A connection is the energy that exists between two people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.
There is nothing like a relationship to bring out the best in us. And nothing like a relationship to start us thinking things like; what is wrong with me, will anyone ever love me, will I ever love someone again, no one will want me, I am too old, ugly, fat, thin, pigeoned toed, red headed........ Or why does everyone around me feel clingy and overwhelming, why won't people just leave me alone, if only I could be independent and in a relationship.
Relationship difficulties are painful and all consuming, and are not limited to intimate partners; friend, family, and coworker relationships can also wreak havoc on our day to day lives. You might feel like you are on a roller coaster-one day is perfect, the next awful and back up and down again and again. You may fear being rejected if people really knew you, or feel that you are responsible for making sure your entire family is always happy.
You might love the beginning of a new relationship and often think, 'finally, this is the ONE', only to quickly lose interest as the relationship grows closer. Maybe you often feel uncomfortable with too much closeness and keep people at arms length. You want to be close with people but are afraid they might threaten your autonomy and independence and keep you from achieving your goals.
Attachment styles can help explain common patterns in relationships. An anxious attachment is sometimes referred to as codependency and avoidant attachment is often referred to as independent and aloof. Often we also think of codependency as effecting primary women and avoidant attachment as effecting men. But the truth is that while there are gender tendencies, there are also plenty of female identified people who identify as avoidant and vice versa. The good news is that there is help for both! By understanding how you interact with others you can develop ways to find suitable partners, improve family relationships, and improve success at work.
Signs of Codependency / Anxious Attachment
Low Self-Esteem, Self-Worth: You don't feel good enough, you often compare yourself to others, you have feelings of shame and guilt and you value to opinions of others over your own thoughts and feelings.
People Pleasing: Saying no causes anxiety and you often sacrifice your own needs to accommodate the needs of others. You may freak out if you think you have made a 'mistake' and obsess about how others feel about you.
Poor Boundaries: The guidelines, rules and limits to identify safe, permissible ways for others to treat us are personal boundaries. If your boundaries are blurry or non existent you often let people treat you poorly and you feel responsible for everyone else's feelings.
Difficulty with Decisions: It is hard for you to make a decision and you often allow others to make decisions for you, or just go along with what everyone else wants regardless of your own wants and needs.
Dependency: You need other people to like you in order to feel ok about yourself. You are afraid of being rejected, abandoned and unloved. If you are single too long you feel depressed and hopeless.
Painful Emotions: Codependency can cause a great deal of extra stress which leads to painful feelings like shame, anxiety, depression, anger, feeling resentful, hopeless and even numb.
Signs of Avoidant Attachment
I Want to be Alone: You feel that your independence is more important to you than a relationship, yet you still desire a intimate relationship, and are confused about how you can do both.
Self Sufficient: You feels completely self sufficient and have a hard time understanding why everyone else can't be that way too.
Avoid Sharing Feelings: Talking about feelings seems pointless and way too intimate. You can take care of your own emotions and expect others to be able to do the same.
Impossible Relationships: You may be attracted to relationships with married people, long distance relationships, or other other people who are unavailable.
Finding Flaws: You are an expert at finding flaws in plans, situations and people. Even when things are going well you are always able to identify what is wrong with your partner and come up with reasons not to committ.
The Perfect Partner: Whether it is an ex that you can't stop thinking about or the 'one' that is just around the corner, idealizing a 'perfect' relationship keeps you from fully engaging in the present.
Therapy for Codependency and Avoidant Attachment
It's not your fault. It is not your fault if you find yourself in the anxious or avoidant camp and you are not broken or damaged. You did not consciously choose these ways of being in the world. Our attachment styles come from a combination of genetics and the environment that we grew up in. So yes, you can blame your parents. But the bad news is that you are the only one that can change your path. The good news is that it is completely possible to have successful, joyful, satisfying relationships even if you identify as anxious or avoidant (the other type is secure attachment, but you probably wouldn't be here if secure was your type!).
In therapy we will delve into your past so that you can understand where your tendencies come from, process trauma and difficult experiences and work to become more self aware of your feelings and emotions. We will explore your behavior and develop goals for how you would like your life to look like. If you are single and looking for a relationship we will focus on smart dating practices and tools for attracting and choosing a mate that compliments your style. If you are currently in a relationship we will explore how your needs and wants are or are not being met, figure out what are attachment issues and what are relationships issues and work to resolve them.
Therapy often involves focusing on self worth, self compassion and boundaries. Because you have spent your entire life with these coping and defense mechanisms therapy can often take 1-2 years to fully change your life. However there are strategies that begin to work right away to improve your mood and start bringing more of what you want into your life.
Professional Counseling in Lake Oswego, SW Portland, Beaverton, Tigard & Greater Portland