I keep feeling this sense of unease, and I’ve been judging myself for it. Anxious attachment, I notice when Kevin* pulls away slightly in bed and I grow distraught. Or when he isn’t holding my hand quite as much as I think he did last week. Or when I think he’s giving me just a little less eye contact than I’m accustomed to. There’s nothing wrong, I think. This man communicates clearly; I must be imagining things, I’m just exceptionally reactive. I feel defective. I feel ashamed. I feel much too needy and it scares the hell out of me. I don’t mention it to Kevin*.
When I see Lisa, my therapist, we prepare for EMDR to process the old attachment trauma giving these feelings their ferocity. I recount years and years of incredibly shitty memories–they add up to a pervasive feeling throughout my life of being unseen, unloved, too needy–and terribly, frighteningly alone. When I leave I’m unusually shaken. I feel raw, like I’ve just ripped the dressing off a deep gash and now I’m not sure that it will ever heal. It feels terminal, maybe, and it’s ugly and terrifying. I can’t imagine how anybody else might tolerate it so I go sit alone and wait. Kevin* will come join me here eventually. I’m going to need to talk to him and I don’t know how and I’m scared, so I cry and cry, curled in a fetal position until I get tired and pass out.
I try to talk to Kevin* about it but I can’t really find the words, can’t quite think straight, don’t know what parts are important to tell him. He holds me and I feel relief, but I still can’t seem to have a meaningful conversation and I feel confused.
On Saturday morning I spend the entirety of a 90 minute run ruminating. Why am I struggling so much with this conversation? I relentlessly examine possibilities of what to say–and it feels familiar. Something I’ve done during disagreements with my abuser, and the ex before that, and before that, and also during childhood when I wanted to be able to say something to a family member but didn’t trust that I was safe. That I’d be cared for, listened to, not pushed away. So I had this twisted conversation with myself where I tried to single-handedly solve a complex relational issue, because after all it was all on me.
I know that isn’t a way to have a healthy relationship. I also have not experienced any other way, so I’m scared; of my failure to communicate and the hollow ache that comes with not being understood. Mostly, I realize I’m terribly afraid of the possibility that I may be wired to repeat that past pain with my current partner, who I adore. I am aware of the irony that he can’t understand what I do not communicate–that as long as I can’t explain what’s wrong, he won’t understand. Then I’m gripped with feelings of inadequacy. For all my intelligence and all the work I’ve done–I can’t turn off my limbic brain in its perverse hijacking. I keep remembering that a newly happily married friend is in therapy with her partner. The thought strikes me with insistence.
I don’t discuss it with Kevin*. I need him to understand, and I don’t know how to tell him.
*Not his real name because scary ex.