A Love Letter to the Anxiously Attached

My dear, 

When you meet someone you really like, and when they make it clear that they really like you back, that's one of the best feelings ever (I get it). But if we’re being honest, you can sometimes be a bit quick to get physical, even to get sexual. Quick to be in a lot of communication, to spend a lot of time together, to use the language of “we, us, and our,” and “boyfriend” or “girlfriend." Quick to “choose” them, to call it a relationship, or partnership, or even love, and to peer all the way into a long and happy (imagined) future together.  

The thing is, as an anxious attacher, you are already wired up to have stronger feelings - faster, and to bond deeper - sooner. And what that means is that the need for closeness, continuity, and security will almost surely start to come online faster for you than it will for them. 

To be very clear: there is nothing wrong with that need. I’m only drawing your attention to when and how it shows up in the relationship. Because if it’s only been a short while, it may just be too soon to ask them to be responsible to your nervous system in that way.   

What makes this so hard is that you can’t see the cliff you’re running towards when you are both still so intoxicated by the drugs, when they are just as infatuated with you as you are with them. But as soon as you hit a speed bump of some kind, as soon as there’s a significant wobble or a gap in their presence or availability, it’s going to trigger insecurity and anxiety in you.

Because you are in the precarious position of being bonded and attached to someone you don’t actually know very well yet.

So you will feel compelled to reach out, initiate conversations, or somehow “fix” the disconnection, partly because you want to preserve the relationship itself of course, but also partly because you’re just in pain and you want it to go away.  

And all of that will reveal to them just how deeply bonded you are and just how strongly you feel about it all. Where once it was just an easy, ecstatic free-for-all of giving and receiving attention and affection, it dawns upon them that you (now) need them to show up in that partner-like way consistently and continually. And that can trigger all kinds of feelings in them.

The hard truth is that they probably are not as deeply bonded as you are, their feelings are probably not quite as strong, and their need for you probably doesn’t match your need for them. They will be so busy fielding your offers and requests, that they won’t be able to drop into themselves and initiate connection from their own desire. They will likely feel nervous about the intensity of your desire and need of them, and they will likely express a need for space, a slower pace, or something of the sort. 

Because, love, two things:

One: check yourself out - you're kind of a mess right now.

Two: you have a tendency to pick precisely the ones who have that kind of pattern in relationships. Who have their own anxious reaction to others’ needs, to the feeling of being beholden or obligated or trapped. Only their “protest” tends to look like retreat, whereas yours looks like approach. And that experience is just as yucky for them as yours is for you. 

You might try to give space, slow down, and take time, but it will probably just build up such agitation and discomfort in your body that you won’t be able to do it for long. And that’s checkmate:

I can’t give you the space you’re asking for. 

I can’t give you the closeness you’re asking for.

That is a really, really hard gridlock to to work your way out of. And if your relationship is young to begin with, it's like asking a duckling to swim across the Atlantic. 

Because when these deeper, vulnerable parts of ourselves come up, as they inevitably do in intimacy, we need the deep roots, strong foundation, and clear container of partnership in order navigate these more challenging passages in a good way. Real partnership takes a long time to build, and partner-ING is a skill that most of us still need to improve on (and even if you think you are already good at partnering, you still need time to learn how to partner THEM and their unique makeup). 

So this is why I beseech you to go much more slowly when you’re wading into these waters with someone new. When you’re quick to get physical or sexual, when you spend as much time together as you possibly can, when you’re in near-constant communication, when you slide into the language of “we, us, and our,” and “boyfriend” or “girlfriend,” when you start orienting to them as “your” person, or “the” person, and make mental movies of your blissful future together, you speed up your already-fast attaching system and you outpace your lover. 

Please remember that you feel more and bond deeper, and that probably you do it a lot faster than them. You can’t tell at first because you’re on drugs - and so are they. It really, really seems like they’re feeling and attaching just like you are, but odds are good that they’re not. And sooner or later, an experience will come along to make that disparity painfully clear. That's going to hurt, it’s probably going to press on your old wounds and kick-start some of your life-long survival strategies, but the truth is that panic just doesn’t look good on anyone.   

So try something new next time. Take a week or more to get even a little bit physical. Take even longer to get sexual. Let there be space between your meetings, between your communications. Remember that it actually takes a good amount of time to convert that initial infatuation into real love. Because they are really, really not the same thing.    

Let it be a gradual process, like the one you have when you make a new friend. You don’t experience the same kind of preoccupation with them, do you? Probably not: you simply enjoy them when you’re together, then you put your attention on other things when you’re not, and over time, you put down layers of connection and knowing that eventually form a strong, solid foundation of friendship. You don’t convince yourself that they ARE that image you have in your head, you have more space to keep your mind open, to let them reveal themselves to you, so you have the clarity to notice red flags should they appear, and take appropriate action, whatever that may be.      

A lover is auditioning for one of the single most important roles in your life. It takes a very long time to really CHOOSE someone for that role. Just as it takes a long time to convert infatuation into love, it takes even longer to convert a relationship into a partnership.  You need to see them in a wide variety of situations, meet their friends and family, walk with them through some of their life’s twists and turns, and experience them walking with you through some of yours. You need to have all those awkward conversations about family, money, time, long-term goals, housing, just to name a few - all the un-sexy, vulnerable, uncomfortable work of combining two lives into one. And especially, you have to have decoded how their inner operating system works, because I promise you it’s different from yours. It’s a whole other kind of landscape and you need to have the map or you just won’t be able to understand or support them when they need it most. 

I say all this just to illustrate once more that it really takes TIME to build a partnership, and if you ask a new connection to do stuff that only a partnership can do… well, that’s likely going to be a rough road for you. Trust me, I’ve tried it about a hundred times. 

Perhaps that is a lot to remember, so let’s boil it down. You know how your nervous system is put together: you feel more and bond deeper - faster. So you know to take care of yourself by doing the following:  

GO SLOWLY.

TAKE BREAKS.

USE A LONGER RUNWAY. 

And talk to your trusted friends about all that’s happening so that they can hold you accountable.