“I’m sorry I’m so annoying.” (Said after acting in a way that’s completely normal and understandable.)
“Why hasn’t he texted me? It’s been three days!” (Referring to someone who clearly wasn’t as interested and was a relationship in which I deserved more, but wanted a relationship so badly I looked past it all.)
Yes, I’m totally calling myself out here. In many of my past relationships and “flirtationships,” my constant need for attention, affirmation, security and intimacy led me to nearly drop everything every time I was asked to hang out. I would essentially wait by the phone and feel elated upon seeing I had a new text message. If that person cancelled plans, I would feel dejected and worry what was wrong with me or our relationship. I couldn’t fully comprehend and remember that sometimes, life just happens.
In my psychology classes, I learned about attachment style in babies. Our childhood impacts us deeply and widely — no pressure, parents.
If you’re unsure what your attachment style is, you can take this quiz.
I found myself aligning a lot with the anxious preoccupied style in which I get upset and nervous when people leave, seek safety and security in others, and yearn for intimacy. Rejection terrifies me, and while my therapist says I’m just codependent and that that’s okay, I more often than not feel straight-up clingy. I deal with jealousy and insecurity more than I’d like to admit, and often have to self-talk myself out of negative thoughts I can’t help but ruminate on.
If I were to psychologically examine myself and my attachment style, I could contribute and relate it to a lot of things. My parents’ divorce, the fighting that ensued for years and the instability I experienced in getting to see some of my family members. Friends turned into bullies. My need for others’ approval and a significant other and deep connection. My need to feel loved because of who I am, not because of what performative love can bring the person loving me.
Given that our childhood molds us and that I’ve identified with this attachment style for so long, it’s easy to feel hopeless. It’s easy to feel like I’ll be clingy and insecure forever; it’s easy to feel like I’m doomed to a constant longing for people-pleasing.
But then I think about all of the secure relationships I have now, and how some of the secure attachment tendencies fit me as well.
People with a secure attachment style understand that love doesn’t have to be explicit and external 100 percent of the time. They don’t need consistent attention to know they’re important to someone, and they feel more free and comfortable venturing out independently and letting their loved one do the same.
My self-talk often includes sentiments such as these. I realize that I can hold onto the truth and memories entailing my loved ones’ care for me and let that be enough to sustain me. I know that I have a lot of passions and interests outside of relationships that I want to engage in as well.
I know I have friends who have been with me at my worst and still want to talk to me and check up on me. I know that people have different love languages and that I should try to recognize what others’ are when they show them, even if those love languages don’t match up with mine.
I think simply being aware of our past traumas and how they’ve impacted us and our attachment style can lead to a significant step in healing.
“It’s not you, it’s me” is quite the cliche statement, but possibly because it can be true. Sometimes, when we feel hurt by our partner, our hurt is not necessarily what our partner said, but past hurt that their comment brought up in our minds and hearts.
In these moments, it can be helpful to ask ourselves what’s really bothering us.
In addition, we can learn ways to regulate our emotions through practices such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). Despite the fact these tools have the word “therapy” in them, you can do them on your own at home.
CBT is about how our thoughts influence our emotions which influence our behaviors, and how we can change our thoughts to make our emotions and behavior more positive and helpful. You can find worksheets on that here.
DBT has four modules: mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation and interpersonal effectiveness. You can engage in those modules here. Through this type of therapy, you can learn coping skills to utilize in stressful, emotional situations as well as successful ways to communicate.
As far as handling our attachment style more externally, we can examine the relationships we’re in and whether they’re serving us or not. We often seek out relationships that are similar to ones we’ve been in, regardless of whether that is our intention and regardless of whether those past relationships were healthy. We do this because we know what to expect and feel more comfortable that way. We do this because, as Bill says in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” we accept the love we think we deserve — which is often a result of how we’ve been treated in the past.
By being aware of relationship patters and keeping the signs of unhealthy and healthy relationships in the back of our minds, as well as by seeking out healthy relationships with people who not only love us, but love us well, we can work towards finding security in someone.
Generally speaking, in a healthy relationship, your partner makes you feel safe, comfortable and positively about yourself. You feel happiness, trust your partner and don’t feel pressured to do anything you’re not comfortable with. You compromise and respect each other.
And if that’s not what you’re experiencing, I encourage you to check out Love is Respect and consider chatting with someone through their textline or hotline to discuss your relationship further. You deserve better.
Thanks to neuroplasticity, our brain can change along with us. We can assimilate our positive experiences with people and trust their love.
Our childhood, relationships and personality can play a role in our attachment style, but that doesn’t mean that we’re doomed to be stuck with our attachment style forever, nor that we’ll have the same attachment style for all of our relationships.
You, your life and your relationships can greatly improve. Start taking small steps, from therapy to relationship changes. While your journey won’t be perfect, you’ll be glad you started it.
Previously published on medium
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The post How I’m Learning to Not Let My Attachment Style Define My Relationships, and How You Can Too appeared first on The Good Men Project.