Healing Avoidant Attachment Style of Interaction
Avoidant Attachment is no way to live. It cuts us off from others, and from so much of the meaning of our lives. We don’t get the closeness and intimacy that those who are more securely attached do. I have been healing my own for some time now, and the outcome is quite wonderful. Becoming attached to people brings me to feeling more attached to life, too.
Elizabeth Wedington and I created a Practice presented in our book, Stop Depriving Yourself: A Self Care Practice to Remove the Obstacles to Living Life Fully available November, 2018. It includes a 10 step guide at the end so that you can engage in the Practice on your own – often preferred by those liking the avoidant style. See my post, “Stop Depriving Yourself,” to read the Introduction.
My main character in the chapter below has lived an interesting life in full out avoidant style, and married a man who does too. Their marriage has worked because they were so similar in wanting separation and stereotyped sexual relating. But now she has launched into a pull from her heart to make changes. Can her husband do it with her? Read to find out!
♠Letting go of Loneliness, Separation, Isolation, and Shame ♠
Before getting to the story, I want to tell you about a form of meditation I discovered that is the best way for avoidant attachers to take a look at what would improve their lives. Please read Meditate Your Way Out of Avoidant Attachment here. And You may find Meditate Narcissism Away of interest, too.
“I thought I was just different until I happened on to a book called Attached. I was stunned when I saw myself there. So of course I got all the other books I could on the subject of Attachment Theory, and dashed around in them, picking up information about myself. I could see that there was actually a sort of diagnosis. Something, anyway, that made sense of my way of life. And that I wasn’t the only one. The authors had actually studied people like me. I could see that it would be possible to learn to be different.
I live with an unpleasant sense of isolation. I have a quiet husband. No children. Two cats. I work on the computer.
This isolation isn’t caused by others, though. I could go to the lunch room and be around all kinds of people. I could exchange ideas on things we’ve learned. But I have no interest. Well, that isn’t true. I would love to fit in and belong, but it just doesn’t seem gratifying to talk about the weather or the latest tech product. Sometimes I like to listen in on conversations. If they interest me.
I always thought that this is just the way I am. But Attachment Theory suggests that I hold back from others for a reason. That it became habit. That my lack of interest in them is about something other than a real lack of interest.
It’s lonely over here. That must indicate that it isn’t just the way I am, doesn’t it? Are you lonely? Sometimes I think that everyone is. That they find things to do to avoid it, but underneath they are too. After all we live in a false world, one that we agree to believe is correct. A quick look at different countries’ ways of doing things shows how there isn’t one basic true way of living.
I wrote all of that while sitting in a coffee shop along with lots of other coffee drinkers on computers. We are together while being in our own worlds. Anyway, the couple next to me are having a conversation, and I thought it could be a way to offer you dialog to read.
The man said, “Babe, you just don’t understand. I love you. Looking at other women doesn’t mean I don’t love you. It’s just something guys do.”
She responded. “It hurts my feelings. You’re here with me but you act like you’re over there with her.” She looked sad but she seemed to be shaming him with her face and voice. I knew how she felt, having had that experience with more than one guy I dated. I assumed it was because I wasn’t talkative and so they had to do something to entertain themselves. But this couple had been interacting.
“No it isn’t,” I said. This just sort of fell out of my mouth without any volition. I hadn’t wanted to talk with them. I never did talk with strangers. Yet here I was. Probably because of my studies of avoidance, and not liking it. Who knows? I kept going.
“My husband doesn’t do that even when I’m silent and not entertaining at all. You know you don’t do it just because you’re a guy. You’re being mean. Just admit it. You’re mad at her for some reason, and you aren’t dealing with it, and so you hurt her in a way you knew would work.”
Not sure where that came from, except that I read everything. Remember? Everything. Psychology too.
They both sat there staring at me. I expected them to get up and take their coffee elsewhere. But the wife sort of leaned toward me.
“Thank you,” she said. “I think you’re right. But since it always becomes an argument we never get anywhere with it. Are you a therapist by any chance? We need to find someone who can help us take a look and figure out what to do.”
“No I’m not. Really, I’m a computer expert, ask me about online business and I can help. But not psychology.” I felt like I had to make this very clear, as if I had misrepresented myself.
We both turned to look at her husband. I assumed they were married. He frowned and took a breath. We waited.
“Okay. She’s right. I get mad at you and I enjoy looking at women knowing it will get to you. I’m sorry, Honey. I get how mean it is. But sometimes I get really mad when you criticize me. So I figure I’ll just do something to deserve it.”
“I criticize you? No I don’t.”
“You do all the time. You don’t just tell me what you want or what I’ve done that doesn’t feel good, you act like I’m a piece of shit and you wonder why you married me. Contempt.”
“I don’t want to,” she said. “I really want to be kind and just tell you what I need.”
“Well let’s work on that, then. When you criticize I’ll tell you instead of making you pay. You really have to stop doing it. But I get that I have to tell you when you are because you can’t just magically stop. Especially if I’m hurting you, punishing you.”
“I know a good book that talks about conflict styles and how to work on them, if you want to read something,” I offered. They looked interested. “It’s Create New Love: How Men and Women can Prepare for a Lasting Relationship, by Anne Stirling Hastings. She nodded. Then he did, too.
They reached over to hug each other. Then they stood up and hugged. Both turned to me with smiles, thanked me, and left the coffee shop.
I sat there pondering what I had done. Never had I joined in the conversation of strangers. Never would I have commented on one of them being mean. And then to explain the dynamics of what was going on. Something was shifting inside me.
Wasn’t this incredible? After deciding to write about my avoidant attachment, I just started not doing it. With strangers, anyway. Well, with two strangers. Who knew what was to come next?
“Jerome,” I called out when I walked in the door of our home. We lived in one of those modern neighborhoods where the house was a big, narrow three story on a small piece of land. Usually I would walk through the house, not calling his name, just finding him. Sometimes I went to the kitchen and didn’t look for him at all. He did that too.
But today I was fired up. It felt good to call out to him. And, when he came downstairs from his home office, to excitedly tell him about what happened at the coffee shop.
“Audrey, slow down,” he said, stepping back a couple of feet.
“I’m changing, Jerome,” I said, still loud. “I’ve been reading about Avoidant Attachment, and I don’t want to do it any more. I want to have friends and activities and feel like I’m filling out my skin.”
Jerome looked at me for the longest time. His face was sort of pulled in and down, which may have been fear.
“Say something,” I said. “I need to know what you’re feeling.” This kind of questioning was definitely outside of our relating style. I was pulling out into life, but he hadn’t agreed to go with me.
“I don’t know…. I don’t have anything to say…. What have you been reading? I thought things were going along well for us…. “I like our life. The way it is.”
And there’s more!