When we think about attachment styles, the ones we are concerned with are being anxiously-attached, avoidant-attached or fearful-attached. If we are secure-attached, we’re in the sweet spot.
Maybe you already know this but here’s a quick recap:
Being anxiously-attached is characterized by low emotional avoidance but high anxiety; avoidant-attached is having high emotional avoidance and low anxiety; fearful-attached is experiencing both high emotional avoidance and anxiety; and being securely attached means having low emotional avoidance and low anxiety.
The late, great poet Kahlil Gibran wrote a poem titled “On Marriage” that takes a position that probably most love poems don’t. It is emotion-driven but shrewd. The voice is emotive but not for its own sake.
You were born together, and together you
shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when the white
wings of death scatter your days.
Ay, you shall be together even in the
silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance
Gibran highlights the sanctity and strength of the bond and is perhaps even hyperbolic when talking about the duration of the bond by saying that these two people are together from birth.
Yet he makes a sharp pivot when he states that there must be space when together to let “the winds of heaven dance between you.” What is the poet talking about? How can we be together but separate?
This is the very paradox of relationships. The togetherness is the mental and emotional bond. It is the decision to love and serve another person. The space between you two is knowing that you are also your own person.
Gibran elucidates on this point as he continues the poem:
Love one another, but make not a bond
Let it rather be a moving sea between
the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from
Give one another of your bread but eat
not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous,
but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone
though they quiver with the same music.
For some of us who suffer from some sort of insecure attachment style, the analogy of a spouse being a ball and chain is more a fearful reality than funny fiction.
Some of us fear losing ourselves when getting together with someone while others of us worry that we won’t get the closeness we crave, which causes us to overdo it.
What is important to understand is that the connection you have with someone is the bond. You don’t have to make a bond that already exists and you cannot escape a self-evident bond. It’s a nod to Gibran’s earlier line that the two were “born together.” The relationship was bound to happen.
Moreover, the bond exists because of who you both are separately. Just as an atom of sodium and an atom of chloride combine to make salt, that can only happen because of the structure and properties of each atom individually.
The E string and the A string of a guitar combine to make music that wouldn’t be possible if there was only one string played. You can make chords, you may even incorporate other strings in an arpeggio. But this is only possible because the strings are separate.
Give your hearts, but not into each
For only the hand of Life can contain
And stand together yet not too near
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow
not in each other’s shadow.
In the final stanza, Gibran continues to stress the importance of interdependence.
It’s about taking these two different sides of the coin and embracing the coin itself. We live in a relative world where everything has its opposite. Without heads, we wouldn’t have tails. Without left, we couldn’t know right. And without separation we cannot experience togetherness.
For those of us who suffer from some type of insecure attachment style, this offers a reprieve.
If you are anxiously-attached, you will understand that you have nothing to fear in relationships. You give love because you simply have love to give. But because you are a separate person, if the other person fails you in some way, you may be disappointed but not ruined. You are not the relationship. You are you.
If you are avoidant-attached, your attempts to avoid emotional depth is you avoiding your own reflection. You are a guitar string that refuses to be strum with other strings because you are afraid that you will be extinguished. But you are not the chord, arpeggio or the song. You are you. When you are joined to another this new entity can be a chord, arpeggio or a song. But you are still you.
If you are fearful-attached, you are desperate to be by yourself but simultaneously desperate for connection. Firstly, as Gibran said, you already have someone that you can connect with. Be authentic and you both will recognize each other.
Secondly, when the bond is acknowledged and consistently nurtured, there may be a tendency to overdo it. Remember that the only reason you can experience this bond, this song is because of separation.
If your individuality was erased due to the connection, we could never hear you or your partner without each other. Hearing a chord is nice, but sometimes hearing the individual string being strummed is what is required.
Finally, if you are securely-attached, you already knew these things at some level. Continue to be an example for others who think they have to lose themselves in a relationship or are afraid to lose themselves in a relationship.
Keep showing those who are desperate for a relationship and those who are desperate to stay away from them that they are living in unnecessary extremes. The point is to celebrate your individuality because when that is done and you link with another (which is inevitable) beautiful music can be made.
Remind those that want what you have that love is “a moving sea between the shores of your souls.” There will always be connection. But there is also joy in reveling on your own coast because there is a unique pleasure in simply being with yourself. There is no need to sacrifice one for the other.