How a good love has and continues to grow me
I’ve shared previously how my boyfriend has a secure attachment style while mine is an anxious one. I asked my therapist if I could change my attachment style now at my big age and if so how. She said I had to catch myself in the moment when I was responding from that space of being anxious and then correct myself and respond like someone with a secure attachment style. This may be a little hard to understand so I’ll give you examples.
At the beginning of our relationship I would give my boyfriend the silent treatment when I was upset with him and I thought that was okay. I would also lose my mind over things that seemed silly and tiny to him. I learnt over time that silent treatment was a form of abuse and I struck it off my list of reasonable responses to anything that happened in our relationship. I love my boyfriend so much and loving him made me want to be a better girlfriend and all round better human being because that is what he deserved and quiet honestly also what I deserved.
We started talking through our issues no matter how difficult and that proved to be much more productive and helpful. I would be upset with him and not tell him then maybe bring it up a month later when something similar happened. In trying to do better I started speaking up immediately if something upset me. I won’t lie, it was very uncomfortable at first. I was scared he would be upset with me for being upset with him and then maybe gaslight me and oh my God maybe even leave me? So I always spoke with caution making sure not to upset him as I voiced out my issues and guess what? He apologized. What?!
Yep. That’s how my angel man is. By now our relationship is such a safe space for me that I don’t have to worry about carefully wording my speech when I’m talking to him. I know I am loved, cared for, seen and understood. Understanding and actually internalizing that is important for me as someone with an anxious attachment style because I don’t have to worry about being abandoned for merely speaking up.
Of course being aware of all that and my many years of therapy does not render me a perfect human being. I am still working through my abandonment issues and issues with anxiety and because this is something I am constantly thinking about while I try to become a better version of myself I am now noting down my triggers and the various ways those issues manifest in my life. For example I recently realized that my anxiety now manifests as irritability. Before it would manifest as the common signs of anxiety. Tight chest, a runny tummy, insomnia etc.
However now I will have none of those symptoms but just suddenly catch myself snapping at anyone and everyone and yea just basically being very irritable. In those moments when I catch myself I will journal or talk to myself out loud (I spend a lot of time alone) to acknowledge my anxiety (I believe in honoring ALL our emotions, they exist for a reason), stating why I feel that way, if there’s anything I can do to make it better so I don’t feel anxious and this is where I’d go deeper to say if it is something within my control or out of my control and once I establish that I then decide on a course of action to ensure my inner self feels at ease and therefore less/not anxious at all.
None of this is easy. I wish I just got out of bed and was perfect for a living. I’m not and I actually don’t have to be perfect. I can however always strive to be a better human today than I was yesterday. That’s a goal that’s well within my reach if I will put in the work. Great relationships with ourselves and the world take great work as it turns out.
Whenever my boyfriend says/does something that triggers any uncomfortable feelings in me my natural instinct is to want to end the relationship. It happened recently actually. I was ready to pack all my bags and be gone. However we talked through it and he pointed out that I may have actually been projecting on him. I sat with that for a moment, it was so uncomfortable for me. So ugly, so icky I wished I could just escape my body but I had to sit with it. He was right. I was projecting.
Without intending to, he had said something to me that triggered feelings of shame and anxiety and it was so bad my brain went on overdrive and I just couldn’t do the relationship anymore. I couldn’t sleep for two days. That’s how bad the anxiety got. My first instinct was “Baby girl, get out of here. You need to protect yourself. GET OUT!” But my boyfriend is a great human being. So I realized that my need to leave was a coping mechanism I learned as a child because I felt like I was the only one who had my back.
I’m older now and obviously not in the same situation I was in as a child so I do not need that coping mechanism anymore. I apologized to my boyfriend who had been so supportive through the whole thing. We are very honest with each other so he’s aware of my childhood issues that I’m still working on now and is starting to get a picture of the various triggers and the accompanying manifestations of the anxiety.
None of this is cute, fun or easy. I think when people see cute pictures of us or hear my stories about him they assume we just always get along and we were just, you know, meant for each other. I’m not sure about us being “meant for each other” that sounds like such an egotistical thing to say. Assuming that a whole human being was made solely for you. Eww. I don’t like that. I don’t believe we were meant for each other. However I know we are good for each other and make a great couple.
I am grateful that we both take our wellness seriously and understand that before we can be great for each other we need to be great for ourselves. My boyfriend is also now in therapy, something that took some time to convince him to get into but he’s loving it now and every once in a while after a session with his therapist he will send me a text to thank me for getting him into that. (You’re welcome, baby boy).
I’m honestly so much better for having been loved this way. We have, through trial and error, built such a loving, warm and safe space for each other in our relationship. I apologize for my outbursts because him loving me does not mean he must put up with trash behavior which could easily turn out to be abusive towards him. My feelings will always be valid however my expression of them and subsequent reactions will not always be right, so I try to stay mindful of that. I am thankful for his patience with me while I work through my stuff. It is 100% my responsibility to work on my issues as much as it is 100% his responsibility to work on his.
Notice how I did not talk about having to “fix” myself throughout this whole post. Kudos to me for that. When I started my therapy journey with my therapist she always used to tell me that I didn’t need fixing because I was not broken. I would still come back the following week and say I needed to fix myself and she would say it again, “You don’t need fixing. You are not broken.” Bless her for her patience and insistence on correcting me until I finally believed it.
If you are working on any personal issues yourself I’d love for you to hold in mind the same thing. You do not need fixing. You are not broken. You are human and human beings will human. Wholeness should be the goal and not perfection.
I wish you all a love that is warm, safe and affirming- from yourself first and from the world.