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