Who was your very first love?
Do you remember?
Thinking about your first love can put such a smile on your face. 🙂
But actually your very first love is not who you think it is.
Our very first love is always the person who held us as a baby.
The person who cooed over you, who fed you, who bathed you, who helped you get to sleep. Maybe it was your mom, maybe your dad.
When you’re little, you are SO incredibly vulnerable and SO incredibly dependent on the person you love.
It’s the most powerful bond you’ll ever experience.
That love is literally life-or-death. Without them, you couldn’t survive.
That first bond taught you what love is. It taught you what love felt like. It taught you how love treats you. It laid a baseline for what is normal.
And if your caregiver couldn’t see you, or didn’t really like you, or was inconsistent in meeting your physical and emotional needs…
You came to believe that your survival depended on either getting them to love you back—by being the perfect child, making them laugh, pleasing them…
Or by reducing your needs to as few as possible, so that you could become self-reliant and didn’t have to depend on anyone but yourself.
The biggest revolution in relationship science lies in understanding how that early attachment ends up shaping our experiences with love.
If you have ever wondered if anyone would ever love you…
If you’ve ever wondered why your relationships aren’t working…
Why men keep pulling away just as you get close…
You need to know this.
First of all, it’s not you. You are lovable. You are worthy. But you’re caught in a trap.
It’s called the anxious-avoidant trap, and there are ways to get free.
The Anxious-Avoidant Trap
As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong in our early years.
The most important task of childhood is knowing deep in our bones that we are loved, and that this love will be constant even when times are rocky.
Ideally, it would be completely unimaginable that a parent would stop loving their kid just because their kid is going through those difficult teen years, or because their kid has different values, or because their kid made a huge mistake.
But not all of us learn that.
What a lot of us learn is the opposite.
We learn that the love of our parents is dependent on our performance. We learn that we only get loved if we measure up to their expectations. We learn that love can be given one moment and revoked the next.
We learn that love hurts. It makes us feel small. We can’t trust it to be there when we need it. Love isn’t a safe space to catch us if we fall.
At that point, we have one of two options:
If love is not secure, then you’ve got to hustle for it. You’ve got to make your parents happy, do things to make them smile, and avoid making any mistake that might drive their love away.
Or you can conclude the opposite:
If love is not secure and reliable, you don’t need it. You can make a life on your own, knowing that you are the only person you can ever truly rely on.
Those two options, roughly speaking, describe people with anxious attachment—the hustlers—and avoidant attachment—the aloofers. (Is that even a word?)
If you’re someone who struggles with relationships, who’s desperate for love you never find because men keep pulling away, who just wants answers as to why this is so hard, then you very well might be caught in the anxious-avoidant trap.
The trap is when a person who’s spent her life yearning for love and hustling for love ends up falling for someone who’s spent his life relying on himself and never depending on anyone.
They get trapped in a predictable dynamic:
She wants to be close, while he keeps pulling away.
Why We Pick the Wrong Guys
In an ideal world, those of us who are anxious simply wouldn’t pick partners who were avoidant. We’d never get into that trap in the first place.
The minute we see that a guy isn’t comfortable with intimacy, that he won’t rely on anyone, that he has a habit of disappearing, we would say goodbye and seek someone who’s secure.
But that is REALLY hard to do.
Our anxiety about love propels us straight into the arms of men who can’t love us. We expect love to be unreliable, and so unreliable partners feel normal to us.
On a really deep level, we’ve got ulterior motives in falling for these guys.
We’re hoping to redo our childhood and get it right this time. (Not consciously, of course!)
We pick these men because they remind us of the unavailable, inconsistent love we experienced as kids. (Check out this article if you want to learn more.)
If you were a kid and your dad wasn’t around or didn’t pay much attention to you, it’s like a miracle when the adult you finally meets a man who pays attention to you. You’re a kid in a candy store. You’re finally getting the love you always wanted.
If he’s a secure guy, there’s a good chance your relationship can heal those childhood wounds.
But if this guy isn’t really unavailable, and he ends up pulling away from you and withdrawing his love and affection, then your relationship can actually make those childhood wounds even deeper.
If not even this guy can love me, you think, then maybe I’m not lovable. Maybe I’ve got to work even harder for love.
Why We Love
There’s a LOT going on underneath our desire for love.
We think we love in order to get married and have a family and live a life together, but in many ways we love because we have a yearning to heal.
We can spend our entire lives trying to heal the wound of not being loved fully and completely for who we are.
If you’ve ever noticed within yourself an attraction to men who can’t love you, this is where it comes from.
So what can you do about it?
You don’t want to stay stuck in this trap forever, falling in love with men who offer you the same unpredictable, unreliable, incomplete love that you’ve experienced so much in your life.
Step 1. Awareness
The first thing to know is that simply being conscious of this pattern can change everything. Once you see it, you can’t un-see it.
Now, when you find yourself fin a relationship with someone unreliable, who only loves you when you please him, you can say, “Ah! Look at me. I’ve fallen for an avoidant man again.”
And you can walk away.
Step 2. Set Your Sights on Secure Love
The second thing to know is that avoidant men aren’t the only kind of men out there.
There are plenty of secure men who offer secure, reliable love.
And now you can set your sights on that.
You know you’ve made it to an advanced level in love when you find secure love incredibly attractive.
Secure love is the guy who shows up when he says he’s going to show up. Secure love is the guy who texts back when you text him. Secure love is the guy who doesn’t make promises he can’t keep.
Secure love is what heals those childhood wounds.
Step 3. Heal Together
The final thing to know is that not all anxious-avoidant relationships are doomed.
If you love someone who keeps pulling away and making you feel anxious, you can talk to him about it. You can share your vision for secure love. You can invite him to do this work with you.
What transforms the anxious-avoidant relationship—a relationship of stress, extreme highs and lows, disappointment, and unpredictability—to a secure relationship of security, constancy, reliability, and steadiness is this:
You’ve got to learn to trust each other.
The avoidant man has to work on being there for you. You need to be able to trust that if he goes away, he’ll come back, and his love for you won’t waver while he’s gone. He needs to get comfortable with interdependence and not see himself as a lone wolf anymore.
You need to work on communicating better, so you don’t punish him for not reading your mind. This is a relationship where you’ll need to build up your sense of self and retain some of your independence, rather than merging into a couple.
By doing this work—BOTH of you—you can create a secure relationship, something that neither of you may have experienced before.
You Need a Man with THIS
To me, love is the work of healing each other. It’s a messy process.
You recognize going in that both of you are wounded. Both of you have triggers. Whatever level of trust you have right now, you need more, because your default setting is colored by all the disappointments you’ve experienced in the past.
That’s why you need one thing above all else:
An emotionally intelligent man.
When you find emotional intelligence incredibly attractive—and by that I mean you’re turned on by someone who is willing to stick in and do the work, who’ll make repairs when you fight, who’ll be honest even if it’s hard—you are playing love at an extraordinarily high level.