dating while secure
February 6, 2021 11:40 AM   Subscribe

As a securely attached person (i.e. one who neither jumps into nor avoids relationships), what are the early phases of dating like for you?

My attachment style leans towards anxious (meaning I seek a lot of reassurance in dating), although I've definitely become more secure throughout the years. (early 40s, cis female dating men)

However, my dating experience is mostly with ultimately avoidant people who tend to overwhelm with attention and contact initially only to have things burn out quickly. I'm realizing that securely attached people operate a little differently (haven't really dated any of them, but I believe the two people I am communicating with now are). Both of these men have expressed interest in getting to know me, and we are communicating fairly often, but due to COVID and also things being pretty recent, things are developing slower than I am used to. (which is actually fine!) (btw, have only ever gone for walks with masks on)

The issue for me is that I don't really know what's "normal". The people i have dated in the past tend to be two extremes of love-bombing or ignoring me. I am in a more secure place now and seeking secure people finally, although I still find myself a little triggered for example if someone doesn't text for a day, or something of the sort (although I have managed to not react to that inappropriately).

I know everyone is different, but what I am most curious about is if you are a securely attached person who doesn't dive in headfirst when dating, and like to take things slowly, how do things look for you in the early stages of dating? If you have experience dating during the pandemic, even better. I am interested in experiences with communications, frequency of contact, deciding to be exclusive, and for those who have gone from anxious to more secure, tips on getting past anxiety that causes "protest behavior". I am also looking for support in separating lack of interest from someone just taking their time before jumping in to relationships.

In the past, I've sometimes let my anxiety get the better of me and I'm sure I have cut off or sabotaged good things because of it- for example, completely cutting someone off or getting overly upset when they didn't communicate frequently enough. However, there is a point where someone is displaying lack of attention indicating disinterest, and I've also hung on too long in those scenarios. Trying to figure out a good balance!
posted by bearette to Human Relations (5 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
For what it's worth, here are a few things. Cis guy here, dating women.

* The only way to really get to know someone to spend time with them. I will typically say this to prospective dates when we are still texting. I look for an acknowledgment back. The idea of truly getting to know someone via digital communication is an illusion.

* Early on, I tend to ignore what people say. That is, talk is cheap. I've heard too many people declare something about themselves, something they strongly believe, or a way they perceive themselves to behave, only to do the opposite. This is doubly true when declarations are made digitally. It takes no effort to communicate digitally, and it carries no accountability. I am most interested in how people act, over the long-term.

* Many people are understandably quite anxious right now, but unwilling to be vulnerable enough to simply say so. People give reasons for things, but sometimes those reasons are invented, and are not the real source of their issue.

* When circumstances permit, I ask prospective partners to join me and some of my friends in a low-key group activity. I will ask them to bring theirs as well. While I don't expect everyone to get along with everyone else, all the time, seeing if someone can "be more chill" is important.

* A prospective partner needs to make an effort. My female friends regularly complain about men who exchange a lot of digital messages with them, but make little effort at connecting in person. They don't plan interesting dates, and they are slow to respond when asked about what they want to do next. Women can be just as ambivalent, noncommittal, and lacking in effort.

* Finally, I don't like to be in the position of having to persuade anyone of anything. Three strikes and you're out. Once I've made a good effort, repeatedly, to engage with someone, if they show lukewarm interest, it's time to pack it in. At this point, it doesn't matter what I think or feel. They are not engaged, and it's unlikely there's anything I can say that will change that.
posted by 4midori at 12:14 PM on February 6, 2021 [38 favorites]

The idea of truly getting to know someone via digital communication is an illusion.

Seconded. I learned this lesson the hard way.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:49 PM on February 6, 2021 [9 favorites]

With people I'm actively interested in, I have at least brief daily contact most of the time. There may be some days it doesn't happen because I'm super busy that day, but that's less than 10% of the time for me. And if someone texts me, I will reply that day 99% of the time. With people I haven't yet met in person or whom I like fine but am not yet sure whether I'm really into them, it can be widely variable.

Basically if it's someone I think I may want to have as a significant part of my life, I start explicitly making time for them; plus I'm excited about them and want to know what they're up to! If they don't do the same, I am disappointed but realize they might not be feeling as strongly as me yet and give them more time to get there. If they aren't showing active interest in me after 2-3 months of that I either back off or ask them where they think we're headed (depending on the vibe I'm getting from them).

RE exclusivity I'm opposed to monogamy so that's not exactly relevant. But I'll have a conversation about future plans and commitment between 3-6 months.
posted by metasarah at 4:25 PM on February 6, 2021 [4 favorites]

One thing that helped me with the anxiety of the first couple months was to keep seeing other people, or at least keep chatting with other people on the apps. It allowed me to not become extremely fixated on this new relationship I was very, very excited about, and also helped me confirm by meeting other people that the person I was very, very excited about was indeed the real thing (and not, for example, fulfilling a desire for company).
I also made sure to keep leaning hard into my hobbies / activities, and spending time with friends (which I suppose is harder these days). Basically, I was trying to keep preoccupied to avoid the negative spiral of anxiety.

I feel I’m moderately secure in attachment style, and I still get that anxiety! Unknowns are scary and that’s okay. I think the thing that helped the most was acknowledging the nervousness and doing my best to spin it into a positive and do my best to keep the catastrophizing thoughts at bay. It’s the early stages of a relationship, it only happens once in the relationship, and the butterflies can be exciting!

It’s a fine line between early day nerves conflating small hiccups as red flags, and truly incompatible behaviors. Take your time figuring out what your boundaries and needs are, and hold yourself accountable to them. I like the three strikes method mentioned above.
posted by blueberrypuffin at 7:37 PM on February 6, 2021 [3 favorites]

It might be worth looking at The Personal Development School on YouTube to see what good examples should look like, as well as taking one of their courses that discuss this. They even have courses for securely attached people.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 1:48 AM on February 7, 2021 [2 favorites]

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