Dating without drama?

Linda Blaesing

What can attachment theory teach us about adult relationships?

 

‘We don’t need others to be enough, but we need others to remind ourselves that we are enough.’ – Emily Nagosky

 

Love and relationships have always been topics that highly interested me. I’ve been reflecting, reading and listening to podcasts on this topic a lot and have gained some valuable insights I’d love to share with you. Because the way we relate to our partners in adult romantic relationships is shaped by what we’ve learnt about attachment throughout our childhood and lives in general, it’s important to take a look at the attachment theory by Bowlby first. According to his theory there are four attachment styles: (1) anxious, (2) avoidant, (3) secure, and (4) disorganized attachment.

 

Most people are securely attached, which means that they’ve had reliable attachment figures (their parents or other caregivers). They’ve learnt that it is safe to depend on others, and they can see people they get attached to as a secure base from which they can explore the world. Anxious attached people tend seek high levels of intimacy with their attachment figures and become overly dependent. They have a sensitive attachment system and get upset when they are not close to the people they are attached to. They tend to be afraid of losing their partner or being rejected in a relationship. Avoidant attached people are very careful not to get too close to their attachment figures and seek high levels of independence. They have learnt that attachment is painful and should rather be avoided. They tend to keep their partners at arm’s length in relationships. Disorganized or fearful-avoidant attached people tend to switch between anxious and avoidant attachment. They tend to have mixed feelings about relationships both desiring and feeling uncomfortable with emotional closeness.

 

Also check out the strange situation test by Mary Ainsworth (1969) to measure infant’s attachment style:

Although the first time we learn about attachment is in early childhood, in later relationships there is always the opportunity to change your attachment style for the better as well as for the worse (Levine & Heller, 2012). Research showed that partners in a relationship with a securely attached person are the happiest. Being in a relationship with someone who is securely attached can also help you to attach securely yourself, although you were brought up with an insecure attachment style. Therefore, if might be good advice to be aware of attachment style cues early on when you’re dating someone. Your date starts playing games, is not answering, or holding you on leash? These can be signs of an insecure attachment. Securely attached partners may seem boring at first. After all, there is no drama involved in dating them. They are genuinely interested in you. So, it might be good advice to give them the chance to convince you in at least three dates.

 

How to date wisely?

 

‚Love never keeps you from following your path. If it does it was not true love, but a light explosion and worth the experience anyways.‘ – Paulo Coelho

 

Some of my clients tell me that now is not the time for dating. ‘It’s impossible, I mean how am I supposed to meet people?’ Of course, it’s up to you if it feels safe enough for you to date right now. But I can tell you that even now during a pandemic it is possible. Dating apps like tinder, happn and bumble are currently booming. After all, there are not many other options to meet new people right now. The upside: That also drives all sorts of people to these apps – also people who might never had thought about using a dating app if it wasn’t for the virus. So, let’s take a closer look into dating.

 

For the anxious attached it might be advisable to date several people at once to give yourself the notion of abundance of potential partners and strengthen your self-esteem, because you’ll notice that there are many people who are interested in you (Levine & Heller, 2012). Furthermore, it increases the likelihood of running into a good match, just because there is more choice. However, try not to overwhelm yourself either. Try to find a good balance, which works for you. Also, anxiously attached people tend to overly focus on the other person, they tend to be givers, struggle with receiving, and communicating their needs in a relationship. Tips to deal with that by Hannah Cuppen (2018) are:

  • Check in with yourself 3x a day: What is my need right now? How can I fulfill this?
  • Communicate these needs towards a potential partner or date early on in the relationship. This is called effective communication.
  • Respect yourself by writing down every evening: How did I protect my boundaries today?

Some tips for the avoidant attached people:

  • Write down: What do I need from the other person? Who is important to me and why? What do these people give me?
  • Communicate your answers to the important people in your life and (potential) partner
  • Respect yourself by writing down every evening: When did I put myself above others? Look at the hurt part in yourself, which made you do this, feel it, and let it be there.

Further ingredients of an available love relationship are:

  • Be your authentic self when dating
    • Give yourself the unconditional right to exist
    • Open your heart for yourself by giving compliments to others
    • Talk your truth (‘My heart tells me…’) showing vulnerability
  • Connect in the present moment by asking yourself ‘How do I feel?’
  • Find a balance in polarities such as attachment and connection, intimacy and freedom, giving and taking, letting go and clinging, together and apart, autonomy and merging, distance and closeness, strength and vulnerability, masculinity and femininity
    • Ask yourself: ‘What is my strongest strength? What is the contrast?’ and then try to find a balance in your daily life
  • Forgive yourself:
    • In your mind go back to an unfulfilling love
    • Look at your part in why it didn’t work
    • What was the reason? Which hurt part of you prevented you from this love?
    • Recognize this part, welcome it, feel it, let it be there without any judgment
  • Focus on unconditional love, because where attention goes energy flows
    • In your mind go back to a situation of unconditional love
    • Assume that you already have the love you are desiring
    • Feel the love in your body
  • Connect from freedom:
    • In your mind go back at who irritated you and why?
    • Recognize this aspect in yourself, make a joke about it, welcome yourself with this aspect

Lars Amend has a dating-mantra: ‘Intelligent and warm people attract me magically’ and ‘Give me the feeling that I can learn from and grow with you. If you manage to do that, I’m yours.’ Additionally, he suggests 5 questions you can keep in mind, when dating someone new to figure out whether you are a good match:

  • What are your life goals on the short-term?
  • What are your long-term goals?
  • What do you think about relationships?
  • What do you think about me?
  • If you think about me, what do you feel?

So, when you are dating try to get rid of expectations and mental projections about the other person. Try to be open and curious, non-judgmental, show your vulnerability, insecurities, and authentic self. By doing this you give the other person the opportunity to do the same and you create space for real connection. I know this sounds easier said than done, but you can also practice letting go of expectations and judgment. Becoming aware of it is a very important first step. Observe your mind and write it down.

 

 

How to build an enlightened relationship?

 

‘Giving others the space to be is the most precious thing you can give.’ – Eckhart Tolle

 

Probably you know the quote: ‘You first have to love yourself before you can love someone else.’ There is some truth to that. If you love yourself unconditionally you will you’re your worth and be in a position to reject potential partners who are not good for you more easily. However, self-love is a process like everything in life and you don’t need to be perfect before you start dating – in fact no one is and that is totally fine. Nonetheless, cultivating love and compassion for yourself in your daily life is important and once you’ve practiced that for a while you will notice that you will automatically attract people, who are able to securely attach and connect from freedom. Recently, I came across this nice inspirational poem by Rumi: ‘Your task is not to seek for love. But merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself you have built against it.’

 

While practicing self-love is an important fundament for our romantic relationship with a partner, self-love is not the only thing we need to practice. In ‘The Mastery of Love’ by Miguel Ruiz, the author describes that love is a mastery we can learn by practice. Relationships are teamwork. People are not used to work with a partner, because in daily life we either work alone or in groups. Often in a relationship we act from our emotional body projecting our pain and expectations on our partner, which leads to drama, suffering and escalation. However, we cannot expect another person to make us happy. We are responsible for our own happiness, but we can give our partners the freedom to make themselves happy.

 

According to Eckhart Tolle the same love connects all living beings on earth. Some people, however, might reflect the love inside you more intensely than others. You know that you have found the right person if you don’t have to change her and she doesn’t have to change you either – you can accept each other unconditionally, just the way you both are (Miguel Ruiz). You’ll be happy because of the love inside you and she’ll be happy because of the love coming out of her. No one has the right to expect another person to change except for if she really wants it herself. In addition, you’re only responsible for your part of the relationship. Your task is to accept and love the other unconditionally. Whether the other person does the same for you is up to them.

 Eckhart Tolle suggests in ‘The Power of Now’ to use your relationship as spiritual practice. Whenever your emotional body gets triggered look at it from a distance, observe it without judgment. Communicate what you feel towards your partner instead of acting upon it from your ego. Make an agreement that one of you always stays present in the moment, if the other person acts from his or her ego. This way you can help each other to become more present, reduce the drama in your relationship, and increase true connection.

 

 

References

 

Hannah Cuppen (2018). Liefdesbang. Overwin verlatings- en bindingsangst.

Eckhart Tolle (2001). Enlightened Relationships. In: The Power of Now.

Miguel Ruiz (1999). The Mastery of Love: A Practical Guide to the Art of Relationship.

Amir Levine & Rachel Heller (2012). Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How it Can Help You to Find – and Keep – Love.

Lars Amend (2017). Why not? Inspirationen für ein Leben ohne Wenn und Aber.

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