Dating can be exhausting. It’s not only time-consuming and expensive, it can also be difficult to meet someone you really connect with and trust. And, when you do, you may struggle with truly accepting a potentially fulfilling relationship. Instead, you might find yourself, repeatedly, in partnerships that are unhealthy or even dramatic. This is a common behavior in dating, and it might cause you to question “why do I struggle with accepting healthy relationships into my life”?
In this blog post, we’ll examine how and why you respond to healthy relationships with resistance and ultimately withdraw. And, we’ll look into how you can become more aware of your patterns so you have the power to change them.
The Role of Attachment
Your earliest childhood experiences will inform your default attachment system — whether that be anxious, avoidant or secure (or a combination). You can learn more about your attachment system in our blog post and related quiz. Especially if your attachment behaviors fall in the anxious or avoidant categories, you may have a tendency to dismiss perfectly healthy relationships for reasons you can’t understand. You may find yourself attracted to drama or falling into patterns that aren’t in support of your desired, long-term, healthy relationships goals.
Tuning into your attachment system and related behaviors will help you build awareness around why you might be responding in the ways you do in relationships. Certain dynamics might trigger greater feelings of relationship anxiety or avoidance. When a relationship is good, it might seem counterintuitive, but negative responses to your partner can sometimes be even more exasperated. We’ll dive into an example below.
Let’s say you meet a man or woman on an online dating site. You have a lot in common, he or she treats you with respect, there is mutual trust, and you truly enjoy each other’s company. You’ve progressed beyond the “honeymoon phase” of the relationship and the connection continues to remain strong and fulfilling. In fact, for the first time ever, if may feel as if your needs are met.
While it would seem that you would demonstrate behaviors that invite closeness with your partner (e.g., complimenting, noticing positive qualities, initiating physical touch, etc.), if you are the more anxiously attached partner in the relationship, you may, at some point, find yourself withdrawing emotionally or physically for reasons you can’t explain.
You might dismiss, and even becoming overly critical of your partner. The faults you find with the partnership might be simple things like feeling that your partner is “boring,” pulling away from touch, picking at your partner for an annoying habit, or fixating too much on something minor, like an activity that you love and that your partner doesn’t enjoy. These distancing behaviors ironically surface when you’re getting your needs met, and function to protect or defend against your fear of true intimacy stemming from early in life. Many times the anxiously attached partner eventually convinces him or herself that the (secure) relationship won't last long-term, finds a number of things “wrong", and ultimately withdraws.
Awareness is at the core of any potential change in behavior. If these patterns are familiar to you, or you know you have struggled with accepting healthy, loving partners into your life long-term, it may be time to commit to a change. Both journaling about your feelings and working with a therapist are good first steps. Reflection, in the form of journaling, can help you identify feelings and work through them before they negatively impact your relationships. A professional can serve as a neutral third-party and provide insight in new ways based on his or her experience.
Change starts with small victories and awareness doesn’t happen overnight. But, with the right support and enough willingness, it’s possible to identify triggers and proactively work through them to reach your relationship goals. Contact our team for a free consultation to learn how we can help you find and keep more fulfilling relationships in your life.