A woman's attachment style determines whether she is clingy, or distant, or prone to upset at the most trivial thing. Know her style, and you know what to expect.
Early in life, the way someone's parents raise her shapes the way her brain deals with her relationships with other people.
If her parents are loving and supportive, and around enough, and not abusive or neglectful, she'll form a secure attachment style.
Secure attachment is the healthiest form of attachment: it's the ability to form real bonds with other people, free from either neediness or (on the other hand) an urge to 'get away'.
However, not all parents are loving and supportive, or present enough; some are neglectful, or even abusive. Some parents have attachment disorders themselves and simply aren't good at parenting. And when a child grows up with parents like this, she learns different lessons about close relationships, and her brain wires itself to respond differently to closeness.
Depending on her upbringing, she may learn to cling to others for dear life. She may flee closeness, and try to keep space in her relationships. She may have chaotic emotions toward closeness and vacillate between wanting it and pushing it away.
Once you know attachment styles, you can better grasp the women you bring into your life... and better grasp yourself.
First off, as an introduction to attachment styles, I suggest you take this attachment styles quiz. It's a well-made quiz and more nuanced than other attachment tests I've seen.
This quiz will tell you your attachment style.
Now, if you've taken the quiz, you might've learned a thing or two about how you attach to others.
You probably also realized (possibly for the first time) how different your vs. some other people's attachment styles are. For instance, just looking at your fellow man, you may realize that:
Some men are comfortable being close with others without being dependent on them. They can enjoy closeness, and engage in it, and are sad if they lose it, but it isn't the end of their worlds. These men have secure attachment styles.
Some men desperately need closeness, and can lash out or become depressed if they sense it receding. These men have anxious attachment styles.
Some men are dismissive of closeness and claim to not need it. They feel uncomfortable when people get too close, and try to create breathing room, or may even sabotage a relationship, just to get free. These men have avoidant attachment styles.
Some men have chaotic relationships. They are hot and cold; they struggle to regulate their own emotions, don't deal well with stress, and can sometimes seem hostile toward their own partners. These men have disorganized attachment styles.
For a long time, I was only partly aware of these attachment differences in others. I've seen plenty of men over the years talk about craving closeness with women and being hurt when women rejected it, and just assumed these were needy men who would get over it as they improved more with women. I've seen other men who consistently avoided closeness and figured they'd just been wounded at some point and would get past that once they found a girl who made them comfortable enough. I've seen the guys with chaotic relationships and assumed these guys just had anger and emotional issues, not that it was an issue they had with relationships themselves.
However, the truth is that early childhood experiences shape the way different people interact with friends and lovers as adults.
If your early experiences shaped your attachment style in a way that takes you away from secure (healthy) attachment, you are going to attach in a different way that causes more problems for you and disrupts your relationships.
And the exact same thing applies to women, too.
I've had mostly securely attached girlfriends over the years.
I'm a mostly secure attachment guy myself (77% secure, according to that quiz, with a dash each of avoidant and disorganized), and the clingy anxious girls are too much for me; the run-away-come-back avoidant girls don't appeal to me; and the hot-cold-can't-handle-stress-and-blow-up disorganized girls are a headache for me.
However, I do have some experience with the other styles. Enough to give you a bit of a profile for them:
Secure Attachment. If a girl is this, your relationship with her will be about as even keel, normal, and happy as a relationship can be. She won't show you any of the disordered behavior of the other types; she isn't clingy, she isn't dismissive, she won't blow up over trivial things. This is the ideal girlfriend, from an attachment styles perspective.
Anxious Attachment. Anxious attachers are continually in search of reassurance. They want you to approve of them and let them know they are good enough... yet, no amount of reassurance from you is enough, and they remain perpetually doubtful about their self-worth. Because they worry you will reject them, they grow clingy and needy. They like to pursue; you won't have to worry about them hanging back much, unless they reach the stage where they feel like abandonment by you is inevitable. They continually try to pre-empt potential rejection, doing things they think will make you less likely or able to reject them (like trying to please you... or behaving in possessive ways). If they don't get enough attention from you, they get upset; this upset manifests as explosions of anger followed by walking it back, begging for forgiveness or help. Their clinginess and possessiveness is an attempt to not lose their partners... but this troublesome behavior itself ultimately drives their partners away.
Avoidant Attachment. Avoidants are the Terminators of the romance world. An avoidant woman doesn't need anything from you, other than the occasional fun shag and perhaps a little light conversation. Anything approaching normal relationship emotions unnerves her... she doesn't want to become tangled in such things. Any random high partner count woman you sleep with will on average more likely than not be an avoidant, who keeps her relationships casual and short to steer clear of the deeper connections that make her squirm. Avoidants suppress their emotional needs; if an avoidant needs your support, she will sulk, mope, or whine to get it (i.e., find a way to make you go to her, rather than her having to go to you and admit to needing help). These are generally insensitive women; they care about themselves and their own wants and needs, and do not much care about yours. They do this to protect themselves: caring about you might open them up to getting hurt, so it's safer to not care. Avoidants live in a hard, impenetrable shell, and find unnerving any attempt to get past that shell and make them vulnerable. They don't want to be vulnerable. They're fine all by themselves, thanks very much.
Disorganized Attachment. Disorganized attachers do not have ways to deal with their emotions. They're bad at emotion regulation and bad at asking for help. Whereas anxious women will blow up at you but then apologize, and avoidant women usually just won't blow up (and will instead remove themselves from the situation), disorganized women will blow up at you, then blame you for the trouble. They can come off erratic and may seem outright hostile. Their close relationships tend to not last long, since they struggle to control themselves enough to build something stable with someone else.
The four kinds of female attachment.
We could probably call secure women 'the ideal', anxious women 'too clingy', avoidant women 'too detached', and disorganized women 'too big of a headache'.
Thing is, if you're not aware of attachment styles, you may end up in a relationship with a woman with a difficult attachment style before you realize what's happened.
And at that point, you're either going to have to deal with it... or disentangle and get out.
It's always easier to simply not get involved in the first place if she has an attachment style you won't be able to deal with, however. Thus why knowing (and screening) is so important.
Psychologists have traced attachment styles to how a child's parents treat him when young.
If the parents serve as a secure base, from which the child can explore the world, then come back and receive support and encouragement, he will attach securely to them, and when he grows up and forms attachments with other people (like his romantic partners), his attachment is secure with them too.
If the parents are inconsistent in their sensitivity to their children, such as behaving in needy ways toward their children (because the parents themselves are anxious), the child develops an anxious attachment style. He'll carry this style with him into adulthood, when he starts to attach to friends and lovers, too.
If the parents fail to respond enough to their children, and the child more or less has to 'raise itself' and learn to not depend on the parents, the child develops an avoidant attachment style. He carries this with him into adulthood, where he prides himself on his self-reliance and fears (dislikes) close relationships with others.
If the parents have suffered trauma or a loss, and can't handle emotions in their child, they may react in destructive ways to a child's emotions (like getting angry when the child cries), which leads the child to a disorganized attachment style, where he does not learn how to regulate or make sense of his emotions. The child carries this attachment style into adulthood, where he continues to struggle with emotion regulation, particularly in stressful/emotional situations.
As I've noted with you before, her past matters if you want something serious with her.
Select a relationship partner without properly vetting her past, including what her family upbringing was like and how her mother and father each treated her, and you open yourself up to a large amount of potential problems down the road when issues you didn't realize were there early on show up later.
They can, through therapy, and through a supportive relationship with a secure individual.
If, say, an avoidant woman attaches herself to a secure man, with time she will move closer to a secure attachment style, as she realizes this man really is not going to just up and leave her, or ignore her, or dismiss her concerns, and instead is someone she can genuinely start to let her guard down around.
Or if an anxious woman attaches herself to a secure man, she can realize with time she does not need to behave so clingy or possessive to keep him. If a disorganized woman attaches to a secure man, she can learn to better regulate her emotions with time.
That said, if you're the secure man, you're signing up to be something of a therapist, or a healer, rather than jumping into a mutually excellent relationship (which is what you'd have if you just grabbed a girl who's already secure as a relationship partner).
So, while it is doable, do keep in mind that you're signing up for a lot of additional work you wouldn't otherwise have if you dated a girl who didn't come with these issues.
That doesn't mean don't date her -- maybe she's perfect for you in every other way, and you're willing to tolerate the downsides her attachment style brings.
Maybe she's worth the work to you.
However, it does mean make sure you're aware going in.
Because if it's a long-term relationship, this is all stuff you'll have to deal with for a long time.
It can be done; whether you want to do it, is up to you. But do make sure it is a conscious decision, and not just "I'm going with the flow, I'm going with the flow, la-te-da... whoa! What's this? How'd I end up here? I didn't want to have to deal with this!"
Be cognizant of it; be smart.
And perhaps have the girl you're thinking about dating long-term take that attachment styles quiz. Her results may just put you at ease... or give you one more thing to consider as you weigh your choices.