Margaret is a mental health advocate and has studied psychology. She aspires to help people live better lives.
Do you often find yourself involved with partners who are afraid of commitment and intimacy? Did all your former partners violate your boundaries or repeatedly play mind games? Or maybe, on the contrary, you’ve noticed them becoming overly fixated on you?
If these situations ring a bell, chances are you’ve been forming relationships with people who had unhealthy attachment styles. Maybe you let their looks, wits, or humor draw you in, and never paid attention to one crucial aspect of their personality: their attachment style.
Finding a partner with a secure attachment style is like winning the lottery. If you’re wondering how you can identify one, here are some of their traits that can help you spot them.
1. They’ve Mastered the Art of Empathy
Have you ever announced some incredible news to your partner (e.g. a promotion) only for them to pat you on the back and quickly go back to watching TV?
Or maybe, you were devastated about a bad experience you just had, and instead of comforting you, they dismissed your feelings by telling you you were overreacting.
Those are the kind of reactions you get when your partner lacks empathy. However, if you’re with a securely attached partner, you’ll notice how they always actively listen, understand, recognize, and support your thoughts and feelings.
That’s because they have mastered the art of empathy, which is one of the secrets to happy and healthy relationships. As marriage and family therapist Andrea Brandt explains about empathy:
“Feeling empathy for another person means putting yourself in their shoes. It is the ability to imagine what someone else is thinking and feeling. Unlike sympathy, which means feeling compassion or pity for another, empathy is putting yourself in the other person’s place and seeing the world through their eyes.”
2. They Don’t Crave Validation
Being with someone who lacks self-esteem and constantly searches for validation from the people around them–including yourself–can be emotionally exhausting.
For example, due to their fear of abandonment as well as not being good enough, they might overly cling to you or violate your boundaries. On the other hand, they might turn to people outside your relationship for extra validation and–unwillingly– create tension, or jealousy in your relationship.
That’s why a relationship with a securely attached person is much more emotionally calmer and safer.
Securely attached people have high self-esteem and feel comfortable in their own skin. As a result, they don’t seek validation and reassurance from other people, and that includes their partners. Thus, they don’t:
- crave other people’s acceptance
- let negative comments bring them down
- let other people’s opinions affect their choices
- try to measure your love or bombard you with questions such as “Do you really love me?”, or “Am I good enough for you?”
- overthink and question everything you say and do for them
3. They Bring Balance in Every Conversation
Sometimes identifying a person’s attachment style in the early stages of a relationship can be tricky as certain characteristics start to surface after some time.
However, paying attention to the conversations you have with your partner and more specifically, how much balance they bring in them can prove very helpful.
For example, notice how much they talk about themselves. Are they awkward and stressed (usually indicating an anxious attachment style), come off as cocky and arrogant (usually indicating an avoidant attachment style), or are they confident and relaxed (usually indicating a secure attachment style)?
Or, another example, how much intimate information do they reveal about themselves, their past, and their previous relationships? Revealing too much too soon is usually linked with anxiously attached people, whereas revealing too little is something people with avoidant attachment styles tend to do.
On the other hand, in the middle, we have the securely attached individuals: knowing how to keep the balance, they reveal neither too much nor too little–just the right amount.
4. They Create a Space of Open, Safe Communication
Poor communication is probably the #1 reason misunderstandings ensue, hurt feelings arise and relationships fall apart.
Often, most of us expect our partners to read our minds, predict our reactions and anticipate our needs–something that’s completely unrealistic. Without constant, clear, and open communication, you can’t have a healthy relationship.
When it comes to attachment styles, avoidant types tend to be dismissive of their partner’s feelings and create distance from their partners. Anxious types, on the other hand, are afraid to be direct and tend to withdraw from their partners and assume their needs won’t be met.
Securely attached people though, make sure to create a space of open and safe communication for their partners. That includes:
- being direct and honest
- communicating their feelings, needs, or thoughts
- making sure they communicate with you in a clear and consistent way
- encouraging you to express your inner thoughts and feelings to them
- being respectful and accepting of your opinions, thoughts, and feelings, even if they disagree with them
- showing genuine interest in your experiences, dreams, goals, or plans
5. They Don’t Invite Their Past Into Your Relationship
Everyone has emotional baggage. The difference between securely attached people and the rest is that the former won’t invite emotional baggage from their past to haunt your relationship.
Most people rush to get into new relationships, without checking their baggage at the door–something that inevitably creates a lot of emotional turmoil for them as well as for their partners.
As psychologist Jeffrey Bernstein explains in his article:
“To succeed in a new relationship, both partners must be willing to get beyond any past hurts. If this does not happen, then one day a new partner seems to do something uncannily similar to an ex, triggering a chain of emotional reactions. Even though this is a new relationship partner, the feelings are the same, and usually the reactions are as well.”
A securely attached person won’t compare you to their exes, and they won’t project their trauma onto you. They won’t let their past experiences affect your relationship and you won’t have to worry about hidden skeletons in their closet.
These people have accepted their past mistakes and have healed from their past wounds–and for this reason, are able to sustain a healthy relationship.
6. They Don’t Have Unrealistic Relationship Expectations
Although securely attached people are always looking to improve themselves, they don’t look for a perfect relationship or a perfect partner.
They accept you for who you are, with all your flaws and little quirks. They don’t expect you to be strong all the time–they’re happy to support you on the days you can’t support yourself.
They don’t expect you to always be the one who comes up with solutions for the problems that arise in your relationship–they’re happy to communicate and work with you in order to fix them.
In other words, they don’t have unrealistic relationship expectations — they know that there are no perfect people and no perfect relationships.
The Bottom Line
Being in a relationship with a securely attached person is a wonderful experience– they let you grow, make you feel loved, heard, and understood and there’s no drama, mind games, or toxic relationship patterns.
Of course, that’s not to say that relationships with insecure or avoidant types are meant to be disasters; it’s just that securely attached people make you feel emotionally safe–with them, things are much easier and far less complicated.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Margaret Pan