Why Do Some People Have an Easier Time Getting Married Than Others?
The science behind some of our relationship choices.
Is there something different about you than the person whose found their life partner relatively easily? Good chance yes!
It could come down to your attachment style. Multiple psychological studies have shown that as infants we develop an attachment style based on the dynamics between us and our primary caregiver that we carry into adulthood, and it affects how we are in relationships.
People who ‘attach’ easily – that is secure relationships quickly and without much trouble – usually have what’s called a secure attachment. Secure attachment comes from having parents who were basically in-tune with them, understood what they needed and responded accurately at least half the time. This gives the baby the freedom to develop into its own person.
Secures tend to trust that things works out, the world is basically fair, they are powerful and have influence over their own lives.
As an adult, Secures tend to trust that things works out, the world is basically fair, they are powerful and have influence over their own lives. They are less likely to get stuck by fears and insecurities. Because of their security they enjoy partners rather than need them. Since Secures need less, they can be happy with more. That’s why they can marry more quickly and easily. That’s also why it feels harder to find someone as you get older, because secures have already paired off.
According to attachment researcher Dr. Amir Levine, today people with a secure attachment are at most 50% of people, probably less. Everyone else falls in one of three other categories that are considered ‘insecure’. They run in to obstacles developing a healthy attachment to another individual.
Anxious or Preoccupied Attachment
One is Anxious or Preoccupied Attachment. For this type, their parents were inconsistent in their response to them as babies. Sometimes they were in-tune with their child, sometimes they weren’t. Not because they were necessarily bad parents, but because of their own flaws or the circumstances of their lives during that time period. Because of this inconsistency, the child develops an anxiety because she’s not sure if she’ll get what she needs.
The adult with this attachment style has a preoccupation with ‘Am I ok?’ They get stuck in their heads. They are constantly reading others’ response to them and become very affected by their perception of your level of interest. This can cause them to become clingy or obsessive in a relationship and need a lot of reassurance from their partners. Their preoccupation, neediness, and the drama it can create, can get in the way of their securing a stable relationship.
Another attachment type is The Avoidant. As babies, the Avoidant’s parents missed what their child needed or resented their having needs, most of the time. The parent was not sufficiently in-tune with their child. As a result, the baby develops a 'I don’t need you’ reaction because it feels rejected and knows its wants won’t matter.
The Avoidant can present as disconnected, numb, or aloof.
As an adult, The Avoidant can present as disconnected, numb, or aloof. They often identify themselves as being independent or a loner. They hold onto a mentality of ‘I don’t need them, anyway’. For the avoidant attacher, intimacy makes them feel uncomfortable, and attachment makes them feel weak, making it difficult for them to secure a lasting relationship. It’s especially important to them to maintain their independence, though there’s also a part of them that wants more, so they often present as hot-and-cold in relationships, one day they're all-in, and distant or uninterested the next.
The third insecure type, and the least common, is Disorganized attachment – which is sometimes called Anxious-Avoidant attachment, because it essentially combines the two styles. This type usually develops among people who have experienced abuse in their childhood. Children have a biological drive to seek comfort from their parents, but this child also fears their parent because they’ve been yelled at, abused, or threatened repeatedly when they’ve turned to them in the past. This conflict of go-towards and stay-away feelings inside causes them to freeze and their senses to become overwhelmed. As adults, the Disorganized type lacks the presence, peace and trust to secure a healthy relationship.
We have aspects of all types, with one being the predominant type.
Pop psychology makes it sound like you are one of these types, but in actuality we have aspects of all, with one being the predominant type. Your attachment style can also become more or less pronounced based on the person you are with. A partner has the ability to either trigger your attachment response or calm it.
Unfortunately, people with an insecure attachment style often mistake the intensity of emotion that comes with having their unhealthy attachment response triggered, for the feelings of being in love. For this reason, Avoidants and Anxious types are often attracted to one another, and not to the secure types. The highs and lows of their conflicting needs make the relationship feel ‘alive’ whereas the stability and consistency of their experience with a Secure type can feel boring to them. The drama feels ‘right’ while calm feels like something is missing. This can create prolonged singleness for them or a complicated relationship history.
So ultimately you are better off choosing someone who can have patience for your style and get over it pretty easily than someone who’s style triggers your own. It’s worth it for Insecures to learn to become attracted to the stability and ‘plainness’ of a secure!
So are you doomed to singleness and heartbreak if you have an insecure attachment? Not necessarily. At the core of traditional Jewish dating is dating intentionally. Rather than letting feelings dominate, you start by rationally deciding if this person has the character traits you want a spouse to possess and evaluate how they treat you, before allowing yourself to become emotionally involved.
Also, Attachment styles can be viewed along a continuum. People have them at varying degrees and move up and down within their style. If you can identify your style, catch yourself when your attachment response has been triggered, and then learn how to work with it, you can progressively move from insecure to more secure, thereby increasing your relationship options.
Here are some examples of how to help yourself:
Those with an Anxious attachment need soothing techniques for when they become triggered. Relaxation exercises to bring their anxiety down, mindfulness techniques to get them out of their heads, and identifying safe people they can turn to help calm them and see other perspectives rather than immediately confronting their partner, can help them to become more secure.
Those with an Avoidant attachment need help in making it safe for them to experience their emotions and relax their defenses. Therapy can be helpful for this. You will probably want to maintain a safe distance from your therapist as well, and it can be very helpful to work through that in the therapy room. Learning to tune into your body, identifying sensations within your body and taking the time to see what emotion they represent can also help you to become more emotionally aware.
For those with a Disorganized attachment, trauma therapy can be helpful to feel safe and let go of the freeze response. For those who talk therapy feels like too much of a threat, a therapy style called EMDR can be very helpful.
In conclusion, there’s no need to judge your attachment type and it’s possible to get married with it. But the more responsibility you take for it and work to become increasingly more secure, and see what can be desirable about a Secure dynamic, the more options you have and the smoother it will go for you.
For more help discovering your attachment type and how to work with it, I recommend the book “Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How it Can Help You Find- and Keep- Love” by Dr Amir Levine and Rachel Heller.