Looking for love can be a very emotional endeavor. But most people don’t know that there’s actually an entire science behind finding – and ultimately keeping – your significant other.
Dr. Amir Levine, an adult, child and adolescent psychiatrist and neuroscientist in New York City, delved into the scientific world of dating in his book, Attached. Along with his co-author, Rachel Heller, Levine outlined the best possible path for people to follow who want to have a happy, long-lasting relationship.
Q: What inspired you to look at the science behind such an emotional behavior?
A: I came across the topic by chance, working in a therapeutic nursery and working with mothers who had post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and their toddlers. We did attachment related therapies with them to help them bond with their kids. We found if a kid had a tantrum, it would bring back the PTSD symptoms in the mother. Working with them got me into this subject of attachment.
With adult attachment – people actually behave in very specific ways. It blew me away because I never knew it existed. But there’s a whole science behind how we behave in romantic relationships, and no one tells you how to use it to find a better match for yourself and better your relationships. So many people get divorced, and it’s such a painful process. So you can use this science to know from the get-go if someone is a good match for you.
Q: What were some trends you found?
A: The science translated into two main ideas. One, we’re all hardwired through evolution to be dependent on our significant other. We’ve been told by society not to be codependent on our mates, but psychologically and physiologically we start to depend on them. They control our heart rate, our blood pressure, even how we sleep at night. If you’re in a good relationship and you have a cut, you’ll even heal faster.
The dependency is there, and we don’t have a choice there. It’s not an option, it’s a biological fact. So then it becomes crucial to find the right person to depend on.
So how do you do that? That has a lot to do with the second main idea: Your attachment style. We found there are three main styles which have to do with our intimacy and closeness.
Q: What are the three styles?
A: The first attachment style is ‘Anxious.’ If you’re anxious, you love to be close and intimate, but you’re also very vigilant. You tend to be worried a lot about being loved back.
The second style is ‘Avoidance.’ You want to be in a relationship, but something funny happens when you get too close to someone. You start to feel uncomfortable and push the other person away.
And lastly there’s ‘Secure.’ People who are secure love to be close and intimate, and they’re usually very easy going. If you look at these three attachment styles, you can tell pretty easily where the drama lies. The good news is that about 55 percent of people are secure, 20 percent are anxious and about 25 percent are avoidant.
Q: How do you identify your attachment style and the right people to date?
A: There is a quiz in the book and on our website on how to identify your relationship style. Also some people know right away. There’s also a way to tell what other people’s attachment styles are. It’s almost like learning and language and knowing what to listen for. You have a blue print for when you go on a date and know what person is a good match for you and who wouldn’t be.
If you’re anxious and you’re date is avoidant, you’re well advised not to date each other. But if you’re secure, you can date anyone. The remarkable thing about ‘Secures’ is that they’re the super mates of evolution – it’s like having a relationship coach built into your relationship.
Q: How can we apply the science in your book to our everyday relationships?
A: If you’re dating, definitely learn about this attachment. Especially for people who are anxious, you have to learn there’s an attraction between avoidant and anxious people. The avoidant people push you away, and the anxious ones wait by the phone and learn to mistakenly identify their anxiety with passion and interest. Then, if secure people are around, anxious people don’t pay attention because they find them boring – they don’t play games.
But for people who are dating, we say give secure people a chance. Wear your heart on your sleeve when you go on a date. It’s not a place of weakness; it comes from a place of strength. Don’t be ashamed.
For people who are in relationships, the whole idea is to tap into this secure mindset. Talk about what secure people do. The most basic thing is that they have an innate understanding that their partner’s well being is their well being. They know instinctively that they need to take care of their partner’s needs to avoid a huge fight and be happy.
Visit www.attachedthebook.com to learn more about Dr. Levine and his book.