It has finally occurred to me that I really need to get some romance in my life. How can it be that I spend a Saturday night watching Statham and Stallone blowing shit up, just because? This is just depressing, I need to get out and find myself some semblance of a dating life. Scratch that, I am looking for romance. I want to be wooed. That’s right, I, (not) Alex, would like to be wooed. I’m talking roses and chocolate, candlelight dinners and long walks in the park, the whole shebang, dammit! Cue awkward silence… Ah hell. Who am I kidding? The odds of my finding romance are only slightly higher than Dida becoming my Finance Minister, and even then, only marginally. I fear that at my ripe old age, I have officially missed the romance bus. At my age, a romantic evening is one spent at home drinking cheap red out of a tumbler, watching strange men shoot each other, with not a (real) man in sight, not even a bloody tablecloth. How sad is that?
But all is not lost, what am I if not resourceful? This is simply yet another hurdle that has to be overcome in my seemingly tragic love life.
With that in mind, I went off in search of tips to get my romance groove back. I should have stuck with the sweaty men onscreen…just once I would love to go to google and get exactly what I asked for. Just once. I typed in, ‘how to find romance’ and what I got was ‘what is your romance style’. What the… Since when did romance have different styles? Of course when you ask yourself that question, the only option left is to click on the damn link and find out what nonsense they’re selling you, no? No, it only got worse. Long story short, I ended up at romantic attachment, because romance is apparently an expression of your feelings for someone, feelings that are factor of your attachment to said someone, which in turn is linked to whether or not your mother hugged you when you were a baby. That’s right, the reason you struggle to find love is because your ma and pa didn’t kiss you three times a day. Stop laughing, that’s what these geniuses are saying. Really. Okay fine, I’ve over-simplified, but to clarify I need to get all scientific on your behinds, are you willing to go down this rabbit hole with me? Insert evil laughter here…
First up, we must define romance, just so we’re all on the same page. According to Wikipedia, “Romance is the expressive and pleasurable feeling from an emotional attraction towards another person associated with love. In the context of romantic love relationships, romance usually implies an expression of one’s strong romantic love, or one’s deep and strong emotional desires to connect with another person intimately or romantically.” Based on this definition, it would therefore stand to reason that romance is not a singular activity. Put differently, when you say you’re looking for romance, what you mean is you’re looking for someone to romance you (or with?). And that is where the problems start, for most of us at least. See, we don’t all have the same idea as to what constitutes romance, do we? I think romance is a well cooked meal, preferably cooked by someone other than myself. Another woman thinks romance is a holiday at the coast, sitting on the beach drinking Pine Coladas at sunset. A man thinks romance is driving a very fast car, with (real) leather bucket seats, on a perfectly smooth road, winding down a mountain, with or without a pretty girl in the passenger seat. It’s all relative, no? Not so much, as it turns out.
It would appear that your definition of romance is directly linked to your personality and how you form attachments, basically how you connect. To wit, there are four attachment styles: secure, anxious/preoccupied, dismissive-avoidant and fearful-avoidant. I’ll save you the long explanation about how you came to be this way, thanks to your childhood and your ‘caregivers’ (if you feel so inclined, read up, Attachment in adults, but I must warn you, it’s not an easy read, at all). Thankfully, in yet another example of the wonders of the internet, The Truth About Deception offers a much simpler interpretation of attachment theory (go figure), complete with handy examples. Simply put, the different styles are based on your need for and comfort with intimacy.
Secure refers to those of us who are comfortable depending on someone and having someone depending on them; they’re happy in or out of a relationship; they’re happy as part of a couple, but also happy to be by themselves some of the time. These are the stable buggers we love to hate, and I’m going to go out on a limb and state that most of us here today do not fall in this category, if we did we wouldn’t be here, now would we? Stop frowning, turns out that may not be such a bad thing. Anxious or preoccupied are the obsessive buggers who spend all their time analyzing their relationships, constantly looking for reassurance, never quite satisfied with what they have, craving intimacy like junkies crave smack. Sound familiar? No, not me, you. Again I ask, why are you here? Don’t worry, the next bunch are worse off. Dismissive are the exact opposite of anxious, they’re uncomfortable with intimacy, they don’t trust people, are fiercely independent and avoid depending on others, or having others depend on them. They’re cynical and often “display negative feelings and hostility toward their loved ones”. See what I mean about worse? I have a sneaky suspicion this might be where I fall, when I’m not all secure and shit that is (or not). The last group, the fearful types, these are the bastard children of the bunch, alternating between anxious and dismissive, preferring to avoid intimacy rather than risk getting hurt. Just between you and me, I think this category was created for the buggers the shrinks couldn’t figure out.
Slight detour. As with all things psychology on the internet, there are loads of handy little quizzes you can take to figure out what style you are, because only by figuring out what you are, can you figure out how not be what you are. Do I sound sarcastic? Good. Do me this favour and take this quiz (Romantic Attachment Quiz). You haven’t clicked on it, have you? You’re not going to, are you? You just shook your head, didn’t you? Fine, I’ll describe. This is a 3 page test, 10 questions each on pages 1 and 2, then one last question on page 3, the mother of all questions. It takes about 5 minutes to complete, and at the end of it they tell you what you are. Sounds good, right? Its not. I did the test on my phone, and Airtel being bloody Airtel, the network vanished as I was waiting for my results, after page 3, so I went back and clicked send again, and this time I got my results: I am secure. Well, woohoo! Problem is, on page 3 I picked the answer that sounded nicest not the most accurate, so I did what any O.C.D. idiot would, I went back and clicked on option 2, the real answer. Guess what my result was? Anxious. Hang on, one minute ago I was perfectly fine, and now I need assertiveness training? Eh? I went back and clicked on option 3, and lo and behold, now I need therapy, because my fears are getting in the way of finding my true happiness. Yes, I went back and clicked on option 4, because I wanted them to tell me I’m dismissive, and therefore likely to die alone. Please note, I wasn’t changing any of the answers to the other 20 questions, questions they told me to think long and hard about. Can you say bollocks? There should be a law against bullshit tests on the internet. Detour over.
Now the reason you want to try and figure out what your attachment style is because they say it influences how you handle your relationship, what you expect to receive and how much you’re willing to give. The way they tell it, these categories come down to self esteem, how you see yourself and how you see others. Secure types think highly of themselves, and also of their partners, they’re generally positive. The biggest problem these buggers face is trying to find another secure one, because there aren’t too many out here (insert hysterical laughter…). Anxious types, on the other hand, think less of themselves and more of their partners, hence the anxiety, they worry about being abandoned. These are the geniuses who rush into relationships, constantly, and because they need intimacy so badly they run the risk of ending up in abusive relationships, where their dependency is used against them (read Bad, Mad Love for more clarity, because all I’ve done here is summarise, and not all that well). Dismissive types are even more special, they tend to think highly of themselves and less of others, or at least that’s how they act. From the descriptions I’ve read, Cold People, turns out that their superiority complex is simply a self defence mechanism, they want the intimacy they sneer at, but they don’t want the loss if independence, and control, it comes with; “The narrative of dismissing adults has a central theme: ‘I am alone and on my own.’ Autonomy is at the core of their identity. Relationships don’t matter, the past doesn’t influence the present, they don’t need others for anything. Yet of course their needs (however unrecognized) are still intact.” If you’ve been around here for a minute or two, you’re probably thinking of one or two deviants who fit that description to a T, no?
Before you go looking for romance, and the partner said romance entails, you might want to figure out what it is you really want, and need, and why. Rather than trying to force yourself into someone else’s mould, or vice versa, perhaps what we all need to do is accept that people are different. If your style and someone else’s clash, sit down and find a compromise that works, or leave each other alone, odds are there is an anxious type looking for someone just like you. More importantly, if you know you’re an anxious bugger, stop chasing dismissives, those idiots just don’t get it, and they don’t want to, so leave them alone. This is not to say that you should only date your type, although I suspect that would make life easier, or that we should all aspire to be, or be with, secure types (how boring would that be?). All I’m saying is, recognize what you are, and what your (ideal) partner is; that way you can mitigate the inevitable damage arising from the two of you being together (yes, the damage is inevitable, that’s what human interaction is all about, deal with it).
Think of attachment theory as troubleshooting. If you understand why the man you’re with calls you six times a day and repeatedly asks you if you love him, then you won’t dump him for being a clingy bastard, you’ll milk it for all its worth (think jewellery). If you’re dating a woman who seems none too concerned about your night out with the boys, this as she’s out with her girls, then relax, she’s not cheating on you, she’s secure, or dismissive, either way you’re guaranteed a free pass every so often. And if you’re chasing a mama who won’t let you put your hand on her thigh, or other, she’s not a prude, she’s simply fearful of your passions, commit and she shall open up to you. Or not, I may be wrong on that last one.
As for me and my derailed quest for romance, well, once I overcome my anxiety over my fearfully dismissive tendencies, no doubt I will be very secure in my attachment for Mr. Statham and Co.