Do you ever wonder why some couples seem to be in flow with each other, effortlessly gliding through life in one big fluffy love bubble? In contrast you may know some couples who are in constant conflict and you wonder why on earth they are still together. Well, I’ve just finished reading a great book called Attached which provides a few clues as to why these dynamics are created.
CAUTION – this book is GREAT but don’t do what I did and bash yourself over your head with it. I was glued to the words on the pages that described pretty much all of my past relationships in detail…which by the way go something along the lines of this….
Meet someone, get all excited, can’t stop thinking about them, feel sick, fall in love, feel anxious, want to see them all of the time, want to be close to them, feel anxious, can’t sleep, look at my phone constantly, why aren’t they calling me, do they like me, am I too much or too needy?
OR something like this…
All of the above and then get past approximately the 3 month stage, struggle with them being too close and then shut down to intimacy, the relationship then becomes an exhausting dance of pushing them away and then pulling them close again. Lucky men huh! Self deprecating humour aside, I can tell you with my psychodynamic hat on that there are a gazillion reasons why I have been the way I have in relationships and for the purpose of this blog I will focus on attachment – I love a bit theory that can shed some light on my
neurosis quirks of being.
So attachment theory (in a nutshell) was developed by Mary Ainsworth and John Bowlby in the 50’s and 60’s. Mother and babies were observed in the ‘strange situation’ where a mother would leave a baby in a room and then return shortly after. What the observers were looking for was the reaction the baby had to it’s mother upon her return, this determined their attachment style.
“If your parents were sensitive, available, and responsive, you should have a secure attachment style. If they were inconsistently responsive, you should develop an anxious attachment style and if they were distant, rigid and unresponsive you should develop an avoidant attachment style”.
Now, deep breath, Mum and Mum’s and Dad’s reading this. Put the book down and stop bashing YOUR head with it. We’re in this together, it happens to all of us, there is no blame or finger pointing, I’m sure you did your best and were/are a fine example of being a ‘good enough’ parent. What has this got to do with my relationship, I hear you say? Well a lot actually because our attachment style stays with us and continues through into adulthood – hurrah – or face palm in my case as I have a anxious and somewhat preoccupied disposition.
The book explains the four attachment styles of adult relationships; secure, anxious, avoidant or anxious-avoidant. Two of my gorgeous friends saved me from myself by suggesting that I don’t put myself in a box with these labels especially as they can sound quite negative. Quite right too, thanks ladies. I’ve started with the explanations though so I’ll finish….So if you’re secure and you have a secure base partner (someone encouraging, consistent, responsive to your needs) then your relationship will be happier and healthier than the other three categories – high five!!! If you are anxious or avoidant or a bit of both AND have a secure base as a partner, things are going to be OK as your partner is ace, will be unphased by you and will be able to ease your anxiety with reassurance or give you lots space and understanding if you struggle with intimacy.
Now remember the rollercoaster couple who always argue…? Well, it’s possible that one person is anxiously attached (needing to be close to their partner) and the other person is avoidant (uncomfortable with people getting too close). The universe is having one big laugh as this pairing create fireworks and it can feel really exciting as their attachment systems are activated, this feels like true love. But what’s really happening is your body is stressed because your needs are going unmet. The needy one then wants to get closer and in response the avoidant one pushes them further away. Yep, recipe for relationship disaster. Fear not, you can learn to become a secure base for each other by understanding what each other needs (thank goodness), it’s just gonna be a bit harder than if you were going out with one of those yummy secure base guys or gals.
Check out the book, it breaks all of this down in more detail and when you get through the eye of the storm of relationship reflections (eeeek) you too will be armed with some pretty awesome self awareness and knowledge of what to steer clear of in relationships. Am I too needy….? If I’m with a partner that is avoidant then hell yes I am. Dear universe, when the time is right please can you magic me up a gorgeous secure base person who gives me plenty of reassurance and space when I need it, Yours Faithfully, Lesley.
Onwards on my love journey…