“If fear is the great enemy of intimacy, love is its true friend.” – Henri Nouwen
As I mentioned in a previous post Why Attachment Styles Can Make or Break Your Success In Love we all have different attachment styles. About 50% of the population is Secure and the rest of us are either Avoidant or Anxious.
The fifty percent of the population who are Secure won’t really have a problem with intimacy and won’t find it really scary or run from it and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t wish that I was one of them.
Unfortunately, my childhood left me extremely anxious. The attachment style you have isn’t something you choose and it isn’t genetic like the color of your eyes or your hair. Your attachment style develops from the way you were raised and nurtured or not nurtured by your parents.
Having an Anxious attachment means you live in a constant state of hyper-awareness of the actions of others and you generally distrust everyone and at the same time have a tendency to desire closeness and seek approval and security from your partner in the need for love, affection and attention.
The biggest problem Anxious individuals have is that they usually seek out Avoidant partners in an effort to recreate the old parental dynamics in the hope that somehow if their partner loves them and cherishes them, then suddenly they will be okay.
The not so funny part about this is that an Avoidant individual can never and will never make you feel secure and the best thing you can do is to get away from them. Don’t blame them and don’t fault them for their issues, but realize why they were placed in your path. Learn from them, grow and change and move on.
Be Your True Self
So far I have found one of the most difficult things I have to overcome is being vulnerable and sharing my needs, wants and desires. I was basically taught from a very young age that I needed to do what I was told and that I had no control over the forces in my life and speaking up was not an option.
The very idea of sharing my needs with someone in what is supposed to be an intimate relationship petrifies me. By some miracle of miracles I have found a man who doesn’t freak out when I’m scared and who I’m starting to feel safe sharing with. I don’t dive into the deep end of the pool with him, but I’m sticking my toes in the water and eventually I will be able to swim and not feel like I’m drowning.
Do you find yourself making excuses for why you don’t need to ask that question about the relationship or why you don’t need to express what it is you want or think? Do you always think maybe you are seeing things wrong and it’s your fault they aren’t opening up to you?
Maybe it is partly you. Maybe it was always me. I’ve never been able to have true intimacy in my relationships because I didn’t feel safe truly sharing myself. The problem with that is, if you can’t share how can you bond? If you are always a surface version of yourself how can someone truly love and accept you?
Being vulnerable means showing someone your true self. If you are prone to anxiety and depression then you are. If you try and hide it then you aren’t being your true self and eventually it will come out. Let your partner see who you are. They aren’t your therapist and they aren’t there to solve your problems, but you should be able to share your fears and your doubts with the most important person in your life.
Don’t Let Fear Win
When the very idea of giving yourself to someone and showing them who you are at your core shakes the foundation of your security how do you move forward? How do you move forward when you fear pain and you fear hurt and you fear disaster?
It isn’t easy to learn to share your feelings in a constructive manner. When I first started dating my current boyfriend I found myself unable to share my feelings when he disappointed me or would disappear and/or barely contact me. I had no idea how to feel or what to say or if my feelings were even valid because I had pushed them down for so long.
How do you tell someone how you feel in an adult, secure manner when what you really want to say is, “F** off, I don’t need you, take your text and Shove it up you’re an a**”?
Dating experts will tell you that when you hear from your guy you are supposed to say, “It feels so nice to hear from you” or some such thing, but to me it doesn’t feel nice to hear from him. I guess this is where boundaries come in and when you have to be secure in yourself and know that you won’t accept poor treatment from another.
My natural instincts makes me want to put up walls and push him out. When I’m ignored (this is my perception and not necessarily a truth) it feels like I’m back in that place where I’m never important and whether this is true or not all I want to do is run away. Run, Run, Run.
For many of us being in a relationship will dredge up all your issues. Putting your trust in another can be very scary when your trust has been broken over and over, but the only way to find someone you can trust is to actually try. If you let the fear win you will never experience true intimacy and a true bond with another person.
Putting Up Walls
Walls have become part of who I am and I no longer want them to be. Having the courage to leap over your walls or even peak through them to the other side is a really scary thing. But, if you don’t do it then you stay trapped in your head and never get to truly feeling your heart. If you don’t do it you will never bring true love into your life.
What I have learned is that my instinctual reactions come from a place of distrust. However, it isn’t the other person who is the problem. The person you don’t trust is yourself. If you live in a constant state of worry that every person and every communication is meant to hurt you, disregard you or lessen you then that is what will occur. The belief itself will create the outcome and you will get back what you put out.
Walls protect us. They protected us as children because we needed a way to cope with the world. What you need to realize is that those walls are no longer serving you and instead they are keeping you confined and isolated.
Yes, walls can be a good thing to a certain extent. We all need boundaries of some sort. But, your walls should not be so high that no one can climb over and they shouldn’t be so solid that they don’t move and they shouldn’t constrict your life.
Stop Being So Self Absorbed
What I also learned is that I have to stop being so self-absorbed and so consumed with how I feel, what I need and what I want. I don’t do it because I’m selfish. I do it because I’m scared, but that’s no way to live.
What about the other person? Stop for a minute and ask yourself “Have I really taken time to understand my partner and where they are coming from or is my agenda and my fears pushing them right out the door?”
If you have an agenda about how you want things to go, then nothing can develop organically and your partner will subconsciously resent your pushing and will pull away. Most of the time you won’t even know you are doing this.
Having an agenda is a form of control and it is another method for keeping you safe so you will explain it away and “I deserve this” or “I deserve that”. Often, the truth is that you are pushing for something too soon because you want to assure that you won’t get hurt, but this is impossible to know.
Knowing that your boundaries are strong enough to sustain rejection is a powerful thing. Understanding that your boundaries will tell you if the person is being disrespectful versus unknowing is amazing. The point I’m trying to make is that nothing the other person does or doesn’t do should determine your boundaries.
Once I let go of the fear and negativity that was eating me up inside everything changed. I began to trust that I was cared for in my relationship. I began to feel that I was worthy and would be able to walk away if I was not treated properly. I let go of the need to control the outcome and magically one day I felt at peace.
It is hard to explain I guess, but after struggling for so many years with healthy versus unhealthy boundaries you will get to a place where you can finally trust yourself and the process. The past is the past and the boundaries that you needed to protect you as a child no longer exist. Those boundaries are a figment of your imagination.
Slowly try to learn to trust yourself and let down your walls. If you are doing it right you will let them down in a way that you can handle and in a way that your partner will understand. As long as you are open and honest about where you are there is nothing more you can do.
Intimacy can be the scariest thing on the planet, but it doesn’t have to be. Just remember to try and be yourself, take down your walls, keep fear from winning and stop being so self-absorbed.
Trust yourself. The more you do the more love will come into your life.