Dr. Kristen Hick joined Dave Glaser from Believe Be Real Be Bold to record a Podcast about Attachment Theory. On the show, Dr. Hick reminds listeners that not intimately knowing oneself is what holds many individuals back in relationships. She dives into the types of attachment systems and the gravity and polarity those different ways of attaching impact relationships. Throughout this episode, both Dr. Hick and Dave share stories about their own dating and relationship challenges to illustrate how to identify and heal unresolved relationship experiences that prevent secure connection.
Dr. Kristen Hick begins the episode sharing more about her inspiration as a therapist. While she was trained as a generalist, she recognized that a generic approach to helping others essentially speaks to no one. As she moved away from community mental health, she began to recognize that her passion was with clients who weren’t taught how to have healthy relationships based on early childhood experiences. Her private practice was built with attachment theory in mind, and serves to help clients who got mixed messages in early childhood, which have created long-term dating and relationship pitfalls. In fact, she specializes in helping clients unlearn these messages and correct patterns by helping them understand their attachment style.
As the podcast unfolds, Dr. Hick shares some of her top “dating rules” or advice that she gives clients around setting healthy boundaries in a partnership. She believes that by creating rules and slowing the pace of the relationship down, intimacy develops more sustainably, and the foundation of the relationship will be stronger. It also provides time for clients to gain perspective and look at things differently, rather than rush into next steps due to initial chemistry. She reminds clients to slow down if they want more or if they want a different result. Some of those rules include:
No sex for six dates or six weeks, whichever timeframe is longer
Don’t go to each other’s homes until the third or fourth date at the earliest. Sharing time in this intimate space should come later.
Initial dates should last no more than two hours. If you spend too much time together at first, it’s easier to slip into old patterns. Instead, take time to reflect instead of collapsing boundaries.
Some other rules that Dave Glaser, host of the podcast, offered included:
Don’t kiss on the first date, rather, sleep on it.
Make the goal of the first date to understand whether you want a second date. This takes the pressure off. You don’t have to figure out on date one whether this is “the one”.
Beyond dating rules, Dr. Hick dives into the major dating challenges she witnesses from each client age group. Clients in their 20s are often thinking about how their early childhood impacted them and are beginning to understand that through dating. They begin to recognize that casual dating isn't working for them and are starting to see the relationship between early childhood and challenges connecting with their partnership. Clients in their thirties are typically preoccupied with finding “the one” and are questioning why they have not found that person. They start to seek more information or help - such as through therapy - to help them dive deeper and change patterns in order to attract healthier partners. Finally, those in their forties and fifties are recreating relationships after a divorce, long-term relationship or long stretch of being single. They are interested in a new type of relationship based on what they have learned over the years.
The podcast continues with a deep dive into attachment theory, Dr. Hick’s specialty. She reminds us that attachment is formed through relationships early in life and based on how caregivers respond to our needs. Based on those early experiences, we learn to anticipate that others will generally be like that. For example, if parents are consistently unreliable, the child will learn to not depend on anyone, and will likely become an independent adult who might show a lack of vulnerability, discomfort when others are too close, and may seek space or distance as a coping mechanism in relationships.
Through therapy, she helps clients understand their style, where it came from specifically, and how it is playing out now. Then, she helps clients identify how to correct patterns based on that understanding. Since attachment is fluid and many clients have more than one style, or a default style, they do have the ability to shift and change depending on their partner and their awareness. Personal work, therapy, and other secure attachments (like one to a grandparent) can help a client become more secure. However, clients likely will have a default position they revert to, just perhaps in a more secure way (such as telling your partner you need space versus just running away).
When it comes to attachment and dating, anxious or avoidant daters tend to have more deal-breakers. This is a defense mechanism that keeps partners from getting too close. The deal breakers tend to be more superficial and partners can build a story about how it won’t work, especially if the person they are dating is more securely attached. Anxiously attached individuals tend to make excuses for their partner and use “if maybe” or “when he/she gets through this then” type statements. Or, anxious daters mold to get their needs met, and don’t want to rock the boat. Instead, they become people-pleasers, and don’t want to share their preferences or show up with their needs as an individual.
Dr Hick also reminds us that anxious and avoidant daters create a polarity and when they come together there is an intense neurochemical response that reminds a person of childhood dynamics and those early experiences are recreated in relationships. This is why it feels so good to connect with someone who might have an opposing attachment style. It gives partners a sense that there is a chance to heal those initial wounds.
Throughout the podcast, Dr. Hick reminds us all that great relationships are created, you don’t happen upon them. She encourages listeners to ask themselves about their own intentions when dating and cultivate greater awareness through therapy. This podcast is full of useful dating tips and perspectives. If you’d like to meet with Dr. Hick or one of our team members to better understanding your attachment style and its impact on dating, contact us today.