When I suggest spending more time together (we rarely spend more than one day of the weekend and one evening during the work week together despite the fact we live less than 20 minutes apart), he accuses me of suffocating him. His distant behavior scares me and I find myself saying things I later regret, which seems to push him further away. We broke up once because of all this, but then I heard through the grapevine of how he was saying such great stuff about me (even to other women he went out with!), and I found myself missing being in the relationship so much that I reached out and we ended up together again. But now we seem to be falling into the same pattern and it’s making it hard for me to keep up with my work and friends—what should I do?
A I’m sorry to hear this, and can assure you
that you are not alone. The situation you describe reminds me of a book, Attached, co-written by one of our past radio show guests, Amir Levine, a neuroscientist and psychiatrist.
In his book, Dr. Levine explains three “attachment styles” which describe the three different ways in which people handle intimacy in romantic relationships. Your description of your boyfriend’s behavior is consistent with the “avoidant” attachment style; while you appear to potentially have an “anxious” style.
Clues of the avoidant style include:
• Valuing one’s independence greatly
• Maintaining emotional and physical
• Discomfort with intimacy.
Clues of the anxious style include:
• Desire for a lot of closeness in a
• Unhappiness when not in a
• Preoccupation with the relationship;
and acting out.
Consistent with your description of your boyfriend’s behavior during your break-up, one tendency of the avoidant style involves fixating on the best qualities of a past partner as a means of blocking his/her self from getting close to anyone else.
While anxious and avoidant people tend to attract one another; unfortunately, they tend to exacerbate each other’s insecurities. Commonly, as in your situation, anxious people cope by trying to get close to their partner; whereas, avoidant people react to those attempts by further distancing themselves, thereby creating a vicious cycle.
So what can you do about it? Actually, I thought addressing this question in two parts, and spread over two issues, would give readers who find themselves in a similar situation the opportunity to carefully assess the benefits and costs of their respective avoidant/anxious relationships to determine whether or not they wish to make unilateral (one cannot expect partners to change unless the partners themselves are self-motivated to do so) efforts to mitigate the situation despite the naturally-occurring vicious cycle. Stay tuned!n
Jasbina is the founder and president of Intersections Match, the only personalized matchmaking and dating coaching firm serving singles of South Asian descent in the United States. She is also the host of Intersections Talk Radio, a monthly lifestyle show. www.IntersectionsMatch.com.Jasbina@intersectionsmatch.com.