Navigating the dating world can be a complex and challenging endeavor, especially for individuals grappling with insecure attachment styles. These styles, deeply rooted in our early experiences, significantly influence our ability to form and maintain healthy, fulfilling relationships. In this article, we will discuss the impact of attachment styles on dating outcomes, explore the benefits of online dating for those with insecure attachment styles, and provide a step-by-step guide for overcoming the barriers presented by insecure attachment. By understanding and addressing the issues stemming from our attachment patterns, we can foster personal growth, develop stronger connections, and ultimately transform our dating experiences into more rewarding and meaningful journeys.
Strange Situation Classification by Mary Ainsworth
In my turn let me tell you about the Strange Situation Classification developed by Mary Ainsworth, based on an experiment she conducted with infants and their mothers. According to her experiment, attachment can be secure or insecure; and insecure attachments can be of the avoidant or the ambivalent (anxious) variety. She expounded that insensitive parenting possibly resulted in insecure attachments, as the infants learn that expression of their needs has either no influence on the parent (avoidant attachment) or only sometimes elicits a response from the parent (anxious attachment). If we attempt to translate this into adulthood, we are looking at adults who would fall on the spectrum of extremely independent to extremely dependent.
Any relationship, but especially one in the dating stage, is a tenuous balance between a sense of autonomy and a need for connection. In the anxious attachment style, the need for connection is very high, even to the detriment of autonomy while in the avoidant attachment style, autonomy is treasured over the demands of a connection. This is where online dating becomes an answer to their prayers- you don’t have to venture out to meet somebody anymore nor do you have to give up your personal space to do so.
However, sex does change things quite a bit I suppose.
You’ve invited a person, IRL, willingly, into your space. Now, would they stay or would they leave?
For the anxious person, this is their biggest fear- there’s no more mystery, no further intimacy to achieve- will they be abandoned?
For the avoidant person, this is their biggest regret- there’s no anonymity anymore- will they stay and attempt to make a connection?
And now, the lines between offline dating and online dating have become blurred. This study by Coffey et al illustrates these very scenarios. Their findings are further corroborated by studies in the field which found levels of relationship satisfaction and interpersonal perception are skewed in those with insecure attachment styles.
Addressing attachment issues in dating relationships
#1 Recognition of patterns and seeking professional help. If you’ve been noticing or your friends have been commenting that all your relationships are just history repeating itself, there’s a pattern there, then, it’s time to bring it to the table of a therapist who can gently guide you out of your own way.
#2 Honesty with oneself and acknowledging problems. Do not try to reassure yourself that everything is fine or will be fine in some nebulous manner. There is a problem, yes. We’re all flawed beings, including the person you’re with. So, there will be problems. And because there are problems, there will be solutions. Find your way to a therapist and start working towards those solutions.
#3 Patience in finding solutions and allowing relationships to develop. Solutions take time. Relationships take time. Give yourself permission to go slow, to find your pace, to think and understand yourself and your partner. If you remember sex not being fun after the fact, if you don’t feel comfortable with an in-person meeting just yet, that’s ok. Remember there are two people in this relationship and both of them need to enjoy this process. So, take your time.
#4 Openness with one’s partner and acceptance of fear. You’ve been honest with yourself, now attempt the same with your partner. Attempt the same with your fear- accept that it exists, and also be open to the possibility that just because it exists, doesn’t mean it’s going to come true. And attempt the same with your emotions- recognize them, name them, categorize, and express them once in a while in a way that’s comfortable to you.
#5 Maintaining personal space and balancing autonomy with the connection. Have your own space where you store the things you like, where you do the things, you like, and where you think of the things you like. The establishment of a connection is not in lieu of autonomy, it’s alongside autonomy. It’s just a bit of spice, to induce flavourful emotions into the delicious spread of life.
#6 Hope for improvement and change. Just a reminder here, nothing more.
In conclusion, each step outlined in this article emphasizes the importance of seeking guidance from a professional therapist. Our attachment styles, rooted in our early experiences, may not always serve us well in our adult relationships. However, it’s essential to recognize that change is possible, and therapy can play a vital role in facilitating that transformation. Therapy offers a safe space to explore our attachment patterns, uncover the beliefs that may no longer serve us, and develop new strategies to foster healthier, more fulfilling relationships. By seeking help from a therapist, we take responsibility for our emotional well-being and growth.
Moreover, it’s crucial to remember that the journey toward healthier attachment styles and relationships is an ongoing process that requires patience, persistence, and self-compassion. As we continue to work on ourselves and strive for improvement, we also create opportunities to forge deeper connections with others and enrich our lives. Incorporating the lessons learned in therapy into our daily lives is equally important, including being honest with ourselves and our partners, cultivating patience, maintaining a balance between autonomy and connection, and nurturing hope for positive change. In the end, reaching out for help from a therapist is an investment in ourselves and our future relationships. By addressing our attachment issues and fostering personal growth, we can break free from limiting patterns and embrace a more fulfilling and rewarding dating experience.
Author Bio: Anoush Gomes, a trailblazing writer and healthcare advocate at Allo Health, combines empathy, wit, and charisma to create engaging content that simplifies complex medical concepts and inspires readers to prioritize their wellbeing. With a background in Biomedical Sciences and journalism, Anoush has contributed to various health publications, becoming a beloved storyteller with a loyal following. Their passion for preventive medicine and holistic wellness drives them to empower individuals through informative and entertaining articles. Anoush Gomes is a force to be reckoned with in the health writing community, consistently breaking barriers and redefining the role of health writers in the modern age.