Attached Summary and Review

by Amir Levine and Rachel S. F. Heller
Has Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel S. F. Heller been sitting on your reading list? Pick up the key ideas in the book with this quick summary. Have you ever wondered why you feel so uncomfortable when your relationship becomes too intimate? Or perhaps, you've been wondering why you have so many insecurities and anxieties when it comes to your relationships? Attached aims to provide answers to those very questions and more. In the following book summary, you’ll discover the scientific foundations of romantic relationships and their roots in our evolutionary past. You’ll also learn how people actually look for different types of relationships based on their unique attachment style. Through a deeper understanding of the reasons behind why people behave in a specific way throughout a relationship, you’ll, in turn, be better and managing the difficulties you might be having in your own relationship, leading you to be able to grasp what it is you truly need for a partnership to be successful. In this summary of Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel S. F. Heller, you’ll also learn
  • how being in an unsatisfying relationship can actually make you physically ill;
  • what to do when your date still hasn’t “made a move”; and
  • how much control you actually have over the quality of your relationships.

Attached Key Idea #1: Attachment is a basic human need that everyone requires in order to live a healthy and happy life.

Everyone is familiar with the creeping feeling that comes when we know our partner won’t be around for a long time: distress. But what is it that causes this feeling? The distress of being away from our partner comes directly from our feelings of attachment for one another. But what exactly is attachment? On the basic level, attachment is a strong bond between two people which lasts over long periods of time and comes with a specific need to keep in contact with each other. It could take the form of any bond, from a mother-child relationship, to a romantic relationship between two adults. Interestingly, forming these bonds comes with many benefits. This type of close personal relationship provides us with a secure emotional foundation, which then helps us remain calm, even in strenuous situations. Being able to hold your partner’s hand during times of stress, for example, gives you support, because you know that this special someone will help you through the stressful situation. This connection makes even the most distressing situations feel much less frightening. This was verified in a study that aimed to find out more about the healing effects of attachment. The study  placed female participants in a stressful situation, but gave a group of the participants the opportunity to hold their partner’s hand. Researchers found that when a participant was able to hold her partner’s hand, her hypothalamus, the part of the brain that makes us feel emotional pressure, was less active than when she had to endure the stress alone. On the other hand, when a person lacks the bonds that are created by attachment, they’re actually at a much higher risk for unhappiness, and therefore, serious health risks. In fact, when we find ourselves in an unhappy relationship, it’s been found that we don’t simply suffer on an emotional level, but on a physical level as well. For example, if you aren’t satisfied with your marriage, your partner’s presence will actually raise your blood pressure due to the discomfort you feel when you’re around them. For the duration of the time that you’re in their presence, your blood pressure will remain high, eventually leading to serious medical conditions, such as heart disease.

Attached Key Idea #2: Our genes hold our basic need for attachment, but it is also influenced by our life experiences.

Anyone who’s ever been in a relationship knows that from time to time, our partners drive us insane! Yet, in spite of this, we still love them and long for that love to be requited. But why? Where does attachment come from? It all boils down to our genes: through evolution, we’re programmed to build relationships. This is so true that the minute we come out of the womb, we actually yearn for attachment. This doesn’t happen because we’ve learned that relationships are a pleasant experience, but rather because the desire for attachment is embedded in our genes. The desire for relationships stretches back all the way into our collective past, in which our ancestors learned that relying on each other was the only way to survive the hardships of life and the constant threat of predators. The only people who were able to produce offspring were those who were able to find dependable partners, to whom they then passed on the genes what would help them to successfully find reliable mates. On top of this, the genetic predisposition we have for attachment can be further influenced by our life experiences. How parents treat and raise their children can also mold their attitudes toward relationships as a concept. A good example of this is that when parents form a secure relationship with their children, through which they provide their child with adequate attention and respond appropriately to their child’s needs –knowing the difference between their child’s behavior when he wants affection versus when he’s hungry – then it’ll be more likely that their child will be secure in adult relationships as well. However, this doesn’t mean that a child who is unable to develop stable relationships has been affected by the fault of their parents. Attachment can be influenced by relationships we have later in life as well. Being in a hard romantic relationship as an adult is also able to influence your attitude toward relationships in general, thus causing later relationships to suffer. Now, you know where our need for relationships comes from. In the following book summary will demonstrate how our differing needs for relationships can inform our overall behavior in life.

Attached Key Idea #3: Those who have an anxious attachment style require intimacy and have a tendency to worry about their relationships.

As we’ve now covered, all humans have a strong need for attachment. The thing is, we don’t all experience these attachments in the same way: everyone is completely different in how our attitudes toward relationships work, as well as how we think they should function. These general differences help us to categorize the various types of people since our attachment styles can predict our behavior in certain romantic situations. Let’s start with the first: an anxious attachment style. Anxious people tend to be preoccupied with their relationships, often worrying that their partners don’t love them enough. For example, you might call your partner while she’s working because you miss her. However, what if instead of her happily answering the phone, you simply hear the dial tone because she rejected your call. When this happens, you start to worry, thinking that she doesn’t love you anymore! A half an hour later, after you’ve become sick with concern, she returns your call, apologizing. She explains that she was in a meeting and simply wasn’t able to answer her phone. Might your partner behave this way? If so, then it’s likely that one of you has an anxious attachment style. This attachment style is characterized by your need to always have access to your partner and a tendency to take the other person’s behavior personally. If this sounds like the way you’d react in a relationship, it’s important to find a partner who has the emotional resources to be able to provide you with emotional security. If you got into a relationship with someone who couldn’t handle your needs, then your relationship wouldn’t be able to provide you with the comfort you require! You should strive for a relationship with a person who’s not only willing, but also able to fulfill that need for constant availability. Dating someone with a secure attachment style — someone who is comfortable with intimacy (more on this in a later book summary) — will make you feel deeply loved and understood. They’ll be able to recognize your needs, always willing to talk through your (many) worries.

Attached Key Idea #4: When a person has an avoidant attachment style, they tend to crave independence in a relationship.

Imagine being in a relationship in which you feel totally confined: your partner seems too needy, leading you to be unable to understand why they need so badly to completely depend on one person. Does this sound familiar to you? If so, then you probably have an avoidant attachment style. An avoidant person is one who tries to maintain their autonomy while in a relationship. People who have this attachment style try not to get too close to people, fearing that doing so might mean a loss of independence. Often, these people struggle to recognize the feelings of others, making it quite difficult to maintain relationships. However, as we’ve learned, we all have a need for attachment. People with an avoidant attachment style do have this need as well, but they simply express it differently. When it comes to relationships, they often look for “the one.” Due to the fact that they have trouble compromising based on the personalities and needs of a partner, they tend to create a specific idea in their head of what the perfect partner is. Avoidants tend to do things like finding little characteristics about their partners that irritate them, from the way they slurp their coffee to their high-pitched sneeze. By identifying those little “problems,” they have an excuse to keep an emotional distance, in their wait for “the one.” In order to make their relationships work, people who have this attachment style should work to think of their partners in a more positive light For example, when a relationship runs into problems, avoidants are quick to blame others, which in turn, puts a lot of pressure on their partner. The good news is, this can be avoided, as long as avoidants are willing to practice this positivity. They need to work to picture their partner in a more positive way, instead of a source for their distress. The best way to do this is to first look for the source of conflict within yourself, taking great care to see the problem from your partner’s perspective.

Attached Key Idea #5: People who have a secure attachment style are the most common, with a tendency to “go with the flow.”

Of course, when it comes to relationships, we don’t want to settle: we want to find that perfect partner, the person who gives us space when we feel confined, yet cuddles up next to us when we feel lonely. Truly, this perfect person isn’t just the stuff of fantasy! These people are real, and they exhibit a secure attachment style. People with a secure attachment style are able to be in relationships in which they feel comfortable with closeness and intimacy. While other attachment styles struggle with too much or too little dependence, secure attachment styles aren’t concerned about it. They’re able to read between the lines, so that they can understand their partner’s needs without too much concern (as an anxious person would) or being indifferent (like an avoidant person). The reality is, being in a relationship with a secure partner is the best predictor for a happy and successful relationship. Based on the benefits that come from the secure attachment style, it only makes sense that there are hardly any problems when it comes to relationships between two people with a secure attachment style. But, it’s also super important to note that even just having one partner with a secure attachment style can improve the quality of a relationship by being able to help mitigate any difficulties that may result from any other attachment style. Imagine, for example, sitting at your desk, knowing that you still have heaps of work to finish and not enough time left to complete it. As you start to grow more anxious about this, your partner enters the room. He asks how you’re doing, and rather than venting about your problem and workload to him, you get upset at him for disturbing your work. However, if your partner has a secure attachment style, he won’t be offended by these harsh words, and rather, he’ll understand that you’re just not in the mood to talk. He reads your signals and easily finds ways to support you, for example, by cheering you on, saying: “You can do it!” Now, you’re familiar with each of the different attachment styles and how they work. These final book summaries will demonstrate how to use this information to create a happy relationship.

Attached Key Idea #6: Being able to effectively communicate will ensure that you find the partner who’s best for you, and keep them around.

No two relationships are ever the same. Each one comes with its own strengths and weaknesses. So, what can you do to guarantee happiness in your relationship? No matter what your attachment style is, the solution is simple: effective communication. Truly, in any relationship, making sure that you directly express your needs and concerns will make for a much easier time figuring out whether a potential partner is right for you. Unfortunately, there will always be a problem that comes with dating someone you don’t really know, which is that it may be difficult to interpret their messages. For example, what if you’ve been on several dates with a potential partner, and yet you’re still waiting for them to “make the move.” It’s common for people in this situation to grow anxious, wondering if they should continue waiting, or if they should be the one to take initiative. However, instead of letting this situation get the best of your anxiety, it might simply be best to bring up the topic with your partner instead. While you might be concerned that this will make you seem needy, it’s actually a great way to figure out their understanding of the relationship. And, if your partner doesn’t react in the way you’d hoped, it’s important that everyone’s expectations are laid out. If you’ve found someone you really like, it’s even more important to specifically lay out your needs and worries from the get go to ensure that your relationship will last in the long run. The thing is, though, effective communication doesn’t mean that you should bring up every single problem or concern as soon as it comes up. Rather, the purpose of it is to figure out a way to communicate that will make sure that your worries don’t build into full blown relationship anxiety. The secret behind effectively communicating is specificity about the problem at hand, while ensuring that you don’t assign blame. For example, instead of saying, “It’s pathetic that you’re still talking about your ex-girlfriend,” you could try something like, “Talking about your ex makes me feel sad and insecure. I need to know that you are happy with our relationship.” Through talking to your partner about these worries without assigning them blame, you’ll be able to know for sure that they’ll better understand where you’re coming from.

Attached Key Idea #7: Being able to effectively deal with conflicts will allow your relationship to work.

Unfortunately, conflict is part of any relationship. But did you know that actually fighting with your partner might make you happier? For a relationship to work, it’s not so important how much you disagree with your partner, but how you do it. It’s important to keep a few things in mind when it comes to having a conflict with your partner. First, it’s important to make sure that you don’t generalize. For example, if the topic at hand concerns who should do the grocery shopping, it’s crucial that you don’t bring up other topics as well, like whose turn it is to do the dishes. Restricting the scope of your argument to a specific topic will ensure that it doesn’t escalate. On top of this, it’s necessary that you keep in mind your partner’s wellbeing. A good way to do this is to make sure that you compromise on certain issues, so that you’re both happy with the end solution. For example, let’s say you and your partner are trying to decide on vacation plans. You’re dreaming of grabbing a beach towel and sitting beachside all day, but your partner would rather do something other than just spending his days sitting on the sand watching the waves. However, it’s possible for you to find a happy compromise! In this example, you might be able to find a destination that would allow you to have your relaxing beach day, as well as allowing you two to partake in something more active, such as sightseeing. On top of this, it’s important to note that these types of conflicts are actually a great way to deepen your attachment bond with your partner. When you bring up an issue that’s been on your mind, it will allow your partner to better understand your experiences. It might be obvious to you that you should talk about what’s troubling you — perhaps that he never takes out the trash — but it’s important to remember that he can’t read your mind! You might even find that you’re relieved after talking through why you were upset because you were finally able to approach the topic that was on your mind. On top of that, your partner will be glad that he doesn’t have to guess at how to meet your needs and wishes anymore. In the end, everyone benefits from solving the conflict.

Attached Key Idea #8: Make sure that you don’t waste your time by staying with a partner who is unable to fulfill your relationship needs.

Think back to all those romantic Hollywood films you’ve seen. It’s always the same story: the boy gets the girl and they live happily ever after, no matter how different their needs are. The message is clear: “true love” has the power to make any relationship work. But in real life, the truth is, this simply isn’t true. Someone who has an anxious attachment style shouldn’t date someone who has an avoidant attachment style. It’s absolutely true that sharing true love with your partner is the most important component when it comes to long lasting relationships, but we also know with certainty that not everyone has the same needs. When someone who requires closeness falls for someone who has avoidant tendencies, the relationship will likely resemble a roller coaster ride. This means that their differing attitudes when it comes to intimacy will put a lot of stress on the whole relationship, as these attitudes often effect the big questions, like whether or not to get married or have children. Anxious people often want these, while avoidant people may not. If these big life decisions are too difficult to agree on, then it simply won’t be possible to compromise in a way that will allow the relationship to survive. Truly, the real secret behind a happy relationship is to find a partner who is able to meet your needs. No matter what attachment style you have, there’s just one simply solution that will ensure that you find a person you can have a truly happy relationship with. As we’ve seen, it all boils down to effective communication. Knowing what your partner needs in a relationship, and letting her know what you need, are the most important things! But, it’s also important to note that if you’re not truly happy, you shouldn’t waste time trying to work out things that simply can’t be fixed. Sometimes it’s best to accept that your wants and needs are incompatible with your partner’s, and instead look for someone with expectations more in line with your own. That’s how to have a happy relationship!

In Review: Attached Book Summary

The key message in this book: When it comes to a long-lasting relationship, don’t leave anything to chance! It’s important to figure out what your attachment style is, so that you can then try to find a partner who can give you everything you want and need. Actionable advice: If you have a problem with your partner, tell them! It doesn’t help anyone if you let a small problem fester over time. This can put an enormous strain on your relationship! Instead, communicate to your partner about the moments that make you unhappy without allowing other, unrelated issues to cloud to conversation. This will allow you to both work out a solution. Try to figure out your own attachment style. If you’re striving for a healthy and happy relationship, it’s essential to understand you and your needs first. Being able to pinpoint your attachment style will help you to better identify both your needs and a way to communicate those needs so that you can find a partner who is able to fulfill them. Suggested further reading: Why We Love Helen Fisher’s Why We Love is not only a report on her latest astonishing research but also a sensitive description of the infinite facets of romantic love. This book is grounded in science and works to closely examine love itself, as well as how, why, and who we end up loving.