Managing Attachment Styles in the Early Stages of Dating
When you start dating someone new, certain roadblocks are hard to avoid. Maybe it’s going well, so you start to project into the future and forget to be present. Or, perhaps you’ve been burned before so you’re worried about getting too close too fast and therefore put up a wall. These issues come down to different approaches to attachment and striking a balance in how you see your budding partnership can be a challenge.
There are three main styles of attachment identified in adults: secure, anxious-preoccupied and dismissive-avoidant. If you have a secure type of attachment, you hold a positive self-image and image of others and feel confident your partner will be there for you when you need support. Those with an anxious-preoccupied style of attachment may hold a negative self-image but a positive image of others and are overly concerned or obsessive about the unpredictability of a relationship. If you’re in the dismissive-avoidant category, you likely have a positive self-image, but a negative view of others and may be quick to avoid intimacy by putting up emotional walls.
While it may be difficult to change your style of attachment—as researchers theorize we learn these behaviors from childhood—knowing how your actions are motivated by these attachment styles can help give your relationship the best possible chance at survival...or at least give you a chance of having more fun while dating.
Be present, don't project
In the early stages of dating, if there’s a connection and things are going well, it may be tempting to postulate where the relationship is going. You may start to imagine a future with this person, going on trips or planning dream dates. However, the key to establishing a secure attachment style is to be as present as possible in this newfound relationship and not set your sights on the future.
Focus on the now with this person, rather than on where it’s going. Don’t get caught up in what could be, but consider how this person makes you feel right now and how you make them feel. Doing this will help you maintain realistic expectations for this person and the relationship and save you from getting too far ahead of yourself.
Give it time
We’ve all heard of feeling a spark or initial burst of attraction in dating that is supposed to be an indication of how romantically inclined you are to another person, but what if the spark isn’t there? If you have a dismissive-avoidant style of attachment, you may be reluctant to feel a connection with this new person, even if you get along well and you’re attracted to them in other aspects.
Don’t put too much stock in an initial gut feeling or instant romantic connection with this other person. Emotional intimacy may take longer for you or even for them. Rather than putting a full-stop on a relationship due to gauging the potential after a date or two, give it time to see how it develops.
Strive for balance
While it may seem easier said than done, recognizing how your attachment style manifests in behaviors when you’re starting to date can be half the battle. Once you’ve started to catch on to your habits, you can make an effort to work towards having a secure form of attachment. So, you’ll be comfortable with who you are and willing to bring a new person in to your life, but also not be too devastated if they leave.