The best book I’ve read on love is Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find and Keep Love. It answered all of my big questions and made sense of my life. For the first time, I understood why the most heartbreaking of my relationships didn’t work — I was trying with my anxious attachment style to connect with women who were emotionally avoidant.
Most people on the dating market are avoidant. Even though avoidants only make up 25% of the population, they tend to end relationships more quickly, move on more quickly, have more affairs, get divorced more quickly, etc. People with a secure attachment style usually aren’t on the market long. They quickly form long-term attachments. Also, avoidants never date other avoidants and secures won’t put up with the games that avoidants play. That leaves avoidants dating anxious people like me.
Avoidants and the anxious tend to date each other because the other type confirms their deepest beliefs about love. For an anxious person like me, when I date an avoidant, I confirm my deepest belief that nobody will ever love me back as much as I love them. For the avoidant, dating someone likes me confirms their deepest belief that other people are weak and clingy while they, the avoidant, needs independent and freedom.
“Each reaffirms the others’ beliefs about themselves and about relationships. The avoidants’ defensive self-perception that they are strong and independent is confirmed, as is the belief that others want to pull them into more closeness than they are comfortable with. The anxious types find that their perception of wanting more intimacy than their partner can provide is confirmed, as is their anticipation of ultimately being let down by significant others. So, in a way, each style is drawn to reenact a familiar script over and over again.” (Pg. 91)
Also, when the anxious dates the avoidant, his attachment system gets activated. He feels crazy. After enough intense experiences like this, the anxious tends to equate an activated attachment system with love. So when a secure person comes into your life, you’re not activated and you’re not feeling crazy and hence you don’t feel like you can possibly be in love and you discount secures.
Here are some definitions:
* Secure people are comfortable with intimacy, anxious people are anxious about it, and avoidants minimize it.
* “Activating strategies are any thoughts or feelings that compel you to get close, physically or emotionally, to your partner. Once he or she responds to you in a way that reestablishes security, you can revert back to your calm, normal self.”
* You live in the danger zone when you feel a constant threat to your relationship. You may become used to living with a chronically activated attachment system.
* De-activating strategies are things you do to decrease closeness with your partner such as put-downs, deliberately walking out of step, breaking plans, etc.
I want to talk about the love of my life. Of all my relationships, this one was the best. It was heart-breaking and frustrating much of the time, but we also clicked on many different levels.
What were the warning signs she was avoidant?
* At age 40, she had never married, but had many relationships.
* She had a history of cheating on her partners.
* On our first date, she asked me if I thought that people who had sex could be friends. Why would she be talking about friends with benefits on our first date?
* When she was in pain one Saturday night, I offered to come over but only if I could stay the night. She said no because she prized her space and independence. Needing your space is a big sign of an avoidant.
* After our first week together, she went radio silence for a week. Eventually, I found out she was back with her girlfriend.
* I usually had to call her twice as much as she called me. I had to keep seeking her out and seeking ways for us to get together.
* She would track our calls and emails and texts to make sure she never extended herself more than I did.
* She had contempt for me. I’ve never before had a girlfriend who had such contempt for me. Sure, I’ve had girlfriends who probably had contempt for parts of my life, but this one was withering and for things nobody had ever expressed contempt towards me for such as seeing a physical therapist for my plantar fascitis. She said I was a wimp.
* When I asked her something she didn’t want to deal with, she would just ignore me. She wouldn’t even acknowledge my question.
* She kept talking about moving away.
* I often felt like a jerk around her and I was rarely able to understand why. She just kept me off balance and implied or stated that I was at fault.
* The closer I got to her, the more I became the enemy.