Find Someone With Whom You Can Build an Empire

By | November 21, 2017

A dear friend gushed about how a book, Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find—and Keep—Love, by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller, helped her stop picking the wrong guy. She explained it like this — when you’re on a date, stop thinking “does this guy like me?” and start thinking “can this guy help me build an empire?”

Fountain of wisdom

The Premise of the book seems to be: healthy attachment > single > unhealthy attachment.

Let me back up. According to this book (and science), when you pair up with someone romantically, chemicals and hormones and zaps of electricity bond you on “a psychological and a physiological level.” You become attached.

If the relationship is nourishing and healthy, loving and makes you feel secure, your attachment to them makes your life better. One of their primary concerns is your well-being, so you’re able to do more and accomplish more. They lift you up. You do the same thing for them and an empire ensues. You become a power couple and you’re probably a happy person.

But if the relationship is draining and unhealthy, not loving, and makes you feel insecure, then you can’t build an empire. Unfortunately, if you’re paired up, you still have the bonding chemicals and hormones and electricity zaps with this person because that’s how science works. You’re attached even if you shouldn’t be and don’t want to be, but giving up on the relationship is physically painful. Chances are good that you’re not that happy.

If you’re single and want to avoid wasting precious empire-building time, before you become attached, you need to group everyone you meet into one of two categories. Ask if this person has a secure or insecure attachment type.

Secure

Secure attachment is the type you want to be or to be with. This person wants a healthy attachment to another human being and has the interpersonal skills to navigate relationships. He or she knows how to communicate, how to reassure and how to be comfortable in a partnership. She or he understands that “our need for someone to share our lives with is part of our genetic makeup and has nothing to do with how much we love ourselves or how fulfilled we feel on our own.”

Secures can form an attachment and build a subsequent empire with everyone. They also have a lot of close friendships. The good news is that Secures make up about 50% of the population. Fantastic!

Unfortunately, these people tend to remove themselves from the dating pool pretty quickly because they’re good at life.

Insecure

Insecures are the other 50% of the population. The Insecures come in different types. There’s the Avoidant Insecure type who values their independence more than a partnership and tends to keep people out and there’s the Anxious Insecure type who needs reassurance and stability.

Unfortunately, because mother nature can be kind of bitchy, Anxious Insecures seem to be attracted to Avoidant Insecures. This is the combination to avoid at all costs because it will only end in despair.

Honestly though, if you’re Insecure, it’s just better to avoid other Insecures altogether, regardless of the distinction. Two Avoidant Insecures fly apart as soon as one sneezes. Two Anxious Insecures have trouble communicating properly and eventually implode.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with having an Insecure Attachment, but the key is to understand that about yourself and not set yourself up for failure. Attachment styles are enduring, but you can change them with hard work, introspection and a healthy relationship. Of course, you can only change yourself and not anyone else.

These are the steps the authors recommend to people who have an Insecure Attachment and are dating.

1. Have a clear idea of what it means to be in a relationship and what kind of person has the capacity to make you happy in a relationship.

It always seems to come down to knowing yourself. Don’t pretend to be someone who is content with less tending if you’re not. Understand what makes someone worthy of being let in. If you want a relationship where you feel safe, don’t put up with people who aren’t capable of making you feel that way.

2. Know what attachment styles are and practice figuring out your date’s attachment style.

Remember, flee other Insecures. Shun anyone who sends you mixed signals or uses manipulation tactics.

3. Use effective communication—stating your aspirations and needs early on.

You want to build an empire. Find someone who also wants an empire. Go back to step one if you are unsure of what your empire looks like. Don’t waste time or mental energy on people who can’t help you build. When someone tells you who they are, believe them. That previous sentence is a frequent nugget of advice given on reddit.com/r/relationships.

4. Determine if you have an anxious or avoidant attachment style. There are specific things that you should/should not do and they differ significantly. For instance, if you’re anxious, you might benefit from dating several people at the same time; if you’re avoidant, it’s better to give one person a chance for a longer period.

Oh crap. Personally, I identified strongly with the avoidant and the anxious attachment styles. The authors call this the “fearful” attachment style. I think my answer is probably a combination of the two pieces of advice. Go on more second and third dates with a whole bunch of people. Give several people a chance at the same time. Stop globe-hopping and actually date.

5. Learn to appreciate the Secures of this world. When you find someone secure, don’t dismiss them as boring. Stick around—you may uncover a hidden treasure that will be yours for life.

Oh that I could have read this book years ago. I have been on hundreds of first dates and I remember a few Secures from this pool that I wish I had given a second date to. Lesson learned, Universe.

Self help books are the best. Forward momentum armed with new data points and some much needed hope. Onward!

Here’s a quiz you can take to figure out your attachment style.

20 thoughts on “Find Someone With Whom You Can Build an Empire

  1. david

    Anxiously Anxious in Seattle here.

    Thanks for writing a good post – I needed to find a book for the Audible credit I had.

    I’m anxious that the book provides more ideas (for the anxious) than to just date a bunch of people. 😐

    Reply
    1. Thriftygal Post author

      I tried listening to it on Audible, but only got about a chapter in before I gave up. That was also my free credit!

      Reply
  2. Accidental Fire

    Interesting… while I think labels like that can help sometimes, I also feel that people and life are far more complicated and nuanced. Using broad categories like this with a set of rules for each is a bit simplistic and perhaps counter-productive.

    But the book might be worth a look, thanks for the summary!

    Reply
  3. AdventuringPNW

    I did the test but knew right away that my style was secure. I so want to meet a secure person and thinking about my dating history I have met a few and I gravitate to them right away. Interesting post. I should pick up that book!

    Reply
  4. Suzanne

    My spouse and I have been together since we were barely more than kids and for the most part, we are building an empire together. Last month, we marked the twenty year milestone since our first date and reflected that our life today is better than we dreamed it would be way back when. But along the way, some periods have felt unhappy, stifling, and almost miserable. Relationships are winding, full of ebbs and flows–rarely are they a direct line to bliss. In fact, the real joy is in the journey itself, in the sharing your lives, with the full range of moments, good and bad. To echo AccidentalFire, people are nuanced. It is not easy. This is a very long winded way of saying that I think the question of “Can I build an empire with this person?” is a good one, but don’t give up at the first sign of any flaw or difficulty.

    Reply
    1. Thriftygal Post author

      Happy anniversary! Absolutely don’t give up at the first sign of any flaw is good, but the immediate beginning should be easy, no?

      Reply
      1. Allison

        I think of it as: LIFE is hard, but my relationship shouldn’t be hard. (At least, not the vast majority of the time). Knowing that life is hard is all the more motivation for choosing a good partner to start with… I want my partner to be a friend and help during the hard times, not the generator of them.

        Reply
  5. Scott Do

    You should watch Alain de Botton: On Love | Sydney Opera House on youtube if you haven’t before.

    Reply
  6. Michelle

    Yup, I did the quiz too and did not surprise myself with finding out I’m avoidant. Guess knowing yourself is a good step forward.

    Reply
  7. classical_liberal

    I’m avoidance Insecure, but dislike the word “insecure”. I’d prefer oversecure. Why couple up if I don’t need it?

    Reply
    1. Thriftygal Post author

      Because, theoretically, a healthy relationship is better than being single. Theoretically. I like your terminology though.

      Reply
      1. classical_liberal

        re good relationships being better than single…True ‘dat.

        I would argue though (purely anecdotally) that avoidance insecure types can couple up and have a good relationship. As long as both understand the need for Independence, provide each other time and space; things which are better experienced as a team or couple can be shared. Admittedly, early on these relationships are more fragile and easily broken as both parties remain very independent. Over time though, with effective communication; the fact that neither party takes too much from the other can lead to very strong relationships. Relationships based on mutual respect for each others strengths and the ability to truly enjoy time spent together.

        Regarding anxious insecures, I run for the hills within a few weeks. I probably actually run for the hills from many secure types as well because I view them as potentially being anxious insecure due to my inclinations. My loss I suppose.

        I would also argue anxious insecures make up the majority of US population alone. Secures and Avoidance insecures are a minority, even together. Again purely anecdotal, but i know a variety of people, coupled up and not.

        Reply
  8. TheTeaBoy

    Greetings! I’m not sure it has to be analysed in so much detail. But I would say that first you need to be 100% happy and comfortable being single, your life should be so rewarding and fulfilling that you don’t need a girlfriend/boyfriend to fulfil you. The problem nowadays is that most people out there have a partner to complete them.

    So yeah work on that first and then if you meet someone who you bond with and is happy to come along for the ride then Great! But at no time should you become too dependant on them. You should both be on your own journey, support each other, encourage each other to fulfill your dreams and work on the things that you’re passionate about.

    Reply
    1. Thriftygal Post author

      Meh, I’ve heard that a lot and don’t agree. I like what the authors said about it being natural to want someone to share your life with.

      Reply
      1. Taylor

        I don’t necessarily disagree with TheTeaBoy, but I think the advice of “be happy with your single self first” isn’t productive advice. It doesn’t give the advisee any place to start or way to improve, it just makes them feel somehow too inferior to be able to “be happy with themselves first.”

        Reply
  9. Anjani

    Lot depends on whom we get and are we ready to remain single if we don’t meet?

    Reply

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