Are You An Attachment Dater?
There's being a caring and supportive partner, and then there's being weird and acting like his mum. Yikes!
Got a pal or two with a child? Bingo – then you’ll know what attachment parenting is. Just in case you still live in Victorian times, here’s the condensed drill.
Attachment parenting’s the philosophy that spending as much time as possible with your young child, including feeding on demand and sleeping together, promotes the best psychological health for said infant.
Brilliant for babies, but taking the same approach with your significant other’s probably not quite so healthy. But there’s an emerging trend where young successful and ambitious women are assuming the mantle of the Irish Mammy when it comes to their relationships.
Think of every fabulous woman you know with a deadbeat partner. The driftwood comes in all shapes – a creative with non-existant output, or the guy who manages to find money for gym membership but can’t squirrel away some savings for a weekend break. Women are dragged down and preoccupied with the lives of their partners, coddling and defending their every fuck-up.
Chloe*, 27, says it’s worrying to see women she knows going the (all too) extra mile. “I’ve one friend who writes her sporadically employed boyfriend’s job applications and another who carries her partner’s meds. He was ringing her incessantly one night when we were hanging, showed up at the restaurant and I witnessed the exchange. I think she offered to carry them as she’s a handbag and he doesn’t. He was on a night out with the lads. I guess it would’ve been awkward to carry his own actual medicine in his coat pocket?”
It makes Chloe uncomfortable to be around couples like that, “I feel like I’m witnessing the beginning of something that’s going to become deeply problematic.” It’s affected her own relationship. “I earn more than my boyfriend and I like nice things. In the past I’ve paid for dinners and gig tickets, but now I’m not offering to cover these as much. I don’t want him to think it’s okay to treat me like his carer or ATM.”
Karolina Jurasik’s a psychologist with mymind.org and when asked about these kind of relationship dynamics, she’s thoughtful, as opposed to pointing us straight to the Dump Him, OMG Right Now club.
Women should look to their backgrounds to explain why they’re assuming this role. “It’s quite likely if your mother had that kind of role towards your father, it’s familiar and comes naturally. It’s easier,” she points out. Another possible reason? The pressure to do it all. “Women now want to do everything perfectly. That can cause anxiety,” Karolina says.
The money drama when a woman earns more than a man is another tangled knot, because as Karolina observes, “society is relatively new at this.” If you’re building a life together and covering costs like a baby or house, and “consenting and talking about money,” that’s mature. “If you feel like you’re not getting enough back, that’s where the frustration comes in,” she stresses.
Sounding familiar? More attachment dating flags are things like the need to check in on your partner all the time, or the desire to try and change them, then you’re clearly frustrated and should talk it over. Explain what you’re feeling. “I think it’s important to talk about the mechanism, instead of fault or blame,” Karolina cautions. If that conversation goes okay, then, “become a little more independent,” she counsels. Sharing responsibilities will also help shift embedded behaviours. One small step? Start divvying up meals – both at home and out – when it comes to prepping or costs.
Sometimes overbearing behaviour is just misdirected affection, or a grasp for control when stressed. Other times it’s an alarm , not a drill, you should heed before you lose yourself, and the person your partner has the potential to be. Mostly, remember love shouldn’t be a chore.
Three tests to help you relationship healthily.
Skip date night
Put aside diary time where you don’t see your lover. And vice versa. Meet a sibling for dinner and cinema, or commit to a weekend break with a pal. Be clear communication will be minimal during this time.
Don’t talk about money
If you’ve become your partner’s financial adviser and covered some of their costs, take a step back. Money is murky and can strangle a power dynamic beyond repair. 50/50 everything for a while. Ban “I’ll get this…” from your lexicon – it might teach them to grow up.
Take a break
There’s a great Nora Ephron quote, “Never marry a man you wouldn’t want to be divorced from.” The gist of this is to choose a partner who isn’t demanding and potentially draining. Deciding to give yourselves a breather to see if you’re happier without can help refocus and means any reunion is thoughtful.
This article originally appeared in the July issue of the mag. Our September issue is on shelves now!
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