We have been given tons of romance advice that tells us how we should act in relationships: Don't be too needy, don't get too jealous and have a strong sense of independence.
But none of this advice is "good advice." You can listen to these people and always try to not feel jealous, not be annoyed at little details and not be too needy. But we are who we are.
The explanation behind why we behave this way lies in “attachment theory.” Attachment theory is based on the idea that we've been programmed by evolution to single out certain individuals in our lives and make them precious to us.
Although we have a basic need to form these special bonds with individuals, the ways we create these bonds vary. Everyone in our society, whether he or she has never dated before or been married for 50 years, falls into one of three attachment styles: secure, anxious or avoidant.
About 56 percent of people in the world are secure. Around 20 percent are anxious. Twenty-three percent are avoidant, and the remaining 1 percent are a rare combination of anxious and avoidant.
Each of these attachment styles exists for a reason. This means you act the way you do in your romantic relationships for a specific reason.
None of these attachment styles are labeled "healthy" or "unhealthy." They're simply descriptions of the way you act in romantic relationships. They're not forms of judgment.
People with secure attachment styles typically feel comfortable with intimacy, and they are usually warm and loving. If you're secure, you're pretty straightforward. You don't play games, and you're not overly dramatic.
People with anxious attachment styles generally crave intimacy. They are often preoccupied with their relationships, and they tend to worry about their partner's ability to love them back.
If you’re anxious, you withdraw during conflict, get jealous and worried easily, and may act busy when you're not. People with avoidant attachment styles equate intimacy with loss of independence, and they constantly try to minimize closeness.
If you’re avoidant, you might feel like you're not ready to commit. You focus on small imperfections in your partner, and you notice when people try to infringe upon your independence.
People with avoidant attachment styles tend to think being in a relationship will "tie them down" while they pursue their goals. Even though each of these three attachment styles exist for a reason, they can still negatively affect your happiness if you're not able to identify them.
If you have an anxious attachment style, you will naturally gravitate to an avoidant. But someone with an avoidant attachment style is the worst person you could ever date if you're anxious. The anxious partner will want intimacy, while the avoidant partner will want space.
If you’re anxious, you’re better off with someone who's secure. In fact, in every relationship, there should be at least one person with a secure attachment style.
If you have an anxious attachment style, stop thinking you shouldn't be needy. There’s nothing wrong with being needy.
The key is to find someone with a secure attachment style because the secure person will be able to handle you being needy. In this way, the relationship will be healthy.
Researchers actually found the happiest relationships were those in which both people were secure. Interestingly though, they also found that relationships in which only one person was secure were just as happy as relationships in which both people were secure.
This is very important because it means if you're not secure, you should aim to be with someone who is. In the book, "Attached: The New Science Of Adult Attachment And How It Can Help You Find — And Keep — Love," Amir Levine and Rachel Heller say, “We are programmed to act in a predetermined manner within our romantic relationships.”
But you're also not a slave to your DNA. You can always learn to change the parts of your attachment style that don't serve you well.
Being able to understand attachment theory and identify the three attachment styles is an easy and dependable way to predict people's behavior in any romantic situation. If you want to find out what you or your partner's attachment style is, take the attachment theory test here.