Recently I have been helping a friend of mine go through a break-up. Him and his boyfriend had been together for a little over a year and their relationship was one of extremes. This culminated in a police escort last Saturday for the one that is not my friend to get his things and move out for good.
Naturally, I did what any decent friend would do. I cancelled my plans and drove over there to be there for my friend. I left his house some 14 hours later, and since then I have been there throughout the week, albeit from a distance.
So last night at dinner I was running Jose through my day (he works Saturdays) and as we were talking I was trying to explain my thoughts on communication and extremes. For the longest time I have said that communication is the key to a successful, well, anything. Recent experiences have caused me to question that though. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing that I would not talk to Jose about and I would certainly never say that communication is not vital. I have noticed two things about communication though:
People ‘hear’ according to their field of reference, not yours
Generally we listen to respond, not to understand.
What I am taking from this past week is that actually the element that needs to be nurtured is balance. I mean, what’s the point in communication if it is infinitely circular or inherently vacuous, on the flip side, communication that is loaded with passion is not reasonable.
Before they got together we would often talk, as friends do… about boys, love, the desire for partners etc. My friend and I had both had 10 year relationships previously so it’s not like we were commitmentphobes or anything. As far as we were concerned, our pedigree was strong in the relationship world.
Unfortunately, we were dinosaurs in the relationship world, we had been unleashed into a wold of Grindr, Hornet, Scruff and all manner of things that were alien to us… First Date Dinner and a Movie had very firmly been replaced with Dick Pic and Netflix. Terrifying. I should say, we are only mid 30’s.
There’s no way to legislate for the energy and behaviours of a prospective partner when you meet them, that is something that is learned over time. What happened with these guys they got together was a noxious of cocktail of energies was created. My friend contributing the anxious energy that insatiably craves intimacy and validation whilst the boyfriend brought an avoidant energy that was equally craving of autonomy and independence… what this creates is a heady mix that is addictive. For my friend, the highs of the relationship were so intense and heady that they satisfy his need for intimacy and validation but for the other guy the lows served his need for avoidance and protected his intimacy buffer by way of ‘proving’ that he could stand on his on two feet.
This relationship of extremes is addictive because each state is temporary and oftentimes explained away, mistakenly, as passion – the highs are transcendent whilst the lows are torturous to the point of them being borderline erotic.
Here’s the thing:
My friend has an anxious attachment style, and he is SMART. Any shift in dynamic and he notices, which immediately engages the system in his brain that measures and tracks the availability of his attachment figures – then with laser-like focus his only focus is to reconnect with that safety figure and will not stop until he has some clear guarantee that the relationship is safe. This behaviour immediately engages the deactivating strategies in an avoidant partner – and with the same laser-like precision that person will prove that they are strong and can stand on their own.
When in a situation where he has no contact with the outgoing partner, all activating strategies are engaged:
- Seeing the relationship through a rose-tinted lens
- Only being able to remember the good qualities of the partner
- Putting them on a pedestal
- Believing this is his only chance for love
Deactivating strategies in the other partner are also engaged at this time:
- Changing the way you address your parter, retiring ‘pet names’ for example
- Refusing to communicate in any way
- Isolating and focussing on errors/flaws in order to create a ‘get out’ clause
- Checking out mentally
The scary thing is that both of these types of people believe that anything other than this type of relationship is boring. They mistake the drama for passion. This does not make them bad people at all, it would be so easy to cast aspersions on either one of these characters but the fact is that it’s the mix of attachments styles that is simply not compatible. Though these two with both argue with anyone that suggests that as they believe that their passions run so high because they are SO compatible.
For either one of those people, the dating world is a scary place because they regard secure people as boring, lacking passion and then they disqualify them as a match as a result.
I often talk about Jose and I, and I think I’ve even referred to it in a previous post of mine, and the fact that in my head I call our relationship Amsterdam. The reason for that is that for all the reasons that Amsterdam the city works, our relationship seems to work. We don’t stifle, judge, expect or demand anything from one another and there are no taboos or extremes.
I am no expert at all in any of this, I make no secret of the fact that humans baffle, excite and often scare me. I can’t help but think, have we all gotten so hyped up on communication that it has been come it’s own thing, indendent of what is actually being communicated?