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People with attachment troubles or other child trauma often ask: why is dating so difficult? It is, for a reason.
So instead of the dating hunt, I invested my life, fortune, and sacred honor to work for “earned secure attachment.” Dr. Dan Siegel says that’s when we start out with attachment damage from childhood trauma, but grow into secure attachment by earning it as adults. “It’s possible to change childhood attachment patterns,” as Dr. Mary Main says in a 2010 video.1
My plan: “become the change you seek,” as Ghandi said — and then a good-hearted mate will find me. Either way, eventually I’ll have peace in my soul.
Look, Ma, no hunting or begging – for once in my life! I’ve been begging since birth for a scrap of love like Oliver with his begging bowl, and I’m done. Dating website emails go to my spam folder.
I know it’s possible to earn secure attachment, even for those with Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) like me who’ve had developmental trauma “since the sperm hit the egg” and thus the world’s worst case of anxious attachment.Read More
Only 55% of us have “secure attachment”– a number which would worry us all if we knew what it meant — according to 1970-1996 research on over 2,000 infant-parent pairs. And the level of attachment we get as infants continues all our lives in our relationships.
The math says the other 45% of us suffer “insecure attachment.” That means 45% can’t handle a committed, stable relationship with anyone, from childhood to the rest of our lives, as of 1996. We also pass this emotional pain to our children, who turn out similarly. A National Institute of Health article summarizes the secure rate: “Infants with secure attachment greet and/or approach the caregiver and maintain contact but are able to return to play, which occurs in 55% of the general population.” 1
This is the blockbuster result of Dr. Mary Ainsworth’s 1970-1978 “Strange Situation” study of babies. The work was completed by her student Mary Main, and Main’s research led to shocking conclusions.
Main discovered so many babies were peculiar, she got concerned about the parents. So in 1982, she created the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) to study the adults, releasing results 1984-96.
Her journey was so “strange” and involved, that it got published in language hard to decipher (or even google) for most folks. The tale took me weeks to unravel (footnotes below).
This huge “insecure” figure is a predictor of broken homes and broken hearts for half the nation. It starts to explain why we’ve got a 50% divorce rate. If you’re like me and have tried “over 40” internet dating after a divorce, it won’t surprise you to hear that science shows 50% of adults out there can’t carry on a secure, committed, loving relationship. You’ve already experienced it.
And if 45% of us were “insecurely attached” in 1996, what’s the percent in 2014? In 1996 most of us hadn’t heard of the Internet. In almost 20 years since, email, texting, and so on have further trashed our ability to relate in person. Several psychotherapists interviewed for this blog said that a round number of “about 50%” is a conservative estimate for how many Americans lack secure attachment today. Many believe it’s much higher.Read More