on anxious attachment

I have been working on getting better acquainted with my madness--with the things that make me difficult to love. I've always imagined myself to be the kind of person in touch with her own psychological knots, but some of the tanglier ones have been getting the better of me over the past few months that I've been seeing Kenny. (And yes, there you go. For strangers that didn't have a name, there's the name. For familiars who've been wondering if it really is him--it really is him.)


In a nutshell: if you've heard of attachment theory (or even if you haven't, because the phrase is self-explanatory), my attachment style is "anxious". I am perpetually anxious about my relationship, except for the time when I am in my boyfriend's company. Perpetually wanting more. It's exhausting. I exhaust myself. Kenny claims not be exhausted; he is unfailingly good natured and patient when my insecurities rumble up. (I once told him I'm a black hole of need and he said, "Babe. I will throw anything you need into that black hole. Just tell me what you need.) But of course he'd prefer I feel safe and secure in his love even when he's not right next to me to express it.


The other day I told him: Dating you is like going through all four seasons in a week.

Explain, he said. But I didn't need to.


Lately we only see one another on the weekends, because neither of us really has the time or capacity for anything more. And the time we do spend together is just fantastic. So fantastic, in fact, that I crave more, immediately, the minute we say goodbye. But we're both busy during the week, long hours, early mornings, late nights, friends, our own hobbies and projects, etc etc, and often our communication gets a little sparse. A few calls, text check-ins. maybe a photo or two. The summery sense of being with him, sunlight on my soul, quickly cools. Then it gets downright cold. In those very wintery moments it's hard to remember that everything is perfectly fine, that the distance between us is temporary and, honestly, probably healthy. Fires need oxygen to burn.


When we are together, he absolutely showers me with physical affection and expressions of care. Anyone watching from the outside would call me a lunatic to feel insecure. The love he shows is so pure and true and fearless it's nothing short of wondrous in the cynical, self-interested world of dating. It just pours out of him with electric light and energy. He never lets me get more than a few feet away without pulling me back, touching me again, calling me to him where he lays. Twelve or more hours of this I get. But then a few days go by and I start to question if he still feels the same. My brain splits in two, one half reminding me that I go through this cycle with him again and again, the other whispering, maliciously, but what if this time it's different?

So here's an example of my anxious attachment manifesting.

Yesterday when I got to his place, he was waiting for me on the corner as usual. I climbed out of the Uber and he pulled me into his arms, and his grin and the way he held me was the summer I'd been waiting for. My fears melted away instantly. Just like that. He walked me inside, his arm tight around my shoulder, to where he had a surprise waiting. A kids' board game he had swiped, unused and never opened, from a friend's house (who doesn't have a kid, and didn't know where the game had come from). "I dusted it off like Jumanji," he said excitedly. "I thought it would be fun."


We dumped a box full of colorful plastic pieces onto the floor and set about constructing the game: a tree with a magnetized top on which players hang little monkeys one by one until the magnet gives and everything falls to the crocodile pit below. Ridiculous. So silly. Designed for toddlers. And in the hands of my adult boyfriend wishing to make me laugh, utterly delightful.


When we discovered that the tree canopy attaches by way of magnets, Kenny absolutely lost it. Magnets are in-joke with us; we're both mildly obsessed with them. I use them as much as possible at home and in my office at work; he uses them in creative projects. Also, when we realized how perfectly sized our bodies are to one another, we decided that coming together feels like the click of magnets. Magnets are our thing. "Wait...it's magnetized??" He broke into a huge smile, shaking his head at me in amazement, kissing me meaningfully. It was a gorgeous moment of acknowledging something special between us.


All this to say, he was in high spirits. But for me, something was off. I hadn't seen him since Sunday morning and we'd barely talked all week. I'd had another hugely stressful work week; I knew he had, too. He'd gotten some new recording equipment a few days ago, and I hadn't heard much about what he'd done with it. On Friday I'm leaving for Washington, for Group Therapy Weekender; we hadn't really talked about my trip. I just felt like we had all this stuff to catch up on and reconnect over, but here we were playing a board game instead of talking and holding one another.


I know. I told you. Black hole of need.


So I lost it a little bit. Got quiet and sulky and unsure how to express my needs, but immediately Kenny picked up on my mood and asked what was wrong. We moved to the bed and I leaned close against him to confess the tangle of my thoughts. I hadn't seen him all week, I complained. I wanted to talk. I wanted to talk more, period, whenever we're together. I wanted to turn the TV off. I wanted to hear him, not a movie running in the background. I wanted to sit across from him and get to know him more. I want, I want, I want.


"I just think it would be nice to just lay together and catch up a little bit before jumping into an activity," I said.


My sweet, loving boyfriend did not really know what to make of me in that moment. Here he was trying to do something fun and thoughtful and there I was characterizing it is "an activity" he had thrust upon me. A discussion ensued (I won't call it an argument) in which I yet again laid out my insecurities like the world's shittiest hand of Tarot cards that he picked up, to calmly address and dispense with one by one.


At some point he said, "I'm not going to argue with you about how I feel." I didn't know what that meant, so he tried to explain. "What I mean is that I love and care for you so much--"


"I'm not arguing with you about that," I protested.


"You are subconsciously," he said. And that shut me up. Because he's right. That's exactly what I'm doing.


The talk went on, as lovers' talks to, until my fears were soothed and his frustrations validated. There was no yelling. We never stopped touching one another. He looked right at me when he said the things I needed to hear. And then we went on to have incredible sex, incredible Thai food, and sleep incredibly peacefully all night.


And now I have five days with which to prepare to do it all over again.