Relearning Attachment

So J and I got engaged during my social media break! It was lovely, nerdy, and romantic. We both proposed to each other because great minds think alike.

This great news has gotten me reflecting on how mine and J’s relationship has evolved over time. When we first met I was an exceptionally insecure, confused, traumatised young person who didn’t know how to love anyone effectively. Ten years later, I had the confidence to get down on one knee and ask this wonderful person to marry me. A lot has changed. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Growing up I had what is called an ambivalent attachment style. Ambivalent attachment style is also known as fearful, avoidant, and disorganised attachment. Attachment styles are essentially the way you relate to your parents. The general theory of attachment styles is that your attachment styles from childhood follow you into adulthood.

My style of attachment is largely thought to develop from trauma and disregulation in the home. I wont go into detail about that as I promised my parents I would stop talking about them so much on the Extra Ounce. So I’ll try to be nice…What I will say is that my mother is doing amazing work to heal her own trauma now. But at the time I was growing up I was undoubtedly affected by her own struggles. And my Dad travelled a lot for work. I barely saw him as a child. He was providing as best he could, we were a single income household, but having my Dad come and go all the time did shape how I related to people (or attachment figures as they are called in attachment theory). My parents tried their best.

So what did this ambivalent attachment look like in practice? I would hide behind my Mum’s leg any time I met strangers but struggled to let her show me affection (still true to this day). Any time my dad travelled for work I would latch onto his legs (There seems to be a leg theme going on here?) and scream and wail and make him literally push me off his person as he got to the door. But then when got home I would hardly acknowledge him.

I was constantly in fear of people not loving me. So I would try to reject them first. This was not helped by bullying. When I met J, I had a lot of misconceptions about what love was. I was quite manipulative, testing them at every step of the way. I used to do things like pretend to fall asleep on the phone to see what they would say to me when they thought I couldn’t hear. And when J would only say the sweetest of things I would be shocked and hang up the phone. It’s like I would of preferred for them to be a bad person as it would have fit into my overall theory of the world.

Years went by and J’s kindness and love gradually started to erode at my previous understanding of the world. People weren’t always going to to leave me. People weren’t conspiring behind my back. Well maybe they were, but J never would.

My therapist and I have talked about this a lot. How J and I met at 13, started dating at 14, how this process sort of interrupted my development in a way. How J became my new family. My new attachment figure. I started relying less on the feedback I got from my family of origin and learning more from the family I chose. And with this I learned to be more than my past. I could be in the present. And look to a better future.

What I’m trying to say, in a very sappy way, is that I was born into a certain way of interacting with the world. We can’t choose where we come from. But we can be rerouted, just like I have been. Through meeting and loving J I have learned to love myself and the world better.

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