Here is the first in a series of guest blog posts you can expect to see every Friday throughout February as part of the Work/Life Relationship Series. Our first guest blogger is Laurie Watson, Director of Awakenings Center for Intimacy and Sexuality.
Finding the Love You Need
If you’re single without any prospects or not sure if your current dating relationship is worth it, you may despise the Valentine’s Day reminders of all the love everyone else seems to be having. Do you ever wonder: Why can’t I find someone decent? Why do they never call after the first date? Do I expect too much? Why do I feel trapped as soon as it starts getting serious? Why does the sizzle always fade so quickly? Now, the science of attachment theory can help you answer these questions and find a healthy relationship.
When we’re dating, we tend to rely on attraction and feelings to guide our choices. But what if both are influenced by something that is beyond our immediate consciousness? Research shows that three attachment styles resulting from the way we bond as children, are relevant to the way we choose a partner: secure, anxious, and avoidant.
- Securely-attached people are generally happy, enjoy closeness, represent their separate needs appropriately without drama or anger, are not easily offended, understand when you are going to be late, call you when they say they are going to call, and are available emotionally and sexually. Securely-attached partners often bring healing to their relationships with care, attention and love. (Most of the population)
- Anxiously-attached adults (pursuers) really want to be really close. They are people-driven. Sometimes they overshare, are sensitive to slight mood shifts in their partner, over-analyze every encounter, take things personally, use sex to gain love and acceptance. In conflict, anxiously-attached folks criticize. (Slightly more of these are female)
- Tonia seems to pout on your evening’s outing if you were busy at work and could not return a text promptly as is your normal pattern.
- Handsome James goes through your phone on a second date and gets angry that you have messages to and from other men. (Pathological anxious-attachment style)
- Avoidantly-attached individuals (distancers) may dream of a family and home but feel claustrophobic and trapped at the reality. They are purpose-driven. Might describe themselves as having very high standards. Playing the field keeps their intimate life exciting and their autonomy secure. Sex may be for pleasure but compartmentalized from emotion. In conflict, they withdraw. (Slightly more of these are male)
- Darrin says he’ll call, but waits till 5 o’clock Saturday to ask for a date. You sense that there was nothing better for him to do.
- Jason dates you steadily for 3 weeks and then ghosts you completely. You text and call but he doesn’t answer, then he calls about a month later. (Pathological avoidant-attachment style)
Here’s some coaching: To quickly discover your style both emotionally and sexually take my quiz.
If making realistic requests (timely returned calls) results in your boyfriend accusing you of being needy, take that as good news! You’ve quickly discovered an avoidant person without the capacity to be a satisfying partner. Let go!
If you feel you can never do anything right and are walking on eggshells due to her anger, drama or possessiveness, maybe your girlfriend is anxiously-attached and unable to feel secure. Reconsider.
You’ve hit the jackpot if your dating partner does what they say they will do, respects your time and differences without feeling threatened personally, makes you feel good about you, is empathic, and finds sex both enjoyable and enhancing to closeness. Enjoy! Your partner is probably a securely-attached adult.
Laurie Watson is a licensed couple’s counselor, certified sex therapist, director of Raleigh’s Awakenings – Center for Intimacy and Sexuality, lecturer at Duke and UNC Chapel Hill medical schools, blogger at Psychology Today Online’s Married and Still Doing It, co-host of the podcast FOREPLAY (airs 2/14), and author of Wanting Sex Again.