When you have a hammer, everything is a nail…
I’m using the lens of attachment style to view interconnections between people everywhere in my life, and am finding it pretty useful. One of the things I’m doing right now is re-examining my dating relationships and partner selection through that lens. I want to figure out how to find a partner who is able to be or become securely attached with me, and more importantly that I’m able to come to be securely attached with too.
So I’ve been looking at dating profiles and looking for indications that the person has a health relationship to intimacy, or at least not a floridly unhealthy one. Here’s what I’ve got so far.
Healthy and Unhealthy Dating Attachment Styles
Basically, there is only one truly healthy attachment style – being securely attached. Securely attached folks are comfortable with closeness and don’t get too anxious when people are independent either. Secure attachment comes from having caregivers at children who attended to your needs and feelings, let you explore the world and were usually there to help if you ran into problems.
Folks that aren’t comfortable with closeness and don’t want to share feelings or accept help are usually avoidantly attached. Folks who get very worried without a lot of reassurance, and also worry people will abandon them when they get close are anxiously attached. Some folks have a mixture of styles, and get to be both uncomfortable with closeness AND anxious about being left. Fun times. Most of us have a mixture, and how successful we are in being in relationship will depend on how close we are to being securely attached.
If you have an anxious attachment style – you can date other anxious folks or secure folks with success. If you have an avoidant style, then you can date other avoidant folks or secure folks. If you are secure you can date anyone, but will likely prefer other secure folks. Above all, though, avoidant and insecurely attached folks should not date one another, as they need very different amounts of closeness, and likely will be unable not push one another’s buttons.
What does a secure relationship look like?
In general, a secure adult relationship is when the other person is your main human and you are theirs. They are your go-to in front of everyone else, and you are theirs, for news, feelings and the giving and receiving of support. You are a team in all environments and have one another’s back. You are available to them 100% of the time, and they are available to you 100% (e.g.: if your husband or wife is in the hospital, lost their job, or got a new job, you hear it before anyone else). Both people are fully on board with this. You feel fine and comfortable trusting the other person with all of these things. A secure child-adult relationship is different from a secure adult one in that the relationship is one-sided, the child receives all these things, but should not be expected to provide them.
Dating profile signs that the person might be dissmissive-avoidant in attachment style
Here are some signs I’ve found. If you are an anxiously attached person, you can consider them red flags that someone will almost certainly not value connection and closeness enough to be healthy for you. If you are avoidant or secure, this is a heads up that this person is going to not be comfortable with much closeness in relationships. If that works for you, then go ahead.
- “Not looking for anything serious”
- Have they been in a serious relationship in the past? If they’ve reached their thirties without at least one, then they are likely avoidant.
- Long gaps in their relationship history – single for long periods of time without a relationship.
- Use of the word ‘independent’ and ‘likes my alone time’, especially if this is mentioned multiply or proudly
- ‘Relationship anarchist’ – relationship anarchists are idealogically opposed to making romantic relationships more important than friendships (at least not as an automatic thing, but in practice not ever). A secure attachment requires one person (or two, perhaps) to be someone’s primary human, the person they bring all their secrets, troubles, joys, news to. If this person wants that to be their best friend rather than their partner, that doesn’t mean they’re not securely attached to their best friend (although I doubt it) but instead that they are not interested in being securely attached to a romantic partner.
- Focus a lot of their own achievements in their profile (avoidant folks were raised to be valued only for making their family look good)
Dating profile signs that a person might be anxious-preoccupied in attachment style
The following might be signs that the person filling out the profile is on the anxious side of the attachment equation. They are going to value a high degree of contact, communication and closeness, so if you prefer a lot more autonomy and independence (ie: are avoidantly attached), this isn’t going to be a fit and should be considered a red flag. If you also have an anxious attachment style, heads up that this person will likely value closeness and contact as you do, but you will need to be communicate with warmth and openness, and be clear and very honest with one another about your needs to keep conflict manageable, despite how hard it can be to express them, as the person may become preoccupied with their own when stressed but be poor at communicating that. If you are secure, then this is a reminder that this person will need you to be frank with them about what you can and cannot do, and will always appreciate and be soothed by reassurance that you like them.
- A high degree of self-disclosure – really long, rambling, detailed profile, highly self-disclosing pictures
- They have no gaps in their relationship history – they’ve jumped from one to the next without much of a break (This may be because anxious people are both relationship oriented and more focussed on other’s needs than their own and so more likely to settle for someone who is not as good a fit, and so quickly find new partners).
- Honestly I haven’t figured this one out – anyone else have ideas? I think it might be because anxiously attached folks are more notable by their behaviour – needing a lot of reassurance, getting close too quickly, moving too fast, pursuing too closely. That’s not necessarily going to be evident in a dating profile.
Dating profile signs someone might be securely attached
If you are avoidant or anxious, keep in mind that a secure person is going to make good choices for themselves, and if you are either highly anxious or highly avoidant, you may still not be a fit for them unless you are willing and able to manage those behaviours in ways that take their needs into account. As we get older, secure people become fewer and fewer in the dating pool, as they are already in long term relationships. Keep in mind that most securely attached people will have some anxious or avoidant traits too, just as folks with avoidant and anxious attachment stylesw will have some other traits. Also, many avoidant people will style themselves as secure, so use your own judgement to determine if the person seems to be comfortable with closeness, communication and contact to the degree that you prefer.
- Body language is open and relaxed in pictures, which clearly show the person’s face
- Wording is straightforward – discussing their interests, what they want in a relationship, but not overly long or short
- Description doesn’t include what they don’t want
- Looking for an actual relationship rather than a hookup or casual.
- Has been in at least one long term serious relationship