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One dimension to take into account in the stranger you are texting with is their attachment style. Attachment is the level of affection, sympathy or dependence we form with someone we love – our bonds, if you will. Simply put, as we will see, it comes in three flavors.

John Bowlby was the first psychologist to study attachment. Bowlby was influenced by the research of Harry Harlow, who studied apes in captivity and observed that their bonds belonged to distinct categories. the secured the monkey was raised by a living mother monkey who holds and nurses her baby; the monkey feels cared for and protected. the anxious the monkey was raised in a cage with a fake mother made of soft fabric, equipped with a bottle attached to her containing warm milk; the monkey may become attached and loving but he is needy, insecure and cries a lot. Finally, the avoiding monkey was raised in a cage with a fake wire mother – not at all nice to cuddle. This last monkey does not get attached easily, avoids close relationships and is often hostile to strangers.

Bowlby examined children’s relationships with their caregivers and found not only that Harlow’s types could also be applied to them, but that a child’s relationship with their caregiver was also predictive of later attachment style. Her studies showed that maternal deprivation negatively affected children’s emotional development and their future ability to become attached in healthy ways. This was the foundation of modern attachment theory, which is commonly applied to adult relationships in psychological contexts. Adults, too, crave closeness – are biologically driven to form attachments – and the process of forming these attachments is dictated by experience.

Humans aren’t apes, of course. But we, too, can suffer from anxiety and loneliness with separation. Research suggests that half of the human population is firmly attached. They are comfortable with intimacy and feel more satisfied in a relationship. Strongly attached people allow their partners independence but are also able to provide honesty and support. That leaves us with a good half of adults who don’t react the same way to relationships. Anxiously tied people find it difficult to live in the moment and tend to overemphasize the role their partner plays in their life. They may cling for fear of being alone. Avoidantly attached people keep others at a distance and may preemptively sabotage relationships to protect themselves.

Are the three types of attachment represented proportionally on dating sites compared to the general population? Unlikely. Strongly attached types associate early and are more likely to stay together; they’re secure that way, leaving others to fend for themselves online, leaving a greater proportion of avoidant and insecure loose types rolling around dating apps, wondering where all the secure people have gone.

It’s possible to solicit early cues about attachment style in your initial text thread, but these traits usually take much longer to manifest, as their cues are more subtle. You certainly don’t have to be a psychiatrist to identify the more extreme forms of dysfunctional attachment, but it can be helpful to look at early signals and potential red flags to watch out for. So, while by no means an exhaustive list, here are five indicators of insecure attachment to watch out for when making inroads into texting with new people: