Why do expectations ruin relationships and friendships

Attachment Anxiety - Why We Escape From Relationships

"I really want to run away again," says Lena. It's not the first time I've heard this sentence from her. On the contrary. Since I've known her, my girlfriend's relationships have always followed the same pattern: The extreme intoxication of being in love is followed by a hangover so bad that Lena doesn't know what else to do but to throw the man in the wind.

So now she is sitting in front of me again, after almost five months with her new boyfriend, and is fighting the impulse to flee. She is bored. Things that she just found cute annoy her now. And she laughed more at his jokes. Until recently everything was still so beautiful!

Lena knows this condition only too well - and this time she wants to do it differently than usual. She wants to stay because she really likes the man. In addition, Lena is now clear: she can run away, but she takes her pattern of action with her wherever she goes. She does not escape from herself.

"Escape is actually not a good solution," says couple and sex therapist Gertrud Wolf. At least not if you are interested in understanding and changing your own behavior. So if Lena wants to stay and break her pattern, she needs courage. Courage to face the fears that keep running away from you.

More on this: Controversy in a partnership: Who fights, loses

The hangover after the intoxication

The reasons that cause people like Lena to flee are complex, says Wolf. Problems can start the moment we fall in love.

"When we are in love, our brains are flooded with drugs," explains Wolf. "Serotonin, dopamine and opiates mix into a drug cocktail that would never be available over the counter in pharmacies."

No matter how euphoric, passionate and in love we are at the beginning, the high soon subsides. Just like every party ends at some point. The light goes on and what follows is the (sometimes painful) disenchantment.

Like a junkie

"We fall in love with total strangers these days," says Wolf. Thanks to platforms like Tinder and Co. Because love drugs cloud our brains, we don't even see who we're actually looking at. Bad surprises are inevitable. If two initially meet as friends and get to know each other, then the case is not that deep.

For some, however, the feeling of being in love has an irresistible attraction. The associated drug cocktail can be addicting, says Wolf. Lena also loves this emotional inferno: the excitement, the fun, the feeling of lightness.

The couple therapist warns, however, to be prudent: "I would advise someone like that not to delve so deeply into this feeling of being in love and to press the brakes a little." It's like with alcohol: If you drink water in between, you have a less bad hangover.

More on this: No life without love

Unsafe attachment type

"The drug cocktail works for about six months, then you have to eat chocolate again," says Wolf. And not only that: "Suddenly we feel our fears again." More precisely, our fears of commitment.

Wolf suspects that this could also be the reason for Lena's escape behavior. "We differentiate between different types of attachment," says the therapist. Lena could fit into the category of "insecurely bound" people.

The attachment theory that Wolf addresses goes back to the child psychiatrist John Bowlby and "describes the development and possible changes in people's attachment behavior".

According to this, people with fears of attachment have had the experience as children that they are alone with their fears in threatening situations. The parents do not recognize the child's plight - for whatever reason, there is no consolation or adequate support.

The child experiences parental behavior as a rejection - a painful experience that it does not want to repeat if possible. In future, the little ones will therefore prefer to keep their worries and needs to themselves and try to avoid negative emotions as much as possible.

When fear sets the tone

"These insecurely attached people have difficulties in adulthood to get involved and to form a long-term relationship," says Wolf. Fear plays a big role. "Either strong fear of loss or great fear of becoming dependent."

Lena has often told me about her father. About the fact that he gets on her nerves easily because he thinks he knows everything better. She feels bullied and not understood. Spatially, she prefers to keep a distance.

"Mom and Dad are our first attachment partners and create the structures on which we build all other bonds," says Wolf. So it is no coincidence that Lena is often reminded of certain situations with her father when she is with her boyfriend? No, it's not a coincidence, says Wolf. "It's like a dance that you have learned. Of course you dance it over and over again."

More on this: Monogamy is just an invention

Love is (also) a decision

The good news is that we can still learn new dance steps as adults. "However, you have to face your fears of commitment," says Wolf. Initially, that means nothing more than: persevere. Not to run away, to resist the impulse to flee.

Because: "Love as a state of emergency cannot last," says Wolf. Those who uphold this ideal will be on the run for life. That is an option.

"The question is: Do I want to stay true to this ideal? Then I have to leave people. Or do I want to keep people? Then I have to rethink my ideal," says Wolf. First of all, Lena has to decide whether she wants to give the man a chance without an overdose of dopamine in the blood. Maybe it would be worth a try. If it really doesn't fit, she can still walk.

  • Touch is vital

    Skin contact makes the tone

    Our skin feels everything: Researchers have found that people can recognize certain emotions such as love, anger, gratitude and disgust through touch. The mere physical contact sets the tone. Regular, positive touch also reduces aggression and builds emotional bonds within relationships. This is how they help maintain social bonds.

  • Touch is vital

    Better by touch

    Tactile communication - communication through touch - can help build trust and improve collaboration. One study found that professional basketball players and teams who interacted more physically at the beginning of the season - for example through high fives or group hugs - scored better in later games.

  • Touch is vital

    Hugging makes you strong

    Hugs signal "I support you" and thus help to reduce acute stress. Research has shown that the mood of people who were hugged on a conflict-ridden day was significantly better. This type of support also helps people with low self-esteem to reduce self-doubt Cuddling also fends off colds with its stress-buffering effect.

  • Touch is vital

    Touch me!

    Couples who touch each other lovingly are good for their health. Holding hands and hugging not only make you feel more stress-resistant, but also make a measurable contribution to cardiovascular health: the heart rate slows down, blood pressure drops, as does the release of the stress hormone cortisol. Couples can even sync their heart rates and brain waves through touch!

  • Touch is vital

    Massages: more than just relaxation

    Touch is not only beautiful, it also works as a pain reliever. Researchers at Duke University Medical Center have found that full body massages reduce pain and increase mobility for patients with arthritis. Incidentally, not only those who are massaged benefit! The treatment also has a positive effect on the masseur.

  • Touch is vital

    Babies need touch

    Massage can help premature babies gain weight. Stimulating the nervous system releases hormones that improve the absorption of food. The pain relieving effects of skin contact help infants process medical procedures. Touching not only reduces the release of the stress hormone cortisol, but also releases the bonding hormone oxytocin.

  • Touch is vital

    Do it yourself

    Unfortunately, there is not always someone there to massage or stroke. A self-massage has a similarly positive effect. Firm touches are more effective than light ones. Sports such as yoga or weightlifting, in which either the contact between the body and the floor is intense or the pressure on certain parts of the body is particularly high, also have a stress-relieving effect.

  • Touch is vital

    Technology that touches

    So that people with amputations do not have to do without the important touch, work is being carried out on sensor-supported prostheses. Other researchers are working on the development of an electronic skin technology that can differentiate between different surfaces and perceive heat and cold.

    Author: Sam Baker (jv)