Since childhood, I’ve learned to self-soothe and be self-reliant. My parents were/are great, loving parents. I always knew they were there for me if I really needed them. There was a lot of fun, conversation and adventure in our home. They both had personalities that fostered independence in their children. My dad is entrepreneurial, curious and hardworking. When I was a child, his mind and body were often preoccupied with new ventures, other relationships and current work. My mom was traditional, devoted and fearful. Her mind and body were often preoccupied with maintaining the status quo, other relationships and future worries.
I had to seek out my dad and not burden my mom. They both had a lot on their plates. They divorced when my sister and I were young so we went back and forth between their homes. Money was tight so I worked part time jobs through high school and college.
It was easier to find ways to calm and comfort myself. As I’ve said many times, I spent a lot of time in my room as a kid. I played dolls, read, did homework and listened to music. As a teen, I had close, supportive friendships that offered a lot of joy and security.
Our culture encourages autonomy and independence. It’s a good thing to stand on your own two feet. I prided myself on my ability to move far away from home and support myself after college.
You’re probably not going to be there for me, so I’ll be there for myself
The ability to self-soothe and self-regulate my emotions and needs, is not 100% successful. In truth, a lot of embarrassing emotions sneak out and the self-reliance makes it darn hard for me to trust and depend on an intimate partner. My primary concern is that they are not going to provide consistent emotional support. They won’t be able to handle my real connection-seeking, sensitive, expressive personality.
I’ve found myself looking for reasons to reject someone. Their imperfections start to stick out more than their gifts. I subconsciously wait for them to let me down or need me too much. I fear they will ask too much of me and I’ll be overwhelmed. I won’t be able to reciprocate. I won’t be as good and loving as them. It’s easier to pull away.
I ask for more time to myself. In solitude, I ‘m safe from disappointment, dependency and their inability to handle my emotions. In solitude, I can self-regulate, comfort myself. These are all methods of distancing myself from a partner. These are behaviors of the avoidant attachment style.
Admittedly, some partners needed to be distanced. Others distanced me.
If I throw enough distancing behavior at partners, albeit mostly subconsciously, they make my worst fears come true. They prove I can’t depend on them by leaving and that the only person I can count on is myself.
I’ve had enough of that cycle.
Constant self-reliance is exhausting. Losing or leaving partners hurts and takes longer and longer to recover after each one.
Secure or anxious attachment styles please
After reading Wired for Dating by Stan Tatkin and Love and War in Intimate Relationships by Stan Tatkin and Marion Solomon, I decided securely attached or anxiously attached partners would be the best for strengthening my own security at this time.
Securely attached partners don’t give mixed signals. They let you know they are interested and strive to connect as soon and as often as possible. They make your concerns their concerns. They ask your opinion. They aren’t as easily ruffled by emotions. They believe their partners have good intentions. They want to be in long-term relationships. Many of these traits fit me as well.
Anxiously attached partners are insecure like avoidantlly attached persons, but instead of believing they can do things themselves, they lean more toward, ‘I can’t do it without you’. They are highly sensitive to threats to the relationship. They will pursue a distancing partner (good for me). They really want relationship and intimacy. I have characteristics of the anxiously attached person too.
Having characteristics of different attachment styles is normal. One style is usually more pronounced. The styles may change over your lifetime too, depending on the relationships you are in. It is possible to become more secure over time.
There is nothing wrong with avoidant attachment styles. Like me, they are just harder to convince to forego autonomy for intimacy, but ultimately they want to give and love too. Two avoidant attachment style people in one relationship sets off too many triggers for me at this time in my life. The mutual distancing does not allow for the warmth and connection I desire.
Letting go of perfection seeking
We did an exercise at church recently where each congregant chose a plant clipping from a basket and held it in their hands. As we touched the plant’s leaves, we were supposed to let go of something troubling and transfer it to the plant. Later, we went outside and let the clipping go in the wind.
I let go of looking for imperfections in a mate. I let go of the fear of making a mistake and being trapped in the wrong relationship. I let go of the fear of being too sensitive. I embraced embracing what is beautiful and fulfilling in a relationship. I vowed to share warmth without inhibition. I vowed to notice and curb my distancing behavior and move toward love.
Do you look for imperfections in your mate? Do you focus on them? Do you ask for more and more time to self-soothe? If so, is it introversion or avoidant attachment style?
If you’d like help with acceptance and understanding of your partner, please contact me for relationship coaching. I’d love to work with you!