This piece was inspired by the theory of attachment. More specifically, avoidant attachment styles. People who are avoidant may find themselves regretting a commitment once they start to feel the other person getting too close. They look for reasons to avoid committing by fantasizing about an ex once they are in a new relationship or fixating on their partner’s negative qualities to drive reasons for escape. They may also use sex as an act to replace and fill the spaces where deeper emotional intimacy and expression have potential to thrive. Avoiders may become withdrawn, lack follow-through, stonewall, engage in blurred boundaries, over-commit, and send double-binding messages. Although they may seem numb or disinterested, at their core, they often fear being abandoned themselves. In order to avoid the ultimate pain of abandonment, they live life at a safe distance from others; detached, building walls, and looking for reasons to pull away from potential intimacies.
Alongside researchers I, too, suspect a gender piece in attachment styles that has a heavy hand in heterosexual relationships. Boys are often groomed by society and families to begin numbing their emotions around ages 5-8. Gender narratives stifle men’s ability to lean into others for support or to maintain vulnerability. This often results in men having limited emotional language and skills to de-escalate the deeper fears and hurts. Numbness and anger are the two socially acceptable emotions within toxic masculinity. Therefore, boys grow up to become men who go inward rather than outward for support and self-understanding. This also makes it difficult to show up emotionally in vulnerable ways within relationships that could naturally result in feelings of rejection.
I believe the greater maturity is to lean into the discomforts vulnerability stirs up (I’m working on differentiating between sound intuition and perceived threat, but will save that topic for another post). As difficult as it is, I value taking risks for the sake of authentically deep connection while also maintaining a steady sense of self. Psychologists refer to this as interdependence – the balancing of both autonomy and connection within intimate relationships.
In 1880 Hamilton cornered white holly
they beat you to birth by a centennial counting
then presented the drawer from a printer’s typeset
where you now live your life in a shadow box
instead of letters you safekeep people and places
tiny trinkets of memories
how you’ve learned to control each
compactly preserving miniatures pinning
detached, with steady unconcerning
I would make myself very small in order to fit inside
attempting to be kept, I would keep it all inside
the hoarding of numbness
when you pull my drawer open, there are no divides
no separate spaces to delicately confine
vulnerable and scary
type cases are lovely, but they are outdated
if you so choose to maintain a vintage vantage
then I will leave you to it
rummaging boxes until found among shadowing
and a space to do some leaning