Attachment Styles

There are three main different types of attachment style; Anxious, Avoidant and Secure. Your attachment style is created in childhood, but compounded by adult life experiences. The backbone of attachment theory is that it is beyond our intellectual control: our behaviour is pre-determined by our attachment type.

So, without further ado, here are some checklists based on everything I’ve read about attachment theory. Now, it has to be said, that even though I’m a psychology geek, I’m not a psychologist, so you should probably hop online and do one of the multitude of expert-devised quizzes too, to double check your outcome and read what an actual expert has to say. (I learnt everything I know below from reading Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller).

I’m not even going to bother to try to pull the wool over your eyes by mixing the types up into a multiple-choice questionnaire, because you’re an adult, and you’ll guess which is which anyhow, and it’s a waste of my time and yours. Just answer these completely honestly. Maybe even ask a close friend to read them over to check you’re bang on the money and not being self-delusional.

Give each statement a number, with 0 being ‘not true at all’ 5 being ‘true around half the time’ and 10 being ‘true all of the dang time.’ Once you’ve given each statement a number, add up your numbers in each category.

AVOIDANT
* You’ve never had a relationship last longer than around a year
* You’re single because you haven’t met the right person yet
* You have a checklist, either mental or physical, of what you want in partner, and you won’t settle for second best
* The finality of commitment scares you
* When people get too close, you tend to move away physically or psychologically
* You experience the urge to leave after having had sex
* Exes have talked about your ‘walls’
* The idea of depending on someone else, financially or emotionally, is scary
* You totally trust very few people, if anyone
* You think that love interests are trying to ‘trap you / trick you’ into marriage, parenthood, or financial entanglement
* When a partner is having a rough time and asks for your support, you feel somewhat turned off by their neediness
* Your independence is your most prized asset
* Your partner never knows everything about you; you keep some cards close to your chest
* In long-term relationships, you often find that once the honeymoon period has worn off, you can’t help but pick out faults in your partner
* Your relationship history consists of a lot of casual sex
* You believe sex with one person inevitably becomes dull and repetitive
* You’re a little relieved when you see your partner eyeing up other people

ANXIOUS
* You spend most of your time thinking about your love life.
* You secretly believe you’re single because you’re inadequate in some way.
* You have been known to avoid making plans on a Friday/Saturday night, in case the person you’re interested in wants to see you.
* You often worry that the person you’re dating is losing interest.
* You ask a lot of questions about his / her ex, in order to try to place yourself in the pecking order.
* You find it hard to believe that people truly love you, and often quiz them on this point for reassurance.
* You’ll tell your partner about somebody chatting you up, so that they don’t forget that you’re attractive.
* You have been known to triple-call / triple-text when you get no response.
* Exes have described you as ‘intense’, ‘needy’ and/or ‘demanding’
* You fear that you’ll ‘never find someone else’ should a relationship end
* At the start of a relationship, you tend to put on a performance and maintain high levels of physical appearance. You worry that they won’t like the ‘real you’
* When you’re not in a relationship, you feel incomplete or anxious
* When your partner is away travelling, you are horribly paranoid they will meet someone else, and are haunted by imagined scenes of this happening
* You threaten to leave, purely so that they will beg you to stay
* You fantasise that a partner is ‘The One’ after just a date or two
* If your partner is in a bad mood, you assume it’s something you’ve done wrong
* In confrontation, you tend to say terrible, hot-headed things you later regret

SECURE
* You give affection without fear it won’t be returned
* You’re single because of chance, circumstance and choices you have consciously made.
* Emotional intimacy comes easily to you, and is not dependent on sex
* You don’t worry about being abandoned
* You like depending on others, and having them depend on you
* Your romantic relationships are generally steady and satisfying
* It’s very rare that you raise your voice, make threats, or issue ultimatums during disagreements
* You believe people are inherently faithful and reliable
* You treat your ‘chosen people’ like royalty
* You are comfortable with confiding your innermost thoughts to your partner
* People describe you as ‘mellow’ or ‘low on drama’
* You can disagree with someone without inflamed emotion
* If somebody is in a foul mood, you wonder why, rather than feel paranoid it’s about you
* Break-ups hurt you for a while, but you bounce back fairly quickly
* You stay in touch with exes as friends
* You feel worthy of love and respect
* If your partner goes on a business trip with attractive colleagues, you don’t feel jealous beyond a fleeting pang or two

Take your top scoring category. That’s your attachment style.

According to Attached, around 50 per cent of the general population are Secure (you lucky badgers), around 20 per cent are Anxious (howdy my worrisome friends), 25 per cent are Avoidant (yo to most of my ex-boyfriends), and 3 to 5 per cent fall into a double-winner category (both Anxious and Avoidant, which sounds like a bit of a nightmare, sorry A&A guys).

If you scored highly in two categories, it’s possible you’re moving toward the second-highest attachment style, or moving away from it. For instance, I scored highest in Anxious, but I also scored highly in Secure, which seems to suggest a shift, which we’ll talk more about later. My Avoidant score was 0. I date them, but I don’t relate to them. I identify more strongly with serial killers than I do Avoidants.

You can read more about your attachment style here. Or in the aforementioned book, which is what I really recommend doing.

Finding out I’m not a freak
Finding out I am an Anxious Attacher and reading about it has been nothing short of an epiphany. I just thought I was bananas, but here it was, all written down, all my ‘abnormal’ behaviours, reeled out as normal, humdrum and pedestrian behaviours for this attachment style.

It explained why I used to quiz my boyfriends as to whether they really loved me, and why they loved me, and were they sure they loved me, and whether they loved me more than their exes. It explained my talent of doomscaping ice palaces of thunder out of the teeniest tiniest snowflakes. It explained my irresistible urge to tell my boyfriend, must tell boyfriend when somebody had asked me out, or approached me in the street.

It explained why, when I said to friends, wide-eyed with earnestness, ‘I know he’s [insert reason man is inappropriate, inadvisable or unavailable] but I really like him, and I hardly ever like anyone!’ they would roll their eyes ever-so-slightly and say, ‘Cath, sweetheart, you’ve said that to me three times in the past year about three different guys.’ It explains why, even though I am shooting for commitment, my loins manage to find the most commitment-incapable man in any room. Which has always been a head-scratching conundrum to me.

It made sense of my former snooping, my high sexual appetite, and my fear of letting go of relationships that were no longer serving me, or him. It’s why I would dangle the threat of a break-up over his head, like a gullotine, when actually I was just looking for reassurance and a lingering hug.

I thought these were personal flaws, eyesores, like a deep scratch in a mahogany table, but it turns out they’re just common-or-garden normal for this attachment style. Which is really blooming reassuring.

In fact, this now throws fresh light on repetitive and non-satisfying love-life conversations I have had with my mate Charlotte, who I’ve now realised is a total Avoidant. She be like, ‘I don’t know why you get attached so quickly, or idealise them’ and I be like, ‘I don’t understand how you don’t get attached, and how you don’t put them on a pedestal.’ We would then stare at each other quizzically like we’re a different species.

And we are a different species, attachment wise. Our clash now makes sense. We don’t get each other, because we speak different languages. We’re cut from different attachment style cloths. We’re polar opposites We non comprendes. We never will, in fact. We’ve now given up talking about our love lives, since we can’t compute each other’s POV.

The irony is, if Avoidant Charlotte were an attractive man, I’d probably try to date her. Given we just don’t get each other’s romantic languages, this only serves to illustrate the dunderheaded foolishness of the Anxious-Avoidant pairing. I want to hop into a time machine and visit myself throughout my twenties, disguised as a wise old woman, in a hood to hand myself Attached and say, ‘Read this, sweetpea.’

Attachment style & films
SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t seen 500 days of Summer, don’t read on.

Once you see things through the lens of attachment theory, it changes everything. It takes away the sting of things being personal. Take the film, 500 Days of Summer, which sees Tom (Joseph Gordon Levitt) think that Summer (Zooey Deschanel) is ‘The One’ after a couple of brief exchanges and a moment where they discover they both love The Smiths. He pines and plays it cool. Summer maintains that she doesn’t believe love is real, eventually kisses him over some photocopying, and then abruptly leaves the room. Summer ‘Mirandizes’ Tom when they’re bouncing around in an Ikea bed pretending to be a married couple, telling him that she doesn’t want anything serious.

What’s ‘Mirandizing’? Allow me to explain. Put it this way, the last serious relationship I had was with a guy who with, from the get go, said he was not ready to get into a serious relationship, he had cheated on every other long term partner, and that he didn’t want to get married again, ever. Red flag, red flag, dealbreaker. But I went there anyway. It was the most blatant example yet of my deliberately stuffing myself into the cannon, and then being surprised when I’m jettisoned out of it. Oh, really, gosh, what a surprise. Believe people when they show you who they are. And every time I’ve gotten in deep with an emotionally unavailable man, there have been warning signs way before the cannon blast. The fact I’m in a cannon, for a start. But I choose to ignore it and say I’m comfy here and I like it, and I’m ok with being in a cannon.

Summer and Tom sleep together for a while and ultimately, Summer gets cold feet and calls it off. Tom then hankers for Summer for months and months. Basically, this is a classic ‘Anxious Boy meets Avoidant Girl’ love story.

Knowing it’s a case of attachment type clash, rather than a personal slight, is comforting, non? So Tom and Summer were highly unlikely to work, given their Avoidant / Anxious dynamic, but the implication at the end is that both of them go on to have happy relationships, probably with Secures. Ultimately, Anxious and Avoidant are a pairing that just won’t work well, like oil and water, or even fire and petrol. They just never quite merge, or they boom! Whoosh up into flames of discontent.

Tremendous news
However, there is some terrific news. You can consciously change your attachment style, once you’re aware of it and know the lay of the land. Obviously, Attached is like a road map for how to do that, and I am not even going to attempt to distill all the great advice to be had there.

A quarter of people do manage to change their attachment style over a four-year period. A study cited in the book has shown that parenthood can cause a shift in attachment style, in many cases. And interestingly enough, whenever I did the test in the book from the stance of ‘the Cath of 2012’ she came up as much higher in the Anxious scale, and practically non-existent on the Secure scale.

So, I have been shifting my style from Anxious to Secure, without even knowing it, with all the things I’ve been doing, like not dating for a year, not stalking people online after we’ve split, or calling time on things with Avoidants that are clearly a cul-de-sac rather than driving around and around inside said dead end, trying to get to a destination that is unavailable.

On the flipside
So, I thunderously recommend you read Attached. However, I did actively disagree with some points made. They make the case that co-dependency is a good thing, and strongly suggest that the ‘secure base’ of another is required in order to lead a daring, adventurous, satisfied life. Which is utter poppycock.

They also cite a quote from Into the Wild about happiness only being real when shared, which made me weep slightly on a beach in Barcelona. ‘Is my happy day not real because I didn’t share it with anyone?! Wahhhh.’ And then I realised that I had indeed had a daring, adventurous, satisfied day of whizzing around a fountain flanked with dragons, crunching my way through some crispy grilled sardines, and accidentally finding myself on the dog / nudist / gay-cruising beach, and deciding I really liked it, given it was so tranquil and bordered by a satisfying juxtaposition of palm trees and futuristically large industrial chimneys. So. I call bullshit on happiness only being real when shared, authors of Attached.

But other than that, finding out about attachment styles was a true game-changer for me.

Trying to stop lying

‘I’ve never seen any life transformation that didn’t begin with the person in question finally getting tired of their own bullshit.’ Elizabeth Gilbert

When I rolled around to sobriety, I truly was tired of my own bullshit. If addicted drinking is the horse, it pulls behind it a carriage of lies. Sometimes I even had to write down the lies in order to remember them. ‘Remember I said I had flu to swerve that family party!’ or ‘Remember I said I slept at Alice’s house, rather than at that random person’s!’

Why was I lying? If I’d been honest, I knew that my drinking would be scrutinised, since ‘I’m hungover AF, again’ or ‘I spent my train money on Jaegerbombs, soz’ could not be used repeatedly. Yet, they were repeatedly my reasons.

Existing in this web of self-spun lies was exhausting. I constantly felt hangdog guilty and paranoid. Like a jumpy fugitive trying to pass as a regular person.

During my six months in AA, I learnt to do something called a ‘daily inventory’ where you self-evaluate your day and note down any dishonest moments. I recorded them on the notes section of my phone and mused later on the root reason for the lie.

It’s mind-boggling how often we lie, even if it’s to smooth social interaction by saying you like a band you don’t. A study found that in a 10-minute conversation, the average person tells nearly two lies (1.75).

My lies looked like this.

1. SELF-AGGRANDISING LIES. ‘I ran 10km’ when I only ran 9km. Or ‘I mostly cook from scratch’ when I actually use jar pesto, tub houmous and pre-made green curry paste.

2. PEOPLE-PLEASING LIES. ‘I’m cool with you being an hour late, absolutely.’ Or ‘yes, I like your awful new dress/the creepy antique doll you have given me’.

3. WRIGGLE-FROM-BENEATH-TROUBLE LIES. Most commonly in the sphere of work. ‘I’ve started that report, yes’ or ‘My train was cancelled, therefore I am not to blame’.

4. POOR-ME LIES. ‘They did/said so-and-so to me’. Omitting what I did/said to them.

Obviously, living a life with zero lies takes a heroic effort. Herculean, almost. A quarter of our lies are told for other people’s benefit. I do still lie at times. Totally. I’m human, and being honest sometimes goes hand-in-hand with being brutal. Show me a person who says they tell no lies and I’ll show you a…  you know.

But for the most part, I do my damndest not to lie anymore. When I find myself leaning towards a lie, I lean back towards the truth. I was recently paid £200 by mistake, by a magazine I work regularly for. Normally, I would have taken the money and ran, probably straight to Oliver Bonas. FREEMONEY! But no. I alerted the accounts department and paid the money back. Gah. But also – yay.

Why? Because a clean conscience feels as good as freshly-washed sheets. It’s a favour to myself. That £200 was grubby money. As Mark Twain says ‘If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.’

Try keeping your own daily lie inventory, just for a week. It’s really eye-opening.

Dear friends-who-think-I-can-moderate

Recently, a friend asked me this extraordinary question.

‘Do you think you’ll ever drink again? Like, just in a different way this time? In moderation?’

Once I picked my jaw off the floor that she’d even asked me that, given she knows every-damn-thing about the suicidal plans and the shaking hands and the mouthwash-drinking, I garbled an answer along the lines of:
‘The plan is to never, ever drink again, because even though it’s hard to believe, I tried to moderate for many, many years.’

‘You were trying to moderate?!’ was her bewildered response.

The thing is, my delightful friend has no idea what addicted drinking is like, because she’s never been there. I think she’s sceptical it even exists, because she can’t imagine it herself, and now that I seem so sorted and healthy, surely I should be able to drink again.

It’s not the first time I’ve been asked this question. Another friend said, ‘So, now you’re all happy and not depressed any more, couldn’t you just drink a little bit? Because now you’re happy. So you won’t over-drink.’

No, no, no. The #1 absolute 100% hands-down reason I am now happy and mentally healthy is because I do not drink, ever. They think that the depression was the reason I drank; but the drinking created the depression. The thought of checking out of the world has never, ever even half-occurred to me in sobriety. Yet, in the last six months of my drinking, those dark thoughts were practically daily. Because alcohol is a depressant, and if you drink fuckloads of it…. well. I rest my case. It’s depressing.

My wonderful friends also have no idea that I attempted moderation constantly. And failed, constantly. All they saw was me drunk, every time I drank. So, they think that was my intention: to get drunk. Because they don’t get drunk when they don’t want to get drunk. Or if they do, it’s very rare. A once-a-year type occasion.

I decided to write them a letter, to explain what I couldn’t find the words for, when they asked me.

Dear friends-who-think-I-can-moderate,

Firstly, you are lovely. Thank you for sticking around even though I was a fricking nightmare for so many years. I love you.

But, I need to explain something to you, that I can’t quite adequately do through speaking, because I am a better writer than I am a speaker.

Imagine this. Every time you have one coffee, you find that you have four or five coffees. In a row. Within a few hours. You just can’t seem to stop, once you’ve started. Until you’ve had so much caffeine that your body just shuts down and you generally pass out.

You try everything you can think of to just have one or two coffees, because you feel like you can’t live without coffee. Everyone drinks coffee! Coffee is fun! Must keep coffee. You try exercising before coffee, only buying espresso coffees, not keeping spare coffee in the house, creating rules around what days you can drink coffee. Nothing works. You try to control the mysterious coffee-hunger for two decades, and you always, always fail.

Then it gets to the point that you don’t want to live anymore, because the coffee is making you feel so wretched. You have destroyed relationships over coffee, you have woken up in a jail cell after a coffee binge, you can’t remember huge chunks of your life because of coffee, you keep entrusting your life to total strangers after too much coffee, you keep spending all of your money on coffee.

You finally, finally manage to stop drinking coffee. You find that, if you don’t drink the first coffee, the coffee-hunger lies dormant. The residual cravings gnaw at you at first, but eventually the hunger fades to a faint tug, and eventually disappears completely. You learn to ignore it when your still-addicted brain is suggesting coffee. You can resist the thought, rather than act on it. Who knew?!

You grow really, super, mega happy without coffee in your life. You realise coffee was the root of all your problems; not the solution, as you once believed. Everything starts to get better; your friendships heal, you clear your debts, you get a great new job, you look better, you feel incredible. You have literally never felt this good.

Would you ever risk drinking coffee again? And chance re-awakening that awful, all-consuming hunger?

So, no, lovely friend, I will never be trying to moderate ever, ever again. I tried for 20 years, and never cracked it. And that is not something to feel sad about. It’s actually a life-changing, heart-awakening relief. I have finally stopped failing at moderation, and started winning at being happy.

Love, Cath

Sober Celebs

JAMIE LEE CURTIS

“Getting sober just exploded my life. Now I have a much clearer sense of myself and what I can and can’t do. I am more successful than I have ever been. I feel very positive where I never did before, and I think that’s all a direct result of getting sober.”

EVAN DANDO, of The Lemonheads

“I decided if I gave up the thing that was holding me back, which was alcohol, I might be able start writing songs again. It worked too. I actually lost my taste for booze, which was weird.”

JEMIMA FRENCH

“I don’t drink anymore. I don’t want to get old, and drinking really makes you old. I just got fed up of feeling slightly groggy in the morning when I went out and had too many drinks. Now, I can go out until two or three in the morning and leap out of bed the next day and feel great.”

GRAHAM COXON, Blur

“You just don’t do it. Drink. Plus, don’t be scared of being bored. And if you do get sad, don’t think, ‘Fuck, I wanna have a drink,’ just think, ‘I’m sad, it’ll pass.’ And that’s pretty much it.”

FATBOY SLIM

“I bought myself an extra ten years as a DJ by quitting drinking. I would have been either burnt-out or dead by now.”

KRISTEN JOHNSTON

“It’s time for addiction to stand up and demand some respect. Because every time someone is ostracized for being an addict, every time there’s a breathless, trumped-up, sensational headline, every time we giggle at a wasted celebrity, and every time addiction is televised as salacious entertainment, yet another addict is shamed into silence.”

SAMUEL L. JACKSON

“I ain’t the kind of guy who can have one drink. I never could. That’s what I have to remember. I never had one drink in my whole life. When I bought a six-pack, I didn’t drink a couple of beers and put the rest in the fridge for later in the week. I drank the lot, then went out and bought another one. I was compulsive.”

EDIE FALCO

“[Getting sober] is like learning to ride a bike, you know? You have to get your bearings and you have to stay stable. And balanced.”

RINGO STARR

“I had a serious drinking problem… the blackouts got worse, and I didn’t know where I’d been, what I’d done. I knew I had the problem for years. But it plays tricks with your head. Very cunning and baffling, is alcohol….If any of my friends can’t deal with me being sober, then I just don’t bother with them. Because for me to live is more important than a friend getting uptight because I won’t have a drink. If we go to a party now, Barbara and I usually leave around about 11:30, when everyone else starts getting rocky… It makes my heart glad. I lived that ridiculous myth: To be creative you have to have your brain twisted in some way. Since we’ve stopped, it’s fabulous.”

ANTHONY HOPKINS

“I would show up on movie sets after drinking and not sleeping. What made me stop drinking was not remembering where I’d been the night before. One day I just thought, ‘I’ve had enough of this.’ It was simple. I didn’t want to go on feeling bad. I don’t miss drinking, not at all. I don’t want to ever go back there. Now I just love English tea and digestive biscuits or Hobnobs. I just thought, well I have a choice here. Change or die. Grow or go.”

AMBER VALETTA

On what she would say to her twentysomething self. “Just say no. Drugs and alcohol will rob you of your present, keep you a prisoner of your past and hold you hostage, blocking any real future. Addiction will be your darkest demon, but it will ultimately save your life. Your sobriety at age 25 will become the cornerstone of building your self-esteem and discovering who you truly are and want to be.”

JIM CARREY

“I’m very serious about no alcohol, no drugs. Life is too beautiful.”

KRISTIN DAVIS, Charlotte from Sex and the City

Became teetotal aged 22. “I really didn’t think I would pass 30. I don’t know why or whatever, I just didn’t. That’s a very weird thing to say, I’m sorry. I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I was drinking so much as a youth. I drank a lot when I was a teenager and I don’t drink any more, because that’s when I thought, you know, I’m gonna end up a car wreck. I just had a fatalistic view of the whole situation at that point. I just realized that drinking was counterproductive to what I was trying to do.”

EWAN MCGREGOR

“It just wasn’t so much fun any more. So I decided to stop. It wasn’t that big a deal. I mean, it’s not an easy thing to do, especially here – the culture is so wrapped up in alcohol and drinking – but it was just one too many things in my life. I was a husband, a father, and I was a drinker. And the one I was willing to let go was the drinking. So I just did that and it made everything else much easier. My life is much better for it. I don’t miss it.’

LANA DEL REY

“I would drink every day. I would drink alone….Until it wasn’t working for me anymore. Thinking about not drinking forever was very scary, but once I did it wasn’t hard anymore because I had all of these miracles happen that let me know I was on exactly the right path.”