The Anxious-Avoidant Dance

I was talking to my client Liz this week who was beating herself up because she felt like she f-d up.  She’s a Love Connector with an anxious attachment, and she’s been trying so hard not to let her anxiety get the best of her while she’s dating. But it did. Again. 

She felt someone she was dating, whom she truly adored… doing the avoidant distancing dance with her, and it triggered her.  Initially, she practiced what I preach to you. She had been very open from the beginning about her attachment style with this new partner. And of course, she was doing the typical scanning to see what his attachment style was, and he even told her that he thought he was secure. She trusted it and let her guard down. On the surface, it seemed legit. She didn’t expect avoidance from him, but attachment is attachment. We all have a style, and it doesn’t always rear its ugly head until you start to truly sink in to a relationship with a new partner. She was blindsided.

The first time it happened Liz felt her typical Love Connector anxiety rising in her body like an old annoying friend. After what seemed like increasing connection between them, he began to slow down on his texting, and seemed distant when they were together.  What happened? Well, In Love Connector speak…. the dance of intimacy changed and she noticed it… Perhaps before he even noticed it. 

She tried to address it with a gentle question, but her invitation to have a more emotionally intimate conversation only magnified the anxious-avoidant dance and it was over before it could even start. He then completely disappeared. Liz then sent him several texts, over-explaining, apologizing for her behavior (that wasn’t even outrageous and worth apologizing over), and essentially looked like she was begging for him to come back. Ouch. 

What non-Love Connectors don’t realize is that protest behavior in a Love Connector, which usually looks like requests to reconnect, and then withdrawal, and then possible bargaining, then complete drama, is really just a cry for help.

It is a signal that we somehow felt the boat of intimacy sinking, and…SOS… please come save US. 

The problem is that the Love Resister receives the SOS as an alarm to distance. Abandon ship! This chick is crazy! 

Remember that the Love Connector was given love as a child in spurts of hot and cold. Their nervous system is wired to become anxious when they recognize this pattern. The way they have learned to bring a partner back in is to GET LOUD...To cause a ruckus. 

Think about it. You can ignore a child who is only whimpering, but when they start wailing, you have to do something about it. We are simply adults repeating an infantile behavior that unfortunately is deeply, innately wired into our being. While we don’t want to be infants, our nervous systems are far beyond our chronological age and are expressing what we learned in the very beginning. Love Connectors are NOT crazy. They are just trying to survive. 

What people don’t understand is that Love Connectors can often be easily soothed. Often, all they need is to be held, or to be reassured, to feel connected, to have some consistency, and some empathy for their “crazy” lizard brain wiring. When a partner can recognize this and make some minor adjustments, the relationship can flow again. A Love Connector can find their footing and return to loving you more deeply. Create this pattern in the beginning, and you can prevent problems later on. But, this takes two aware, conscious partners who are willing to do the work to protect and nurture the relationship.

On the side of the Love Resister, they are wired to shut down and disconnect. They were given love at a distance, and were taught that independence is strength. They do not feel comfortable responding to wailing. Their brains tell them to stay at a distance from love, because they were taught that love doesn’t come. Opening the heart is dangerous. While it can work, it often leads to loneliness in life and a fear of intimacy disguised in stories about a need to focus on careers, parenting, goals or too many broken hearts. 

Long story short…there are many lessons about attachment here. The biggest lesson is in how Liz was able to turn this experience around for herself. Once her conscious thinking overtook her attachment focused lizard brain, it didn’t matter. She could see the light and realize that he was not ready for someone like her. And not in the bad way, like she was too much…But in the good way, like it was his loss.

You see, you MUST always find a way to rewrite these stories of rejection so that you don’t keep layering them on to build a calloused heart. Turn it into a gift and trust that this detour was meant to be. Release it, release it, release it. Do not blame yourself. Do not put yourself down. Keep your chin up and move on.