Short answer: Because we don’t know about attachment theory & attachment injury.
Anxious, angry, furious, embarrassed, sad, hurt, lonely, disgusted and disappointed.
And then, from the card which has a list of needs, her most glaring unmet need was that of: intimacy.
Backstory: This is a 25-year old Indian girl who had just come out of a relationship feeling deeply helpless and vulnerable. She told me how her parents are after her life to get married. And, how she just experienced a heart-break where her partner was completely unresponsive, avoidant and inert to her inner-life. She shared that her deepest fear in saying yes to an arranged marriage is that she will not get the space and freedom she desires. Also, she is aware that she has grown up in a household where she has never witnessed a healthy relating-behavior. She has hardly experienced dignity, healthy-boundaries, empowerment or active care at home.
Now, she deeply desires a relationship. She is also very committed to finding the ‘right life-partner’. At the same time, for the second time in the last two years, she has felt the excruciating pain of being with an unresponsive partner who lets her suffer through pain alone.
After more sharing, I found a very interesting fact. She had met her partner only two times in a year. In fact, they have never talked on phone. Their relationship was mostly about connecting over WhatsApp texts.
It was clear to me that her inner-child is extremely hurt and scared. As a little child witnessing dysfunctional relationships at home was very difficult for her. It traumatized her. She started believing that relationships are a threat to her stability, freedom and individuality. She unconsciously promised to keep herself ‘safe.’ On one hand, she craves for intimacy and on the other hand, she wants to feel safe. Somewhere inside herself, she believes that people are not safe. She wants to be with someone with whom she feels open and warm and yet she chooses guys who hide behind the screen and usually never have time to meet her. Quite a paradox? Why does she get into such a difficult relationship? It is so counter-intuitive because she does not know the following:
- Attachment theory
- Attachment Injury
- Growing up, she did not feel secure and loved in her childhood. Her primary caretakers could not provide her a sense of stable-reliable warmth. As a result, she developed an anxious attachment style where she feels a constant need for her partner to reassure her about her worth and value in her and his life. She longs for intimacy, connection and depth. She has an anxious attachment style.
- During her childhood, she saw how much pain her parents created for each other. They were hurtful and emotionally-violent to each other. Constantly being around them, she unconsciously developed a fear of relationships in general and intimacy in particular. This is her attachment injury. She has an unconscious contract/belief that relationships are not safe. This unhealed trauma makes her select partners who are ‘safe’ because they are mostly absent.
Putting 1 and 2 together, she is in a vicious loop. She craves closeness and fears it, at the same time. As a result, she is attracted to those who need (a lot of) space, solitude, and distance. Both of her former partners have avoidant attachment style. They rarely met her. And, they did not really allow themselves to feel intense feelings. On the one hand, she felt safe and understood with them because they could never hurt her. The distance took care of that. And, on the other hand, she could never really develop a trustworthy, deep, free-flowing relating, because they did not really allow closeness and vulnerability.
What does she really need to do in this situation?
She needs to really embrace her inner-child who has felt helpless growing around adults who were hurtful towards each other. She looked at them and developed a very negative model of how relationship feel-like. Now, as a beautiful adult with her precious emotional, physical and spiritual needs, she does not know how to start trusting again. She needs to heal her attachment trauma. Her attachment trauma taught her that all relationships are unsafe and the only way she can keep herself safe is by choosing mysterious, withdrawn and avoidant men. Once she accepts how her childhood has left certain unhealthy impressions on her consciousness, she has a chance to feel her pain, helplessness and hurt fully. Mourning that our childhood wasn’t perfect is vital. It gives us a chance to soothe our inner-child and let her know that this wasn’t our mistake. This step can take (several weeks) sometime. It is only after this step; she can begin to think about alternative and healthy models of relating. Otherwise she will be limited by the imagination of her scared inner-child who has deep anxieties and pain around opening her heart and allowing deep intimacy. She needs to be soothed and supported. This is a slow process.
PS: The content of this post has been derived from one of my True Presence sessions, thanks to my coaching client.
Recommended Resource: Interactive E-course on Self-Love
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The illustration is by Mel Trepat Casanovas – firstname.lastname@example.org.