I’m 36, still single, and finally figured out why

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justin 36 single compressor I’m 36, still single, and finally figured out why

I’ve been single for nearly all of my adult life, am still single, and I finally figured out what the problem is.

I used to believe the reason was because I hadn’t met the right person yet. I believed that all I had to do was keep on enjoying life, focus on my passion, identify the qualities I was looking for and soon enough I would attract the perfect partner.

I now know this approach to life is total bullsh*t.

The way to attract the perfect partner into your life is completely different than what most people believe. Life isn’t a fairy tale. There are no easy solutions, despite what the law of attraction gurus will tell you.

The brutal truth I discovered is that the problem is me, not the women I’ve been dating.

I knew this as soon as I came across “attachment theory” in an article by Mark Manson which describes the nature of emotional attachment between humans, and the four types of people in relationships.

I’ll share the 4 types of people according to attachment theory below, but first I’ll explain the problem I was facing. And you can watch the video version of this article below.

Living my whole adult life as a single man

Every time I meet someone new, the same thing happens. I feel incredible excitement about the possibility of sparks flying. I spend some time with them. The usual sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach returns. I conclude that she’s “not quite right” and move on to the next person.

(Have you experienced this before? Have you tried dating someone like this? Let me know in the comments below.)

Week after week, month after month and year after year this same thing happens. I continue to succeed at my external focuses in life, but don’t have any success at building any kind of emotional and loving connection with a romantic partner.

The truth is that I’m 36 years old and have lived almost all of my adult life as a single man.

why I'm still single
Credit: Shutterstock

Recently I read about attachment theory and came to the sudden and painful realization that the problem isn’t the women I’ve been dating.

I’m the problem. I’m the “avoidant type” (number 3 below). And I now know what to do to live a better life.

4 types of people in relationships, according to “attachment theory”

As Manson explains, attachment theory began in the 1950s and has since amassed a sizeable body of research behind it. In short, researchers have found that the way in which infants get their needs met by their parents determines their “attachment strategy” throughout their lives. Your attachment strategy likely explains why your relationships have succeeded or failed, the manner in which they did and why you’re attracted to who you’re attracted to.

The four attachment strategies people adopt are: secure, anxious, avoidant and anxious-avoidant.

1) Secure: people who are comfortable displaying interest and affection

These people are both comfortable showing affection towards their loved ones while also being alone and independent. They can prioritize what’s important in their relationships and can draw clear boundaries.

Secure people can accept rejection when it happens and can also be loyal during tough times.

People who are secure are the best people to have a relationship with.

Over 50% of the population are of the secure type, according to research. I used to think I was one of them, but learning about type 3 helped me see that I’m not.

Secure attachment is developed in childhood by infants who regularly get their needs met, as well as receive ample quantities of love and affection.

2) Anxious: people who are often nervous and stressed about their relationships

These people need constant reassurance and affection from their partners. They are uncomfortable being alone, and often succumb to abusive relationships.

Anxious people have trouble trusting their partners. This is the girl who constantly wants to check their boyfriend’s messages and the guy who follows his girlfriend to work out of fear she’s going to meet someone else.

Anxious attachments are developed early in life from infants who receive love and care unpredictable from their parents.

3) Avoidant: extremely independent, comfortable being alone and uncomfortable with intimacy

These people have massive problems with commitment and can often rationalize themselves out of any intimate situation.

They are highly sensitive to feelings of being “crowded” or “suffocated” in a relationship, and in every relationship they always have an exit strategy.

Avoidant types of people often create a lifestyle that supports their constant independence.

It’s the man who works 80 hours a week and gets frustrated when his partner wants to spend some quality time together on the weekend. It’s the woman who dates many partners over a number of years, telling them all she “doesn’t want anything serious.”

It’s also me, and before coming across these attachment types I had absolutely no idea that I was creating the problem.

According to research, attachment strategy is developed in childhood by infants who only get some of their needs met while the rest are neglected (for instance, he/she gets fed regularly, but is not held enough). It’s not always the case — personally, I was fortunate to grow up in a happy and loving family, but I did have some challenging relationships in my early years of adulthood which set the course for my avoidant behaviors.

4) Anxious-avoidant: the “fearful type” who bring the worst of both worlds

These types of people are not only afraid of emotional commitment and connection. They also lash out at people who try to get close to them.

Anxious-avoidant types often spend large amounts of time alone, but they’re miserable in doing so. When they’re not alone, they’re often in dysfunctional and abusive relationships.

According to studies, only a small percentage of people are anxious-avoidant types, and they typically have a multitude of other emotional problems in other areas of their life (i.e., substance abuse, depression, etc.).

Anxious-avoidant types develop from abusive or terribly negligent childhoods.

What happens when different attachment types date each other?

According to attachment theory, different configurations of relationship types coming together have different impacts on the nature of the relationship itself.

Secure types are capable of dating both anxious and avoidant types. They’re comfortable enough with themselves to give anxious types the reassurance they need and to give avoidant types the space they need without feeling threatened themselves.

Anxious and avoidant types often end up in relationships with one another. This is because avoidant types are so good at putting off others that it’s only the anxious types that stick around. And the lack of emotional availability of the avoidant types ends up triggering the anxiety of the anxious type, which keeps them coming back for more.

Anxious-avoidants often date each other, or the least secure of the anxious types or avoidant types. These relationships are often abusive or negligent.

According to the theory, people can change over time. Secure types can help anxious or avoidant people “level up” over the course of their relationship, but unfortunately, the converse is also true with avoidants and anxious people also able to “bring down” their secure partners.

Now that I discovered my attachment type, what am I going to do about it?

The first point I want to make is that I don’t think a theory can perfectly describe who I am. I also don’t see myself as a “flawed individual”. Rather, I’m using the insights from attachment theory to help guide me in creating some personal shifts.

As Manson points out, everybody has elements of each attachment type. But we usually end up demonstrating behaviors of one particular attachment more than others over time.

I know that I have elements of a secure type, along with moments of anxiety. Yet if I’m honest with myself, my perpetual single life can be explained by the avoidant type in attachment theory.

In my case, I’ve decided to embark on a journey of addressing the parts of myself that result in my avoidant behaviors. I don’t think I’m a bad person, and I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with me.

However, in my view, a natural part of life is to understand there is always room for personal improvement. I also believe I’m capable of changing the circumstances in my life and becoming a person more secure with intimacy and companionship.

I would like to experience a committed and intimate relationship. My first commitment is to myself and creating the change within. My second commitment is to share my own personal journey with the Ideapod community so that others can join me in my process of personal transformation.

Therefore I asked the shaman Rudá Iandê to create a masterclass sharing his key teachings on love and intimacy. Rudá is a very close friend of mine and has been helping people with their journeys of personal transformation for the last 28 years. He’s highly regarded as a shaman and has a long waiting list of people wanting to work one-on-one with him.

Ideapod’s free masterclass on love and intimacy is the result. It’s currently playing and you can watch it right now if you’re interested in joining me on this journey.

Here are my key takeaways from the masterclass, as it relates to my own quest to experience a committed and intimacy relationship:

  • How I treat others in a relationship is a mirror of how I treat myself.
  • What I want from others in a relationship is what I need to give myself.
  • The most important relationship I can cultivate is the relationship I have with myself.
  • By becoming secure with the relationship I have with myself, I’ll have secure relationships with others.

It seems pretty simple when I write it out above. But for me, it’s an incredibly profound insight.

I’m now consciously aware of the practices I’m engaging in every day in developing the relationship I have with myself.

Already I’m noticing some powerful shifts in my life. I’m still single, but I’m much more secure in my relationships with others.

I also feel much more confident in the kind of person I would be in a loving and intimate relationship.

Whether this new understanding of myself will result in an intimate relationship doesn’t concern me so much. I’m already much happier this way. I respect myself and love myself.

Life is already changing quite profoundly.

If you’re like me and wondering why you’re still single, I recommend considering the key principles of attachment theory I shared above.

If you want to develop the relationship you have with yourself, I also recommend checking out the free masterclass with Rudá Iandê. He’s a profound teacher but also very practical and down-to-earth. I couldn’t recommend this masterclass highly enough.

NOW WATCH: The author of this article is now 40 and still single. Watch his latest video below

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Justin Brown

I'm Justin Brown, the founder of Ideapod. I've overseen the evolution of Ideapod from a social network for ideas into a publishing and education platform with millions of monthly readers and multiple products helping people to think critically, see issues clearly and engage with the world responsibly.

29 Comments

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  1. Well lets face it, most women are really to blame why many of us men are still single now since so many of these very pathetic women want men that have money to begin with. The great deal of women are very awful since they will only want the very best of all and will never settle for less, and it is most of these women today that are now so very high maintenance, independent, selfish, spoiled, greedy, picky, narcissists, and very money hungry altogether as well. So how in the world can many men like us find a good woman if most of them are like this today? And the real funny thing is that most of these women really think they’re all that too which most of these women today are a real joke altogether. Now many of these women have their very high list of demands when it comes to us men since they want men to have a full head of hair with no baldness, be in very excellent shape and not overweight, have a great career making a lot of money, have is very own home, drive a very expensive car, and has to be very good looking as well. That is one hell of a list these women want from us men now since most of these type of women are real golddiggers to begin with. And with the great majority of these women being so very overweight themselves and not all that attractive either which tells the whole true story right there. These women just need to get a cat for a pet and just grow very old with it since they are always insulting many of us men with their very nasty comments to begin with. Very obvious why many of us good men are still single today since it is these type of women that are really at fault here.

  2. A good read indeed. Thank you. Each phase of life demands a different version of you. So your current personality can be a mixture of the above mentioned four types. As per the article ‘level up’ version. #2,#1 &#3.

  3. Hello Justin,
    I just saw your post and the title rang a bell. I am 36, still single (actually just broke up after a 4-year relationship) and I too discovered the problem lies within me and that I have to work on myself first. I watched a few TedX talks about loving and accepting yourself first before you go out and try to give yourself to another person. It takes hard work and I know what I must do now. Work on myself and my insecurities first. The rest should hopefully fall into place. Safe to say I am type 3 and would like to work my way out of it.
    On my journey already 🙂

  4. Also (just now watching the video)

    It’s convenient to say Type #2 is the worst kind to date, but not really. Types 2, 3 and 4 are ALL pretty non-fun to date, lol.

    Anyone bringing anything BUT love, self-awareness and stable, reasonable amounts of availability is more work than they would’ve been otherwise, which doesn’t make them a bad person, but surely no “easier” to deal with than a #2.

  5. I don’t think the above guru stuff is bullsh*t at all (it would have already worked for so many if it were) but I LOVE that you were able to own how it is actually BS for *YOU*.

    Not all things work at all times. Sometimes certain insight really rocks my boat, other times it may not as much. I let that be what it needs to be.

    I think starting with where you really are, and what you really want in mind, and moving forward only in ways that resonate as real for you is a truly useful way forward and if nothing else, just you being that real w/ yourself helped me to think more clearly and honestly about what style I must “really” be, and consider what I truly want in that way, as well.

    Thx for writing!

  6. gosh! its like im reading a version of myself… i too am 36, single and have been most of my adult life. Man have come and gone, mostly left when i had decided i want them to leave… definatley proving to be the avoidant type! Great read… thank you

  7. It’s good articles ,one thing I would like to mention that it’s good to be single to choose wrong one ,and law of attraction work,if u know what is searching u in your partner , relationship is like a risk ,so have risk ,if u think this is right one propse her or him and enjoy the loving life .

  8. You make some really interesting points. I’m 32 and have been single most my life as well. I believe that we fall into some or all of these categories in different stages in our lives. Sometimes it depends on who we’re with that bring out the different characteristics in ourselves. All my experiences have allowed me to focus, grow, and strengthened the most important relationship of all, the one with myself. Not until we love and take care of ourselves can we actually allow other people to love us. I finally get it and I think that’s why you’re still single also, so you can build a better relationships with yourself. Thanks for sharing! Best wishes. = p

    -Nhung

  9. Liked the blog as it triggered a thought process .I did not know about the attachment theory , it is interesting .Looking at the comments it is evident that quite a lot of us fall in the 3rd type.Curious to know if anyone manages to move to type 1 and if so how ?

  10. Interesting! I have been single and happy almost all my life, I have had people come into my life but i have always been too scared to get attached. I relate with the third type the most. Was a great self reflective read.

  11. I have been living alone for the past 30 years and absolutely love it. I experience a tremendous amount of time alone, living in total silence, peace and quiet and wouldn’t want anything to disrupt this state of being. I have been seeing the same man once a week for over 17 years and consider that hour together as a pure luxury. I trust him and love him and as long as this goes on, I feel I am getting all of my needs met. To live with anyone, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day sounds like a complete imprisonment; it isn’t surprising to me that people who conform to society’s expectations of living together with a married partner act so wild and crazy. I think it’s unfortunate for anyone to think there is something wrong with them because they are not conforming to society’s expectations.

  12. Hi Justin,

    It’s funny that I came across this. I’m googled “36 and single” because that’s what I am, and I also just learned about attachment theory by reading “Attached,” another good book on the subject. It made me nauseated to learn just how avoidant I am, with some anxious-avoidance as well (often at the beginning of these short-lived relationships, I’ve been the anxious one, and once the relationship is secure, I become avoidant). It also saddened me that the journey for avoidant people seems much more difficult than that for anxious ones (the advice there is simply to find a secure one). The advice for avoidants, is, harder to discern.

    What steps are you taking now? I’ve recently gotten sober (again), starting exercising everyday, and beginning meditation. I’m also in therapy. I don’t know how long this is going to take, and it scares me that I won’t be able to change, but if I can get comfortable enough and secure enough I’m hoping for a different future.

  13. “I’m the problem. I’m the “avoidant type” (number 3 below). And I now know what to do to live a better life.”

    Enlighten us with the “what to do” in greater details. Thanks!

  14. Hi Justin,

    Nice article but I think you’ve only answered half of your question. People are anxious or avoidant for a reason – this strategy was functional and adaptive for them at one time. Young’s schema focused model might offer you some clues about the other half of your question and enable you to have a better understanding of how you perpetuate your attachment style for instance if you are fearful of abandonment or feel not good enough you might feel the greatest ‘chemistry’ with people that perpetuate these beliefs in yourself. Change can often feel aversive even if it would lead to greater contentment in the long term so we often find ourselves recreating maladaptive patterns

  15. I will agree with you. I’m a anxious-avoidant. Grew up in a toxic household and then was in an abusive relationship. I will say that since I have gotten away from my ex’s abuse, I have grown and healed. I believe that if we heal, we will become the right person to be in a relationship/marriage and then we can attract the same. If we don’t take that time to heal, we continue to attract the same type of person just in a different package. I call it the same person, different package syndrome.

  16. My goodness, who can keep track of all these injunctions? As a woman having a hard time finding a partner, my evaluation is it’s because almost all men aren’t there in ways that are attractive to women. It is so rare to find a man who glows, so to speak, who you want to get close to and immediately feel warmth from.

    My suggestion is to read “The Universe is a Green Dragon.” Every woman I know who has met the author, Brian Swimme, would like to clone him. If you read the book, his Cosmic Creation Story, it’s about who we are and what we are doing here and it gives him the formula for Being.

    What happens when you’re with Brian is that he’s totally at attention. He is absorbing you. Years later, he’ll remember the conversation. How is Leigh? Is so and so still doing such and such? It’s what we’d talked about years before. It’s actually hard to get him to talk about himself because he is so interested in what you are saying. Justin, do that and women will melt. You’re a very attractive guy and if you have that vibe they will be all over you, and you, because you have been so attentive, will be able to evaluate how interested you are in them.

    You are a traveler going all over to seek truth. Why don’t you go to the Bay area and meet Brian for yourself? He just was in L.A. on a Saturday night panel and doing a Sunday talk, and he stayed with me overnight on Saturday. I had a little brunch for him and three wonderful women on Sunday morning and you’d get something from the email exchange after that. Here’s what he sent afterward, with the Subject line, “Unforgettable,” and one of the women’s responses.

    From: Josie
    Sent: Friday, August 17, 2018 9:13 AM
    To: Brian Swimme
    Subject: Re: Unforgettable

    What beautiful expression Brian❤️ it fills my heart with sweet overflowing joy… I feel changed by our time together Sunday-I hold the awe and wonderment and preciousness of our connection dear and deep in my heart. Thank you thank you for bringing that to us all and thank you Suzanne, wonder woman love, josie

    On Aug 17, 2018, at 8:50 AM, Brian Swimme wrote:

    Dear Suzanne, Loren, Josie and Marina,

    Seated in the California morning sunlight with Suzanne’s delicious breakfast and all of us reflecting together on the mysteries of our existence was simply a most ecstatic event. I can still feel right now the passionate sincerity that swirled among us having issued forth from our hearts and our experiences over our lifetimes.

    My deep gratitude to you Suzanne for constructing an elegant event and drawing all of us into it with you. And deep gratitude as well to the Ultimate Unnameable that fashioned the five of us out of a most mysterious material that sometimes flies under the code name “Beauty.”

    Sending love and thanksgiving,

    Brian

    • Suzanne,

      Thanks for taking the time to read the article. I also appreciate the advice.

      Personally, I’m very happy to continue connecting with who I am deep down and behaving according to whatever I’m finding to be my true nature. This for me is better than traveling somewhere to meet someone who will help me to find myself. Brian’s communication style is very poetic, and also very different to how I would like to communicate. This is meant with the greatest respect for Brian and you — it’s just that it’s all quite different to how I want to present myself to the world.

      Looking forward to our continuing conversations here on Ideapod and elsewhere.

      Justin

  17. Wow, those Types are disturbingly simplistic and limited. Also, from a Psychology perspective, somewhat ill-informed. People are complex (even simple folk), and people change over time (which BTW is probably THE major cause of breakups). As a starting point and rule-of-thumb, these might be okay, but if you truly feel that #3 is a perfect fit for you, lace that bitch up & wear it… so long as you are content, or happy, or satisfied with your life as it is. Certainly it can save you from wasting time chasing after not-meant-to-be. Or it could just be setting yourself up for an out-of-the-blue Romance of your life – I hope so, because it while it is better to have loved & lost, no matter how bittersweet, it’s incredible to Love without loss. Best of luck.

    • Yes I think you’re right that life and people is much more complex than breaking it down into four types. I think it’s helpful to do so as a starting point. That’s why we create concepts – to understand the world around us and to communicate. But once we improve our understanding we need to move beyond our concepts, as you’re doing here.

  18. Interesting read!
    When changing within is based on willpower, I truly agree it to be difficult at times. We set a goal to achieve and force ourselves to take action that we assume will enable us to reach the wanted result. In this example, opening up by telling oneself to simply do so will not work (in my opinion) and will definitely be perceived as difficult. For the simple reason that the root of the pattern of not opening up has not been addressed.
    Many times we tend to let the emotional aspect of any given experience blur our vision. However, going to the root of the problem doesn’t have to be an emotional rollercoaster. All experiences we have in life are facts, they happened. They brought up emotions and created behavioral patterns. Accepting that will allow oneself to look at those experiences with more objectivity, allowing us to understand what was the source of the pattern and giving us the ability to heal that situation. Thanking or forgiving oneself for the pattern created over the years and stating that this is no longer necessary, as we know now how to deal with it from a place of self love, we will actually be able to let go of the pattern and enjoy the freedom it represents for making new choices.
    The perception that most powerful changes only come from challenging journeys is in my opinion the reason why many refrain from change. Not only, it also leaves room for disappointment and self judgement when the journey is given up on. In many cases it is believed that only through hard work matters can be achieved but when you think of it: how many things do we undertake on any given day that might seem as hard work but it is not perceived as such simply because they are done out of love for oneself?
    I truly believe that self love creates ease and grace in any path that we choose to follow. Particularly in self exploration and development. Sure, there might be situations where the old pattern will immerse and overrule the new choice. That’s only logical! It takes time to have new patterns replace the old and that’s perfectly ok. The self judgment of not succeeding makes it “difficult” or seen as setback.
    Staying aware of the behavioral pattern, confirming the choice to go with the new as it will elevate the level of happiness in our life after having healing the reason it came into existence, that’s not difficult. That is loving yourself.

    Have fun with the puzzle within you! Happy soul searching Justin!

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