Ever wondered why some dates lead you to sex, romance, or even love, while others leave you cold? Have you dumped someone as soon as it got too intimate or demanding? Or endlessly analysed online messages, and started ‘deep & meaningful’ conversations, seeking reassurance? Alternatively, perhaps you’ve been happily committed to your ‘best friend’ for 20+ years, and have no idea what I’m talking about?
Attachment Theory suggests that our experience of being parented deeply informs our neural pathways, which are committed to repeating familiar patterns- a genetic programming designed to keep us ‘safe’, close to the tribe, and able to navigate back to the cave easily.
As I’ve said HERE before, after reading ‘Attached’, I know I’ve been happily Avoidant, and now at the ripe old age of 50, am trying to change that. This dog WILL learn new tricks! As I reflect on friends, past lovers and partners, of any gender, I use my body wisdom to remind me what dynamic we were in together:
- Holding me at arm’s length (as I did them), like I’m the enemy? Hello ‘Grumpy’
- Leaning too close, always at a tilt towards me? Hi ‘Stressy’
- Contentedly standing calm, letting me dance toward and away, with clear boundaries and needs I can understand and honour? Pleased to meet you ‘Happy’
I’ve been SO Grumpy; I can’t believe lovers put up with me. Here is my inner Avoidant: note those dismissive side eyes, defensive fists, and sturdy feet for walking firmly away.
I’ve occasionally been Stressy myself; I hated it, and felt literally sick (again that body wisdom). I’ve been blessed to have dear friends, and a few generous partners, who gave me the Happy experience of secure, safe, predictable connections. Rare but precious.
During my relationship course last week, we learnt that attachment styles can change according to context (i.e. someone Avoidant can flip you into being more Anxious, which I’ve experienced, much to my Grumpy badge-wearing surprise). Statistically, the dating pool is full of Avoidants, circling round the love-seeking Anxious like sharks, while Secure folk are cosy at home or out exploring the world, side by side with their Beloveds. *sigh
But cheer up, less-Happy folk: we can create ‘earned security’. We can practice new behavioural responses, being Mindful, and making healthier choices about who we get involved with, plus how we treat them.
Communication is the key- we Avoidants tend to ignore or downplay conflict or uncomfortable feelings. My new love ‘H’ and I have some awareness of our challenges, and much yet to be discovered… but our willingness to try is the key we’ve hopefully found at last.
In gratitude for learning new ways, G xO