Q: My girlfriend messages me all day long and gets very upset if I don’t reply immediately. She says that I am too busy for her and that I don’t love her as much as she does. I do love her but what she does irritates me too much. I feel like responding even less than what I already do. What should I do?
Ans: Your girlfriend is displaying an anxious attachment pattern and you are responding with an avoidant one. You both have learned these attachment styles from your caretakers while bonding with them. As kids you have also developed certain strategies to ensure you received enough attention and care as well as enough independence to explore the world.
You both are using these in your current relationship to reach out for connection and fulfil the need for autonomy. Your girlfriend is more aligned with the need for bonding and your behaviour makes her feel insecure. You will have to reassure her, not 100 times over messages, but maybe over a couple of messages a day and through a serious conversation.
The messages need to directly address her insecurity and not what she might be asking you at that particular moment. Use variations of a direct “I love you more each day” twice a day and she will surely reduce her messaging. Her attachment anxiety pre-exists and it’s not going to disappear by magic.
You just have to find a middle path that addresses the core of her insecurities. You will also have to educate her compassionately about your attachment avoidance style. She will need to understand how to approach you and ask for your attention. You will not respond well to blame, too much intimacy, intrusion, and control. Not because you don’t love her, but because you are more aligned with your need for autonomy.
Speak to her about how important it is for you to have independent activities, space, and even time apart from each other. Understanding each other’s attachment styles will help you defuse conflict and create more connection.
The writer is an Intimacy & Relationship Coach, Founder of The Intimacy Curator, an organisation promoting self-discovery through emotional and sexual wellbeing (www.theintimacycurator.com). (Have a query? Send it on email@example.com)