Stage 5 Clinger? What Saying Good-Bye Tells You About Your Partner
How partners form close bonds with others is what researchers call “attachment” and partners’ attachment styles can help you understand why some people you date are so cold and aloof (Avoidant), whereas others are anxious and clingy (Anxious).
Partners who have an Avoidant attachment style can be particularly hard to read because they are great at maintaining an emotional distance. However, failing to pick up on partners’ Avoidant attachment is costly, because they generally provide less satisfying and stable relationships.
Before September 11th, some of you might recall being able to accompany whoever was flying to their gate to say good-bye. In one particularly clever study by Chris Fraley and Phillip Shaver, conducted before September 2001, researchers approached couples in an airport to complete some measures, which included an attachment scale. Once the scales were complete, the researchers thanked the couple, but then subtly observed what happened when it was time for those couples to board. Some of the couples would be traveling together (no separation) and for some couples only one partner was flying, whereas the other was just saying good-bye (separation).
This real world observational study allowed the researchers to see how adults dealt with the threat of separation, which tends to “activate” people’s true attachment styles. Avoidant partners looked like great partners when there was no separation occurring (flying together). They were rated as being higher in caregiving and as less avoidant toward their partners than other participants. However, when couples were separating, Avoidant partners’ true colors were on full display. They engaged in less physical contact, less caregiving, and more avoidance. In other words, Avoidant participants looked perfectly Avoidant.
So, when you say good-bye for the first time, and your partner gives you a long embrace, drops a tear, and says, “I’ll miss you”, you can feel particularly good under these telling circumstances.
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