LIVING WITH RAD: Adult Attachment Disorder
Do adult RAD symptoms sound familiar to you? I thought it would in conflict Adults with RAD may experience many short term relationships. Contrary to what people who lack self-confidence might believe, the trait is not inborn. Nor is it a constant; even self-confident people suffer bouts of self-doubt. The other “wrong” reason to enter into a relationship is, like Greg said, to “fix” yourself. This desire to use the love of someone else to soothe.
I think most newlyweds do this — ask for relationship advice, I mean, not shit the same bed part — especially after a few cocktails from the open bar they just paid way too much money for. But, of course, not being satisfied with just a few wise words, I had to take it a step further. See, I have access to hundreds of thousands of smart, amazing people through my site. So why not consult them? I sent out the call the week before my wedding: What is working for you and your partner?
The response was overwhelming. Almost 1, people replied, many of whom sent in responses measured in pages, not paragraphs. It took almost two weeks to comb through them all, but I did. And what I found stunned me… They were incredibly repetitive. Not to mention, a relief. These were all smart and well-spoken people from all walks of life, from all around the world, all with their own histories, tragedies, mistakes and triumphs… And yet they were all saying pretty much the same dozen things.
Which means that those dozen or so things must be pretty damn important… and more importantly, they work. I got married the second time because I was miserable and lonely and thought having a loving wife would fix everything for me. It really is that simple. When I sent out my request to readers for advice, I added a caveat that turned out to be illuminating.
I asked people who were on their second or third or fourth marriages what they did wrong. Where did they mess up? Pressure from friends and family. Being young and naive and hopelessly in love and thinking that love would solve everything. Without that mutual admiration, everything else will unravel. It is something that can be both healthy or unhealthy, helpful or harmful, depending on why and how you love someone else and are loved by someone else.
By itself, love is never enough to sustain a relationship. They go into relationships with these unrealistic expectations. And more importantly, sticking it out is totally worth it, because that, too, will change. It expands and contracts and mellows and deepens. In ancient times, people genuinely considered love a sickness. Parents warned their children against it, and adults quickly arranged marriages before their children were old enough to do something dumb in the name of their emotions.
We all know that guy or girl who dropped out of school, sold their car and spent the money to elope on the beaches of Tahiti. We all also know that that guy or girl ended up sulking back a few years later feeling like a moron, not to mention broke. It generally only lasts for a few years at most.
It does for everybody. True love — that is, deep, abiding love that is impervious to emotional whims or fancy — is a choice. That form of love is much harder. But this form of love is also far more satisfying and meaningful.
And, at the end of the day, it brings true happiness, not just another series of highs. Every day you wake up and decide to love your partner and your life — the good, the bad and the ugly. Many people are instead addicted to the ups and downs of romantic love. They are in it for the feels, so to speak. And when the feels run out, so do they. Many people get into a relationship as a way to compensate for something they lack or hate within themselves.
This is a one-way ticket to a toxic relationship because it makes your love conditional — you will love your partner as long as they help you feel better about yourself. You will give to them as long as they give to you. You will make them happy as long as they make you happy.
That is the truth.
But you never want to lose respect for your partner. Once you lose respect you will never get it back. Talk about everything, even if it hurts.
But we noticed that the thing people with marriages going on 20, 30, or even 40 years talked about most was respect. My sense is that these people, through sheer quantity of experience, have learned that communication, no matter how open, transparent and disciplined, will always break down at some point.
Conflicts are ultimately unavoidable, and feelings will always be hurt. You will judge their choices and encroach on their independence. You will feel the need to hide things from one another for fear of criticism. And this is when the cracks in the edifice begin to appear. Of course, this means showing respect, but that is too superficial.
You have to feel it deep within you. I deeply and genuinely respect him for his work ethic, his patience, his creativity, his intelligence, and his core values. From this respect comes everything else — trust, patience, perseverance because sometimes life is really hard and you both just have to persevere.
I want to enable him to have some free time within our insanely busy lives because I respect his choices of how he spends his time and who he spends time with. And, really, what this mutual respect means is that we feel safe sharing our deepest, most intimate selves with each other. Because without that self-respect, you will not feel worthy of the respect afforded by your partner.
You will be unwilling to accept it and you will find ways to undermine it. You will constantly feel the need to compensate and prove yourself worthy of love, which will just backfire. Respect for your partner and respect for yourself are intertwined. Never talk badly to or about her. You chose her — live up to that choice.
Common examples given by many readers: NEVER talk shit about your partner or complain about them to your friends. If you have a problem with your partner, you should be having that conversation with them, not with your friends. Talking bad about them will erode your respect for them and make you feel worse about being with them, not better. Respect that they have different hobbies, interests and perspectives from you. Respect that they have an equal say in the relationship, that you are a team, and if one person on the team is not happy, then the team is not succeeding.
Have a crush on someone else? Had a weird sexual fantasy that sounds ridiculous? Be open about it. Nothing should be off-limits. Respect goes hand-in-hand with trust. And trust is the lifeblood of any relationship romantic or otherwise. Without trust, there can be no sense of intimacy or comfort.
Without trust, your partner will become a liability in your mind, something to be avoided and analyzed, not a protective homebase for your heart and your mind. We have so many friends who are in marriages that are not working well and they tell me all about what is wrong. A large percentage of these emails involve their struggling romantic relationships.
These emails, too, are surprisingly repetitive. A couple years ago, I discovered that I was answering the vast majority of these relationship emails with the exact same response. Then come back and ask again. If something bothers you in the relationship, you must be willing to say it. Saying it builds trust and trust builds intimacy. It may hurt, but you still need to do it. No one else can fix your relationship for you.
The Psychology of Falling in Love
Nor should anyone else. Just as causing pain to your muscles allows them to grow back stronger, often introducing some pain into your relationship through vulnerability is the only way to make the relationship stronger.
Behind respect, trust was the most commonly mentioned trait for a healthy relationship. But trust goes much deeper than that. If you ended up with cancer tomorrow, would you trust your partner to stick with you and take care of you?
Would you trust your partner to care for your child for a week by themselves? Do you trust them to handle your money or make sound decisions under pressure?
Do you trust them to not turn on you or blame you when you make mistakes? These are hard things to do.
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Trust at the beginning of a relationship is easy. What if she is hiding something herself? The key to fostering and maintaining trust in the relationship is for both partners to be completely transparent and vulnerable: If something is bothering you, say something.
This is important not only for addressing issues as they arise, but it proves to your partner that you have nothing to hide. Those icky, insecure things you hate sharing with people? Share them with your partner. Make promises and then stick to them. You cannot build that track record until you own up to previous mistakes and set about correcting them. This is hard and will likely require confrontation to get to the bottom of. Own up to it.
And strive to be better.
1,500 People Give All the Relationship Advice You’ll Ever Need
Trust is like a china plate. If you drop it and it breaks, you can put it back together with a lot of work and care. If you drop it and break it a second time, it will split into twice as many pieces and it will require far more time and care to put back together again. But drop and break it enough times, and it will shatter into so many pieces that you will never be able to put it back together again, no matter what you do. Figure out as individuals what makes you happy as an individual, be happy yourself, then you each bring that to the relationship.
You are supposed to keep the relationship happy by consistently sacrificing yourself for your partner and their wants and needs. There is some truth to that. Every relationship requires each person to consciously choose to give something up at times. Just read that again. This is the person you chose. It will only backfire and make you both miserable. Have the courage to be who you are, and most importantly, let your partner be who they are. Those are the two people who fell in love with each other in the first place.
What do I mean? Have your own interests, your own friends, your own support network, and your own hobbies. Overlap where you can, but not being identical should give you something to talk about and expose one another to. People sung the praises of separate checking accounts, separate credit cards, having different friends and hobbies, taking separate vacations from one another each year this has been a big one in my own relationship.
Some even went so far as to recommend separate bathrooms or even separate bedrooms. Some people are afraid to give their partner freedom and independence. BUT, more importantly, this inability to let our partners be who they are, is a subtle form of disrespect. What does it say for your respect for yourself? Drives me nuts when I see women not let their husbands go out with the guys or are jealous of other women.
We have changed faiths, political parties, numerous hair colors and styles, but we love each other and possibly even more. Our grown kids constantly tell their friends what hopeless romantics we are.
Attaching Hearts: Adult RAD
And the biggest thing that keeps us strong is not giving a fuck about what anyone else says about our relationship. I can get on board with that. Among major life changes people told me their marriages went through and survived: Amazingly, these couples survived because their respect for each other allowed them to adapt and allow each person to continue to flourish and grow.
You know who they are today, but you have no idea who this person is going to be in five years, ten years, and so on. You have to be prepared for the unexpected, and truly ask yourself if you admire this person regardless of the superficial or not-so-superficial details, because I promise almost all of them at some point are going to either change or go away. In fact, at times, it will be downright soul-destroying.
Which is why you need to make sure you and your partner know how to fight. Much like the body and muscles, it cannot get stronger without stress and challenge. You have to fight. You have to hash things out. Obstacles make the marriage. What Gottman does is he gets married couples in a room, puts some cameras on them, and then he asks them to have a fight. He asks them to fight. Successful couples, like unsuccessful couples, he found, fight consistently. And some of them fight furiously.
He has been able to narrow down four characteristics of a couple that tend to lead to divorces or breakups. Individuals searching for balance in life need to find a healthy balance between inner and outer connections.
It is through relationships with others that we learn many things in life. We learn through our interactions with our surroundings and other people to find joy, experience pain and a range of other emotions. What self-sufficiency means is that we get into a relationship not because of neediness or fear of loneliness. It is more of a sense of finding more joy rather than filling up some empty hole within.
If we don't learn to work on our deficiencies, it is unlikely that someone else will be able to do it for us -- so that type of expectation will probably lead to disappointment and more.
Another subject worth noting is the depth of love and how far we want to go. If love is based on just the senses, just chemistry or only based on sexual attraction, the chances of it fading away is quicker. Senses may get impulsively attracted but if there is not enough effort put into the relationship, it fades away. We fall out of love just as quickly as we fell in love.
But when something deeper is at play, when we truly connect emotionally, mentally and even on deeper levels which can go as far as spiritually, then the chances of that love lasting increase.
It does not mean that there is free access to a "happily ever after" world; we still need to do the work on any type of relationship. We need to grow together and be determined to move through the challenges of life, hand in hand. We need to learn to compromise, communicate and learn about each other. In a relationships, there is no feeling worse than "just getting by". We deserve to be happy and have a healthy life.
We deserve to feel compatible with our partner and feel respected but we also need to be fair and see if we are giving what we are expecting. We can never change someone else but we can change our perceptions and responses to others which may help them wanting to change.
Some couples report that by understanding more about each other's deep being, they have been able to find compassion for each other and with that compassion comes forgiveness and with that forgiveness comes positive change. How do we know if we really love someone?
Many times we confuse anxious attachments with love. Love does not come or is not rooted in anything negative. Many people rush into a relationship to run away from another unhealthy one -- this is a relationship that is seeded in escape rather than pure love.
Other times our relationship is rooted in fear, and other times it is rooted in insecurities. Then there are those relationships that we jump into to get some unmet needs fulfilled. Whatever it is, we have to start becoming familiar with our intentions and why we want a relationship. We need to learn what our needs are in a relationship, be open and expressive about them and present our authentic self.
This way both us and the other who gets into a relationship with us know what we are getting into. We can make an informed decision for how we want to make the relationship work.