Adult attachment theory, pioneered in the 1950s by British psychoanalyst John Bowlby, is a helpful lens for viewing how we engage in and develop adult relationships, according to neuroscientist Amir Levine and social psychologist Rachel Heller. Understand how the scientific theory works and you’ll be better equipped to find your romantic match — or to improve your existing partnership.
At its simplest, attachment theory posits that people in relationships fall into three distinct groups, based on their attachment style. They are either secure, anxious or avoidant — and their style determines how they behave in and what their attitude is toward romantic interactions.
The ideal, and most prevalent, group is “secure”: A person with a secure style is comfortable sharing feelings and with intimacy. They believe their partner provides a loving, supportive and secure base, and that they in turn can provide that same emotional security for their partner.
The second and third groups are the book’s focus. People with an “anxious” style find themselves worrying whether or not their partner loves them back, and they tend to allow themselves to become preoccupied with the status of their relationship.
Those with an “avoidant” style struggle with intimacy. They view romantic involvements as a loss of independence and actively work against getting close to anyone.
Levine and Heller explain how we can diagnose our attachment style and what steps to take to combat its negative effects and build strong, healthy attachments.