Loving Hard or Hardly Loving? Dealing with Avoidant Attachment Styles

Loving Hard or Hardly Loving? Dealing with Avoidant Attachment Styles

New York and Avoidant Attachment

Every culture is marked by their differences in cuisine, wine, traditions, and dating. So naturally, when I moved from my simple, no- drama Indian dating style to the flaky, avoidant dating styles of New York City, I was met with my biggest culture shock. While I could spice up the bland pizzas and ham and cheeses with some hot sauce here and there, I could not figure out the magic ingredients to having a stable relationship. Back home, it was all cut out for you and served on  a silver platter before you- you met someone through mutual friend circles, ended up at a party where you would sneak off for a quick make out session, and that would eventually lead to at least a year’s worth of making out and I love you’s. However, the city that never sleeps makes sure you’re up all night, ridden with anxiety, wondering why the guy from last night’s “best date of my life” never got back to you after all?

What is Attachment?

When we are attracted to a number of people with similar characteristics, we label them as our “types.” These types can differ for each one of us on the basis of gender, physical appearance, etc. Recently, I discovered that I have a type after al l- the Avoidant New Yorker (and Tauruses too). Here’s a little theory for you attachment beginners: In the attachment world, the concept of different attachment styles has been tested through many different studies and observations. Mary Ainsworth and John Bowlby researched it by observing the child’s tie to its mother and eventually formulated classes of attachment styles- the anxious, the secure, and the avoidant child. This research was then furthered over the years and applied to adults in their relationships with their romantic partners. Attachment science was studied in a lot of detail in order to ensure the proper development of children, such as those deprived of appropriate maternal care in the orphanages of Romania. Today, bloggers use it as an excuse to justify the multiple horrible dates, ghostings, and failed relationships they have had to endure in their lives. That’s okay, but it’s not fixing the problem.

The Avoidant personality has been described as the “lonesome travelers on the journey of life and relationships.” So my type, the Avoidant man, shrugs and quivers when someone drops the word “dependency.” It will take him six months to admit that he has emotions, another two to decide he wants to be with me and only me, and perhaps, a lifetime to call me his girlfriend. Yet, he is my type. Mine and everyone who holds an anxious attachment style’s type. So what’s wrong with me? Or you? Or him? Or the planets?

Over the years, relationship science and moreover, our personal experiences have forced us to think of relationships and “love” in a very black or white manner. A lot of my friends go on one single date and come back to tell me their jurisdiction on whether or not their date gets a second chance- more often than not I hear “I can’t be with him, I don’t see a future with him”, or some put it more blatantly “he/ she is not marriage material.” Well, they don’t have to be- not yet at least! (You’re 22 and their dollar pizza order does not really give you a good idea about what’s to come next) 

Similarly, avoidant people have been pathologized by science, literature and their own friends for being too unavailable. The “it was all him/ her, not me” becomes a persistent phrase used by their ex- lovers. I, myself, have gorged pints of ice cream with my friends and had them reassure me that it wasn’t my fault after all. While I tried to think of the million times he never told me he loved me back each time I said it and blame him for it, and the thousand times he didn’t leave his bed to come have dinner with my mother and me- over time, it became hard to ignore the fact that the anxiety over losing him was enough to ensure that I showed up, mentally, emotionally, physically, everytime he called and even at the times he didn’t. 

What About the Anxious?

So what’s better? Loving harder or hardly loving? Neither! Disproportionate amounts of emotions in any relationship scream commitment issues. Commitment issues have been notoriously used to describe the ways in which one partner (usually men) takes five steps back soon after taking one step forward, or, in other words, avoidant personalities. However, commitment phobia is also a very common theme for anxious individuals who use the planets, their big hearts and their zodiac signs as a pretext for loving too much or falling in love with the wrong people each time. After all, it does take two to tango. Even if your avoidant partner is stepping on your toes and slowly pinching the corners of your heart, you’re still dancing. You’re both attached- just in very different, toxic and insecure ways. I distinctly recall one of my ex’s asking me where the “non- avoidant unicorns” that I have been searching for actually dwell. “In therapy rooms”, I said within seconds of having read that. As I look back now, I probably should have added “where I should be too… whoops!” 

So “to all the men I’ve loved before” and the other avoidants out there, it is time to acknowledge that you didn’t leave your ex-partner because their apartment or their resume wasn’t long enough. You weren’t unfaithful because there were no remnants of sugar and spice left in your bedroom. You didn’t quit your relationship because of whatever reason you may have given your last four partners. Your friends that have seen your relationship patterns and have read “Attached” have told you that you had commitment issues or that you were avoidant (and they have probably been right). Sucks to suck- unless, of course, you hit your therapist’s line soon enough. 

Words of Wisdom for Anxious Types

And for you mini-me’s and other anxious babies, join the dance of love, twirl and spin around a little, and if it hurts your feet too much, choose another dancing partner. Stop trying to play games of truth or dare to cement your relationship with security. Be secure in yourself and love hard, but love yourself harder. Know when you need to walk away and if you can’t, call the therapist you had cut off when you entered your “stable” but not- so- stable relationship. I know you want to be the first drop of water for his desert heart or his “breath of fresh air” but are you your own savior yet?

Resources to Deal with Avoidant Attachment

Attached: The New Science of Dating

The Gift of When your Date Pulls Away

Women are NOT Crazy. You Have Work To Do

Dating Advice from an Attachment Perspective

From Breakdown to Breakthrough: Crystal Talk on Getting Past a Breakup

After recently exiting a short but “it’s complicated” relationship, I had too much time on my hands and a busy mind that needed to heal. Trying to understand what happened in an “it’s complicated” relationship is, after all, totally normal. My solution? I scrolled endlessly through my several zodiac and astrology apps. Co- Star  became my best friend, The Pattern became my guru, and my $9.99 a month Tarot+ app gave me a chance to do more readings than I could ever dream of! I was told, “Today, you will break down”, “That little void is going to lie empty for another 2 months and it will all be okay”, etc. The stars shone light on what I was missing out on but they also told me that my partner wasn’t my sun and my moon after all. (Yeah right- easy for you to say Co- Star!) These daily motivational quotes did get me out of bed but they didn’t exactly have a plan to recover from a bad breakup. I still had to figure out how to avoid that pint of ice cream!

While this may seem like an angry hate letter to the man I thought was the center of my Universe for a hot second, it really is a note of hope and guidance to everyone looking to recover from these types of relationships. Yes, Mercury, Venus, Neptune and Jupiter can take our love lives with them into retrograde, our pasts can cause us to accrue a load of self- doubt, and anxiety always making us spiral. Yet, in the midst of all the tears, ice- cream eating, self- loathing and trash- talking, we can remember to take care of ourselves.  So I’m going to bring in some crystal talk and help you take the right steps to find the real answers to healing those karmic relationships you thought were your life long soulmates. Because, in reality, these relationships really suck, drain the life out of you, and leave you feeling like WTF just happened!

Peel the Past, Heal the Present, Seal the Future

Every website, every guide, every friend will CHANT the same old mantra: “Move on! Move on!” I’m not going to deny the power of “moving on”, but I will ask you to process it before you move on. “Getting over it”, does not, like a lot of people say, mean getting under someone else- it means getting a hold of the situation and making sense of everything you shared with your partner. It may take you a while to acknowledge the good, but once you do, you will remember the good that YOU did. Meditate over all the things you did super right before you try to forget all the things they did right. Get a hold of it, get over it, heal yourself, say “thank you, next”, and repeat. And when you feel strong enough, send them some loving kindness to wish them the very best in their future.  

Don’t Mull Until You Are Dull – A Breakup is Not the End, Just a New Beginning

You’re not in an episode of Gossip Girl, nor are you a character from The Notebook. Our first loves, no matter what age, drain all of us – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. With age, however, we have a lot more resources at our disposal. Besides the cognitive skills I have accumulated over the 22 years, I have also gained access to wine, gym memberships, yoga mats, and makeup. So after you have meditated over your past, wake up one morning and start with the first step- bathe in the sun on your yoga mat and develop a practice that makes you feel better. Go for a great workout session (look around- you might find someone that can carry not only 120 pound weights but also a little more attachment security!) Look good, feel good and enjoy a great glass of wine at the end of the day! 

Innovate at Any Rate – Creativity Heals

Our emotions can get take many shapes and forms- drunk texts, petty unfollows, and sob emails (yes, these are all my emotional avatars). This time, I decided to change things up and it felt so good! So every time you want to listen to a heartbroken song- write one instead. If your arms and legs feel the need to punch a bag, break the dance floor at a local Tango club. If your fingers itch to open your message app, open your notes app and publish a groundbreaking article! (What do you think I’m doing?) Follow your deepest, darkest hidden passions and invest in a new hobby. Don’t be a cheapskate- innovate

Stop Stalking, Keep Walking 

It’s such a small world, right? Yes, so you will bump into them. You might even make sure you go to their favorite local evening bar to catch a glimpse of them. More so, if you see them with another date on their instagram story, you might google map straight off to that location. How’s that going to end? I’ve always envisioned bumping into my ex on the street, falling into his arms, and sharing the second best kiss of my entire life with him- BEEP! No. The steps mentioned above are keys to the answer- and the answer is most likely going to be- toxicity. Charge your crystals and carry them around and keep walking with your head held high. 

Karmic relationships come charged with passion, romance and lessons. They resemble the Hinge app- they are “designed to be deleted” and the only thing you take away from them are the lessons and perhaps, the memories. Swipe left on all the negativity, and super like yourself, the world, and the millions of opportunities that lie ahead of you. Your destiny is not tied to a relationship or a partner- carve out time to go on your own adventures and seek your own truth and meaning. Be the best version of yourselves before you search for better fish in the sea! 

Baruni Sharma, BA

Baruni Sharma, BA

Intuitive Date Coaching Trainee

Baruni graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in May 2019 with a major in Psychology. She is currently participating in the Intuitive Date Coaching training program under the supervision of Dr. Jennifer B. Rhodes.

Staying In Line While Dating Online

Staying In Line While Dating Online

Ever since I was old enough to understand crushes and relationships, I have relied on any and every sign that could point me towards how my relationships were going to unfold. From Linda Goodman’s zodiac sagacity to the hundreds of Cosmopolitan quizzes, anything that I thought would calm my nerves was always scattered on my desktop. By the time I reached my twenties and started pursuing the men I had swiped right on, I was perplexed by how to quickly ascertain the data I needed to make the best decisions in my love life. Surely the actual stories of these men were deeper than the modest amounts of information on their dating profiles! I mean I’m not sure that the fish they held with heavy pride, quotes derived from popular/ rap music, and/ or links to their creative instagram pages were all that helpful? Several dates, many drinks and a few failed relationships later, I decided it was time to figure out how to  extract the information that I needed in less than ten dates. While I’m still trying to find my Mr. Perfect online, I thought I would share my step-by-step guide to tackling the real Tinder experience.

Eject the stigma.  Just because you’re on a date with a stranger from a dating app, it does not make you any less than your girlfriend who met her love in a cafe or amusement park. Congratulate yourself for expanding your horizons and for putting yourself out there. The judgement from society can wait! Enjoy that rush of adrenaline and wash it down with some wine.

Leave your rating scale behind.  You’re nervous, you’re excited, you’re scared. Don’t worry!  I guarantee he is too! It doesn’t matter what either of you are looking for- you’re doing it together- as absolute strangers! If he dropped a fry or spilled a cup of water, give him a chance to clean his mess before you bring out the judgement police within you. I, too, once tried to end a date as soon as he spilled his wine on himself.  Thank goodness I didn’t! After all, my patience was rewarded not only by a pity glass of wine from the waiter, but also a great conversation towards the end of my night with him.

Your past doesn’t predict your future and neither does his! Talking about all your missed connections will probably ensure you miss this one too. Moreover, asking him about his horrible Tinder experiences will not prevent him from using your date as an anecdote for his next one. Be present in the moment and focus on what he brings to the table. Discussing your pasts will only make room for biases and preconceived notions that will end up driving your date towards a dead end.

The sun and the moon can guide you but it isn’t a magical formula. Every date with a stranger has always brought up one very important question in my mind:“Is his sun sign vicious? Does his rising sign guard behaviors that I can’t see? Oh god- I hope he’s not a Gemini!” While all these factors can tell you the overall strengths and weaknesses of his character, we have to exert some patience.  Why are we so hasty to want to know the end point before we even begin the uncovering process? Where’s the chase? In the end, their zodiac can’t really prove if they’ll make you a mean steak on your next date! (Actually, their sun signs will never give you an accurate picture at all. You would need todo a full birth chart analysis and I’m not sure that’s really appropriate for a first date!)

They say there are many fish in the sea. Reeling in too tight will put you at risk of snapping your line, losing out on possibly the biggest catch of your life! Hook, line and sinker with all your heart! The only control you have over the process is the quality of bait you show up with on your date! Don’t worry about how they come off, just give them the best version of you!. Online dating, like all other kinds of dating, is a trial and error affair- you’ll find what you find as soon as you get out of your head and into the present moment! So go tinker with Tinder and socialize like the Bumble bee you are! You never know who you are going to meet!

Baruni Sharma

Baruni Sharma

Intern

Baruni Sharma is a Senior studying psychology at Sarah Lawrence College.  She has interests in clinical research, child development, and relationship science. You may follow her on Instagram @_baruni.

Why Conforming on a First Date is a Bad Idea: A Jazz Date Gone Awry

Why Conforming on a First Date is a Bad Idea: A Jazz Date Gone Awry

Most of us have heard from experts and the internet to “be ourselves” when we meet new people. Professionally, personally, and, most of all, romantically, “conforming” has shown itself in constant, varying patterns. How many times have you been on a date and heard “I like jazz Music too!”?  It can be difficult to know whether people are being truthful or trying to please you.

What is Conforming?

In the dating world, conforming is when you act similarly to the person you are dating — in personality, interests, or experiences– even if it may not be how you typically act. Pick up artists, in particular, will increase their chances of “scoring” by conforming to the answers and moods of the person in question. It’s an understandable practice — when you’re nervous before a first date, you may find yourself accidentally blurting out, “Me? I also love death metal!” just to make a connection with the cutie sitting across from you at the table. I totally get it– you’re looking for things to talk about to make the conversation for the other person easy and enjoyable even if you are telling half-truths left and right. But while conforming may be the easiest way to go about your dinner date conversation in the moment, you run many risks when you offhandedly agree to everything your date says and does.

This Risks of Conforming

In the entire process of conforming, you lose the essence of a first date– the fun. While we lie and placate the other person, we stress ourselves in multiple ways. On the surface, when we conform, we are under pressure to know the subject we claim to love, and know it thoroughly. Moreover, we are constantly worried about anything blowing our covers.

Going beyond this stress, we also miss the chance to accurately determine our compatibility with the other person. Feigning interest in something that actually bores you will only jeopardize the chances of both of you getting to know each other well. Another embarrassing effect of conforming can be the chances of revealing your false interest several dates later; when your date invites you to the Dark Tranquility concert next week and you absentmindedly reply, “Who?”

Not only is a situation like this embarrassing, but it can also break the trust of the person you’re dating. As many people value trust in a relationship, showing a potential partner that you already aren’t being 100% truthful with them may be a breach in their trust. While of course this wasn’t your initial intention, your goal to please your date may backfire more severely than you would think.

My Experience with Conforming

I once dated a man who completely swept me off my feet with his interests in music and travel. I was intrigued by the fact that he had studied jazz history and traveled all over France just like I had. Moreover, the fact that he was older and more mature was another bonus. I indulged him for a couple more dates until I decided to take him to a jazz bar in New York. I was shocked that I had not noticed the fake ID he had been using to get into every bar we had been going to. To exacerbate the situation, the young gentleman did not seem to have any interest in any of the jazz numbers the live band was playing. After all that, I was not interested to have a look at his passport for his real name, age or even his Schengen Visa for Paris.

So the next time you are on a first date, don’t conform to every single thing your date says or does. Instead, express genuine interest in what they are talking about and ask them to tell you more about it. That way, you can still enjoy a lively conversation about something your date is passionate about while still being truthful to yourself. So if you want a genuine shot at a happily-ever-after in jazz world or Paris, be honest, be true and be you.

Baruni Sharma

Baruni Sharma

Rapport Intern

Baruni Sharma is a Senior studying psychology at Sarah Lawrence College.  She has interests in clinical research, child development, and relationship science.