I was sifting through the data for our Relationship Attachment Style Test. Theory and data do little for me unless I can connect them with real life. In university, when I read Freud’s theories, I just couldn’t wrap my head around them – and not just because he’s insights are borderline ridiculous. I just couldn’t translate them into real life. I mean, “castration anxiety” in women? Sorry Alice, but I think Freud fell down the rabbit hole way before you did.
Anyway, my analysis of the Relationship Attachment Style Test revealed the following characteristics of each style:
- Comfortable with emotional intimacy
- Comfortable trusting partner
- Comfortable depending on others when needed
- Comfortable letting others depend on them
- Want to spend time with partner, but also respect personal boundaries and need for space
- Worry excessively about being rejected or abandoned
- Get attached rather quickly (clinginess)
- Desire emotional closeness, but tend to distrust their partner
- Feel unworthy of their partner
- Have difficulty letting go when a relationship ends
- Show very little fear of being abandoned or rejected by partner
- Maintain an emotional distance
- Take pride in being autonomous and self-sufficient
- Hate having others depend on them; hate depending on others
- Tendency to pull away when someone gets too close
- Anxious about being abandoned or rejected
- Keep an emotional distance to protect themselves; assume that rejection is inevitable
- Unwilling to trust partner
- Reluctant to commit to partner
- Feel unworthy of love
- Extremely reliant on their partner
- Strong desire to be taken care of
- Unassertive – take a submissive role in the relationship
- Let partner take charge of every aspect of the relationship and their life
- Trust easily
- Extreme need to be needed
- Drawn to partners with problems or who need to be taken care of
- Extreme desire to please others and “save” them
- Refuse help from others; their needs are secondary
- Desire to help “fix” others unwittingly enables problematic behaviors
I mean, it made perfect sense. People who are securely attached have better self-esteem, and are comfortable getting close to a partner. Codependents take altruism and helping others to an unhealthy extreme. Still, I need personas to go with the data. And there’s no better way to observe the quirkiness of human behavior than going to my favorite place: The salon.
When I go to my hairdresser I feel like those narrators on nature shows, documenting the different behavioral patterns of that heterogeneous group of humans covered in towels and goop.
“A female specie of the early Generation X variety approaches me. She has chestnut fur marked with blond highlights. The odor of chemicals wafts toward me as she approaches. I eye her warily, waiting for her to take on a predatory stance. She smiles and sits next to me, and engages in social behavior.
You can learn a lot about people’s lives at a salon. Maybe it’s the chemicals in the dye, but some people can’t help but spill intimate details about their lives. Hairdressers hear more dirt in a one-hour appointment than bartenders do in a night – and that’s without persuasion of the alcohol variety.
As always, when I tell people what I do for a living, they seem to think that’s a green light to discuss their personal lives with me.
Chestnut woman with blond highlights is married to a much older, European man. He’s very traditional (i.e. wife raises children, does cleaning and cooking while man works – but Chestnut is currently employed). I learned that her husband is on a three-month business trip to open a new plant out west.
“I love coming to get my hair done – it’s my chance to relax.” I watch as she raises a shaking hand to her hair. “My kids are driving me crazy lately. I don’t want to go home. There’s cleaning to do, and I know the kids won’t help.”
“Your husband’s working today?” I ask.
“No he’s on a business trip.” When I express my sympathies, as it must be tough taking care of three kids on her own, she dismisses my concern with a wave. “I’m fine on my own. I don’t need my husband around. I need a cigarette, excuse me.” She gets up for her second cigarette break in an hour. I look at my hairdresser, who eyes me knowingly and says, “She looks like she’s two cigarettes away from a breakdown. She’s been like that since her husband left. She’ll have full-blown burnout if he doesn’t come back.”
On the mental notepad in my mind, I write:
- Subject: Chestnut
- Status: Married, 3 children
- Attachment Style: Fearful Avoidant
Long-haired blond (not natural, of course) takes the chair next. “I don’t need a husband, even though I have one. I tell him all the time: ‘I love you, but I don’t need you’. He does his own thing on the weekend, and I do mine. Honestly, sometimes having him around annoys me.”
I watch as she lazily eyes one of her perfectly manicured nails. “I have my own bank account, and he’s not allowed to touch the money in that account. If we divorce, we each keep our own stuff. No problem.”
She leans over, waving to get my attention. “Hey let’s do a girl’s night out! Everybody come to my house! Do you know where _______ is?” I have no intention of driving an hour out of the city to a town I can easily get lost in, so I politely decline. I make a note in my mental notepad:
- Subject: Manicured Blond
- Status: Married, 2 children
- Attachment Style: Dismissive Avoidant
Vivacious Redhead is the owner of the salon and takes customers alongside my hairdresser. She is in her early 50’s and seems to have lived a rather wild life when she was young.
“By the time I was 18, I had been to tons of bars, stayed out until 6AM, smoked pot and did a few other drugs. I drove my dad crazy. He wanted me to stay home and study and be a good girl – I saw it as being a prisoner. I told him that if he didn’t like the way girls in this country live, he should go back to his country and leave me here. He never bothered me again after that.”
It was Vivacious Redhead’s birthday last week, and when she was prodded for info on what her boyfriend would be doing for her, she smiled. “Just a nice dinner at home. I went out with just the girls last night. My boyfriend is very good about giving me space. He spends time with his friends and I spend time with mine. We like being in each other’s company. We’re not like those couples that are you know,” she intertwines her fingers and pretends to try to pull them apart. “How do you say it in English?”
“Clingy?” I offer.
“Oui!” she responds. “Some people are so obsessed with their relationship, like they are going to die without their partner. Ok, I would be sad if my boyfriend left me, but I would get over it. C’est la vie!”
I make a note in my mental notepad:
- Subject: Vivacious Redhead
- Status: Never married, no children
- Attachment Style: Secure
All in all, it was a fascinating day at the salon. Sadly, I didn’t run into any of Freud’s cases of excessive “Oedipus Complex” or “penis envy.”