Read this post if you’re feeling a bit meh because it’s Valentine’s Day.
In this post I’ll be sharing some secrets about why your past relationships may have failed. I’ll tell you about how we all have different ‘attachment styles’ that impact our relationships, show you how identify your attachment style and then armed with new awareness- start taking steps towards a better relationship – whether it’s one you’re in or one you’d like to be in.
Valentine’s Day, hereafter referred to as VD (which is also an acronym for a sexually transmitted disease, funny that). What does it bring up for you? This post is for the single people and those in a relationship who have certain expectations and disappointments around this day.
I’ve had VD’s as a single person and VD’s in a relationship (I’m laughing at my own VD joke, sad!) and I’ve never found it that wonderful. In relationships my expectations have been way too high and I’ve approached this day with my romantic teenager fantasy mindset, expecting flowers and chocolates and fancy restaurants. I don’t think I’ve ever been pleasantly surprised there. As a single person I’ve compared and despaired. I’ve felt oh so lonely and sorry for myself and now? I couldn’t give a toss about VD!
Now I know I’m being very tongue in cheek and behind my joking there is a serious message. The message is – IF YOU ARE SINGLE I DON’T WANT YOU TO FEEL CRAP ON VALENTINE’S DAY! And IF YOU’RE IN A RELATIONSHIP, I DON’T WANT YOU TO FEEL CRAP ON VALENTINE’S DAY!
I have felt more lonely being in bad relationships than I have all my time being single and if you’re honest I reckon you have too, am I right? This one commercial money -making day only really serves to make those not in a partnership feel rubbish and those in one feel rubbish if those socially imposed grand romantic gestures aren’t demonstrated. This is a bit of an excuse to talk about the wider issue of comparing ourselves to others whether we’re in a relationship or not. It’s easy to think love is so easily attained for some and for others it’s not. I work with some pretty gorgeous, smart and brilliant women who have a trail of shitty relationships and are petrified of getting into another bad one. Perhaps this resonates with you? Maybe you have a history of attracting commitment-phobes, love avoidants (more on this later, even – dare I say full on narcissists? ( I know I have!).
I was recently dumped. I prefer the term ‘let go’ as it implies a certain freedom for the dumpee but still, it’s the same thing. I was seeing a guy for around 2 months, not long enough for me (this time) to fall head over heels but long enough to start forming an attachment. He hadn’t met my friends or family nor I his, we hadn’t talked about the future but we had enjoyed some lovely dates and stayed at each other’s houses and had breakfast together. Anyway, he said he wasn’t ready for a relationship, wasn’t horrible about it and told me I was lovely. (For me this ending was progress – a lot of past ones have been far more dramatic and painful – result, I’m learning!).
Although this wasn’t the worst breakup I’ve ever had, I’m not good with rejection (however nicely it is packaged up) so I cried a bit, went into my shell, ate all the chocolate and then did some reflecting. I know I have an anxious attachment style and rejection can be especially difficult for me as a result. I’ll explain what this means. A few years ago I read a book that revolutionised the way I see love and my previous relationships . The book is called Attached by Dr Amir Levine & Rachel Heller. View it here
It talks about 3 different attachment styles people have when forming romantic relationships:
Anxious -You need to be very close to your partner and have the capacity for great intimacy. You often fear that your partner doesn’t wish to be as close to you as you wish to be to him/her. Relationships consume a lot of your emotional energy and you are sensitive to small fluctuations in your partner’s mood. You often feel insecure. You often ‘chase’ in relationships. (I would add that the anxious type can also be co-dependant if this is a term you are familiar with)
Avoidant– You need to maintain your independence and autonomy. You feel uncomfortable with too much closeness in a relationship. Partners may have complained that you are emotionally distant. You can feel suffocated or stifled when in a relationship.
Secure – Being warm and loving in a relationship comes naturally to you. You take things in your stride and can communicate your needs quite easily. You can read your partner’s emotional cues and be there for them in times of need without feeling you are compromising yourself or your sense of freedom.
I wonder if you can identify with any of them?
Each type has positive and negative behaviours associated and here’s the worst part – people with an anxious style are generally attracted to avoidant types and vice versa – arrgh a match made in hell this toxic partnership is precisely what triggers the reactions and behaviours that make for a disastrous relationship! Like dysfunctional chaotic magnets!
Knowing your attachment style (and your partner’s or ex’s) can really help you to work through blocks in an existing relationship or help you to avoid the same old pitfalls in future ones. For example, someone with an anxious style may feel highly insecure if the partner who is avoidant doesn’t answer their text straight away. The anxious person’s behaviour can escalate into sending lots of texts one after the other to get the other to reply which would alleviate the anxious person’s mounting discomfort. However, to an avoidant, multiple texts would signal suffocation and they would likely get annoyed and tell the other person they are too needy. The cycle of insecurity for the anxious partner continues! I know the guy who dumped me had an avoidant style so ultimately we were incompatible. By understanding your relationship attachment style you will be well on the way to a more fulfilling relationship.
There is literally so much I’d like to say on this subject so I will save it for another time. What I hope you can take away this time is:
- Please don’t feel crap about VD – It’s ONE DAY. If you have a partner and they don’t show they love you the rest of the year then fair enough – feel crap and see this as a sign to move on! If you’re single. It’s just a day. So many couples are unhappy, it’s easy to see things through a filter and assume everyone in a relationship is happier than you. It’s just not true.
- Getting awareness around your relationship patterns, who you’ve been attracting and how you’ve both behaved will lead to the next step of changing these patterns which will lead to attracting a more suitable match.
- If you do have a history of bad relationships then I encourage you to use this post as a launchpad to really look at your patterns. THIS STUFF DOESN’T GO AWAY ON IT’S OWN. You need to do the work. Buy the book, take the quiz, see a Therapist or Coach, attend a 12 Step Meeting (more of this in a later post). Whatever it is, just START! Of course I can help you make some changes- get in touch if you’d like to find out more.
- On Valentine’s Day, it’s easy to focus on the love you don’t have from that one special person and neglect to acknowledge the love you DO receive from all the wonderful people in your life, friends, family, cats, dogs!
- Self- love. I won’t bang on about this but it’s a cliché for a reason. Love yourself first. No one will give you the love you’re looking for if you don’t give it to yourself. True story.
So please don’t give up on yourself and your heart. I don’t think being in a relationship makes you ‘whole’ but it can be a wonderful life enhancing thing provided it’s the right one. If you want to be in a healthy relationship you have to do the work. I’d love to hear what you think in the comments.
Lots of love to you,