It’s common knowledge that couples with two secure attachment styles have the most stable relationships. What most people don’t know is that insecurely attached individuals also have long term relationships. They may not necessarily be as stable as two people with secure attachment but they are just as committed.
Surprise, surprise for people who think, “my ex is an avoidant and therefore afraid of commitment”.
According to several studies notably one by Dr. Dylan Selterman, a senior lecturer at the University of Maryland, insecurely attached individuals are not as vulnerable to break-ups as one might think. Pairs of avoidant men and anxious women are likely to stay intact for long periods of time, despite the fact that these insecure men and women experience greater amounts of relationship dissatisfaction and conflict and feel less trust in their partners.
So why would pairs of insecure people stay together so long?
Part of the answer is because insecure people lack an understanding of what distinguishes good and bad relationships, and they actually don’t realize that anything is wrong with theirs or their partners’ behaviors. They might stay together for years simply because they don’t know any better (the way secure people do).
For many of them, the relationship may be their first relationship, or the first relationship in which they feel some resemblance of love and connection. A securely attached person may see the relationship as imbalanced, dysfunctional and even toxic, but to an anxiously or avoidantly attached this is the best relationship they have ever had, and their feelings are real and genuine.
Another answer lies in gender roles. In general, men are more likely to report being avoidant, whereas women are more likely to think of themselves as anxious. This is likely due to gender-role socialization, with men conditioned to be more emotionally self-reliant and women conditioned to be more focused on emotional closeness and intimacy. Because of this socialization and accompanying beliefs, avoidant men and anxious women tend to seek out partners that confirm their expectations for how relationships work, even if those expectations are misguided or based on gender stereotypes, and they feed off each other’s attachment issues.
They believe that their insecure partners are exhibiting behavior that is to be expected in any normal relationship, even if it is dysfunctional. So, the sad truth is that when insecure people suffer in their relationships, they also may also assume (erroneously) that their distress is inevitable and stay together over the long-term.