Which of the following describes you best?
- You don’t tolerate an unhealthy relationship. You like a balance of time together and time apart. Even though it’s hard to let go when a relationship has run its course, you can do it and bounce back.
- You love to be close to someone. When you’re in love, you’re in it all the way. You tend to obsess over your latest crush. Nothing is worse than when the man you love pushes you away.
- You’re independent, self-sufficient, and proud of the fact that you don’t need a man. You don’t like clinginess or neediness. You stay safe by never leaning too hard on anyone.
- You have a love/hate relationship with intimacy. You worry that he’ll reject you if you get too close. So you keep him at an arm’s length, even though you wish you could let down your guard.
Before I tell you what your choice says about you, let me explain why I asked.
Do you find yourself dating the same guy over and over again?
If so, it may not be him. It might be YOU.
Everyone has a “love pattern,” also known as an attachment style.
Your love pattern defines the way you relate in intimate relationships and what kind of partner you find attractive.
You didn’t form this love pattern on your own. You can’t choose a love pattern like you choose a great outfit.
Rather, your parents gave it to you—completely unintentionally.
They didn’t know what they were doing. They were just trying to respond to the needs of an insatiable baby as best they could.
But their parenting choices—unconscious or not—made a BIG impact on your romantic future.
Depending on what kind of parenting you received, you either became securely attached or insecurely attached.
Basically, this means that EITHER you were able to trust your parents to be there for you and respond appropriately to your needs…
OR you weren’t.
Before you search back through your past to figure out whether you had a happy childhood or not, let me stop you.
This all happens before your brain is fully developed. Before you even have the capacity to form lasting memories.
You start developing your love pattern when you’re an infant, and it’s fully visible by the time you’re a toddler.
Here’s how researchers measure it.
The Science of Love Patterns
Back in the 1970s, Mary Ainsworth conducted an experiment called the “Strange Situation.”
She put babies (11-17 months old) in an unfamiliar room with their mothers. A stranger came into the room, talked to the mother, then approached the child. With the child’s attention distracted, the mother sneaked away … leaving the child in the room alone with the stranger.
Naturally, the child became anxious. Where did his or her mother go?
The mother came back a few minutes later, and researchers filmed their reunion.
Securely attached children reached out to their mother for comfort. Once comforted, these happy children returned to exploring the room.
Insecurely attached children didn’t do that. Some ignored their mothers when she returned. Others pestered their mothers until she gave them the response they craved.
It’s almost as if they knew they couldn’t rely on their parents, even at such a young age.
Do you have any idea how YOU responded when your mother quickly popped out for a moment?
Probably not. But you do have clues as to how you might have reacted to a “strange situation.”
Those clues lie in your adult relationships.
Is He Your Emotional Support?
When you’re upset, who you gonna call?
Your guy, of course.
When we’re distressed, we reach out to our partners for comfort.
In fact, being there for each other is a big part of what makes relationships work.
You need someone in your life who cares how you’re doing. You need someone you can lean on, who’ll offer you the emotional support you need to feel better again.
Have you found it easy to get the emotional support you needed from your partner?
If not, your love pattern (and his) might be getting in the way.
4 Types of Love Patterns
There are 4 different love patterns:
If you look back at your response to the question that opened this article, you’ll see the corresponding description that fits each style.
Securely attached folks have healthy boundaries.
They’re not afraid of intimacy or relying on another person. They’re not afraid of being on their own, either. Their relationships support them. If a relationship turns sour, they have the strength to let go of it rather than remain in a toxic situation.
Anxious people can come across as needy or clingy.
They love being close, even connected at the hip. Unfortunately, they tend to fall in love with avoidant men who avoid intimacy. They spend their relationship thinking of increasingly more inventive ways to get the closeness they crave … only to fail again and again.
Dismissive-avoidant people prize their independence above all.
They don’t want to depend on another person. They want to feel free even as they enter into a relationship. They need a lot of space. They can comfortably contemplate being single for life.
Fearful-avoidant people crave true love, but they’re terrified when it’s offered to them.
They’re used to being rejected every time they reach out or show vulnerability. They leap into relationships, only to pull back when they confront the level of intimacy expected of them. They can end up spending a lot of time alone—not because they’re loners, but because it keeps them safe from rejection.
Which one describes you best?
What If You Don’t Like Your Love Pattern?
Research suggests that about 80% of people stick with the same love pattern for life.
But you don’t have to.
The best way to heal insecurities is to have a great relationship.
Talk about love patterns with your partner. Share yours with him. Ask him which love pattern he most resonates with.
Agree to help each other find the right balance between intimacy and independence.
If you’re anxious, ask your partner to help you practice taking more alone time. Show yourself that nothing bad will happen if you spend an evening on your own or do something by yourself.
If you’re avoidant, ask your partner to help you practice becoming more intimate. Show yourself that nothing bad will happen if you allow yourself to get closer to the one you love.
You may be stuck with your love pattern, but that doesn’t mean you have to let it wreck your life. Make allowances for it. Push yourself past your comfort zone. Experiment.
You’re not a baby anymore. This time, you’re in control.