Navigating From Insecure Attachment To The Awkwardness of Dating

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Even as you make strides in your own growth, you experience hiccups.

You find yourself in a ‘same old situation,’ but feel differently, with fledgling confidence in your newer tools. With growing assurance what may have felt impossible in the past, can still make you choke a bit as you state your truth.

Remember to be prepared for people not hearing you; it’s okay.

Speaking your truth is not done to convince someone of what they should do (conditioning will tell you otherwise); it’s supporting yourself emotionally. Whether it’s early in dating or stepping into a relationship, if it’s not working it’ll be clear pretty quickly, just by observing the ensuing dialogue or reaction after you speak.

Recently I was at dinner with someone.

No shooting stars; just enjoying my time with him, thinking he was really nice. And he IS nice. On our prior dates we casually talked about a variety of topics including what we both wanted in dating/relationships. It was cool.

This dinner turned out to be not so cool.

I felt as though I was on a date with someone totally different. The conversation did not flow, there was a huge interest in the food, but other than that not much laughter or further exploration of any deeper topics. In the past it would’ve stopped me cold from addressing something important to me. I’d have looked for the right time to speak and kept quiet if I didn’t find it and then ‘gone along’ with whatever happened afterwards.  As an ex-people-pleaser, it was finding courage to speak about intimacy, and get really uncomfortable.

In my heart, I had to express how I’m not rushing a physical relationship until I really get to know somebody, and I’m confident we’re headed in the same direction (I don’t care if anyone agrees or disagrees with my actions, it’s how I feel in taking care of myself emotionally). I stated this and it was acknowledged verbally, but not physically.

It was very clear we were on a different page.

As we drove after dinner, I realized what I said was for my ears only.

Is he bad? No.

This isn’t to pick his behavior apart. It’s to illustrate how difficult it can be to navigate saying something that another person may not want to hear. It can be very uncomfortable.

Many women (and some men) find themselves in the middle of somewhere they don’t want to be, by keeping quiet and making excuses, so they don’t hate themselves. You’re afraid to upset someone, but when action happens as a result of your silence, it is NOT what you want, and you blame yourself (and them too).

Insecure attachment holds you with a fear of loss. You’re used to it, but you want to avoid it, and when you’ve been wired this way for so long, it can be tough to speak the truth.

With insecure attachment as a basis for your conditioning, you try to exert control over others’ behavior. You refuse to listen or see reality as it is. And you’ll cross someone else’s boundaries. Someone with true confidence isn’t controlling or trying to prove anything; secure people respect themselves and others.

I stood for myself because my values matter. In setting the foundation for a HAPPY long-term relationship, you don’t want a tug-of-war, or a struggle for power.

Sometimes in speaking your truth, it’s challenging to be consistently connected to your heart, especially if others are resistant. You can’t control them.

I know what it feels like to not say the truth of how you feel out of fear, and have someone disregard it when you do speak.

Clarity around attachment is huge. A warm body will not do. What you’re looking for changes as you feel more secure, yet it can feel like a foreign land, especially when you can’t tell on the first date beyond whether he or she might be nice. It’s why I go slow, not protective, so I can stay in the rhythm of my own emotions. If I try to keep up with someone else’s desires and ignore my own, it will end ugly.

Insecure attachment has conditioned us to not trust ourselves, the world or others. So to trust yourself means going thru the discomfort of not pleasing someone else and not controlling the events outside of you by pretending to fill a role. Instead you must speak your truth.

The awkwardness of dating can make you feel you have to compromise to get what you want. YOU DO NOT compromise at that stage unless you want to repeat the same ol’ relationship. Always see reality as it is, not as you wish it.

Attachment can keep you on a merry-go-round.

Not just in dating someone who is ill-suited to a partnership with you, but repeating the relationship over and over with them, continuing to try making it work where it was never meant to go. It’s the fantasy, which deludes you from dealing with rejection or abandonment. I can’t tell you how many times I saw red flags in the past with others and kept dating them. I was ATTACHED! It then kept me in the cycle of breaking up and getting back together. Insecure attachment will keep you believing a fantasy. You keep going around and around hoping they have changed (cuz you fear there may not be someone else).

Stop for a moment in whatever dating situation you’re in and ask what you truly believe without bullshitting yourself. What’s YOUR truth? Remember, it is always okay to be where you are, even if it is hell. You can’t navigate from where you are not.

There are NO rules of engagement with how you should act or what you should do to develop a relationship. I really believe when it’s the right person, it’s the right person. It’s not necessarily magical, but there’s an ease to it. Everyone I know in a healthy, secure relationship (even those who had insecure attachment in the past) experiences ease.

In my dating life, the above scenario was another opportunity for me to trust myself more, instead of beating myself up. It was a chance to remain open and aware of what I want for myself. We are always at choice in keeping the old patterns alive or speaking then acting by taking a risk to stick with the truth of what we want!

Interested in learning more about attachment? Listen to this podcast.

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Don’t Bake Him Cookies

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Yeah, so, I was in the middle of a session with a client and I searched for an example to illustrate a point.

The point I was making had to do with possessing absolutely no value in oneself; feeling a deep sense of attachment and fear of abandonment. I would describe it as people-pleasing on steroids.

We do it as a way to hold on, to make someone like us or love us, to manipulate so he or she owes us or to blot out the fear inside we don’t want to face.

As I sat with my client on the phone, an example slapped me upside the head. It was back when I thought it was all about holding onto this person, while really I was screwing myself over.

It was a time when my inner voice was a strangled whisper because I couldn’t hear myself. I wasn’t to be trusted.

It’s been a 360 degree journey away from the identity of pretending to have it together, logically thinking it’s what really mattered, to the present moment of living it from the inside out. My unraveling started back then, and now I was connecting with how lost I’d been.

Currently, my client is struggling with feeling she would be abandoned if she stopped pleasing others at her own expense. Her giving isn’t reciprocated and it’s not genuine, but it is how she learned to survive years ago.

I I told her about a guy I was seeing almost 10 years ago. As I relayed the details to her, it shook me. I understood in that moment how far I’d come and how much I really had believed I had no value unless I was doing something for someone else (i.e. pleasing) with a dude who’d already demonstrated his flakiness.

What happened?

I was deeply attached to this man with off-the-charts chemistry. I thought it was something special, but when you’re looking at someone through 3D glasses, reality is not to be seen!

He called on a Wednesday to let me know he may be tied up that evening, in effect sorta, kinda cancelling our date. I felt that rush of intense anxiety… “NO, NO, NO,” my insides screamed. And I tried to squelch it, but as it drew closer to him calling to let me know for sure, I could focus on nothing else. Time came and went.

Then I started texting. No response.

I called. No response.

Nothing. All night.

Until 1 a.m. when he said he was sorry he couldn’t have let me know sooner.

Told me he’d see me Friday.

As Friday drew closer I was freaking out. I couldn’t bear it if he cancelled again. I was gonna lose it. On Friday I was a bundle of anxiety. Pacing, wondering what to do. Oh! Of course. I need to bake him cookies so he thinks I am the best thing since Donna Reed. And get some champagne too. He’ll never leave. Sigh.

He showed up, but me he almost didn’t because he was suffering from anxiety. I figured cookies and sex, how could he resist?

But before we were actually undressed, he told me how he really thought I was great and felt his feelings would grow for me over time. But right now, he just felt blocked in his heart. He felt an old love was still in his heart and therefore, right now, there was no room.

And so I slept with him of course, why should that stop me? I was trying to prove something; show him how awesome I was so he wouldn’t leave. And of course totally pleasing him at my own expense. I mean WAY beyond my own expense, as though I had nothing in the bank!

I relayed this story to my client, and as I did, I felt how far I’d come and how it was crystal clear that all the people pleasing in the world could never make up for the lack inside of me, or keep anyone around.

My client felt it for herself, and so did the client I had after her… and many others I told that story to afterwards. Even though I wanted to cringe, there are so many others who have given themselves away in hopes of something in return.

Many of us have baked cookies for someone who we wanted to fulfill us, hoping that if we were perfect enough, like a trained seal, that person would love us in a way we couldn’t love ourselves.

It doesn’t work that way. Chasing down someone else’s love doesn’t make up for the lack of love inside. Doing for others in the hope of getting something in return (even if it is just them thinkin’ you’re awesome) is never fulfilling and saying yes, when you definitely should be saying no for your own care will never ever make you feel good. EVER.

Sacrificing to hold on to someone will never bring you the return you hope for and baking cookies for someone to win them, won’t fill that void inside you either

Bake cookies for yourself first. Then you can share them with someone else.

People pleasing is the opposite of real love

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People pleasing is a strategy; it’s not love.

Love is genuine; people pleasing is manipulation.

I was having lunch with a friend the other day and she told me, while rolling her eyes, how much she hated sex with her boyfriend.

In fact, they didn’t really have much sex, and hadn’t for years.

Instead of telling him, she told me how much she despised and disrespected him for his withholding. She ‘pretended’ this was enough when with him. As I munched on my sandwich, she delved into her adventures with a much younger guy who she felt in control of, emotionally and sexually, while creating an image that wasn’t true either.

People pleasing is a form of control:

“You’ll like me or love me if I do this for you.”

“I need to feel okay, so I will give in and do what you want, even though I resent you.”

“If I take this action, you will owe me and you won’t return the favor, but I’ll keep score of the points and use it against you someday (or wait for the day you wake up!).”

“I expect the same in return.”

“I’m doing this so you’ll think I’m nice and when I ask you to do something distasteful, you’ll feel obligated to do so.”

“I have to do it. If I don’t, who else will?”

“I must sacrifice, otherwise I can’t make up for my childhood… or I’ll be thought of as selfish or a jerk.”

Any of these phrases sound familiar?

Like my friend, some of us do it to be liked, to get along to go along, to score points or because we feel obligated. It’s a way of trying to get validation in some capacity.

Most of us aren’t even aware we are doing it!!

It’s tiring to be dishonest with our intentions. We blame someone or something else for how we feel and for why we’re stuck as the ‘pleaser on steroids.’

We’re trying to control, but there is no love in control; it’s a false perception. We can never command the feelings of others like we think we do. If we really saw ourselves through the eyes of others, we would have a mixed bag… and then what would we do? Be a chameleon?

Ever felt like a fake or phony? Try to masquerade as a perfect example to others? How disconnected do you actually feel from who you truly are when you do? How insecure?

Believing we control others through an image (true or not) that we feel is acceptable can be a lifelong pursuit. It’s a prison of limitation, by living into this ‘image’ and not being true to ourselves; often we don’t know how we really feel because we’re afraid to go there.

People pleasing is a form of lying. It doesn’t make us happy. It’s a huge effort with no pay off… leaving us to feel frustration, resentment and non-fulfillment.

Real love requires authenticity. We have to connect to ourselves and do what we genuinely feel. Our relationships will definitely change, some for the better and some will become nonexistent.

Many of us lack a sense of self if we separate from the validation of others. It’s scary and it feels out of control! Digging into our feelings, we’ll find some pretty jacked up beliefs we have of ourselves and this world. This is where the journey begins.

Moving from fear to real love

In embodying real love we come to find true connection, trust in ourselves and life to give us what we need. It ceases to be a dance of control. Real love experienced through self-acceptance creates the foundation for it to show up with others.

Real love requires awareness and connection.

The next time you take an action or say words causing a physical reaction, STOP! Break through the autopilot pattern and ask why you’re going against yourself?

Get honest.

What do you really want to do? How do you really feel?

Get bold.

State it out loud. It may come out wonky or abrupt, but do this often and you’ll get into your deeper truth. Again, your REAL truth is about YOU–your beliefs, your patterns and connecting to the love within. It has nothing to do with the other person.

For more on this topic, please join me for my weekly radio show: People Pleasing and Why You’ll Never Win!