Relationship Advice

How We Attach to Our Lover

Rufus & Izzy in Love

Rufus was an “oops” baby he explained in one of our last couple’s session. The youngest of 13 kids, the closest sibling 15 years older than him.

“I was a strange single child since all my brothers and sisters were so much older than me. I mean I have nieces and nephews that are older than me. It’s all jumbled up, but it’s not a big stress. I didn’t really know any of them. They were all doing their thing in their young adulthood lives.”

Rufus’s tone always sounded as if he was trying to convince himself he wasn’t lonely.

“I was a pretty good kid. I never got into trouble at school or with my parents. I did my homework on time, I did it well and was just silently compliant. I was use to not being paid attention to so I never did anything to try to gain attention. My parents only responded to negative actions, if someone broke something or got in trouble, but they let me be if I did everything right. I also grew up around a lot of family members so I never felt super attached to my parents. I had a lot of parents raising me for the first 10 years of life. I actually think I was fine until my parents moved me to a small town where I became really quiet.”

Izzy started talking about how she experienced Rufus then.

“I remember when Rufus moved to my town & he tried to make himself an invisible mute, but fuck that I wasn’t going to let him do that. I walked up to him the first day of school and told him he was going to be sitting with me. He was the worst at being social. I had to drag him to do sports, get him to go to parties. He was the craziness on the other side of my craziness. He was the monk and I was the witch. He was so good with parents though. My parents loved him more than they loved me.”

Izzy anxiously laughs and pinches his nipple while calling him a “goofball” when she mentions how her parents liked him more than her. Rufus laughs, but looks at her in a fearful-shock. He had been stoic this whole time in the session and this brought him to life. This show of affection demonstrates a part of their relationship & attachment style.

Izzy has learned to feel safe enough with her anxiety & impulsivity with Rufus which brings out the life in Rufus who would usually avoid these kinds of situations. Rufus has learned to not be so uptight and enjoy impulsive moments like this instead of getting mad that she did this in front of their analyst which would shut Izzy down and ignite her anxious thoughts that she’s no good. In this little moment Izzy was asking, “Are you okay with who I am? Can you love me even though I’m being inappropriate?”

To my great surprise…Rufus answered back. He instantly pinched her nipple back and said, “I Love You Izzy.”

This is real, developed love. They both were still themselves, their pasts weren’t erased, the hurts still known, their insecure attachment styles still living within them, but they weren’t slaves to their pasts anymore and weren’t doomed to repeat their destructive repetitions and attachment styles. How did they get here?

Attachment Styles

Before I get us back to Rufus and Izzy I want us to explore the different attachment styles. There are 4 common attachment styles now widely accepted and known. The secure, dismissing, preoccupied and unresolved/disorganized. Sometimes you will see these as secure, anxious-preoccupied, dismissive-avoidant & fearful-avoidant.

Secure– Can easily be in relationships with people and aren’t come over with disabling grief for extended periods of time if they break up with a significant other or lose a significant person in their life. They can easily depend on others while being dependable.

Anxious-Preoccupied– Those who have negative views about themselves and latch onto others, worried that their lover will leave them and can go to extremes to keep that lover, even if it’s bad for them to do so. They are anxious about being dependable enough and being depended on and preoccupied with their own faults.

Dismissive-Avoidant– Those who are fiercely independent and feel they don’t need anyone. In a relationship they are seen as cold and uncaring. They distance themselves from people who they feel will reject them. They will not depend on anyone else and can be dependable through physical and financial means, but not emotionally dependable.

Fearful-Avoidant– Those who want to get close to others so badly, but are too afraid to. There is this worry that they will be hurt if they trust someone. If you have been cheated on and are worried about ever trusting someone ever again in a romantic way, this is the style that you’re functioning under currently. It’s terrifying to depend on others so being dependable to someone is avoided. Why be dependable and depend on them when they will just hurt you?

There is also something called complex attachment. It’s a

“Bidirectional attachment system in which both partners depend and are depended upon. Couple’s complex attachment system is influenced by both partner’s internal working models of attachment deriving from early life (Zeitner pp.44).”

This is touching on the resonating factor I talked about when we discovered what attracted Rufus & Izzy to each other previously. Just as how we unconsciously look for a lover that has qualities we feel we lack or need, we unconsciously find a lover that we can repeat our early childhood attachment styles with. This usually ends pretty tragically. The guy consciously looks for that lover that is sweet, and believes he has found that lover, just to find out his lover isn’t as sweet as they presented themselves to be. Back to Rufus & Izzy.

We learned some about their personalities, what attracted them to each other, how these unconsciously sought personality traits resonated & brought them together and how this almost broke apart their relationship decades later. Now, we’re going to explore, and start to understand, their attachment styles and how they resonated with each other as lovers. If you’re interested in understanding Rufus, Izzy & these ideas that we are building on I recommend reading the last article on Rufus & Izzy on How their Good Love Started.

 

 

 

Rufus’s Attachment Style

It was tricky to understand the attachment style of Rufus. Being so quiet you’d imagine that he was dismissive-avoidant. He didn’t peruse social activities himself and didn’t have strong attachments at home or outside in the world. When I first met Rufus, he spoke in small waves of affect, and his speech was very short. He was also independent, having worked hard to open his own business instead of working for someone else.

This all made sense and fit into the dismissive-avoidant features, but this was a front. I didn’t feel that this was right and kept myself curious. One of the things I keep in mind while working with couples and individuals is that I need to keep myself fully curious and not be set on some idea or theory. You can feel when something makes factual sense, but isn’t true. This is the difference between us humans and A.I. I imagine.

In an early individual session Rufus was talking about his early life and said,

“I would have died being fearful in the streets. Society told me to be tough and cold emotionally to survive there. I’m not physically in the streets anymore, but I still live there. You can take the kid out of the ghetto, but not the ghetto out of the kid.”

Oh damn, there it was. Those small waves of affect are his attempts to express emotions in the only way he found tolerable. In hidden waves. His speech was short, but full of hidden meaning. Rufus didn’t waste words. He actually fit closer to the fearful-avoidant attachment style.

He broadcasted the dismissive-avoidant attachment style because of his fear of being hurt. He had grown up in a gang infested area and was part of a gang since he was four years old. He did what he had to to survive the streets, but he was in dire want for the love and connection which he never had growing up. He never had an important enough attachment with any one person, being raised by so many people. Rufus was also fearful of this desired connection because he had seen people who were close to each other betray each other in cold blood.

“The leader of my gang killed her husband for profit. In my mind they were together for a long time since they were both old. It just, they were the strongest people I knew, they did everything together and were successful together. And BOOM, ended with a bullet for money.”

Rufus was shy, quiet, mute, thoughtful & empathetic around Izzy. He tried to push her away with the quietness, and pull her in with the thoughtfulness & empathy. But, since our attachment styles are so complex, he unknowingly, consciously anyway, pulled her in with his shyness and quietness. These were the ways Rufus functioned in his desire to connect, while being afraid to connect to her. This interplay can be seen in something Rufus said to me.

“I could be in social groups because I was with Izzy and be accepted even though I was so chill. I could see how she interacted with them and then try what she did. The best times though were when she would be done talking with everyone and I could hold her in my arms as we just watched everyone.”

He would sit at parties as Izzy was herself, but he was observing and learning. This didn’t deter Izzy, and she would join him, his arms wrapped around her.

Izzy’s Attachment Style

Izzy herself was a therapist and on our first session she told me she had the secure attachment style and was very convincing of it. I was curious why this had come up, but I took her word for it.

Izzy talks about herself in the worst ways. She gave me a long history of her many relationships. She started dating during kindergarten, and had sex for the first time when she was 12 with a freshman in college.

“He was the first guy I ever had sex with, and the first guy who cheated on me. I couldn’t understand why he did. I was 12. Looking back, I see that the relationship was sick. There’s no way I could fuck a 12-year-old when I was 19. But that isn’t what bothers me. Why wasn’t I good enough for him?”

Izzy called herself a “serial dater” since she was never single for more than a few days.

“I craved that passionate attention from anyone who would give it to me. I didn’t care if it was a guy or a girl, anyone. It was so much fun and felt so good when I was in the middle of it, but when it ended I always broke down. But instead of feeling broken I would find someone else to give me what I wanted.”

“After each relationship I got better at keeping them for a little longer. I always felt anxious they would leave me that I did anything to please them. I’d give them all my money, do anything sexually, blow off important things. Anything.”

“I now get that this was me doing everything I could to make sure I really wasn’t worth anything to anyone good. It was hard feeling valuable when two guys were jizzing on your face. I also used to cheat a lot and only on guys that were good to me. I always justified it in my mind that they were not sexually satisfying enough for me or that they were too boring so I had to go have sex with interesting people, but I was just proving to myself I was garbage and not worth a good man.”

“Where did this idea of being worthless come from?” I asked.

“Easy. My dad. He cheated on my mom and left us for that whore bitch. I’ve always hated that “daddy issues” stuff, but I have to accept that it’s true for me, because it is. I can’t deny facts just because my emotions don’t want to hear it.”

We can understand the anxious-preoccupied attachment style with Izzy. She was anxious that she would be left, as she had been as a child, and preoccupied with how garbage she was, a feeling she never was able to deal with when her father left home and one she did everything to fight against having.

Izzy’s & Rufus’s Attachment Styles at Work

Izzy showed Rufus that she was outgoing, extroverted, impulsive and caring. She unconsciously felt that her extroversion, outgoing and impulsive nature would deter Rufus from loving her since she did so many crazy things and then would tell Rufus everything, all details. This all to prove that she was unlovable by any good man aka Rufus. Izzy unknowingly, consciously anyways, pulled Rufus in this way. These were the ways Izzy functioned in her desire to connect, while being too anxious and self-attacking.

Izzy talked about the same party in her individual analysis as Rufus did and I got to hear how she felt in that moment at this party.

“He was so quiet just sitting there enjoying it. I was a bit jealous that he could do that because I was a crazy witch going everywhere talking to everyone. When I was over people I would go collapse in his arms and fall asleep while we people watched and he would tell me what he thought about them. When I was his to hold, he spoke.”

Her anxiety way of being resonated with Rufus’s fearful way of being. She could be anxious and pull him in, and he could be fearful and push her away. She was immune to how he pushed, his quietness giving her the calm feeling, so he was just drawn into her. He was immune to how she pushed him away. Her anxious impulsivity giving him the spark of life he desired so terribly. She was drawn into him because their attachment styles and personality desires matched. So, they connected, attached and fell in love.

 

References

Zeitner, R. M. (2012). Self within marriage: the foundation for lasting relationships. New York: Routledge.

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