Have you ever found yourself in the midst of a passionate love affair, wanting to spend each minute and every day with the object of your affection? Have you ever met someone whom you believed to be ideal for you in every respect that mattered? And, while in the beginning stage of that relationship, have you ever felt intense anxiety and the subsequent need to run as far away from that person as possible? If you’ve had all of these experiences, it’s likely that intimacy is a significant challenge for you, and it’s also likely that, if have begun a romantic relationship with them, that you’ve abruptly left it, with them retracing their steps, wondering where all of it went wrong.
We often find ourselves searching for love and companionship, searching for someone to become our partner, and companion, for the rest of our lives, if not for the majority of them. And we often find ourselves stuck, and unable to form deep connections, even with those we’re highly physically attracted to. There are several major reasons for those barriers, and yes, they all involve your childhood, as most of your adult relationship difficulties do.
Love and intimacy are terrifying words for people with unhealthy attachment styles, attachment styles which stem from a neglectful and/or abusive upbringing. The anxious attachment style is well-known, with its accompanying popular notions of neediness and clinginess, the fear of being abandoned; but semi well-known is the avoidant attachment style, the one in which the individual is seemingly aloof, uncaring of the lack of love in their lives, even rejecting it in its potential form, when they’re asked out on a date, or even to hang out. These individuals struggle to find and create love in their lives more so than the ones with an anxious attachment style, as they won’t allow themselves to express their desire, their need rather, to be loved.
For these individuals, love is something foreign, a nauseating state to be avoided at all costs. Love, to them, symbolizes weakness; and weakness isn’t tolerated in an unforgiving world. As children, like any of their peers, they sought love and affection, only to be rejected by the ones they needed most. And in their hardened upbringing, they learned to repress, but not eliminate, the need for the type of connection which makes us all human: genuine intimacy.
When these individuals grow-up, they tend to seek affection in more physical ways, gathering a semblance of intimacy through sex and physical touch, fearing their unacknowledged, intense need and the potential of rejection. And for some, even sex may be too intimate, as that group may only seek connection through shallow validation, masquerading as closeness. The need for love is much too difficult to persistently suppress, and it forces its way out when least expected; it appears in the vacuum of an empty room on a silent eve; its voice echoed in one’s deepest chambers, yearning for expression; and, the victim, apparently, has no choice but to silence it, with toxic means if need be.
As easy as it may be for them to accept their parents’ viciousness as having no association to their worth, those who struggle with intimacy struggle with self-compassion and self-love; there’s an emotional part of their core beings which simply won’t afford them the privilege to love, especially themselves. I wanted to write this article more so for those who were hurt and left confused by those struggling with avoidant attachment styles, hoping to alleviate their hurt, while increasing their understanding and their patience for the ones who can’t seem to love.
But, I also hope that those with avoidant attachment styles will seek help in the form of psychotherapy, because your past doesn’t have to dictate who you are, now, today, ever; and, you can work toward creating love in your life, the love you’ve never had, the love you’ve never allowed yourself to have, but the love you’ve always deserved.