Do You Keep Dating The Same Kind Of People? There Actually Is A Scientific Reason
Aug 06, 2022
(Photo by Charl Durand)
We have all had problems relating to someone close to us that we care about. Does it ever seem like the same patterns keep repeating themselves? That you find yourself in the same misunderstandings time and time again?
There are very real reasons that these patterns emerge in our close relationships. Figuring out why can lead us to better, more fulfilling relationships.
What is Attachment Theory?
The idea was first put forward by John Bowlby and expanded on by Mary Ainsworth in the 70's. She studied how 12- to 18-month-old children behaved when briefly left alone in a room. Then looked at the kind of relationships the children had with their parents.
Children who felt supported and cared for both physically and emotionally were less upset when left alone. This is because they had every reason to believe that they were not forgotten or abandoned. The children who were more upset reacted to their parents returning in a few ways. They were full of emotion and clung to them, or they ignored them as they had felt ignored and abandoned.
While Ainsworth's studies were only performed on infants, Bowlby also theorized that these behaviors stay with us throughout our lives. In the 80's, scientists Cindy Hazan and Phillip Shaver began applying it to adult emotional relationships. Their results indicated that Bowlby's theories were correct.
Children who felt safe and cared for grow up tend to have secure relationships as adults. They often felt more able to love and receive love easily, and felt confident in themselves.
Which one sounds like you?
There are four categories of attachment style:
You have a healthy self worth and good relationships. You use good conflict resolution tactics, and are resilient in the face of setbacks.
You're independent and don't want to rely on others. You might pull away from relationships when your partner tries to get closer. You sometimes see others as needy.
You might feel embarrassed by the amount of love that you want. Or feel anxiety about whether your partner feels the same as you do. You crave closeness but worry that you can't fully trust.
You want the security of a loving relationship, but are scared of getting hurt. Not quick to trust, independent, hard on yourself and others.
These are generalizations, but you might recognize which group you fall into immediately. Understanding how these interact with each other is really informative. It can be an eye opener for current and past relationships. The difference is how they attempt to prevent negative feelings from happening again. But also how they handle them when they come up.
If you don't feel like you fall into the Secure group, don't worry. These are also not rules or definitions. You can put in the work to make the change, knowledge is power.
How to use this knowledge
Knowing which group you're in can help you to better communicate your needs. And it can help you understand your behavior towards past intimate relationships. As well as those you might currently be in a relationship with.
Knowing about these reactions can also help with friendships, colleagues, really anyone. You don't even have to know which group they are in. Just be aware of how you might react and how the other groups might react. As well as how to handle some of those different reactions.
Some good questions to ask yourself if a conflict, no matter how big or small, comes up:
"How could we both be more understanding of the other's needs?" or "Is this just a simple miscommunication?"
"What would I prefer to happen, and is that a reasonable ask?"
"Is this a boundary for me?" and/or "Is it a boundary for them?"
An honest examination may open your eyes. It is likely that you were both operating out of self-preservation. Loving someone with your heart is different than loving them with your words and actions. Even saying something with a good intention might bring up past hurt feelings.
We must always try and have empathy and understanding for those around us. Especially those that we are close with. Learning to be more aware of our behavior and how others may perceive it can help us to break bad habits. We can learn to clarify our feelings. Open, honest, and caring communication is key.