Entries in attachment (69)

Tuesday
Apr122016

What Makes Breaking Up So Painful?

It’s a universal feeling. Your partner was too unavailable, or you were too emotionally attached, but whatever the reasons, you ended up on the wrong side of a breakup. You reach for the ice cream and prepare for the deluge of emotions.

We’ve all been in this position before. Those of us who have experienced love have probably experienced hurt as well—But why? What factors contribute to a bad breakup, and what makes some breakups worse than others? Through relationships research, we can uncover why some breakups seem relatively painless and why others seem to drag on into eternity.

Many factors contribute to the way we process information, so it makes sense that many factors also contribute to how upset we feel after a breakup. For example, a survey study1 on young adults’ reactions to a recent breakup revealed multiple influences on their feelings of distress, including how the relationship started, what the relationship was like, how the relationship ended, and how each partner perceived relationships in general.

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Tuesday
Mar012016

Putting Your Best Foot Forward: How Insecure People Attract Dates

Take a moment to imagine your ideal romantic partner. What is it, exactly, that you find so attractive about him or her? If you’re like a lot of people, you probably envisioned someone caring, warm, reliable, confident, and open—All personality characteristics that make for a secure partner. Now, think of one of your actual romantic partners, past or present. Again, if you’re like a lot of people, you probably can think of at least one partner who was insecure; perhaps they came across as emotionally needy and clingy (i.e., anxiously attached) or perhaps they acted emotionally distant and non-communicative (i.e., avoidantly attached). This raises a paradox when it comes to dating choices: If most people say they want secure partners, how and why do they end up with insecure partners? Could it be that insecure individuals use certain strategies to help them attract potential dates?

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Tuesday
Feb232016

Much Ado About Nothing: The Result of Biases about Partners’ Negative Emotions

Positive feelings are pretty common in relationships – love, passion, support, and care are all usual occurrences. However, negative experiences can occur as well, such as jealousy, anger, or frustration. In these moments, some people may have difficulty regulating their own negative emotions and dealing with partners’ anger and frustration. Often, partners’ negative emotions are particularly important to recognize because they communicate problems in the relationship that need attention. Psychologists have set out to explore how attachment may be related to people’s ability to accurately identify negative emotions that partners are experiencing.

If you regularly read this site, you’ve already learned a lot about attachment styles. As a quick summary, attachment describes the way people bond with others. Anxious individuals seem “clingy” – they’re concerned with being abandoned by romantic partners and need a lot of reassurance that they’re loved. Those who are avoidant, however, prefer to be independent and more distant from partners. Secure people are more of a happy medium – they are comfortable with being close to their partners, but aren’t overly concerned with being abandoned. You can learn more about attachment styles here.

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Tuesday
Oct272015

Anxious-Avoidant Duos: Walking on Thin Ice in Relationships and Physical Health

While the Disney animated film “Frozen” is most famous for its lovable characters and award-winning song “Let it Go”, this kids’ movie can teach us a thing or two about attachment styles in close relationships and the important interplay between partners’ preferences for intimacy versus independence. In “Frozen,” the relationship difficulties that occur when these preferences clash are most evident between the two protagonists, sisters Elsa and Anna.

Anxious Anna and Avoidant Elsa: Attachment in “Frozen”

Attachment style describes the degree to which we perceive our relationships (usually romantic partnerships) as being secure, capable of meeting our needs, and a source of comfort in times of distress. People who are securely attached are comfortable depending on others as well as having others depend on them. Some people, however, have negative expectations in relationships, leading to insecure attachment styles. For example, individuals with an anxious attachment style fear rejection and abandonment, yet their cravings for closeness may inadvertently drive others away. In “Frozen”, Anna is anxiously attached. Her parents’ death and her sister’s abandonment leave her alone and desperate for love – so desperate, in fact, that she almost married a man she just met (Prince Hans). Whenever Elsa seeks distance in the movie, Anna continues to pursue her and ends up getting hurt in the process. Anxiously attached people may engage in behavior like this because they over-rely on their attachment figures for reassurance. 

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Monday
Jun082015

The Pornography Effect on Men and Their Romantic Relationships

Although many people do not realize it, the pornography industry is enormous. Widely hidden from view, it generates an estimated $13 billion dollars a year from within the United States alone, which is more annual revenue than Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, eBay and Netflix produce combined.1 

With its widespread availability, pornography is becoming what a lot of people want to call "normal." After all, it is just sex, so how can it be bad? A common refrain I hear about porn from the couples I counsel is women complaining how they don't like it, while their men say, "it's normal and every guy does it." So who's right? Maybe they both are.

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Monday
Apr132015

I (Don’t) Want 2 B w/ U: Texting, Sexting, and Avoidant Attachment

We’ve written a lot about avoidant attachment (see here and here for more on attachment), but here’s a quick summary: Those who are high in avoidance tend to be uncomfortable with intimacy, want less closeness in their relationships, and distrust others more. And when it comes to electronic communication with partners, it turns out that avoidance also is related texting and sexting behaviors, but in different ways. 

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Wednesday
Mar042015

3 Brain Systems of Love: Lust, Attraction, and Attachment

While love is complicated and can’t simply be reduced to three biological brain states, there are clear neurochemical processes that do contribute to feelings of love. While not called ‘love’, the desire to mate with a specific individual is not limited to humans, but exists across many species. The drive to find a mate, bond, and reproduce is called the ‘attraction system’. This system is made up of three fundamental pathways -- lust, attraction and attachment – which occur in both birds and mammals (including humans).

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Friday
Dec192014

Are Americans Becoming Less Secure?

We’ve written extensively about attachment styles1 in romantic relationships (for example, read here and here for more on this topic). In a nutshell, people who are anxious tend to intensely desire connections with other people and are worried that their partners will abandon them whereas those who are avoidant tend to be wary of closeness to others and often feel that their partners want to be closer to them than they would like. Anxiety and avoidance are forms of insecure attachment, and those who do not have these characteristics have a secure attachment

Research on attachment styles in romantic relationships began in the late 1980s; more than 25 years of research on the topic has shown the importance of attachment for many aspects of relationship functioning. And now two decades of data on attachment researchers can ask, and answer, interesting questions about whether adult attachment styles have changed at the population-level over time. In other words, have American young adults become more or less secure since the late-1980s?

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Thursday
Dec182014

Moral Boundaries in Relationships: Relationship Matters Podcast 41

Consider the following (probably fictional) scenario, described in detail by pop culture writer Chuck Klosterman1 and paraphrased here: Jack and Jane are in a happy romantic relationship for 2 years. One day Jack receives an invitation from another woman living in his building to watch her masturbate in her apartment (with absolutely no physical contact and no emotional intimacy). Intrigued, he goes to her apartment to watch her masturbate, then returns to his room and goes to sleep. Jack believes this episode to be weird/strange, but not unethical. He innocently mentions it to Jane, who upon hearing this, becomes extremely upset and ends the relationship, cutting off all contact with Jack. 

What do you think about this situation? Did Jack do anything unethical? Is accepting an invitation to watch someone masturbate (while in a relationship with someone else) a moral violation?

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Tuesday
Nov182014

“Are You Listening?!” Cold-Shouldering a Partner’s Successes Leaves Relationships On Ice

When something great happens in our personal lives, it’s exciting to share the event with people close to us.  But at one time or another, you’ve probably disclosed some good news that wasn’t met with the degree of excitement or encouragement you had hoped for. It can be disappointing – even irritating – to get a lukewarm response when you expected the other person’s ardent interest. The process of telling others about our successes and getting a positive reaction is called “capitalization,” and research suggests it has benefits for romantic relationships. 

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Friday
Nov072014

The Truth Behind Online Dating: How It Compares to “Offline” Dating

Read Part 1 of this series here: The Truth Behind Online Dating: What Is and Isn’t Real

Read Part 2 of this series here: The Truth Behind Online Dating: What Motivates Users and Companies

Online daters aren’t really that different from offline daters. I often hear my students claim that people who use online dating are “weirdos” or “that’s for people who can’t get dates in real life.” But the idea that people who prefer online dating are somehow different than offline daters is not supported by science. First of all, different how, exactly? In terms of general personality traits (e.g., openness to new experiences, neuroticism), online and offline daters are not significantly different from each other.1

One study did find that people who have used online dating (ever in their lives) were more sensitive to rejection compared to non-users—but this was a general “have you ever used online dating in your life” question and did not differentiate between one-time users and regular users.

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Tuesday
Nov042014

“Can You Tell That I’m in a Relationship"? Relationship Visibility on Facebook

Think about the last time you were on Facebook. You probably noticed “that couple” – the person who always posts pictures of himself with his girlfriend, or the one who claims that she has “the best boyfriend ever” in her status updates. And then there are the people who you know are in relationships, but there’s no trace of it on Facebook. No “in a relationship” status, no pictures together, maybe no mention of the relationship at all.

My colleagues and I were curious about what drives these decisions – what leads some people in relationships to post profile pictures with their partners and others to not share relationship-relevant information? We examined a concept that we called relationship visibility, which occurs when people make their relationships a central part of the images of themselves that they convey to others.

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Wednesday
Sep172014

For Better or for Worse: Attachment and Relationships Over the Long Haul

Quick—think of someone you know who’s in a relationship (or has been in the past). This person can be a friend, a family member, your own past or current relationship partner, or even yourself. Which one of these statements best describes something that the person you thought of might say?

A) I feel comfortable depending on romantic partners.

B) My desire to be very close sometimes scares people away.

C) I don't feel comfortable opening up to romantic partners.

These descriptions* have formed the basis of research on adult romantic attachment for some time.1 Attachment is a topic we’ve covered extensively here at ScienceOfRelationships. Whether you realize it or not, attachment is evident virtually everywhere (even in popular fiction!), having been linked to all sorts of outcomes in relationships. Briefly, researchers think of adult attachment as a tendency to approach relationships in a particular way, primarily based on experiences with childhood caregivers.2 Usually, researchers view attachment in terms of the degree and kind of insecurity (avoidance or anxiety) a person might have (see our earlier work for a full review of how attachment styles play out in relationships).

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Friday
Sep122014

Easy Love: Is it Easier for Some People to Love than it is for Others?

The other day, I asked my kids (7 and 8 years old) to sign a birthday card for a relative that they had only met a few times. I expected that their misspelled words and child-like handwriting would be appealing to the card’s recipient. What I didn’t expect was for their messages to be full of love: “I love you,” “xoxox,” and hearts dotting each letter "i". Where were these demonstrative notes for a relatively unknown person coming from?  Should I be worried about my overly affectionate children?

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Monday
Jul212014

When I Lose You, I Lose Part of Me, Too

There’s no question that romantic breakups can be really hard. Losing a partner we’ve become very close to means losing someone who was previously part of our daily lives. As a result, breakups can undermine our ability to sleep and eat well (among other things). Research has revealed that experiencing a breakup has several unique effects on our sense of self or self-concept (i.e., everything that makes us who we are) as well. For example, research has demonstrated that, after a breakup, people feel that their self-concept is smaller than it was before the breakup; in other words, they feel like their self-concept has diminished somewhat.1 This makes sense, since over time people tend to incorporate their romantic partner into their self-concept, meaning that their individual identities begin to merge (that is, “me” and “you” becomes “we” and “us”). In the wake of a breakup, then, the self-concept may feel reduced or contracted because there used to be another person involved in it (e.g., part of “me” used to include being a loving partner to a specific person, and now that part is gone).

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Thursday
Jul172014

Have To or Want To?: Deciphering Your Partner’s Motivations for Helping You

Think about the last time your friend or romantic partner did something nice for you. Now think about that other person’s motivations: Do you think s/he did it for you out of care for you or out of obligation? We asked people this question in two studies; across both studies, people who were more avoidantly attached—that is, people who were more uncomfortable depending on and opening up to others—were more likely to think that their friends or romantic partners did things for them because they felt like they had to, not because they wanted to.1 These perceptions may help avoidant people keep their partners at arm’s length and protect avoidant people from depending on or opening up to their partners. After all, if someone does something for you because they feel like they have to—not because they truly want to—you might assume they don’t really care about you anyway, so why should you depend on them in the future?

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Tuesday
Jul152014

What Attachment Style is The Bachelorette’s Andi Dorfman?

So I have a confession to make, and you have to promise not to judge me. 

I am totally “fangirling” over the current Bachelorette Andi Dorfman. There is something remarkable about her, and whatever it is is generating some polarizing opinions.

Oh, and did I mention that Andi was an assistant district attorney before she resigned to do the show? What more could you ask for in a lead role!

If Andi is so great, why is she provoking such mixed reactions?

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Thursday
Jun192014

Is There Hope for the Insecurely Attached?

I can recall the specific day that sparked my endless pursuit to understand attachment and relationships. I was sitting in an undergraduate class lecture when my professor introduced the concept of attachment styles (read more about attachment styles here). I was so intrigued. The professor explained that roughly 50-60% of the population is securely attached. I began to do the math. If roughly 50-60% of the population is deemed secure, where does that leave the other 40–50%? 

Does that mean that nearly half of the population is doomed to a lifetime of insecure relationships?

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Tuesday
Nov052013

Should I Stay or Should I Go?: Why Good People Stay in Bad Relationships

It may be hard to believe, but I was once in a relationship for nine years where I was so unhappy, I cried nearly every day. A decade later, with a Ph.D. in Psychology under my belt and an intellectual obsession with how and why humans attach themselves to one another and form relationships, I am finally beginning to understand the mysterious crazy glue that keeps people in bad relationships. It often boils down to commitment level, attachment style, and a strange ability to distort the future. 

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Monday
Oct212013

“I Need Closure!” Why It Is Not Possible To Get It

“Closure” is a term I have heard bandied about by many of my friends over the years, but I have always wondered what it really means. For example, after my friend Daphne’s long-distance boyfriend broke up with her over the phone, she told me she needed to fly from NYC to London to see him in person to “get closure.” Even after she saw him in person, she still didn’t feel like things were really over. The meaning of closure is something I have grappled with when trying to make sense of one of my own past relationships. I spent the better part of 10 years trying to get closure with The Question Mark so that I could move on, trying everything from writing him long treatises on why our relationship could never work, to hashing things out in person in order to finally say “goodbye.”

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