Two snakes intertwined one night to rest, both wary but strangely eased by the familiar press of cold, reptilian skin.
In the middle of the night, one snake bit the other.
“Argh!” the injured snake cried out. “Why did you bite me?”
“I’m sorry,” the first snake said. “It’s in my nature.”
The injured snake was wounded, but alive, immune to the venom. But then, it slid away.
“Wait!” the aggressor snake said. “Come back to sleep. Why are you leaving?”
“Because, it’s in my nature, too,” and then it left.
I am not a therapist, psychiatrist, or psychologist by any means. But, I am a student of humanity. I have spent my life, both adolescent and adult, studying how people work, because I’ve always been poor at truly connecting to other people.
+ For a few years, I forgot that my goal was learning how to relate to others. Instead, I became a master manipulator, deeply independent as I excelled at my work, and left a trail of broken hearts in my personal life all while pining for perfect lost-exes..
+ For a number of years, I was ignorant that my real goal had always been self-protection because if there is such a thing as an attachment theory textbook dissmissive-avoidant theory, I’m it. I had succeeded in walling myself off from all real feeling + empathy + intimacy, and managed to put it all of everyone else as I continued my ascent up the corporate ladder with my hyper-focus and self-sufficiency. The trail was littered with more broken hearts.
+ However, in recent years, I have done the hard work to adjust my attachment style towards secure because I had a near fatal life crash. Despite a lifetime of suppressing my attachment system (see: fuck the normals), that suppression wasn’t enough to stop the complete and traumatic meltdown. All I wanted and still do want is a lasting, meaningful, joy-producing, and safe long-term relationship, and the only way forward was to fix myself (see: therapy).
I would hesitate to say, for certain, my ex-partner’s attachment style, but I have a pretty good sense that we were more similar than not, and in many ways, it provided a certain cold, reptilian comfort to our pairing: I knew exactly who (or what!) I slept next to each night.
In certain ways, though, she was completely opposite, which is why I venture to say more fearful-avoidant to my dismissive-avoidant…and her periodic attachment-seeking behavior (of course, always followed by some form of attachment-fleeing behavior!) was surprisingly just the right amount. I was Goldilocks, and she wasn’t too hot (chasing, texting endlessly, clingy), and wasn’t too cold (I would never date myself at my worst version). She was just right.
Therefore, I got an opportunity to practice tools and techniques that helped me stay. Things like:
- Keeping a list of things I liked about her so that in moments when my instinct was to focus on negativity, I could look at my own written words and remind myself why I loved her.
- Despite an overpowering desire to physically leave when we got into an argument, I was able to force myself to stay in the apartment (except for the last one). Sometimes that meant I needed to timeout myself for 5-10 minutes (or longer, especially when she sniped at me about it) or to get up from bed, but go back to bed, and wash-rinse-repeat until I was in a space to coherently think and speak with her from the “heart” and not the “head.”
- Not letting her trigger me deliberately (see: the general sniping when I called for “solo time”) – her very close/not too close was maddening!
- Focusing on us instead of me versus her.
- Re-framing our fights in relation to how they impacted how we felt; avoiding zeroing in on specific words or just on winning.
- Not playing mind-games with each others emotions and feelings. (Oh, no games, no games) even when she started playing games.
- Do playing actual games like cards, trivia, etc.
- Walking + talking, cooking, going to bed at the same time, creating + sticking to intimacy routines.
- Giving and accepting physical affection; focusing on the underlying feeling not the initial thought of suffocation / distrust.
- Making conscious choices to left things go, to stay, to protect our space, to direct my anger/irritation at people that endangered that (see: her parents, her entitled roommates, my soul-destroying job, my busybody family, etc.) and not at her
- Never allowing her to become to become the enemy in my head; instead, cultivating the sense of her being my home.
Regardless, it was quite literally too good to be true for her. We were not moving forward. It did not match her expectations of what our relationship should be.
So, she bit me. In the neck. It is in her nature, as you know.
And this bite was not like the tiny nips from before, this was a bad one. She was going for the jugular and she wasn’t trying to hide it. Even so, still, in the immediate space post-breakup, she still wanted me to stay.
But, now it was finally time for me to give into my nature: