Book Review: Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller
Updated: Aug 14, 2019
So, if you have been following me on Instagram at all, you know that I have been obsessed with attachment theory lately. I finally had some time to read Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller, and LET ME TELL YOU. THIS BOOK IS GOLD.
Who is it for?
I think this would be a great book for wanting to be in or currently in a relationship. It essentially talks about how to understand our behavior and find someone who will be a good fit. I would especially urge anyone who is dating to read this book! It talks a little bit about why we are attracted to the people we are attracted to, and how that isn't always a great thing for our future.
What is it about?
This book is about attachment theory. Attachment theory is "centered on the emotional bonds between people and suggests that our earliest attachments can leave a lasting mark on our lives".
A very short background: Attachment theory came to be a thing from observing how babies react when their mother's leave the room and they are left with a stranger. You can watch that experiment here. The babies behaviors showed either an anxious, avoidant, or secure attachment style.
This book is about how those attachment styles affect us in our relationships as adults. I think attachment can explain a lot of difficulties people have in (or trying to get in) relationships.
How do I know what my attachment style is?
The book has a test that will guide you through! It also helps you identify what your partner's is. AND one of my favorite features: It has little vignettes of different people and quizzes you on your ability to decode their attachment styles. So you know you are truly learning and getting it right!
Basically, each attachment style comes down to:
How comfortable you are with intimacy and closeness
How anxious you are about your partner's love/attention and worries about the relationship
Here's a quick breakdown of qualities Levine and Heller listed of each attachment style:
Anxious attachment: Defined as: "I'm not okay, you're ok"
You are close to your romantic partners.
You worry your partner doesn't want to be as close as you.
Relationships take up a lot of your time, energy and thoughts.
You can read your partner really well.
Changes in your partner's mood and actions affect you.
You often take your partner's behaviors personally.
You experience a lot of negative emotions and get easily upset.
You act out and say things you later regret.
Often blame themselves if relationships don't work out.
Avoidant attachment: Defined as: "I'm ok, you're not ok"
It's important for you to be independent and self-sufficient.
You prefer independence instead of intimate relationships.
You feel uncomfortable with too much closeness.
You tend to keep you partners at a distance.
You don't worry about your relationships or being rejected.
Your partner's tell you you are emotionally distant.
You often notice signs of control or impingement on your territory by your partner.
Nitpick their partner for reasons for the relationship to not work out.
Secure attachment: Defined as: "I'm ok, you're ok."
Being in a loving relationship comes naturally.
You like being intimate, but don't become overly worried about your relationship.
You don't get easily upset over relationships troubles.
You are an assertive communicator.
You are good at reading your partner's emotions and responding to them.
You share your highs and lows with your partner.
You are there for your partner when they need you.
Why do these attachment styles matter in relationships?
Well, our attachment style affects how well we are able to meet our partner's needs, and their attachment style affects how well we are able to get our needs met.
For example, Levine and Heller have a whole chapter about "the anxious-avoidant trap", which is what happens when an anxious and avoidant person are together. As you can see above, the qualities of an anxious and avoidant attachment are at odds with each other, which can lead to a lot of conflict.
Something I learned that was interesting was how you are more likely to date an avoidant attached person. If you think about it, avoidant people value their independence and are less likely to be in a relationship. Whereas anxious people feel a constant need to be in a relationship, so most of them are taken.
(If you feel like you are in an anxious-avoidant relationship, I'd highly recommend reading the book and finding a good couple's therapist to help you work through your concerns.)
Obviously the goal is to be with someone who is securely attached.
I'm dating. How do I find someone who is securely attached?
The book mentions a few strategies, but the main one is assertive communication! Assertive communication is amazing, because you always win. It helps you weed out who is avoidant and who is maybe just shy or slower to make a move. The book has more examples of this that I won't get into too far here.
Basically, a lot of it comes down to going against conventional dating advice. The book mentions how conventional dating advice is typically geared toward avoidant attachment styles, but if it's not authentic for you, you are going to end up in a relationship that isn't a good fit. So, being authentic from the beginning and sitting through the discomfort of losing people who aren't right for you is extremely important!
Also, the ups and downs of being with an avoidant attached person can activate our "attachment system" and may feel like love. So, sometimes when we are with someone who is securely attached we let them go, because it doesn't feel like love. They say, "don't equate an activated attachment system with love".
It's silly, because if we parallel it with other things, we would never tell someone to pretend they are religious to land a religious partner. And from my work with clients, people are a lot more willing to let someone go over religious differences and not take it personally. So, we need to just apply that same thing to attachment style. Let people with attachment incompatibility go without taking it personally.
I'm anxious/avoidant. How do I work toward being more secure?
Each section talks more in-depth about strategies you can do!
Overall, it's important to know what your "activating strategies", "deactivating strategies" and "protest behaviors" are.
"Activating strategies" are things you do to draw closer to you partners. Some that they list in the book are:
Thinking about them and having difficulty concentrating on other things
Only remembering their good qualities
Putting them on a pedestal (underestimating your abilities and overestimating theirs)
Anxious feelings go away when you are with them
Thinking they are your "only chance" for love
Thinking that you shouldn't let go, even though you're unhappy
"Protest behavior" is things you do to get your partner's attention and reestablish contact.
Calling/texting them a lot, waiting by the phone, going to their spaces hoping to run into them
Withdrawing: Physically turning your back, not talking, talking with other people on the phone, ignoring them
Keeping score: Noting how long it took them to return your call/text and waiting just a long to return theirs, acting distant and waiting for them to make the first "make-up" move
Acting hostile: Rolling your eyes, looking away, leaving the room when they're talking
Threatening to leave: Making threats and hoping they will stop you from really leaving
Manipulation: Acting busy or unapproachable, ignoring calls, saying you have plans when you don't
Making them feel jealous
"Deactivating strategies" are things you do to get rid of intimacy.
Saying/thinking you'e not ready to commit, but staying together nonetheless.
Focusing on small imperfections and allowing it to get in the way of your romantic feelings.
Pining after an ex
Flirting with others
Not saying "I love you" but implying that you do have these feelings
Pulling away when things are going well
Getting in relationships with an impossible future (ex: someone already married)
Checking out when your partner is talking
Keeping secrets to maintain feeling of independence
Avoiding physical closeness (not wanting to share the bed, have sex, walking ahead of partner)
All of these things have potential to be harmful to the relationship. The book guides you through examining your old relationships to find what your "activating strategies", "deactivating strategies" and "protest behaviors" are. Once you know this, you have a lot of information to work with!
Sounds like a great book!
If you want to buy this book and support me by shopping through my affiliate link, click here to buy it on Amazon. I am also assuming a lot of libraries would have it if you can't spend the $15 right now.
If you have any attachment related questions, head over to my instagram where I do a question of the day every day. And if you have any other attachment related questions or resources, please drop them in a comment down below!
And if you are in Seattle and would like to schedule a therapy session with me, click here for more information.