I have to admit that I’ve had a lot to learn about relationships. I would say they’ve been one of my greatest life challenges. And it’s all because, at times, I want to be close and, at other times, I want to push away.
It took me a long time to realize (depending on how secure I was feeling in myself) that, at varying times, I could be terrified of entrapment and also want to merge into another.
There’s a psychological theory called Attachment Theory. It’s based on how we attached to our mother’s as children. And how we attached affects our adult relationships.
We all attach and want closeness in varying degrees. And, depending on daily life’s circumstances, we attach differently.
There are 4 types of attachment within this theory:
Anxious: We cling, we’re needy, we can get dependent, we reach—wanting the other to step closer to relieve us of our fear of abandonment or rejection.
Avoidant: We push away, we shut down, we don’t want to communicate, we find other things to put our attention on, rather than our relationships.
Ambivalent: Depending on how we feel, we can be anxious or avoidant—all due to the uncertainties of intimacy. We either crave closeness because we’re afraid of losing another, or cut ourselves off from them.
And lastly, Secure: We feel safe in closeness, and also have loving boundaries for those times when we need space for ourselves.
Oh, how I’ve wished my MO were more secure at times… But, in truth, it’s normal in relationships to be anxious, avoidant or ambivalent.
Here are 3 steps you can take to foster a more secure attachment with a significant other:
1.) Simply recognize when space or closeness is needed either in yourself or in your partner.
2.) Gently communicate your needs AND respect the other’s desire.
3.) Compromise by seeing the dance-of-space as an energy trade.
Perhaps, if you pushed away last, you could make an attempt for closeness. Or, if you asked for closeness last time, it could be your turn to take a step back.
With compromise, it’s important to realize that our partners may not be able to give us what we need and accept that.
What we can depend on is being aware of our needs and communicating them, lovingly.
Honey, I need closeness.
Babe, I need some space.
Aside from communication, there’s also an inner responsibility:
If we tend towards anxiousness, the trick is to rest in the discomfort of space—filling it with our own self-nurturing, instead.
If we lean towards the avoidant, the trick is to be aware of our fear of closeness and open. To take a risk to receive, soften our heart, and let love in.
Obviously, there are relationships where there is too much dependency or too wide of a gap—where the other is no longer present. When this happens, therapy is a good thing. It certainly helped me.
There’s this story about a horse in a large field. He has his favorite place grazing in a corner. If you put a fence around him, 9 times out of 10 he bucks up. If you take the fence down, chances are you’ll still find him peacefully hanging out in his corner.
One two three, one two three, we waltz. You step forward. I step back. But in each other’s embrace we dance.
How might you offer your beloved a sense of closeness or some space today? How might you get your needs met on your own, regardless?
To having all the love you desire in your relationships!