Why #Attached is THE best book I’ve EVER read about dating, love & relationships

Attached
Attached is THE best book about relationships I have ever read.
(And I’ve read so many…)

Y’all have been reading this blog for a while. Y’all know that I’ve had such miserable and painful experiences in the love and relationships department that I decided to bow out, throw in the towel and resign myself to the fact that I am doomed to walk this planet alone. But what if I told you I have read a book that has literally made me rethink my I Am Doomed to Be Single Forever And Will Just Be A Crazy Cat Lady relationship status? That I am not crazy-mad-stupid for how I have previously tackled love? That it’s no wonder I have been disappointed thus far? That there is, in fact, hope—great hope—for me to find love? No? You don’t believe me? You don’t think it’s possible? Well, dear reader, gird your loins.

First some context.

In the wake of the devastation left by the Italian, it’s only been in the last couple of years that I felt ready to test the dating water. I dipped my toe in, and found that the dating water was not what I thought it was. From Mr Nonsense to Mr Fucktard to Mr Christmas Shenanigans to Mr I Can Totally See A Future With You, all were encounters which ended with me asking what the? Why are there so many men out there who are dog salmon—the fish that John West rejects? I assumed it was where I lived and the demographic I was dealing with. I assumed that the men crossing my path were emotionally deficient somehow—I thought it was them not me. After all, I’m a fabulous catch: independent, self-reliant, emotionally intelligent, smart. I’m financially stable, attractive, fit and healthy. I’m well-travelled, educated and interesting. Who wouldn’t want to share in a piece of this?

Well, as it turns out, the wrong kind of man.

When I was trying to figure out what the deal was with Mr Christmas Shenanigans, I read everything I could about what was going on that I could find on my Agony Aunt Google. I discovered that texting—along with flat-pack furniture—is the work of the devil, and that disappearing men are more common than men who stay. I learned that my libido is a poor judge of character—well, duh—and that a “maybe” is a more powerful aphrodisiac than oysters. I condensed all this knowledge into a couple of helpful posts: My Five Simple Rules for Dating, followed by Not Hard to Shine.

The men that entered my life and who I viewed as potential partners were, for the most part, intelligent, educated, seemingly normal—or, as normal as anyone can be—people. They weren’t psychotic, or narcissistic, or psychopaths.

I also stumbled onto a little known concept—well, little known to me—called adult attachment style. It turns out there are three styles: secure, anxious and avoidant (and this is true irrespective of whether you are gay, straight, bi or pink with purple spots). I did the quiz, and lo and behold, I discovered I had an anxious/preoccupied style. It certainly explained why relationships—and potential relationships—caused me all kinds of grief in the He’s Going to Leave Me Because Of Something I’ve Done Or Didn’t Do Or I Am Or I’m Not And I’m Not Good Enough And I’ll Never Find Love department, which has been my relationship pattern for most of my adult life. I thought it was that I just kept making Bad Man Choices, but I didn’t see how, and I tried to rectify this with The List, because everyone knows that a list guarantees that you’ll meet The One. The men that entered my life and who I viewed as potential partners were, for the most part, intelligent, educated, seemingly normal—or, as normal as anyone can be—people. They weren’t psychotic, or narcissistic, or psychopaths. Most of them were nice, kind, decent human beings, at least in the beginning. So why did they turn into dog salmon once a relationship—or potential relationship—was on the cards?

Turns out it was me, not them.

And by me, I mean my adult attachment style was having a direct influence on the kinds of men I’m attracted to, and the washing machine spiral of anxiety that has permanently characterised my romantic attachments. Except I didn’t know what to do about it.

Enter Attached, also known as the book that has changed my life.

To cut a long story short, Attached explains the science behind adult attachment styles, and it is true that there are the three styles I mentioned earlier: secure, anxious and avoidant, and that I have an anxious style. What I found fascinating is that attachment styles are a combination of nature, nurture and lived experience, and they are plastic. With my attachment style, I am genetically programmed to attach early and quickly, and anything that threatens—or is perceived to threaten—the attachment sends my attachment system into overdrive, and I start using protest behaviour. When I read the chapter about my style (anxious), it was like Dr Levine was in my head, reading my mind. It was EXACTLY what I thought and how I acted in ALL my relationships, including the potential ones, and the ones that didn’t even make it to potential. Oh, thank GOD! I thought, I’m not nuts! It’s my anxious attachment style!

The only thing that can save anxious and avoidants from themselves (and a lifetime of unhappiness) is being with someone who has a secure attachment style.

What Attached has taken great pains to explain is that I (and other anxious attachment types) are unfortunately, and usually, drawn to the avoidant attachment style, which sends our the anxious attachment system into overdrive. Where avoidants are genetically programmed to avoid intimacy (and their attachment system goes into withdrawal when they get too close to their mates) the anxious types need it. What you have then, is a clash of intimacy needs: anxious types need closeness (and will do anything to maintain it) and avoidants don’t (and will do anything to avoid it). The only thing that can save anxious and avoidants from themselves (and a lifetime of unhappiness) is being with someone who has a secure attachment style.

Avoidants and anxious attachment types are drawn to each other for a number of reasons: there are more avoidants in the dating pool than secures and society (i.e. dating experts) advises anxious types to attract partners by playing it cool (or insouciant, in my case!). A playing it cool partner is exactly what the avoidant is seeking, but unfortunately, the person who is playing it cool is likely to be an anxious type, and their differing intimacy needs send the relationship—or potential relationship—into a tailspin of crazy (he’s so distant or she’s so emotional or she seemed so keen or he’s too needy or we never do anything together or we are too much in each other’s pockets etc.). And that all-important chemistry or spark in the beginning? It’s your attachment system honing in on someone who will send it into overdrive, because in my case—as anxious—that’s exactly what it’s primed to do. Avoidant equals sexy chemistry… secure equals unsexy boring.

While Attached explains the why and the what of attachment theory, the BEST thing about this book is that it explains HOW you can use your attachment style to find a more suitable i.e. secure partner. Contrary to every other book I have ever read on the subject, Dr Levine says that wearing your heart on your sleeve (if you are anxious) and telling potential partners up front what it is you need (closeness and intimacy) and screening people out early (i.e. avoidants, because their distancing strategies will only make you unhappy) is THE best tactic for finding love. What? Wearing my heart on my sleeve is actually a good thing? And it won’t get me hurt? Holy empowerment, Batman!

Every other man I have dated from my mid twenties to present day—the last thirty years—have been men with avoidant styles. My ex-files are a litany of misery and unhappiness and me wondering how I could have gotten it so wrong and, for a smart lady, been so stupid.

I see myself and my thinking and my behaviour in a completely new light after reading Attached. I can see that I have only ever had two, possibly three relationships with men with a secure attachment style, and they were in my late teens and early twenties, and I ended all three. Every other man I have dated from my mid twenties to present day—the last thirty years—have been men with avoidant styles. My ex-files are a litany of misery and unhappiness and me wondering how I could have gotten it so wrong and, for a smart lady, been so stupid. Interestingly, I feel that I am better equipped to look for love now—after reading Attached—because I know what I have to keep an eye out for, and what I have to screen for. I’m now seriously considering dipping my toe back into the dating sea and seeing what sorts of secure fish are out there, and I NEVER thought I’d say that, given that I’d resigned myself to the I Am Doomed to Be Single Forever And Will Just Be A Crazy Cat Lady relationship status.

I’ve even reactivated my Oasis Active profile…

Last word

I would urge anyone who is dating or thinking about dating to read this book. I would urge anyone who is a relationship and is unhappy or miserable to read this book. I would urge anyone who is in a relationship and is thinking about breaking up or leaving their partner to read this book.

Just read the damn book.

17 comments

  1. Hi Diane I’m a woman who is Avoidant and trust me I feel like a freak crazy woman as I want to be close but when a man (secure/ anxious preoccupied) reciproates I feel smothered and trapped. I’m very tactile and affectionate and I’m in therapy as after 2 failed relationships with men where I have reacted above with panic and anxiety attacks have I realised it’s my attachment style. I have low self esteem and poor boundaries. .I’ve had one longterm relationship with a man who died. We had 5 wonderful years together and he was emotionally close for me to not freak out. Since his death 21 years ago I have not managed to have another successful loving relationship. I feel I am destined to be on my own as my therapist says I can’t change my attachment ..sure I am now aware of why I feel so vulnerable and terrified as I get closer to a man but I feel upset that any man I would like will be anxious as myou last was and that ended very badly. So many online sites vilified Avoidant as if we are the devil incarnate ..we are all a product of our formative years with caretaker’s who did the best they knew with the skills they had.

    1. I feel your pain, Bernadette. As someone with an avoidant attachment style, relationships must be just as difficult for you as they are for me. Unfortunately, avoidants and anxious are bad news for each other (mostly). You are so lucky to have found someone who made you happy and I’m so sorry he passed away. You must have been devastated.

  2. Hi Diane Thank you for acknowledging my comment. Yes as a person with Insecure attachment ( Avoidant and Anxious Preoccupied) we are both aware of the struggle to feel secure and safe without our fears jumping in and hijacking our desire for a relationship. I find it incredibly painful to read that those of us with Avoidant attachment are the lowest of the low, yet statistics show that approx. 30% of the population have this style.
    Yes I was devastated by the death of my late partner as it was the happiest I have been in my life, he was my world and it was mutual as he said he had never been so happy or so loved. I totally empathise with an Anxious Preoccupied in needing reassurance as that was how my last partner reacted and I would reassure him how much I cared but that I felt overwhelmed by his enthusiasm and intensity- I can appreciate he was just as fearful as I was and in his panic he couldn’t hear my request for space and to slow down – I guess he heard it as a rejection which it wasn’t. I feel what man would want to be with someone like me who is a freak and cant tolerate closeness.

    1. I have been single for 10 years, and now at 53 (going on 54), acknowledge that it’s highly unlikely I will find that special someone. I have the opposite problem to you: I want (crave) closeness and intimacy, and with a highly sensitive attachment system know almost immediately when a potential partner withdraws. It’s highly unpleasant and can take days–or even weeks–to settle down. I simply say that I’m not wired for relationships (which is correct), although I’d certainly be open to one. I am happy on my own, and have wonderful friends, but sometimes it’s not enough.

      1. Like you I am 53( going on 54 in March ) and feel it highly unlikely I will find that special someone to share my life with. Neither attachment feels good that’s for sure as both are insecure and we both use different strategies to have our needs met- I feel the important thing to remember is no one is better/ worse and that communication plays a big part in trying to find a balance. I saw a Trauma Therapist who gave me specific advice on Behavioural changes I need to make – slowing down physically ( I have a tendency to jump in way too soon) I genuinely didn’t make the connection that was part of the problem as in some instances I wasn’t panicked ( Avoidant men). I am very tactile and affectionate and not Dismissive of the other person as I can see they are struggling too , its the panic attacks which I find so distressing as then im off and running like a gun was at my head! I go towards but then feel overwhelmed, pull back out of fear and so begins the craziness! I read the book Attached and personally I found that the Avoidant was given a hard time as they are on most sites/ forums on Attachment issues. I wouldn’t dream of vilifying an Anxious Preoccupied as I recognise needing reassurance is as a coping mechanism to manage your fear, just as the pulling away strategy is done by Avoidant. Like you I have lots of great friends and for the most part im happy on my own but I long for a relationship which feels calm and safe as I had with my late partner. I wish you every happiness for the future Diane and hope that one day soon you too will find the love you desire. God bless and keep you safe Bernadette

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