I have learned the most from the not-so-joyous things that have happened to me in life. Happy times? I learn nothing. If things had always been happy, I’d be starring in the remake of Forrest Gump or something.
But like Forrest Gump, I do know what love is. Especially now. The last seven years have been … educational. And occasionally joyous. But mostly educational.
One thing I’ve learned about myself is that I’m an anxious attacher. There are three kinds of people in the world: secure attachers, who meet someone and might have everyday problems, but in general they know the other person will be loyal and they will be too. Their problems don’t stem from a lack of closeness.
Then there are love avoidants. If they find a mate, they then find every reason possible to make their person not the top priority. They get really into work, or friends, or hobbies, or affairs, or porn, or alcohol. Whatever it is that distracts them, it makes them be not fully in the relationship.
Then there are anxious attachers.
How do you do. I’m June. Of the Anxious Attacher Junes.
I never knew this was a thing until I read about it and said, “Oh my god, that’s me.” And I find it shameful as hell. I so don’t want to be an anxious attacher.
When I first start dating someone, I have this month or so of smug, where I know I’m not that hooked yet, and I can sort of take or leave the person. I always enjoy that part. I love Month of Smug, because I’m still in control. But I also know that it won’t be long before I’m hooked, and then I’m just one of those shivery poodles.
Once I’m hooked on a man, it’s all “Why isn’t he calling?” “Where is he?” “When will I hear from him again?” “Will he leave me?” “Does he like someone better?” and
OH MY GOD
it’s a pain in my ass.
And guess what else? Secure attachers find and date each other. And anxious attachers and love avoidants find each other. I mean, that’s just a pisser.
They say the secret is for anxious attachers to find a secure attacher. Marvin my ex-husband was a secure attacher, and you know what? I was okay. I was, in fact, a new woman. I wasn’t jealous or obsessed. I didn’t have any of my baser traits that I have when I’m with a man. And even though I didn’t know about secure attachment, I knew SOMEthing was very different with this one.
But that ended, and I went back out into the dating world, and I met someone and got anxious again. Oh, my god, for the last seven years I’ve been a wreck, with the obsessing and the worrying and the UGH WHO AM I, EVEN? For all my married-to-Marvin years, I had this clear head and this sense of peace, and then it all went away once I went back to my anxious relationships.
And maybe you’re saying, But gee, June, your last relationship ended several years ago. Didn’t it? What’s this “the last seven years” stuff? Didn’t you break up in 2015?
Kind of. But also kind of not. You could say I ended my relationship three and a half years ago and also a month ago. Because even though I moved out and so on? We were super enmeshed, still.
And imagine trying to be my friend during all that. Wait, are they broken up or aren’t they? Wait, I thought they’d decided not to speak anymore, but here she is with him.
So, yes, I understand that that might be, you know, frustrating. The same way it’s frustrating for me to see you make mistakes and not rectify them. But you know what? I didn’t abandon you for your mistakes.
I think when you see someone whose relationship might not strike you as good for the person, and you “just don’t get” why the person doesn’t “just leave,” that (a) you might be a secure attacher and that (b) you don’t know shit about trauma bonding.
When you’re in a relationship with glorious highs and terrible lows, that shit actually changes your brain chemistry. The intermittent reward of “Oh, this is great” after “Oh, this is terrible” triggers dopamine and serotonin. It’s really addictive, and it bonds you to the person.
If you’ve only ever been in something healthy, you don’t know what that feels like, but man, I do. Trauma bonds are some powerful effing bonds.
It’d be like if I told you to give up your dog or something. “Just stop seeing your dog. How hard can that be? Just stop loving that old mutt.”
Impossible, right? Welcome to trauma bonds.
So, the thing is, I know this. I read up on what’s been happening to me because I don’t want to be this sad lovelorn person who can’t make up her mind whether to leave or stay. I’ve known what’s been happening to me and why, but what I had to do was work up the courage for the horrific withdrawal that comes after you aren’t getting those highs anymore. It was terrifying.
But here I am, muddling along, and I’m surprised at how often I feel stupendous, actually. I have these moments of just the most lighthearted joy, and I don’t feel heavy and bogged down with fear anymore. It’s great.
But I also am aware of friends who are just not around anymore: the smug secure attachers. Everyone who left is in a happy relationship, and I’m sure they left because they just didn’t get why I stayed. Maybe they thought abandoning me would be tough love or something. Or that they just couldn’t watch someone do something they couldn’t understand.
Well, now I’ve explained it, Sir or Madame Empathy, so maybe now you’ll get it. And now I feel happy a good 70% of the time; my forecast is bright. But you know what? Don’t come back now that the weather’s fair, friend.