“When [women] get a man who is compassionate and emotional, all of a sudden they think he’s not masculine enough,” explains Dr. Levine. And the truth is, the majority of men display a secure attachment style and are caring and open. But since our cultural definition of masculinity is so wrapped up in avoidance, women are prone to fall for men who treat them badly if they think that’s what’s normal.
Adding fuel to the fire, “a lot of times people who are avoidant tend to be less expressive in their faces and tend to be more stoic,” notes Dr. Levine. “And if you’re [an anxious attacher and] already into that whole cycle, you tend to get turned on by that.”
Well, that explains why unshakable racer Ryan Gosling looked so delicious in Drive.
It’s pretty twisted, but in some ways, both the avoidant and the anxious person are getting what they need out of an undesirable relationship together. Dr. Levine and his Attached co-author, psychologist Rachel Heller, explain this phenomenon by arguing that, “each reaffirms the other’s beliefs about themselves and about relationships.” The avoidant one is proven right to be independent because others demand too much from them. And the anxious one is let down again, validated in their belief that they can’t get the intimacy that they need. According to Attached, “So, in a way, each style is drawn to reenact a familiar script over and over again.”
If you have an anxious attachment style and are dating someone who is avoidant, it’s easy to believe that relationships are a rollercoaster ride with tough lows and thrilling highs. Explains Dr. Levine: “It’s that pounding sort of feeling of: ‘I’m waiting for a phone call and they’re not calling. What’s going on? They’re not interested in me?’ Then they call and you feel euphoric.”
This pattern leads a person to a huge misunderstanding of passion. “They mistakenly think anxiety is love, but it’s completely not true,” he notes. However, it is easy to see why the exciting cycle can be so addictive. But how do you quit it like a bad habit?
Discover Your Own Attachment Style
When it comes to relationships, ignorance is not bliss. Knowledge is power, and in this case, it’s most likely what you need to feel in control of your love life. So first, assess your attachment style. (Try our scientifically-validated Close Relationships Quiz to uncover your own attachment style.) If you’re with someone, you can even put your partner to the test. Don’t worry about the results of your attachment style test—just be honest with yourself. And rest assured—there is someone for everyone!
“If you start to understand [your attachment style], then you can really see the cycle,” Dr. Levine points out. And you’re not going to make the same mistakes and get caught on that same kind of guy rollercoaster mindlessly because you’ll know better.