As I trip along in the dating world again— juggling dates, phone calls, texts and hearts (theirs, mine) — I hold close to my chest the self and world wisdom garnered from my last loves. I keep my head up and eyes open for the soft spark of a secure soul, someone who believes in relationship and the loving effort required to nurture it and benefit from it.
Securely attached is not the same as security
In my marriage I sought security. I didn’t want to struggle anymore on my own. I wanted a solid future and family. I wanted a partner to share the experience. I got all that and wanted more. After a while, being a valuable resource within the family system wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough for my (ex) husband either. I didn’t want to be a stable resource. I wanted to be a cherished partner. He’d probably say the same about himself. We tried but couldn’t grow into the supportive relationship we both desired.
Secure couple bubble
I ran across the Laurel Holmes article, Building Your Healthy Couple Bubble. It says everything I’ve learned and am now looking for. Holmes says, in its simplest form, a secure couple is a partnership where each person behaves reassuringly toward the other. Reassuringly reminds me of responsively. Responsiveness is my new buzz word and personal goal. I endeavor to be responsive and a receiver of responsiveness.
“Healthy, secure relationships are a source of vital energy…people feel good when they understand how to be successful partners. We are energized by a secure connection to another person. Our need to be securely attached is so powerful that it can get us through the hardest of times and help us float through day-to-day routines with ease, skill, and grace. — Eva Van Prooyen MFT via RealitySandwiches.net
In my relationship with ‘my man’, the first year felt secure. I even wrote about him acting as my rock when I went through life challenges. That first year I did feel energized and stronger. I walked taller and was able to take on more work/confrontation/socializing. ‘My man’ steadily spent time with me. When he missed my call, he called back as soon as possible with an explanation for not answering the first time. He helped me with the care of my ailing mother. He waited with me for the results of my breast biopsy (benign). It was easy for me to support and openly love him. He shored up my vulnerabilities so I could be a strong and steady partner for him.
As our relationship reached the year mark, his reassuringness slipped a notch or two. He may say mine slipped too. I suppose that is when we entered the power struggle stage — the stage where one or both of us perceived the relationship as permanent and our attachment fears leapt out. Perhaps the permanence and intimacy were too scary for him? Perhaps he had an avoidant attachment style? He had to pull back. He wasn’t able to keep up the caring. He flirted with other women in front of me. He made plans and decisions without talking to me. I wasn’t his first call anymore. He would bring up things he swore he told me, but the truth was he had told others and not me. I felt a simmering frustration in him almost constantly. I need my person to openly like me.
I could be anxiously attached or securely attached. I am very sensitive to threats to a relationship. I also expect to be treated with respect and caring. I’ve gained self-awareness through research and real life experience to better understand my attachment style and improve future relationships.
In the end of our relationship, our conversations became increasingly superficial but his body still wanted mine. It’s hard for me to be open to physical love when I don’t feel assured. It was hard for him to feel assured when the physical love diminished. Despite steady communication, we weren’t able to share our vulnerabilities enough to grow and survive as a couple.
Secure functioning means a high degree of respect for one another’s experiences. According to Van Prooyen, if you or your partner feel even slightly unwanted or unimportant you will act weird and underperform in the relationship.
How to resolve insecure attachments?
We have to know our own sensitivities and learn those of our partner. This takes curiosity and persistence. We have to take on the care of our partner.
What are his/her fears?
Not tough enough?
Not smart enough?
We have to pay attention, reflect and evolve with our lovers within the relationship. Reassurance and responsiveness play meaningful roles. Active listening also comes in. Instead of getting everything off your chest, try responding to what your partner has to say. Let them speak until they feel heard. If they are mature and secure they will let you do the same. The relationship is as important as the people in it. It becomes its own entity in secure and mature coupling.
Cautiously excited about dating
In my new dating scene, I dodge those who exude mixed signals. I seek out those who offer reassurance and talk of long-term commitment. In their book, Attached, Amir Levine and Rachel S.F. Heller, state that the dating pool is full of avoidant attachment style individuals. The securely attached are in relationships and the anxiously attached often are too. This makes me uneasy. I’m not eager to get into a relationship with someone who is so autonomous they can’t be reassuring and responsive. I’ve learned to temper my self-reliant persona and let my true intimacy and relationship-loving self shine. This is one way to sort the secure from the insecure. The avoidant styles recoil from any sign of dependency.
I recognize the heady dopeyness and yummy brain chemicals of the honeymoon stage. I’m not so jaded I can’t find joy in it. I’m diving in and embracing it but I know the power struggle stage will inevitably appear. I just hope my next partner is willing to work and grow with me. I hope for healthy interdependence and the fulfilling energy of a secure connection.
What reassuring behavior do you receive from your partner? What do you offer? Have you felt the energy of a secure connection? What does a secure connection look like to you?
Would you like to work on your own security? Would you like to strengthen the secure connection you have with your partner? Contact me for insight and encouragement.