“Love should not cause suffocation and death if it is truly love. Don’t bundle someone into an uncomfortable cage just because you want to ensure their safety in your life.”
~ Michael Bassey Johnson
To feel seen is a powerful motivator to be in relationship with someone. Who doesn’t want companionship, validation, a partner in crime?
However, the challenge comes into play when we find ourselves too deep in too fast; we lose sight of who we are.
We can leave our partner feeling overwhelmed and suffocated with the intensity.
Good news! With self-reflection we can come to understand more about our pattern of behavior and move into relationships with more balance and clarity.
Understanding Attachment and the Inner Child
In order to understand this over investment, it is important to understand more about attachment. We all have an attachment style, which is characterized by different ways of interacting and behaving in relationships.
These attachment styles were formed during early childhood in part by how children and parents interact.
Now in adulthood, attachment styles are used to describe patterns of attachment in romantic relationships.
We are not locked in; however, changing an attachment pattern can take self-reflection, time, and often work with a professional therapist. To begin, I recommended spending some time journaling about your inner child.
Here is a simple process for interviewing the inner child:
- Did you feel abandonment in childhood?
- Were there inconsistencies in your living environment?
- Did you witness or experience trauma first hand?
After asking those questions, find a picture of yourself at the most challenging time of your childhood and ask that version of you,
“What did I need that I did not have at this time?”
Then spend time making sure that you are able to nurture that part of yourself in your daily life.
Sometimes we can play out patterns from early on in our life; exploring these relational dynamics can set us free from the behaviors that are disrupting our current relationships.
When we have vulnerabilities sometimes we can get swept away with the flashy qualities a partner presents to us. Does he have a great smile? Does he love to travel the world?
When we are flying on emotion and not so much on logic we can be sold on the lure of creating a fantasy life with someone, in part to escape our own.
If you have insecurities, it is not uncommon to try and attach on to someone that makes you feel better about yourself.
However, remember that your happiness is YOUR responsibility.
When our right now is unfulfilling in some way this may lead us to push too much into the future of “what could be” and get us caught up in a projected reality.
Don’t worry about the “I should be here by now” or other outside forces pushing you to move into territory you are not yet ready to navigate.
We don’t want to miss out on getting to know our potential partner or our self; therefore, we must focus on healing anything we need to from our past so we can be the best version of our self in the here-and-now.
They say that relationships are a powerful key to self-reflection; take your opportunity.
Dana Hall, LCPC, MA, TF-CBT – www.danahalltherapy.com
Getting attached too soon is not a one size fits all. Sometimes it’s you. Sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s something good about you. Sometimes not.
So, let’s take this apart and start with the obvious.
After that, I have some good news that could put things in a better, more useful light.
For the More Obvious
- Maybe your primary attachments could have been more secure when you were little.
- Maybe mom or dad were not around, or were emotionally inconsistent when they were.
- Maybe because they did not provide proper scaffolding (support) as you were growing up, there was not a good transfer of how they took care of you to how you could take care of yourself.
- And maybe since they did not convey how worth it you were, deep down you are still not sure yourself that you are.
These are a few of the kinds of things that could make you want to latch on and not let go.
And, these are the kinds of things that a good friend, coach, or therapist could help you to heal, so you don’t burn out a potential love relationship before it has had a chance to take root and grow.
Now For the Less Obvious
The good news, and what not as many people know and understand, is that sometimes this early intense attaching has everything to do with how amazing you are.
‘Love Bombing’ is a tactic used, sometimes for good, as a delicious early phase of developing love, with someone who really is crazy about you.
It is a massive dose of attention and affection that can hijack your brain’s reward system until you no longer make sense. You know the feeling: This is the one, the one you have been waiting for your whole life.
Unfortunately, ‘Love Bombing” is not always used for good.
Abusive people also do it, and they don’t do it to just anyone. No, they do not pick you because you are weak. They do not pick you because there is something wrong with you.
They pick you because you are strong, and successful—maybe socially, maybe materially, maybe emotionally, maybe intellectually…
In any case, you are amazing in some very important way that they wish they were. And because they know they are not, and never will be, eventually they don’t want you to be either.
How We Know the Difference
So then how do we know the difference between good and bad attachment, when they both feel deliciously the same at the start?
When everything wonderful about you continues to flourish in the context of your new love, you know you are in good hands. And, when you begin to feel that you are becoming less of yourself, rather than more, then you know you are not.
Madelaine Weiss, LICSW, MBA, BCC – www.madelaineweiss.com
Attaching too fast can be a red flag. If you are ready to move in together after your first date, for example, that may be a sign that you attach too fast.
It is human nature to want to be connected to each other.
During this pandemic, most experts would agree that you still need to connect with family, friends, even if it is all done virtually. Humans need each other.
In my psychology class in college, I remember studying Erikson’s stages of development .
There is a stage in early adulthood called Intimacy vs Isolation.
It is a stage where young adults start looking for their life partner. Being in a relationship feels safe and secure to some women. So if you attach too fast, you may be scared that you will always be alone and single.
Another reason some women attach too fast is because they are missing something in their life.
They may need support or comfort or unconditional love because their family has not provided this or is not able to provide this. (If you are interested in specific reasons why you personally attach too fast, then individual counseling is the best resource for you to get started.)
To overcome this – I would first identify the reason why you get attached too fast.
Be honest with yourself.
Is it fear of being alone or is it something else?
Second, I would challenge your negative automatic thoughts with evidence.
For example, if you are scared that you will always be single then counter that thought with facts. These facts are that being single right now does not mean that you will always be single. Some people find their partner in their 20’s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60+.
It is also true that you can live a great, beautiful life if you are single. Being with the wrong person may prevent you from having the opportunity to find the right person. Those are just some examples.
Last, I would seek support.
Please use a trusted friend, family member or licensed counselor to talk about this. People that love you, want you to be healthy and happy. Support is really important when you are trying to change your patterns.
Shelly Kessinger, LPC – www.friendswoodmarriagecounseling.com
Falling hard for someone is an incredible rush, physically and emotionally.
Feeling this good can cause us to want to attach to its source quickly. The down side of this quick attachment is that all of those emotions and hormones make it hard to think clearly.
By the time the rush has subsided you can easily find yourself attached to the wrong person.
Attachment is primarily a deep hormonally driven connection originating between a mother and her unborn baby.
It is a primal fusion that is necessary for the healthy development of the infant. Such an attachment engenders a deep and profound sense of security for that infant that should set that her up for psychological success as an adult.
Attachment ideally continues into childhood although clearly as the child matures the attachment takes on a different flavor, as the goal for the child is to become increasingly independent of the mother.
There is a lot of controversy about the role of attachment in adult relationships.
There are many who believe that the goal of a committed adult relationship is to recreate that bond so as to heal the attachment wounds that may have resulted from a flawed mother child bond. Other thinking posits that the search for the kind of attachment that ideally should occur in infancy could be futile.
I think by the time we’ve reached adulthood, we have hopefully learned to nurture ourselves sufficiently to make it unnecessary to seek that kind of attachment from a partner.
If we haven’t been successful in that endeavor, we will be prone to quickly attach to a love object whether or not that person ultimately proves to be an appropriate choice.
There is a tenet of system’s thinking (and relationships are systems) that is important to consider (and remember!): “Like levels of differentiation attract”.
This means that your level of emotional maturity will be about the same as your partner’s. It also means that you will each experience about the same level of emotional need throughout your lives.
Perhaps it is then unrealistic to assume that your partner will be emotionally mature enough to take on your needs as well as his own.
We all need to step up for our partners at certain times and hopefully we are grownup enough to do that. But essentially we need to be able to take care of ourselves well enough to not put that kind of pressure on our partners and our relationships.
So back to attaching quickly.
The less of a healthy attachment you had as a child, the more prone you are to seek that attachment as an adult.
You will feel less secure standing on your own two feet for long periods of time (like the amount of time it might take to meet and evaluate a suitable partner).
So the more emotionally mature you are and the more work you have put into promoting your own growth, the less vulnerable you are to a quick and possibly unhealthy relationship.
All that being said, I hope you get the opportunity to really revel in the excitement of a new relationship. But before you attach permanently, wait until the hormones have subsided enough to allow you to think and evaluate whether or not this is the man for you.
Sally LeBoy, MS, MFT – www.sallyleboymft.com
One of the most important relationships to have is the relationship with yourself.
If you are comfortable being alone, working on your own and are feeling emotionally safe, these are all significant factors in developing a strong self-esteem or self-worth.
Otherwise, you are at risk of depending on your partner to fill you up and make you feel like somebody. When that happens, you will tend to get attached too fast, and then become too needy for a healthy relationship to blossom.
So, you want to work on your independence, autonomy, personal empowerment and growth.
You need to understand that being your own person can be fun, rewarding, relaxing, exhilarating and rejuvenating. If you are comfortable with who you are and where you are at, being independent can be truly special.
Alone time is a time to regroup from a hard day’s work. It’s a time to explore and examine what you like and what you don’t like. It’s a time to build upon your strengths and revitalize those weak areas that need improving.
All this cannot be done if you are so absorbed with your partner’s drama, issues or concerns.
But when you have the opportunity to “just be yourself,” to have some quiet time, to be grateful for the simple things, then you know that you are grounded and okay with yourself and you don’t need anyone to validate you.
Throughout your lifetime you should continue growing and learning from your relationship with yourself.
Understand your depth of character and personality because this adds to your growth. Make sure that your appreciation of yourself is strong so that when you are with someone special, the love you give and the love you receive will enhance the terrific person you know yourself to be.
Amy Sherman, M.A., LMHC – www.yourbabyboomersnetwork.com
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