage, how everything changed over the years as proof of my worries. I often feel that this excessive worry is evidence that I am more invested or love Skyspook more than he loves me (which is apparently textbook anxious attachment style behavior).
Skyspook is quieter, offers less overt emotional reassurance. He is quite supportive in both words and deeds, but a bit more subtle than I am in my overtures towards him, and I am also significantly more neurotic and prone to doubt, again exacerbated by my failed first marriage.
Also interesting to note is that my ex-husband’s relationship style was definitely avoidant. No doubt about that. The upside of this is that it makes the failure of that relationship nearly inevitable. At least the misery and challenge of it were “normal” and not some sort of personal failure on the part of either my ex-husband or me.
So yeah, people rarely fit into perfect categories (as some of you may be screaming at the monitor right about now), but the theory of attachment styles is an interesting and useful tool with which to organize and examine relationships.