The worst combination of personalities for a couple is one anxious and one avoidant, research suggests.
A person who is anxiously attached tends to have wildly varying feelings about the relationship from one day to the next.
On the other side, a person who is avoidant wants to avoid getting too attached to the other person.
The researchers explain how this affects people’s behavior:
“Anxious people react by clinging to their partner and caring for them compulsively, while avoidant types react by evading their relationship.
Their philosophy is that ‘it’s better not to have than to have and to lose’.
These people also have more problems in the area of intimacy.”
The results come from a study of 211 couples in the Basque Country.
The survey split them into different attachment styles and asked them about their sexual satisfaction.
Attachment styles analyse how people respond to threats and problems in their personal relationships.
Dr Javier Gómez Zapiain, the study’s first author, said:
“It is very interesting, from the perspective of a couple, to see how styles of affection combine within the relationship.
The most explosive combination occurs when one of the partners in the couple is anxious and the other avoidant.
This combination has more likelihood of ending up with the couple seeking help, or even breaking up.”
The results showed that those who felt secure in their relationship had the best sex life and found it relatively easy to give and receive affection.
The reverse was true for those who were insecurely attached, e.g. anxious or avoidant.
Dr Gómez Zapiain said:
“Our results show that insecure people (anxious-ambivalent) tend to be compulsive in their care for their partners, while people prone to avoidance tend to be controlling and to exhibit greater conflict in their sexual desire.”
Psychologically healthy people are flexible in how they support their partner, said Dr Gómez Zapiain:
“Each partner must have the ability to support the other when they are feeling down and need emotional support.
Similarly, they must be able to place themselves in what we call a ‘position of dependency’, in other words they must be able to recognise their own need for support and to express this in times of anxiety.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Anales de Psicología (Gómez Zapiain et al., 2011).