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9 7

Fair Warning: this is a long post. And I will post it here and in Mental health Support, since it covers both topics.

I have come to a realization over the last few days, and it is both a relief and a cause of sorrow. A few days ago I went to lunch with a friend, and (I don't know how we got to this topic) she asked me why I was so focused on finding a relationship, when it's obviously something that I haven't been able to obtain.

All my life (I'm 64 now), I have watched friends get married, and at first my question was, "When will I find that?" Then, as time passed, the question became, "Why can't I find that?" Marriage has always represented the ultimate stamp of approval to me, the idea that someone would pick ME out of the multitudes and choose to spend his life with me. It also represents the idea that you have someone to share your life with, someone who cares for you and who you care for. The world is made for couples and families, and single folks, in my view, are just stuck in awkward corners and squeezed in at the end of the table on holidays.

But lately I have been wondering if there is something wrong with me, something lacking in MY emotional makeup (or lack thereof) that other people have. I hear people talk about how close they are to their parents or siblings, and I am just bewildered. I can’t relate to that idea at all. Maybe I am emotionally blunted or limited in some way; I read online about something called “adult reactive attachment disorder” (ARAD) that describes some of my characteristics:

“Reactive attachment disorder in adults can mean poor adjustment in many areas of life. RAD also causes low self-esteem and sense of self-efficacy; the lack of support and attachment from birth results in adults who don’t believe in themselves and their ability to live well. This is especially true for those who haven't received treatment for reactive attachment disorder.” (Website is [healthyplace.com]

(I never had a great relationship with my mother, and have recently been told by two of my aunts that my mom didn’t want to BE a mom, which explains a lot.)

My friend's question crystallized for me the realization that I may not have what it takes to be part of a successful relationship; and I am (sort of) relieved that I don’t have to keep chasing after something I can’t get, and can stop beating myself up because I haven’t found it. However, it also means giving up a deeply cherished goal, but maybe finding something else that will fill that void. What that will be, I don’t know yet. Maybe it should be my New Year’s resolution to find it.

citronella 7 Dec 23
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9 comments

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0

If you're at all unfamiliar with attachment theory I would recommend this book. It was really eye opening to me and takes a positive approach when discussing each attachment style.

Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help YouFind - and Keep - Love [amazon.com]

Sacrilege Level 6 July 27, 2019
0

Hmm, I found your post quite interesting. One thing I would suggest is not to take your self diagnosis too seriously. I also occasionally fall into that trap and have to remind myself that such diagnoses should be done by people with the relevant qualifications.

Meanwhile, are you sure you want a relationship? I certainly understand how society generally promotes relationships as the ideal and that being single can feel like one is defective in some way. But having experienced both states, I can honestly say the grass isn't necessarily greener on the other side. Many people in relationships find themselves lacking time alone, unable or not allowed to pursue hobbies, having to sacrifice major life goals as a compromise to benefit the relationship, and the biggest one of all, feeling insecure on their own and afraid of being alone.

As I see it, being in a relationship has pros and cons just like being single has pros and cons. Neither situation is perfect. It's a matter of choosing the poison you can tolerate best I guess. You also rightly pointed out that seeking a relationship and not finding one is often more painful than choosing not to look. I think it's the difference between feeling like you need something else to be complete vs feeling like you have all you need right now to be happy. Perhaps the approval you really need right now is your own.

One thing that really helps me is to focus on what I have and what I'm thankful for, not on things I lack. Hope you do find peace with yourself, whichever path you take.

1

I understand where you're coming from. Your post resonates with me. I've wondered if I don't have reactive attachment disorder at times and need to do more research on it to see if it really 'fits' me. Not that it's something one necessarily wants to fit, but as you write, once understood, it can alleviate some of the pressures we often feel about "having to" achieve a relationship.

The woman who raised me, my adoptive mother, had untreated borderline personality disorder, which has symptoms that are very similar to narcissistic disorder and is often misdiagnosed as ND. Her untreated disorder, as well as other personal issues, created a very dysfunctional, toxic homelife. I know my issues with my mother and dysfunctional family helped create the adult I've become, including some of the issues I carry with me.

However, I don't blame all my relationship issues on me and my dysfunctional family. Our culture has a lot to do with pushing the issue that everyone must be partnered, that the main purpose in everyone's life - especially women - is to find a partner, have children; that women aren't really "fulfilling their purpose" if they're not partnered with children. Which is a ridiculous standard and devalues everything women have to offer. Our government supports this, too - giving bigger tax breaks to married and partnered people with children. There's very little support for single, child-free people in our culture, in our government. I've spent years advocating online for single person's rights, for remaining happily child-free. I don't see my choices as negatives, at least not 100% of the time.

I've come to a point in my life where I realize I'd like to have a relationship, but it isn't a need for me. I don't need to have a relationship in order to be fulfilled. It's something I'd like for myself, something I want, but I also know that I can get by without one. I have for many years. I've had long-term relationships in the past; my longest one lasted 5 years and ended in 1998. Since then, I've had other long term relationships, lasting from a year to 3 years at the most. My last relationship ended in 2010. Since then, I've pretty much given up on finding a long-term relationship. I used to spend much more time on dating websites; now I feel like it's a waste of time.

That said, though, there are still days when the loneliness really tugs at me and I wonder if I shouldn't attempt to date again. That's when I start thinking about reactive attachment disorder and wondering if it's not getting in my way.

2

I wish the people on this site were not all so scattered! I feel we could be friends. Although I have been married twice - one bad, one good - I am looking forward to spending my last years on my own. That may sound harsh, but some of us are just not cut out for close relationships. We can be good friends but we find it difficult to break down those final barriers. Would it be helpful to examine whether you have been chasing this close relationship because you yourself really wanted it, or because it is what society expects us to want? I know several single women who accept that is what they are meant to be and have fulfilling lives. Concentrate on what you do best and I think the void will fill itself.

CeliaVL Level 7 Dec 24, 2018
1

If you think you have some sort of mental disorder maybe you should consult a mental health professional of some sort. You never know, you might learn something interesting. I know what you mean about being single in a double world. I was part of a couple for many years. Probably a little smug with it until one day, "I don't love you anymore" and my world fell in.

Booklover Level 7 Dec 23, 2018

I can't imagine how anyone can successfully navigate that situation. Talk about having the whole rug of your life yanked out from under you...

@citronella yep after 35 years.

2

It can be difficult not having a mate. But I just remind myself that being mate-less is far preferable to being in a bad relationship. I am a bit envious of friends who are happily partnered. I am NOT envious of friends who are staying in bad marriages.

SKH78 Level 8 Dec 23, 2018

Exactly!

1

I've read the Mayo Clinic entry on Reactive Attachment Disorder and I don't think it applies to either of us. RAD seems to affect development during infancy. If you were suffering from RAD you probably wouldn't miss intimacy or seek it out.

Anyway, having a name for a disorder doesn't make more real or less real.

Here's what mine is like. I've never been attractive in any way. Nobody has ever sought my attention. If that has happened I never observed it.

When I was younger I was lucky enough to have some relationships that I would girlfriends. I always knew what i saw in them, and I NEVER knew what they saw in me. I was always suspicious of their intentions, and the relationships were always unstable. Anyway, I enjoyed the attention and intimacy as long as it was there - expecting it could evaporate at any moment, and it always did. Whatever brought that luck to me: I never knew what it was, but I was glad it was there.

Well it's not there anymore.

And that is what prompted me to give my 2¢.

BitFlipper Level 8 Dec 23, 2018

You are not unattractive, don't think that. You are a regular Joe kinda guy, the sort of guy that there are a lot more of than Cary Grants. Lol. You have a very sweet smile and I bet your eyes have a twinkle. I would think that expecting relationships to evaporate is a selfullfiling expectation. And nope, I'm not a cheerful Pollyanna.

There is an adult manifestation of ARD, and I have some of those symptoms. I was very premature when I was born, and spent 6 weeks in an incubator, presumably with limited physical or emotional stimulation. My mom spent a week or more in bed.when I DID get out of the hospital, and someone else had to come in to care for me. That plus limited emotional responsiveness from my mom makes ARD a possibility I should explore.

@citronella the plot thickens

1

Your experience is a lot like mine. For quite a while now, I've been wondering what qualities I'm lacking - qualities that are apparently common - that make me invisible to members of the opposite sex.

Thanks for speaking up. You've inspired me to speak too. I'll reflect, and write more later.

BitFlipper Level 8 Dec 23, 2018
2

I doubt I'm qualified to offer advice, but let me offer a quote by someone named unknown.
'Once you stop chasing the wrong things, the right ones catch you.'

MojoDave Level 9 Dec 23, 2018
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