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    Discover the Capacity to Love

    By Scott Tsui–

    While vacationing in Mexico, I met a married gay couple from Texas, Jack and Richard. They’d been together for 32 years. Their relationship began when they started working together. They were instantly attracted and Jack asked Richard out. The rest is history.

    I also met Stephen and Will, both single. Stephen had recently broken up with his boyfriend. He’d given up on love since he’s been unable to hold a relationship for more than six months. Will, previously married to a woman, often hooks up with other closeted divorced/married men. He fantasizes about transforming a hookup into a partnership. Recently he realized that he doesn’t know what he wants anymore. 

    Why have two found the love of their life while the others struggle to do so? What do Jack and Richard possess that Stephen and Will don’t?

    To determine the answer, we must first ask: what capacity do we need in order to give, find and receive love? 

    Psychoanalyst John Bowlby’s (1907–1990) Theory of Attachment provides a better understanding of how people connect and why some are unable to initiate and sustain an intimate connection with a partner. It’s the emotional bond that connects one person to another through time and interaction. Bowlby discovered that the relationship between an infant and their primary caregiver(s) through the early years has a profound impact on how the child connects with a partner as an adult.

    The impact and significance those formative years can have in our adult life—most of which we’re unaware of—is immense. Typically, when we’re brought up with the warmth and attention necessary to feel safe and secure—or conversely to feel neglected and abandoned, and to experience verbal, physical or sexual abuse—the experiences shape our capacity and ability to connect with others.

    A personality type known as Naturals is an exception. Even with a traumatic upbringing, Naturals tend to show more resilience and exhibit tenacity to overcome obstacles. Oprah Winfrey is a great example. Otherwise, we often develop into one of four main attachment styles:

    1. Secure

    Securely attached people tend to know that there’s someone out there who loves them. It’s easy for them to relate and to feel comfortable in their relationship, trusting one another and being emotionally connected. If relationships fail, they’re able to move on without too much upset. They tend to be honest, independent and supportive. They frequently develop deep, intimate bonds.  

    1. Dismissive Avoidant

    They’re usually seen as cold and aloof, building an invisible barrier of protection around themselves. Highly independent, they detach easily from others and are seemingly content without close relationships. They keep their distance, often walking away from arguments and confrontation, yet some may also use unfriendly behavior as a tool to keep others away. They’re not looking for people to depend on them and vice versa. They deal with rejection by avoiding individuals and suppressing their feelings, keeping their inner selves hidden.

    1. Anxious-Preoccupied

    These individuals are desperate for affection and love. They’re in constant need of attention from their partner who must be totally emotionally entangled with them. They’re needy and doubt their own self-worth, lacking confidence and exhibiting emotional hunger by being demanding and showing jealousy. They’re easily upset and difficult to please, and can be emotionally draining. 

    1. Fearful Avoidant

    Losses, trauma and/or various abuses in childhood and adolescence can lead to fearful, avoidant attachment. Some may have negative views towards themselves and feel uncomfortable with emotional closeness, tending to avoid their feelings for fear of being hurt when drawn into a romantic relationship. They may desire intimacy, yet shy away from it when people get too close.

    By learning the Attachment Style Theory, we know that our experiences from childhood can have a profound impact on how we connect with others in adulthood. Furthermore, we can trace the root cause of our distrust, avoidance, neediness and other abortive approaches to building intimate relationships. 

    If feeling that human connection is a priority, it’s time to seek practical solutions. Whether through spiritual beliefs, self-help resolutions or professional help, the first step is to generate compassion, empathy and love within ourselves to increase our capacity to give and receive love. 

    Scott Tsui is the Relationship Results Coach, author of “Lonely No More – 8 Steps to Find Your Gay Husband” and the creator of the world’s first online gay relationship training: Gay Men Relationship Blueprint. Tsui works to help gay men find, attract and sustain meaningful relationships. For more information: http://scotttsui.com/