Mindful Dating III

The dynamics we have with our primary caregivers when we are young have a tremendous influence on our dating choices later in life. 

In all of my workshops I teach a section on Attachment Theory. John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth theorized that people develop either secure or insecure attachment styles very early in life. Many people in our culture exhibit one of three types of insecure attachment styles:

1. Fearful/avoidant
2. Anxious
3. Disorganized

We must be cognizant of the dynamics that we have with each of our parents because those manifest later as attachment styles. For example, if our fathers or mothers were aloof and emotionally withholding, we should not be surprised if we are attracted to partners who turn out to be aloof and withholding.

There is a part of us that becomes what we loved and admired as children, and there is a part of us that becomes what we hated and despised as children.

Specifically, I have found that the wounded child in all of us feels betrayed because all he or she wanted was to be loved UNCONDITIONALLY and grew up in a society that primarily provided tools to gain love CONDITIONALLY – because we received good grades, behaved correctly, looked good, were good athletes, spoke well, earned money, were talented, etc.  This creates much resentment because even as children felt as if we were constantly “seducing” people into liking us. However the tools we learned to use to seduce people into liking us often are not the right tools for procuring the type of love that our hearts really yearn for later in life – they are more apt for procuring admiration.

Let me ask you: would you rather be admired or loved?

In an effort to individuate, sometimes we date people who are the exact opposite of one of our parents. Rebellion is an essential part of the individuation process – but it can also be inauthentic if it is only moving away from something rather than also moving towards something. 

I believe that babies individuate the first time they see themselves in a mirror (as a “self” distinct from their mothers), then again when they go to pre-school or school for the first time but are still living in their parents’ homes; then again when if they go off to college away from home but have their parents still paying to support them; then again when they live away from their parents and learn how to support themselves as adults.  There is a tension between having to obey and depend on your parents and wanting to be your own person.  Note the spate of young people in the last 35-40 years who got tattoos early in life; this is a subconscious declaration, “I own my body and nobody can tell me what to do with it anymore (even if you’re still paying my rent).” 

We are living in fascinatingly complex and often confusing times regarding gender roles, the ways we expect men and women to act.  We all agree that women should be paid equal salaries as men, yet many women still think that men should pay for meals as subconscious symbols of being providers and protectors.  There is a tension between wanting to be independent and wanting to be taken care of.

We have lived in a society that objectified women as sexy secretaries, waitresses, librarians, bank-tellers, store-clerks, nurses, etc. That archetype of the damsel in distress needing to be “saved” or taken care of – thankfully! – is dying.  But how do we move into the next paradigm of compassion, respect, equality and love?

One way is through conscious loving and authentic communications.  This is when we are mindfully aware of our wounds and how we learned to compensate for them as children. Usually there is some level of inauthenticity regarding these “assets.”  We must be aware of how we learned to seduce people into liking our “false selves” or personas and be brave enough to be authentic and vulnerable (which can be quite scary). And the first thing you need is a loving non-judgmental relationship with someone who is empathetic, loving and accepting of the whole you, not just the glitzy exteriors that we tend to choose to show the world – particularly the way we present our lives on the Internet.
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