Recently I was prompted to start blogging again by a friend who apparently misses my internet ramblings. In a previous life I was keeping a blog on my journey to physical fitness and weight loss. What started as a project to lose weight turned into a journey to also better psychological and emotional health. Any time someone sets out to change so much about themselves, even when the goal is to better to themselves, it can lead to some difficult decisions and choices and living with their consequences.
As many of you would have gathered from my Facebook activity, one of these consequences for me personally, was the parting from a dear best friend and lover of the past 10 years. In short, our long term and life goals did not appear to match up, and at the time it seemed a split was in the best interest of our developments as individuals to pursue our own goals. Although mutual, it doesn’t make the separation any less devastating; even though I know now that it was the best possible outcome for me to grow on my own and get other areas in my life on track. Not that I have all the answers yet, but it has been a good change for my own development and I am working towards what it is I want in career, life, friendships, and relationships beyond the platonic.
Probably not unlike many people who find themselves going through a separation, legal or not, my first gut reaction was, “how do I avoid feeling this much hurt again?” I considered if there was such a thing as love without attachment and if this would be the healthiest approach in the future? I think on paper, loving without attachment is a wonderful ideology. Being able to love purely without jealousy, anxiety, possessiveness, self doubt, and all the ugly emotions that can tie up and unthread romantic relationships. In some forums, real love without attachment is equated with unconditional love. For me, I want to be loved unconditionally, for all my strengths and weaknesses, and I want to give that kind of love, to my friends, my lovers, and one day, if I should have them, my children. Personally, I am not sure what type of person could truly follow such a path- it would be incredibly difficult for me to spend this kind of time and love on anyone, without forming some sort of attachment, even if I know that the pain and sense of loss comes from not just going through the process of losing someone I love and letting them go, but breaking the attachment that has been nurtured over how ever long they have been in your life. In my case, this was a 10 year relationship started in high school and yes, I was very attached.
I decided to explore what it is in romantic relationships, long term or not, that can lead to unhealthy behaviors and the pain and loss we feel at the end of a relationship (or even a friendship). My hope is to know myself better, which will hopefully allow for a better shot at a healthy relationship in the future. Long term (and short term) romantic relationships, whether seemingly going well or not, can be confusing and bring many mixed emotions. Part of what brings on the confusion is that there isn’t just one emotional system at play.
The first and most obvious when a romantic relationship begins, is sexual desire of course. Otherwise we’d all just be friends, right? Sexual desire can be intense, clouding ones judgment. Based on physical appearance and chemistry between two people, it motivates a lot of the behaviors between two people early on in the relationship; but as anyone who has been married or in a long-term committed relationship knows, sexual desire can be difficult to maintain with the same person over the course of time.
Enter in the second emotional system – love. Love in and of itself is complex. Love often involves feelings of closeness, genuine appreciation, and concern. There are many different styles of love, and people experience love differently. For some, it appears manic, for others it’s a game, and for others it expresses itself as a desire to take care of another person. Some people experience love at first sight; others fall in love more slowly. For some people being friends first kills any romantic attraction, while others only fall in love with someone they are friends with first.
Lastly there’s the attachment- no surprise there. How many people can spend lots of time hanging out with someone, talking to someone, sharing experiences without developing some sort of bond? Attachment is the feeling of security and comfort we get from being close to someone else. It can provide stability and certainty- the feeling that no matter what, someone will be there for us. Just as with love, however, attachment styles can be different from person to person. Some are needy, others more dismissive, others somewhere in the middle of the road and secure. Secure attachments are not anxious, paranoid, or obsessed with an individual, nor are they dismissive and uncomfortable with intimacy and being able to rely on someone else. The healthiest relationships would have a secure attachment style, but not everyone is psychologically and emotionally capable of a secure attachment at all times.
These three emotional systems can work together for a healthy, secure relationship, or they can just as easily be at odds and shred a romantic relationship to pieces it would seem. It’s quite possible for someone to be in love with one person, sexually attracted to someone else, and emotionally attached to yet another long-term partner. Or they can have multiples of all three of these emotional systems going on all at once.
Not that it makes it hurt any less, but being aware of these competing emotions, and that not everyone experiences love and attachment the same from me could help me make sense of the problems that arise in my future romantic relationships. I can’t say I will ever understand everything about someone, possibly not even myself, but this gives me a framework to start from to move on and to keep in mind as I meet others. I also think knowing my own love and attachment styles can be a big help. It’s just another part of what makes me, well, me. If I don’t know who I am, how can anyone else be able to figure it out for me?
Find more information on: http://www.truthaboutdeception.com/. Of particular help to me was under the tab “Relationship Issues”, although there is other good information on the rest of the site as well for people who have dealt with cheating & infidelity, lying & deception, and recovery & repair.