I’m reading this amazing book called “Wired for Love” by Stan Tatkin, PsyD This book, along with the book “Attached” by Amir Levine are both MUST read books.
In this piece I wanted to discuss Wired for Love, as it helped me significantly in determining my style of love, and how this has impacted my relationships over the years. The premise of Wired for Love, is figuring out our attachment style based upon our early childhood experiences, and how we were nurtured as children. These early childhood experiences form our style of giving and receiving love in our adult relationships. Keep in mind that none of these styles are good or bad, right are wrong. These styles don’t define who we are as a person. They are simply part of our wiring and social conditioning.
We don’t need to change who we inherently are. We do need to gain an awareness of our own adult attachment style, and learn our partner’s particular style of attachment as well. Knowing how we best deal with conflict (life), helps us to love each other in the healthiest way possible. Understanding our patterns, can end a great deal of conflict in our relationships. Some people are married for decades, but do not truly know their partner, and how to best give/receive love. We make it about ourself, rather than the relationship. How can MY needs be met, vs how can OUR needs be met together. This is primarily due to mainstream focus on autonomy, being single, and doing things on our own. It has created a fear of being ‘too attached’, to the extreme that we now view healthy attachments as unhealthy.
We fear intimacy at too deep a level, because we fear codependency. However, according to Dr Tatkin, codependent partners live for the other partner, but ignore their own needs and wants, leading to resentment. This is not true of mutuality, where both people put the relationship first, making each other available to the other. This book talks about creating a “couple bubble” where you can both partners can feel safe, putting the relationship first and foremost in importance. This seems to counter most mainstream relationship messages.
The first attachment style Dr Tatkin discusses in Wired for Love, is referred to as a ‘wave’.
Wild waves require quite a bit of reassurance, they want to give and receive love, but when it gets too intimate they get scared and pull away. Waves tend to be expressive, dramatic, emotional, and irrational at times. Under stress they become unforgiving, ‘right brain goes wild’, and primitive in reactions. ‘Waves’ need to be met with more constant reassurance, touch, and a calm presence. The reason the wave pulls away, is because of fear of abandonment. There is a constant fear that their partner is going to hurt them, or leave them at any given moment. Waves are always waiting for ‘the other shoe to drop’ in their relationships. Waves are typically drawn to emotionally unavailable people, therefore the other shoe does drop, and the pattern continues.
Waves are on high alert, and can be extremely anxious, and difficult to be in a relationship with. They need to feel closure when they feel wronged, or the hurt will not go away and will keep resurfacing. This is based on childhood experiences, making waves insecurely attached in their adult relationships. When something feels wrong, abandonment fears from the past come into play. Reactions from waves are often based out of fear, not reality. However, to them it feels very real.
According to Dr Tatkin, when met with loyalty, admiration, reassurance, and calm presence, waves can become more secure and at piece. Calmer waters so to speak.
When waves are in a relationship with an ‘island’, the relationship takes a lot of work.
Waves tend to be drawn to emotionally unavailable people in general, because it’s easier to pull away from them. Plus this validates for them the inferiority/abandonment fears when someone doesn’t show up, runs away, or moves on. So unbeknownst to waves, they typically seek out emotionally unavailable people to get into relationships with.
Islands, however, tend to become overly logical and left brained when conflict arises. The opposite of waves, which tend to be wildly right brained. Islands can easily feel threatened and under attack, therefore retreating, shutting down, and running away. Islands tend to be unexpressive, and dismissive of their partner’s feelings. When conflict arises, they see their partner as a threat or an enemy, and therefore back away.
Islands want to just move forward, let it go, focus on the future, and tend to be avoidant of the issues at hand. Islands never want to feel they are to blame for anything, and therefore ignore, dismiss, and minimize the issues that arise in relationships.
The third style mentioned in Wired for Love, is the anchor.
Ahhhhh, the lovely anchor.
These are those people with very secure childhood attachments. These people typically are at ease with giving and receiving love. They are stable, secure, and able to easily work through conflict. These people are great matches for islands and waves, because they can help teach them how to be in a relationship, and help them to feel more secure as well, thus rewiring the brain for secure attachments, and deeper intimacy.
Wired For Love teaches how any of these three attachment styles can best love each other, and it’s full of amazing insight!! In a world of ‘throwing in the towel’ on relationships, this book gives us tools to recognize our patterns so we can work towards being better partners. There is so much goodness in this book, I can’t lay it all out in here. Definitely give it a read (whether you are single or coupled), it really helps with understanding your core attachment style, and how it can impact your adult relationships. It gives great relationship building activities to help you grow as a couple as well!
Kathryn, Thank you for taking the time to do a recap from my book on the attachment styles and recommending the book to your readers. It is greatly appreciated!
Thank you Dr Takin for the amazing book, helping so many people!
Best blog posting I’ve read in a very long time – very grateful for it at this point in my life. I’m a Wave for sure, but working daily to become more of an Anchor. It’s a daily process though.