Do you have a tendency to date the same kind of person over and over again? If so, that means you’re just like everyone else! Good job. There are many profound reasons why people constantly pick similar partners – in fact, this is the basis for everything I do at FixYourPicker.com. Most of these reasons are internal and your responsibility to deal with. However, today I’d like to write about something outside of your control – the dating pool.
I’ll be using attachment theory as a framework for this piece, so I must give you a brief description of the different styles of attachment before we proceed:
- Secure Attachment: positive view of self and others; emotionally attuned and available; comfortable with intimacy as well as independence; not worried about rejection or abandonment.
- Anxious Attachment: negative view of self and positive view of others; crave emotional intimacy, approval, and responsiveness; overly dependent; doubt and blame self; worrisome; impulsive.
- Avoidant Attachment: positive view of self and negative view of others; crave independence and self-sufficiency; comfortable without close emotional relationships; suppress or deny feelings.
- Disorganized Attachment: unstable view of self and others; crave emotional intimacy but also fear it; untrusting and uncomfortable with closeness; feel unworthy; suppress or deny feelings; often trauma survivor.
Roughly 50% of people have a Secure attachment style. These folks get into relationships and stay there, for the most part. They often settle down with other securely attached people. But it’s also probable that they partner up with someone who has an Avoidant or Anxious attachment style and become a stabilizing force for them, moving them toward secure attachment. In any case, Secures don’t spend much time in the dating pool.
Anxiously attached people make up an estimated 20% of the populace (although this number seems low to me). Whether overtly or covertly, Anxious are your needy, clinger, codependent, love-addict, or hopeless romantic types. They generally feel like they need a relationship for validation, love, or to make them whole. They slide into the dating pool for about 17 seconds and immediately find a new dance partner. These people waste little time on the open market. (Read Anxious Attachment: Plugging The Hole for more on this style.)
On the other hand, Avoidants – who comprise about 25% of the population – love frolicking about in the realm of non-exclusive dating or the initial magical stages of infatuated relationships. Avoidant attachment style does not mean these people avoid connection. Not at all. But they crave independence just a little bit more. The result is someone who can be charming enough to win an Anxious person’s devotion, but whose need for autonomy leads to an affair, a breakup, or pushes their partner away somehow. At which point they rinse and repeat.
Avoidants make up a disproportionately large section of the single population. These people have pruney fingers from being in the dating pool so damn long. You will meet many of them in any club, bar, dating app, or singles’ hangout. Believe that. (Read Understanding Avoidant Attachment for more on this style.)
What about the other 5%? These rare gems have a disorganized attachment style, sometimes referred to as Anxious-Avoidant. Again, I think this number sounds low, but I haven’t done scientific research to back my hunch, so I won’t make any wild-ass claims. But I do know that these folks have a rough go at relationships and tend to bounce in and out of the dating pool. They crave intimacy as much or more than the Anxious, but fear it as much or more than the Avoidant. It’s brutal. (Read Disorganized Attachment: Where Love and Fear Collide for more on this style.)
The above numbers come from the work of Amir Levine, MD, and Rachel Heller, MA, published in a book entitled Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find – and Keep – Love. I believe this book on attachment theory is indispensable to understanding human relationships of all types. It certainly gave me a fresh perspective on what kind of people inhabit the dating pool.
If you’d like to dive in and swim a few laps, I highly recommend learning about your attachment style before you do. It could change the whole game for you. Take a free ECR Test (Experience in Close Relationships) to get a sense of your attachment style.
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