There is a certain sort of relationship
that is alternately passionate, fiery and painfully unfulfilling，
时而激情四射 时而炙烈如火 时而忧愁苦闷
and that tends to puzzle both outsiders and its participants;
a relationship between one person who is,
as psychologists put it, anxiously attached
and another who is avoidantly attached.
There is, in such couplings, a constant game of push and pull.
The anxiously attached party typically complains more or less loudly
that their partner is not responsive enough:
they accuse them of being emotionally distant, withholding, cold
指责他们在心理上疏远 压抑 冷漠
and perhaps physically uninterested too.
The avoidant lover, for their part, stays relatively quiet
but in their more fed-up moments,
complains that the anxious party is far too demanding,
possibly ‘mad’ and, as they put it pejoratively, ‘needy’.
One person seems to want far too much,
The unhappiness unfolds in a cycle.
At the start,
but, in time, also growing frustration.
The dissatisfaction grows ever more intense
until, eventually one day, fed up with so much seeming rejection,
the anxious partner overcomes their fears,
decides they need something better
and tells their lover that they’re off.
At which point, the avoidant party undergoes a complete sea change.
Their greatest fear, that of being engulfed in love,
disappears at a stroke
and reveals something that is normally utterly submerged in their character:
a fear of being abandoned.
Wholly liberated from the threat of being engulfed
(the anxious one may by now have packed their bags),
the avoidant one gives free reign to all their reserves of pent upromanticism and ardour
which feel utterly safe to bring out,
now that there seems so little danger of reciprocation.
Despite their fury, the anxious person
hears the honeyed words and forthright promises,
and – after some initial doubts – can’t help but be won over.
The formerly distant partner appears to have become, in the nick of time,
as they’d always wanted them to be, a warm soul.
There is no reason not to return:
after all, it’s not that they didn’t love this person,
it was the feeling they weren’t loved back
For a time, there is bliss
and it seems that the couple are headed for long-term happiness.
– Liberated from their anxiety around engulfment,
the avoidant partner gives free expression to love;
liberated from their fear of abandonment,
the anxious one is left feeling secure and trusting.
But soon enough the problems return.
Things become, as it were, too nice for the avoidant partner.
It seems the anxious one isn’t going to leave them any more,
they’re just going to stick around and seek ever greater closeness
– and so the old fear of engulfment returns.
They have no option but to start to pull away again and get distant,
他们别无选择 只得开始拉开距离 变得疏远
which gradually proves intolerable once again to the anxious partner.
Within weeks or months, the pair are back in the same situation.
Fierce arguments return: the words “needy” and “cold” are once more in circulation.
又开始激烈地争吵：“黏人” “冷漠” 这种字眼重新浮现
It’s time for another crisis and another threat of departure.
It may go on like this for years, or a lifetime…
From the outside, it is almost funny.
From the inside, simply hellish.
There are a few ways out:
the avoidant party can realise, and learn to tolerate their fear of engulfment.
The anxious party can grow conscious of their unnatural pull towards unfulfilling people,
refuse to go back after a crisis
and seek a future with more secure and reassuring sorts.
Or, yet, more hopefully for the couple,
both partners could acquire the vocabulary of attachment theory.
They could come to observe their repetitions,
gain some insight into aspects of their childhoods that drive them on
and learn not to act out their compulsions.
They can learn the games they are unconsciously playing,
and then, to the relief of all who care for them
and to the redemption of their relationship,
they can refuse to play them any longer.
Our book Sorrows of Love helps us all handle the inevitabel sorrows of love.
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There is a certain sort of relationship