This was first published on ksl.com
I recently got out of a relationship where I was dating someone that really loved me, but I was not sure what I was feeling at that point. I had a lot going on in my mind, so we decided to call it good and part ways. However, we left the door open to getting back together in the future. As time went on, I started to have clarity of my feelings. I love this person with all my heart, but I also realize we both have things to work on in order to have a healthy relationship. When I needed space, my partner would instead give me a lot of love and affection. I would then push him away. Now that my life is in a better place, I am trying to get rid of this self-defense mechanism. I started therapy and I am also on medication for depression. I reached out to my partner a few weeks ago and he requested some space, which I am giving him. So my questions are: How can a couple get through phases like this? What is the best way to approach reconciliation between me and my partner?
It sounds to me like you and your partner have different attachment styles. One is pushing while the other is pulling away, and neither of you feels secure in the relationship. The first step toward reconciliation would be to understand what happened last time so you don't repeat it.
Dr. Amir Levine and Rachel Heller wrote an interesting book on attachment styles called "Attached." In the book, the authors explain there are three basic attachment styles and we are all functioning from one of them all the time. But your attachment style can change with different life experiences, they say. Your attachment style is your way of functioning in relationships and with intimacy at any point in time.
What is your attachment style?
Understanding your attachment style can help you to see why you behave and react the way you do. Here are the three attachment styles Levine and Rachel discuss:
The anxious person believes no one loves them and the avoidant believes love is smothering, the authors say. They each fulfill these beliefs for the other. These relationships are also the most difficult because the natural reactions and behaviors of an anxious person are the perfect triggers for the avoidant person and vice versa. This cycle isn't a healthy relationship for either party.
Changing your behavior
Here are some of the game playing, bad behaviors each type can display that triggers the other:
If the answers to those questions are "yes," then you need to decide what you both need and want in a relationship. You must do this without your partner because with them you might just list things you think your partner wants to hear. By working alone, however, you can be honest about your needs and what you think a healthy secure relationship should look like. Then be honest about whether you can really provide this for each other.
If you are avoidant and your partner is anxious, you both have some work to do on your fear triggers before this will work. Here are some things each of you can work on:
Anxious people can:
You can do this.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.