So I think I have a strategy to never date someone avoidantly attached for more than a couple of dates ever again.
I’m going to learn how to spot where it goes wrong and stop it right there. I want a certificate that says I will see early and never stay once I realize that the person isn’t able to have the kind of relationship I want.
There isn’t a certificate of course.
What I mean is that I want to be sure, completely sure that I will never do this again. Loving people who can’t and won’t meet reasonable needs in relationships is exhausting and painful. They may be all beautiful souls sometimes and you feel like you are the only one who gets them, the only one they can connect to in a lonely world, but it’s a slow death by a thousand painful cuts, and it’s not worth it.
SDW, you can’t be brave for other people, they need to be brave for themselves.
If you don’t want to use my method (and why would you?), here’s a good way to tell – a matchmaker giving advice that would have been super helpful several times over the last 8 years.
My strategy on the path to never dating someone who isn’t available for a real relationship is this.
I went back through all my relationships and picked out the moment when I missed the opportunity to set a boundary. What it all boiled down to is that at some point I could have said “this is not the kind of relationship I want” and set a boundary. I am currently a big fan of setting boundaries. I figure if I can determine what I should have done, at the earliest date I should have set a boundary about something important, then I can avoid being in long relationships with people who will never be willing to be in a real relationship.
Thinly disguised real life scenario 1
You start dating a woman, Lily, who is very romantic and attentive, for about two months. After that she doesn’t break up, but she just gets very busy and tired and boring. When you arrive for dates, she tells you she is ill (she has a chronic illness) and you spend your scarce time together sitting watching tv. However, she is going on dates with other people (it’s an open relationship), and she seems to be using her scarce energy on them. She blows you off, she is tired and worn out and doesn’t want to go anywhere or have sex on your dates. What do you do?
- A: You tell her “this is not the kind of relationship I want. II need to be with someone who has time, energy and enthusiasm for being with me” and you end it.
- B: You try to win back her attention be being super nice and understanding and believing her excuses and when she says it’s not about you or whether she values you, which she does, but she’s just tired, or sick or something, for months. After several months of this, and a lot of agonizing on your part, eventually you break up.
The right answer is A, who knew? I didn’t.
For extra points, guess LIly’s attachment style. Dismissive avoidant folks don’t value closeness and will push you away when stressed, without repair.
Thinly disguised scenario 2
You are dating Jo polyamourously for about a month – she has a partner already, who is theoretically okay with you dating her. You insist on meeting the partner to confirm this, and be all friendly and above board. A date is set for you all to meet for coffee. You are nervous. To help you feel equally important, you ask your new squeeze to bring her partner into the restaurant, then come out, greet you privately so you can kiss and connect, and then walk in with you to the restaurant. Jo arrives late with partner and rather than keeping her agreement to bring her in and then come for you, brings her over to greet you at your car. It is awkward. Partner is hostile. Jo does not apologize or help, during or after the encounter. She focusses completely on the other partner. What do you do?
- A: You spend the next two hours trying to ingratiate yourself to the partner, and accept the excuses offered.
- B: You are polite, but leave as soon as is convenient. You tell Jo it’s not going to work out and, you guessed it, that “this is not the kind of relationship I want. I need to be with someone who will keep her promises to me.”
The right answer again? You guessed it. Setting the boundary.
Attachment style? Dismissive avoidant folks dismiss the needs of others and will side with the person who will contribute the most conflict. Her partner was mad at her, so she placated her and sold me down the river, because she knew I’d be kind to the partner regardless of how I was treated.
Thinly disguised scenario 3
You and your sweetheart have been together about two years. You have been very happy, but for several months she has been stressed at work. Her workplace is sexist and homophobic, and the management is trying to bust the union. Because she is stressed, she is not sleeping, because she is not sleeping she feels incompetent at work. Because she feels incompetent at work she is working free overtime, because she is working free overtime she is too tired to do anything with you for several months. Nothing changes. Eventually the company lays off hundreds of workers and she loses her job. During her unemployment, she is still stressed, and is no more attentive. She starts helping a friend of hers who owns a bar, by working for her for free. The friend treats her as if she is paying her, which is to say, works her very hard with no appreciation. Your partner is strangely loyal to this person who is mistreating her. During this time you go away for work for a couple of weeks. Many late night lonely phone calls transpire, and you are in agreement that you miss one another and can’t wait to see one another. You are flying back into town and your sweetheart does not pick you up at the airport because her ‘boss’ (who she has been working for free for for months) will not ‘let’ her take time off to do so.
- A: You tell her any time in this process that “this is not the kind of relationship I want, I need to be with someone who puts me first and is attentive. I need this to change. How can we both get our needs met?” If it doesn’t change, you end it.
- B: You are angry with her, you fight about it. She doesn’t get it and defends the exploitative friend. You stay together for many more years. She continually makes choices to people please others who are critical while neglecting you. You resent it. She withdraws more and more from you, and you stop having sex, which she blames on overwork and tiredness. She refuses to get any medical help or set boundaries with her workplace, even though she is unionized and her job is not at risk. You spend a lot of time watching tv next to her while she ignores you and does not agree to do anything you find fun. If you want to do anything with her it has to be something she likes. You have very little in common. Eventually you split up.
Correct answer? A. Though I loved this woman deeply, I should have set a boundary.
Attachment style? Likely fearful avoidant