Does a beard make you positively cringe? Does height eliminate someone as a potential date? Time to investigate why-oh-why you’re turned off, Darling.
Remember that date you had with that woman who was incredibly attractive, smart, and funny, but she had that mole on her face that you just couldn’t get over? Or the date with that hot, successful man who seemed to have everything perfect, except for the fact that he wears a weird pair of shoes that don’t seem to go with anything. You like someone, but you just can’t get over the little things, and this keeps you perpetually single. Have you ever been so distracted by some superficial aspect (like height, beards, glasses, moles, etc) of a date that you gave up the chance for a potential relationship?
If this has happened once or twice, it’s nothing to worry about. However, if you find that you have a pattern of finding superficial reasons to end relationships before they even start… there may be something deeper at play.
You may be wired to avoid relationships.
How does someone become wired to avoid a relationship? The answer lies in the psychological concept of attachment. As infants, we develop something called an “attachment style” which stems from the bond between a child and a primary caregiver.
In this process of attachment, our brains become wired to either seek closeness with others, or to seek distance. Basically, we learn whether it is safe and comfortable to depend on others, or whether it is better to keep a distance because our needs are not consistently met in a positive way.
If you learn that relationships are not safe in some way, your brain will act to keep you distanced from others. This is called an avoidant attachment style. Independence and emotional distance are safer than intimacy and vulnerability. On one end of the spectrum, this attachment style can keep you completely isolated from friendships and relationships. On the other end of the spectrum, you may just notice that you have a hard time keeping long term relationships. You may also find many superficial qualities in partners and dates that keep you from feeling attraction or vulnerability that would lead you into a more committed relationship.
Are your hopes for a relationship doomed?
Having this style of attachment does not mean you’re doomed when it comes to relationships, or that you’re an insensitive, unloving human being. It simply means that you have developed an internal alarm system that alerts you every time you start to feel emotional or even physical closeness with someone. The hard wiring of the brain can be so powerful in these responses, it can even override your goals to remain in a relationship. This attachment system is meant to keep the human species alive. It was not designed to think of things like getting married, settling down, and commitment.
The good news…
If you’re reading this and wondering if you might have an avoidant attachment style, first of all, thank your brain for doing its job. If you can start to recognize that it is just your brain playing some protective (but sometimes unhelpful) tricks on you, you can try to see past the roadblocks that arise in the form of focusing on those superficial turn offs. You can try to focus on the good qualities that you like in a person, instead of focusing in on one small thing. Awareness is key.
If you feel you want to make some changes in how you react to relationships and intimacy, start by reading up on attachment, or talk to a therapist or coach who specializes in attachment. Research has shown that our attachment styles remain fairly consistent into adulthood. However, the good news is that with awareness, personal growth experiences, or therapy, people can make changes in their primary attachment style and learn to feel more comfortable with intimacy.