After my last relationship, I felt completely lost. I literally did not know who I was, what I wanted, and how I was going to move forward. Before becoming a girlfriend for the first time I was SURE of the fact that I knew myself. I knew the type of love I could give and receive. I was convinced that I was the perfect girlfriend, despite never being in a serious relationship. I had a fantasy in my head, an image created from snippets of youtube couples, Instagram, and Ciara & Russell.. And I was shaken to the core when what I imagined was not what I ended up experiencing. It was only after I left that situation that I truly realized that I didn’t know a DAMN THING. And although many of the things that went wrong in that relationship weren’t my fault, I still played my part in our demise.
It’s hard for a lot of us to acknowledge that we have problems. It’s really hard to sit down and take the time to do some introspection and become self-aware. Like, “Yeah, I’m a great person but I got some shit I gotta work on.” Despite how hard this process was, I promised myself that before entering something new I would take the time to work on ME. In the words of Lauryn Hill, “how you gonna win, when you ain’t right within?”
For the past year and a half I’ve made a huge effort in identifying my toxic traits and working to fix them. I’ve taken the time to pinpoint trauma in my childhood that may have made me the way I am today. I’ve made a conscious effort to stop being so hard on myself, to stop labeling myself as crazy, difficult, and unlovable. I’m really trying to figure out the “why?” behind my behavior. It’s been a hard process figuring out how to unravel and unlearn 21 years of trauma.. learning how to turn off survival mode. Some days I feel like I’m making strides towards becoming a better person, and other days I just feel stagnant. I’ve had days where nothing made sense, and all I wanted to do was shut down, retreat, and give up. And other days I’ve felt as though I’m on top of the world, ready to be the Michelle to someone’s Barack. But despite the bumps that I have encountered and will most likely continue to encounter on this journey, I made a promise to myself that I will be a better person not only for myself but for the people around me. I’m determined to break the generational curses that were passed down onto me. I won’t subject the person I end up with to a tumultuous relationship, a rollercoaster. I don’t think that love should hurt and I’m going to do my part to uphold that belief. I refuse to lead a miserable life and I refuse to make someone else’s life miserable.
For awhile now I’ve noticed a strange pattern in my romantic relationships. When I’m alone I crave a connection, intimacy, and love. I wanna be held, I want the long conversations, that Jada & Will love. But when I get it, I grow tired quickly, I get bored, I get anxious. I self-sabotage. For the longest time my explanation for all of this has been: I’m a SAG. We hate commitment, we thrive off of independence and adventure. But turns out astrology and zodiac signs have nothing to do with this.
I’ve been doing a lot of research on attachment styles and how the relationship you had with your parents during your childhood GREATLY affects how you maneuver through romantic relationships in adulthood. Through my research I learned that there are four main early attachment styles:
- Secure Attachment: The child forms a bond with a parent(s) that is sensitive and responsive to all of their emotional needs. This is the ideal attachment.
- Avoidant Attachment: The child forms a bond with a parent that is emotional unavailable and insensitive to their emotional needs. These children learn at an early age to pull away from needing anything from anyone and are usually self-sufficient at an early age.
- Ambivalent/Anxious Attachment: The child forms a bond with a parent(s) who is inconsistent with their responses. Sometimes the parent is caring & nurturing and at others they can be extremely insensitive. These children tend to be very distrustful but also very clingy.
- Disorganized Attachment: When a parent or caregiver is abusive to a child, the child experiences the physical and emotional cruelty and frightening behavior as being life-threatening. This child is caught in a terrible dilemma: their survival instincts are telling them to flee to safety but safety is the very person who is terrifying them. In these situations, children typically disassociate from their selves. They detach from what is happening to them and what they are experiencing is blocked from their consciousness.
When you transition into adulthood and begin to form relationships (romantic or not) these early attachment styles follow you. These are the four main adult attachment styles:
- Secure Personality: People who formed secure attachments in childhood have secure attachment patterns in adulthood. They have a strong sense of themselves and they desire close associations with others. They basically have a positive view of themselves, their partners and their relationships. Their lives are balanced: they are both secure in their independence and in their close relationships.
- Dismissive Personality: Those who had avoidant attachments in childhood most likely have dismissive attachment patterns as adults. These people tend to be loners; they regard relationships and emotions as being relatively unimportant. They are cerebral and suppress their feelings. Their typical response to conflict and stressful situations is to avoid them by distancing themselves. These people’s lives are not balanced: they are inward and isolated, and emotionally removed from themselves and others.
- Preoccupied Personality: Children who have an ambivalent/anxious attachment often grow up to have preoccupied attachment patterns. As adults, they are self-critical and insecure. They seek approval and reassurance from others, yet this never relieves their self-doubt. In their relationships, deep-seated feelings that they are going to be rejected make them worried and not trusting. This drives them to act clingy and overly dependent with their partner. These people’s lives are not balanced: their insecurity leaves them turned against themselves and emotionally desperate in their relationships.
- Fearful-Avoidant Personality: People who grew up with disorganized attachments often develop fearful-avoidant patterns of attachment. Since, as children, they detached from their feelings during times of trauma, as adults, they continue to be somewhat detached from themselves. They desire relationships and are comfortable in them until they develop emotionally close. At this point, the feelings that were repressed in childhood begin to resurface and, with no awareness of them being from the past, they are experienced in the present. The person is no longer in life today but rather, is suddenly re-living an old trauma. These people’s lives are not balanced: they do not have a coherent sense of themselves nor do they have a clear connection with others.
After taking like 20 attachment style quizzes, I finally came to terms with the fact that I have a Dismissive-Avoidant attachment style. As I read the description of not only the child/parent relationship but their experiences in their adult relationships, I felt a sense of relief. You’re probably wondering why I would be relieved to hear that I have a serious problem forming bonds and opening up to others emotionally. But the way I saw it, everything suddenly made sense. This was me, everything they wrote was me. I wasn’t crazy, this was a thing. I didn’t have to question what was wrong with me, because it was right.there. in front of me. Knowing the root, the cause, and the problem allowed me to begin working towards changing it.
I read every article and paper I could find. I watched YouTube videos describing this attachment style and how to overcome it. And the thing that stuck out to me the most was understanding that this attachment style comes from a fear of rejection and abandonment. People with this attachment style despite outwardly appearing like they have a very high self-esteem, tend to have a deep belief that they aren’t worthy of love. They are convinced that having emotions and expressing these emotions is a sign of weakness.
With that knowledge I went ahead and created my own list of steps and advice to follow so that I can slowly rewire my brain and unlearn this behavior.
- Self Love – The belief that you’re not worthy of a certain type of love stems from low self-esteem. Ignoring and suppressing your emotions is unkind. The first step in this journey for me is really learning to love myself. I need to really and truly believe that I deserve love and happiness. I need to acknowledge that ignoring the way I feel is doing more harm than good.
- Open Up – For me this is the hardest step because I have never felt comfortable sharing how I feel with anyone. But the suppression needs to stop. And I’ve already made huge strides on this step by creating this blog and being 100% vulnerable with the people that read it. Now it’s time to take it to 1on1 situations.
- Be Honest – This ties into the previous step. I’ve been working really hard on this one. For the longest time I’ve pretended to be okay in situations where I really wasn’t. Staying silent because emotional openness put me in a vulnerable state, it made me weak. I’ve been making a conscious effort to be more honest and open about how & what I’m feeling to everyone around me regardless of how it makes me look or what people think.
- Stop Holding Back – I’m closed off to new people, especially men. Many describe this as me being mean, cold, or stand-offish. I’ve realized that this is a defense mechanism, a wall built to prevent me from getting hurt. I’ve gotten comfortable with being alone if it means that I won’t get hurt. But I’m missing out on a plethora of experiences because of this crippling fear that I’ll open up to someone and they’ll shut me down. This might work in keeping the wrong people out of my life but it’s not doing me any favors when it comes to letting the right ones in.
These are just a few of the things that I am working on right now. I encourage everyone reading this to take the time to figure out what your attachment style is and how it could possibly be affecting your relationships. Don’t just stop at attachment styles. I encourage everyone to take the time to learn about themselves, what makes them who they are, and what they can do to become a better person. None of us are perfect, and we’re never too good to improve.