I am driving back from the airport under the night sky, cutting through the silence, and the smell of warm pastures. As I go over a pass, the city lights appear, nestled between two quiet giants which blot out the stars. The beginning of a sense of belonging shoots through me, I am nearly home.
Two years ago, I moved to the French Alps to join my husband, and having never lived in the area before, I worried about feeling claustrophobic because there’s a mountain blocking the horizon pretty much at the end of every street here. In fact, I have become attached to their massive and ever-changing beauty.
Moving on to a different kind of attachment, I have been dipping my toes into a self-help-ish book about relationships this weekend. Some of you may remember my innate skepticism towards self-help literature, but somehow, this book managed to hold my attention.
Its premise is that people fall within three broad styles of attachment, described as anxious, avoidant and secure. Anxious people are often preoccupied with their relationships and tend to worry about their partner’s ability to love them back. Avoidant people equate intimacy with a loss of independence and constantly try to minimise closeness. Secure people feel comfortable with intimacy and are usually warm and loving.
That’s what it says on the cover anyway. What this book did for me, was to help analyse my relationship with T in terms of attachment dynamics. For example, I was quite anxious when T and I got together, but also reasonably secure in the sense that I was able to clearly state what I needed ie. reassurance from T. Meanwhile, T was secure enough to accept that I needed the reassurance without feeling overwhelmed by my apparent neediness. After a couple of months, I stopped being anxious, and we both became secure in the relationship. Do you see where this is going?
Then the next stage came during my pregnancy and shortly after our daughter was born, when I felt pretty overwhelmed and clearly fell within the avoidant category, which despite some reassurance on my part, triggered an anxious response in T. Roles were brutally reversed after a big blow-up about a year ago, before we found another balance and both became secure again… Or so I thought. In reality, it is possible that despite some efforts, T never fully became secure again, and that meeting the New Ms T tipped him into full-blown avoidance to the bitter end.
In light of this, I found the book’s idea that each person has one attachment style over-simplistic, because in reality, people are complex, react to their environment and are bound to not go through life on just one style. Still, it provided a useful bit of post-mortem on my relationship with T.
But the real test will come when I am ready to take the plunge and meet someone new: Will this new-found awareness actually help me make the right choices?
If you’re intrigued, you can test your attachment style, as well as your and your partner’s compatibility on the book’s website.