I’m not a relationship guru by any means. Aged 51 now, and still never married, nor wanting to be. The longest relationship I’ve had is approx 3 years, with a whole bunch of quick romances and much solo time in the mix.
But this last year has eased change into many of those old patterns like a soft new thread, specifically after reading Levine’s ‘Attached’, and ‘The Course of Love’ by Alain de Botton. Plus meeting ‘H’ too. (If you’re new round here, you probably need to read THIS to catch up).
I’ve been studying relationship dynamics, specifically Attachment Theory, as it casts so much light into dark corners I’ve been hiding from since being a young girl, which I’m also exploring in therapy and other reading material.
One of my favourite posts on bone&silver is The 3 Dwarves of Attachment: Grumpy, Stressy & Happy ; well worth reading to get you up to speed on our three main attachment styles (Avoidant/Anxious/Secure), with clues as to which one is yours.
I believe I’ve done an honest job of blogging my attempts to move beyond my personal Avoidant style, and head in the direction of being more ‘Secure’; H and I talk about it fairly frequently, trying to bring our poor habits out onto the table. ‘Bumpy’ was a classic example, as well as ‘Is it a pothole or a cliff’ HERE.
But now it seems there’s another Dwarf to learn about! Introducing ‘Diffy’, which stands for Differentiation:
“Ellyn Bader defines differentiation as, ‘the active, ongoing process of defining self, expressing & activating self, revealing self, clarifying boundaries, and managing the anxiety that comes from risking either more intimacy or potential separation.’
Differentiation is crucial for partners to avoid compromising core values and beliefs, to work effectively with conflict/differences, to negotiate effectively, and to develop ongoing intimacy in a loving relationship… a partner needs to hold two realities–that of Self and Other. At times doing this means facing tension.” Ayla Garlick- Heart Matters
*Sigh. So basically, that uncomfortable feeling of realising you have completely different values to your Beloved around Christmas for example, or being a vegetarian, or liking reggae music, is actually a healthy sign.
To be able to rest in that discomfort, not rejecting them, nor trying to persuade them of the rightness of your views, is the fine art we need to cultivate as we move beyond the intense bonding and ‘sameness’ of the initial honeymoon period.
Which means after having a grumble to a smart friend about disagreeing with H over Xmas presents [for I’m the Grinch, I love it, and I ain’t gonna change], it was a relief to hear about Diffy, the Advanced-Relating Dwarf.
It’s not as blissfully idealised as when we simply agreed on everything, floating along in a hazy bubble of rainbow endorphins and oxytocin, but I notice I’m enjoying the sense of still being ‘Me’, yet also being in love with someone amazing…
Does that resonate for you? Any examples of experiencing ‘differentiation’ that you can share here? Especially if you’re in a long term relationship, and can help all us dating ‘newbies’!
In gratitude for learning about Love, G xO
PS: See you soon in Melbourne H… 3 more sleeps… xxx