The Aerial Dance Book Club “Smart Is Sexy” reads books with a focus on self growth. Topics have been from body image to dollars and every other area of life. But does reading these books actually change you?
On this Valentine’s Day, let me tell you a little story about relationships. My entire life, dating has felt like this crazy rollercoaster. Where I feel happy one moment and wonder why he isn’t calling the next. To me, love was the highs and the lows made the highs mean more. In my last long term relationship I remember being so miserable so many time in lows but worse, there were so many times that I would step outside my body and see my actions or comments or reactions and think “who the hell is she!?!?!” Relationships made me feel like I lost control of my sense of self and I hated it.
I went on a quest to learn why. I’m a smart woman. I am a confident woman. I know what I have to offer and I know what I am looking for. So why do I constantly find myself worrying if some dude who I don’t even really like is going to call me?!?!?! And worse, why when I do like him, does he make me literally crazy?!?!?!
Enter book club book “Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find – and Keep – Love” by Amir Levine & Rachel Heller.
I read this book the first time and thought my last relationship couldn’t have been described better as the “anxious – avoidant” trap. Every scenario they described from this unhealthy combination I had lived, down to how he always walked a few steps in front of me! I was gobsmacked. Suddenly, I wasn’t crazy and incapable of being in a relationship, I had an anxious attachment style that when activated was super unhelpful. Turns out avoidant men were ALL I had ever dated. Avoidant men was all I knew and they were a drug to me with so many highs and lows and like a drug, totally destructive.
After rereading the book, I did a deep dive into what my triggers were, my most common protest behaviors and warning signs that I was meeting someone avoidant.
So I went back to the dating world after book club and said if I see any of the avoidant qualities, I’m out. Every time I came across one I firmly reminded myself I’m clean these days and don’t need that beautiful drug ride again. So step one was awesome. No more rollercoaster. But since I’m 40 (how did that happen!!???!) most of the men in the pool left to me to meet are avoidant or anxious because the magical unicorn secure people are in a freaking relationship.
Then I meet new guy. Recently divorced (so capable of commiting and being in a long term relationship, aka likely not avoidant!) First time we went out he was nice but I didn’t feel the crazy pull of “oh my god, I am getting high from my favorite drug”. After second date, again, I had a great time, loved the adventure we went on together, laughed a ton, but I called my friend (also in book club) and said, I don’t know if I should go out with him again. “We have amazing conversation and so much fun together, but I just don’t feel the butterflies or spark.” She was all “Paula, you are having a great time and yet you wonder if you should see him again!?!?!? Please go back and read what happens to an anxious person when they meet a secure.” So I did. (Thanks Amber!) And every damn thing the damn book said about this new combination was what I was feeling. He is secure, I am anxious, and that makes the entire connection between us feel different, I’m not triggered and riding a high. So more dates ensued. And now I’m in a relationship for the first time in my life with someone secure.
And it is TOTALLY different. I don’t feel crazy. I am actually my full self. When I do have anxious moments they last a short amount of time because he doesn’t throw gasoline on it. He read the book too, at my request (oh be still my heart, a man who reads!), and actively makes choices to not trigger my anxious attachment. Something simple, like making sure I always know when our next date will be before concluding our current date makes such an amazing difference to my sanity.
It’s new, so a lot can still happen or not match between us but I’m beyond grateful I met him because he is proof that secure magical unicorns do exist and sometimes show up in the dating pool. For the first time in my life a relationship isn’t triggering me and it is a whole new level of awesome. Reading the book brought me this: I learned about the different attachment styles, figured out mine, changed how I was trying to date, and it has truly changed my life. So read the book! Learn about yourself and then apply what you learn to find a new level of happy.