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Entries in avoidance (15)


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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Don’t Go To Bed Angry (and Good Luck Getting a Good Night’s Sleep If You Do)

I’ve noticed that, come speech time at weddings (my favorite part), there is a certain piece of advice that will almost certainly be uttered into the microphone. Whether it’s the father of the bride, a long-married matron of honor, or the groom’s batty Aunt Rose, someone always seems to advise the cheery newlyweds to “never go to bed angry.” Does this little nugget of wisdom truly deserve to surpass “be kind to each other” or “do the dishes without being asked”? Probably so; if you’re concerned about getting a good night’s sleep, “never go to bed angry” just might be the best advice out there. 

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Responsiveness and Desire for Sex: The Goldilocks Phenomenon

Gurit Birnbaum presented research on how a partner’s responsiveness (in other words, their emotional availability and supportiveness) influences a person’s desire for sex with them during a first impression, and how this differs based on attachment style and gender.

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How Does Your Attachment Influence Your Sexual Relationships?

I saw a symposium of researchers who used attachment theory to explain differences in sexual behavior. In general, people high on attachment anxiety or avoidance (in other words, more insecure folks) have less satisfying sexual experiences.

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"Conflict Avoidance": Relationship Matters Podcast #13

A new Relationship Matters (the official podcast of the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships) has just been released. Dr. Tamara Afifi (Univ. of California, Santa Barbara) talks about why women find (conflict) avoidance more dissatisfying than men. Check it out here.


Was Barack Obama “Avoidant” in His Youth?

A newly released biography of Barack Obama by David Maraniss has drawn attention (see coverage here and here) to the president’s past. There’s nothing necessarily scandalous in the book, but it does focus on the relationships Obama had before he met Michelle. As a relationship scientist, this is a really cool (and rare) glimpse into Obama’s romantic life through the stories of young women who shared intimate moments with him.

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The Consultant Returns: Are We Birds of a Feather?

The Consultant was back in town this week and invited me for dinner and a show. The last time I saw him was over two weeks ago for our first date, so I was excited. He picked me up wearing a suit and carrying a bouquet of flowers. Very nice. My mother, who lives with me and was watching my children for the night, was impressed.

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Four Signs that Don Draper is Avoidantly Attached

“The reason you haven’t felt it is because it doesn’t exist. What you call love was invented by guys like me, to sell nylons. You're born alone and you die alone and this world just drops a bunch of rules on top of you to make you forget those facts.” – Don Draper

In the spirit of the upcoming Mad Men Season Five premiere, I thought it might be fun to do a character sketch of Don Draper, the show’s most central and intriguing character. Don’s creative genius can’t be denied – he outperforms everyone in the 60’s advertising world with his sheer wit and charm. However, Don does not enjoy the same level of success in his personal life. In previous posts, we have discussed how examining a person’s attachment style can help us to better understand their patterns in relationships. Don is an excellent example of an avoidantly attached person: someone who relies on only himself, who pushes other people away, and who tries to avoid intimacy wherever possible.

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I’m Watching You on Facebook: Attachment and Partner Surveillance

Facebook helps you stay connected with friends and family, but some people also use it to keep tabs on their romantic partners. Anxiously attached people are more likely to use Facebook to monitor their partners’ behaviors and are more jealous about their partners’ Facebook use (e.g., if the partner is still friends with a former boyfriend/girlfriend). Conversely, avoidant people show the opposite pattern; they monitor their partners less and feel less jealousy.

(A note to you anxious folks out there: if it will help you feel better, please don’t be afraid to spend lots of time monitoring the SofR Facebook page; avoidants are welcome too.)

Marshall, T. C., Bejanyan, K., Di Castro, G., & Lee, R. A. (in press). Attachment styles as predictors of Facebook-related jealousy and surveillance in romantic relationships. Personal Relationships.


Valentine’s Day Gifts: Pleasure or Obligation?

image source: askmen.comDo you enjoy giving Valentine’s Day gifts? Or is it an unpleasant obligation? Your feelings about giving presents depends on your attachment style. Across two studies, secure people reported that giving gifts to partners was more pleasurable and not done out of obligation. Conversely, people high in avoidance experienced less pleasure, whereas those high in anxiety felt more obligated to give gifts, possibly because they feared losing their partners when their relationships weren’t going well.

Nguyen, H. P., & Munch, J. M. (2011). Romantic gift giving as a chore or pleasure: The effects of attachment orientations on gift giving perceptions. Journal of Business Research, 64, 113-118.


Attachment: A "Bittersweet Symphony" or "Unwritten"?

"Just how stable are attachment styles?" This question is raised every year by my students. Some ask because they are curious if attachment styles are similar to personality traits. Others wonder if attachment styles imply destiny with their relationship outcomes. Yet others are certain that attachment styles are flexible and malleable, changing with context, situations, or partners. Others hope that attachment can be changed, or even overwritten entirely. It turns out these questions aren't that different from the ones attachment theorists have debated for decades.

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Measuring Attachment Security - A Little Or A Lot?

Measuring any personality trait is a tricky business, and attachment security is no exception. As I mentioned before in this post on attachment, sometimes a person could have a mild or moderate level of insecurity, which is quite different from being extremely insecure. It may not be completely accurate to categorize people into one of three groups when there is so much variation in people’s behavior.

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Attachment Theory: Explaining Relationship “Styles”

Sometimes it’s easy to spot insecure people. They could be highly jealous, petty, paranoid, or emotionally distant. They could resist being touched or comforted when they’re upset, or they could go from being happy to furious at the drop of a hat, leaving their partners scratching their heads.

Fortunately, there’s an explanation for these behaviors, and it lies in “attachment theory.”

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Attachment Styles at Hogwarts: Love in Harry Potter’s World

Like in any boarding school teeming with youngsters, Hogwarts is overflowing with raging hormones. Our three main characters (Harry, Ron, and Hermione) go through not just the angst of trying to defeat He Who Must Not Be Named; they are also trying to reign in the power of their own attraction to each other. We can better understand their failures and successes by viewing each of these characters through the lens of attachment theory, one of the most popular perspectives on romantic relationships.

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“Sexting,” Anxious Attachment, and Relationship Expectations

With the proliferation of smart phones, “sexting” is on the increase. Even Brett Farve (alledgedly) and the (former) mayor of Detroit have gotten caught up in the craze! But who is likely to sext with their partners? A new research paper examines sexting and its association with adult attachment.

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