What’s Your Attachment Style?

If you were to ask me what I want out of life, I’d make a vulnerable confession: to love + be loved.

I have so much to be grateful for, I am present, happy and enjoying my personal growth. I have goals and a detailed map for my future, I have a vision board that is manifesting my dream life but at this moment, I still feel compelled to make another confession: I am also manifesting a person to share my life with. For reasons I’m still working through, that has not always been easy to admit, even if I knew all along that I didn’t see my life playing out any differently. As I envision my future life, I knew I had to work to become the best version of myself in order to attract my dream life.

For the last couple of months–what I now refer to as my sabbatical, I made a diligent effort to avoid dating. I decided to use this time to really work on myself + give myself the uninterrupted time I needed to process what I had protected myself from feeling all of those years. As I peeled back the layers of the more painful experiences, I learned how to heal and better understand the cause or root of my pain. I’ve learned how to identify the parts of me that hurt, recognize my past traumas, and uncover the cause for my anxiousness. As a result, I began to feel happy, calm, and grounded as my constant state. A complete shift from where I was a couple months ago. I was proud of myself for how far I came, I was grateful for the help that got me here. I felt intune and aligned with my higher Self and I had some really amazing + exciting goals I was working towards.

Then, I met a guy. It happened quite innocently, we had been on a couple dates last fall when we picked up an old conversation. I was honest with him as I shared the work I was doing. I explained how bad of a space I was in when we originally went out + I wanted to apologize for how things ended, and we both agreed that it would be nice to be friends. But that didn’t happen. Suddenly, as if there was a force bigger than us, we found ourselves with undeniable feelings for one another. We spent hours talking at night, as we exchanged intimate stories, discussed the places we’d hope to travel to and what we’d do together once he got back to town. This was new to me in many ways, I was new to dating as this version of myself and found myself attracted to someone that wasn’t afraid to love me. Even after I shared the most vulnerable parts of me, he still managed to find me attractive. I began to trust him, trust that we’d be able to give this a fair shot as I reminded myself that regardless of the outcome of us, this would be worth it because everything was different this time, I was showing up available to love and be loved. A lesson that would only build a better foundation for learning what type of relationship I deserve.

Not only is he intelligent and kind, he’s somehow humble with confidence. His hipster vibe keeps me eternally curious as I learn about his eclectic taste in music, TV shows, and movies, I’m always excited to learn more; as I listen along to his travel experiences + admiring his ability to cook meals I have never heard of. I just felt a strong connection to him, yet I found myself confused by this because I was still learning the fundamental parts about him. I had built enough safety to let down my guard as I convinced myself I was open to this experience.

So I allowed my heart and mind to go unprotected, I shared the feelings I had for him as he shared the same in return. We counted down the days until we’d get to see each other as we planned our dates in anticipation. I found myself excited for all of the possibilities.

Then came a trigger caused by an unfamiliar pattern from our everyday exchange of texts and talking on the phone. Instead I was left in silence from not hearing anything from him for a couple days. Any validation of safety I felt in the relationship suddenly rushed out of me prematurely and confusion proceeded to take over.

By a simple break in our communication pattern, I felt rejected. A trigger that had nothing to do with him, as it never really does, & I was filled with the same rush of anxiousness that has been haunting me since my divorce. As it washed over me at a lightning speed, I found myself paralyzed by fear. Loathing how these anxious feelings began to consume me only to be replaced by feelings of shame for having them; while somehow finding comfort by the familiarity of it. It felt as though I was having an out of body experience, understanding the irrationality of my feelings, while simultaneously slowing time prolonging my anxiety, without having the tools to change how I felt.

As I clinged on to what logic was left in my mind, my subconscious innocently asked me “How am I supposed to protect the unhealed wounds you left inside me?” then my conscious mind took over as it became consumed with how my future was going to play out. “Should I end things because this obviously indicates that I was right and maybe I’m not ready to date?” I hear that thought loudly. Then as if my mind spins around again, my thoughts suddenly shift, I try to convince myself what it would be like to instead play games, “wouldn’t it be better if I just avoid reaching out to him or decide to not text him back?” My mind becomes consumed by these powerful thoughts then somehow I find myself with a moment of relief, a rational solution enters my mind: “Do I talk to him + tell him how I’m feeling?” but before I can process that decision, my ego fearfully sweeps over me with the possibility of rejection. Going right back to my unhealed wound that has left me feeling unworthy of love + in these moments I feel small, vulnerable and too complicated to be loved. Rejection is the fear, yet I have always held myself at a distance in order to pacify this fear spending years in unfulfilled relationships as a result. I have spent years pretending that I’m easy to love, wearing a mask of confidence only to silence myself from communicating what I need. For years leading up to this moment, I would pray for my feelings to subside so I can choose to say nothing and pretend these feelings didn’t exist.

I am self aware enough to know that my trigger was not entirely valid. My logical mind can understand that it’s perfectly normal to go a couple days without contact, after all we were not in a relationship. In fact, we’re currently living on different continents with a ten hour different time difference.

But this particular trigger was caused by feelings much larger than any relationship. It happens to me anytime my subconscious recognizes I’m in a situation where a person may be losing interest or rejecting me. Finding its way to me without warning, my subconscious mind reverts back to those feelings of unworthiness stemmed from the inadequacies of how I recieved love and attention as a child.

As I’ve noticed the pattern emerging, I would keep myself safe by ending the relationship. I would tell myself that I’d rather be single than to live in that headspace never realizing I always found myself in relationships with an Avoidant Attachment Style which became an endless cycle of these anxious feelings. So I chose to find joy + happiness in other areas of my life instead. But this time I wanted to choose differently, he was unlike the guys that I had dated in the past. He was available + worth the risk of being rejected. This time, I was different, too. I had been doing the work, I had done so much fucking work,

But the only way out of this vicious cycle meant I had to face my fear head on. I had to communicate and be open about my feelings. Even if they felt too heavy to communicate with someone I wasn’t even dating, I had to share with him my anxious attachment style as if I had a scarlet letter on my shirt, then I had to explain my past events + the rejections that got me here. I had to be open + vulnerable about the parts of me I spent a lifetime hiding, as I admit that something as small as a day without contact can be powerful enough to trigger my worthiness for love. Yet, in that moment, I didn’t want to miss out on the possibility of us; so instead, I chose to trust him. I gave him the ability to reject me and validate my biggest fear: that I’m too complicated to love, but then I remind myself: the right person will stay.

If you are not familiar with Attachment Style Theory, I encourage you to learn more as it’s incredibly interesting & will make dating much more purposeful. It can show up in any type of relationship, not just romantic relationships. Over time, you may find yourself on different places of the spectrum based on your life experiences, but in general, people can be summarized down to four types: Secure Attachment Style, Anxious Attachment Style, Avoidant Attachment Style, and Dismissive Attachment Style.

While there are a ton of resources available online, they tend to fall short only to explain the symptoms, why these patterns exist and tests you can take to help identify where on the spectrum we may land. However, there’s an actual lack for resources on how to heal from your unhealthy attachment style. There are small ideas on how to control your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors but it often suggests finding a Secure partner, not understanding the brevity of how an unhealed trauma manifests. The complexity of our attachment styles is formed by how our needs were met by our primary caregivers at an early age. Often these traumas get buried deep in our subconscious mind and stay there only to play out in future relationships, by events our memory no longer recalls. Not meant to be an easy fix by an affirmation or a journal entry.

As an Anxious Attachment, I’m part of the 20% population, & how it affects everyone is different. For me, I find a Secure Attachment with my friends, but when it comes to a romantic relationship, it can manifest by needing validation from your partner of their feelings. If I like someone, I want to feel secure that they feel the same. If I find myself thinking about them throughout the day, I feel validated when I receive text messages or gestures letting me know they’re thinking of me, too.

Anxious Attachment Styles can also look like codependency, people pleasing and putting others’ needs before our own, even intimacy patterns emerge based on a person’s attachment style. For another 25% of the population, there are Avoidant Attachment types, these types tend to sabotage any sort of a promising connection and guise it as feeling suffocating and overwhelmed, as a way to protect themselves from getting hurt. These two types often find themselves in short lived relationships as they feed off of their unmet needs followed by sabotaging behaviors that more often than not ends with them both being single again.

Even though I have truly found ways to love myself, I recognize that I’m still looking outward for love + validation, even working with a therapist and life coach, this sometimes still feels bigger than me.

When I find myself enveloped by these remerging feelings, I’m also met with sadness. I begin to fear how it will jeopardize my future relationships. I know I’m still the person he is attracted to: an otherwise confident, kind, energetic babe–but when this unworthiness trigger hits, suddenly it fades and is replaced by an insecure person with low-self esteem who relies on him to validate our connection,

But this is my truth, it’s my messy journey to self love. This is me sharing the parts of me that are still healing, as I painfully shared these words with him. He listened, he acknowledged me and thanked me for sharing with me. I know we may not always be met with that response, but in that moment I felt a part of me heal.

Without facing our fears, we won’t evolve. By not communicating our needs and boundaries, our needs get lost in translation, people get hurt, and the possibilities of us fade into what ifs because living in this area of confusion, it will always be easier to protect our ego and stay in the realm of comfort.

But at what cost? I refused to lose him on those terms. Instead, I took a deep breath in and chose to surrender, unwavering in my faith and trust that I’m making space for the right connection. One that will provide me with the security I need, one that will open my heart again, one that will finally free me from the pain of my past. As I relentlessly look for ways to evolve and heal, I compassionately look to my inner child with love + forgiveness, telling her no matter how messy we are, we are all worthy of love.

For additional resources and additional information:

  • Take a test to learn your Attachment Style
  • Book: Attached by Amir Levin

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