I am a 45-year-old unmarried man who is well- established and financially secure. I have everything in life except a companion. My biggest problem is that when I try to get close to a woman, she runs away from me. I have consulted friends and asked them what is wrong with me. Although most of them say there is nothing wrong, a female colleague said I am clingy and I get too emotionally attached to a person even when that person is not interested in me. How can these be bad traits and disagreeable? Is it wrong to get emotionally attached? Anonymous
Being emotionally attached to a partner is not a bad idea and it is what facilitates the feeling of closeness and affection that helps to sustain a meaningful relationship over time. According to the attachment theorists, right from our childhood, bonds of attachment start from our parents and caregivers.
These later shape the kind of attachments you develop to friends and romantic relationships. Generally speaking, some level of attachment is healthy and normal in a relationship. However, when it turns into dependency or obsessive as you mentioned above, it may stand in your way of trying to find permanent love.
Being clingy to a partner means that your world rotates around them and you hold them responsible for your happiness, which, in the long run, leads to a sense of powerlessness. You may also end up pushing your partner to become intimate too soon for fear of rejection. When this relationship ends, one with an insecure attachment will immediately move into another in pursuit of happiness but, unfortunately, this can become a vicious cycle of disappointment as no one would like to be the object of an obsessed partner in a relationship.
The way we interact with our adult romantic partners has a lot to do with our earliest relationships with our parents or caregivers. The biggest majority of adults are capable of secure attachment, meaning they value their close relationships but do not necessarily feel anxious at separation for a period of time.
I would like you to know that it is not too late for you to make a paradigm shift in the way you relate. Self-awareness is key in this and like you stated, you have been made aware by friends what the possible cause could be.
Stress plays a role in this, especially now that you desperately want to find a woman to marry. Begin by identifying the situations that trigger these anxious attachment tendencies. Try to think positively about the possibility of finding a partner who will love you and stay with you. You can even have an imaginary one.
Boost your resilience by developing coping strategies that make you feel better and help you deal with situations that trigger your stress and make your potential girlfriends run away. Calmly discuss your feelings with your partner instead of acting out on them in an obsessive way. This will bring reassurance that your partner cares about you and reduce the anxiety of over-dependency.
Importantly, see your partner as a whole and a separate person who matters to you but independent of your needs and interests. In case you try all this on your own and still go through the same situation, please find a relationship counsellor to educate and coach you on how best to relate even when you have an underlying limitation.
Evelyn Kharono Lufafa, Counselling psychologist