How Can I Be Attracted to People Who Are Bad for Me, If I’m Not Even “Attracted” to Them?! (Anxious-Preoccupied Attachment Style in This Aro-Spec Asexual)

This is a submission for the October 2021 Carnival of Aces, which had a theme of “Attraction”. The Call for Submissions was here. The round-up of all posts submitted in the end was posted here.

Per usual I’m late submitting it, and it’s already November. I tried hard to rushed through typing up this entire submission in only about half an hour while it was still the 31st and that didn’t work, I’m very rusty with blogging but it always takes me about 3 times as long as I think it will. And this one took probably 10 times as long because I couldn’t stop my rambling, I had so much to say. In the end I wrote 4820 words. Which is at least twice as long if not longer than an ideal blog post’s length… next time I’ll break it up into parts.

I haven’t been blogging in so long and yet… would have regretted not participating once I had this unusual direction of inspiration for this carnival theme. So I’m glad to have made time to write this.

If you’ve been following my blogging for a long while, back on my luvtheheaven blog, you know that I grew up in the context of child abuse from my primary caregiver – my mother – and have a history of childhood trauma. If you buy into attachment theory, as far as the insecure attachment styles go, I have a pretty classic “anxious attachment style”, also known as anxious-preoccupied attachment. I haven’t blogged much about attachment styles but I did start to earlier this year in February in my blog post about getting ghosted by an avoidant partner of mine in the past, and what kinds of avoidant characters and avoidant-anxious ships I’m also drawn to. My rambling blog post covered a lot of ground as I verbally processed and thought through a lot of that for the first time.

My anxious attachment style has been evident for years in my blogging itself even when I didn’t see it, in the form of sometimes veering into oversharing and a desperation for everything to be heard and validated by others, instead of developing and honing the skill for conciseness and parsing out the most relevant details and more salient story. I thought it was a radical vulnerability that was a strength of mine, not a weakness, but in the past few months I’ve been understanding my own oversharing tendencies more and more and feeling less sure it always is such.

I don’t know which of the things outlined in this article are me exactly, but some of them resonate at least to some degree.

Mostly, it’s complicated, and not necessarily something I need to completely change about myself, if I even could. It can be a positive thing, as outlined here:

You will often feel quite validated when you share personal struggles and someone reaches out to you to tell you about how they feel, to tell you a similar story, or how it allowed them to honour their feelings. This will often be the reason someone will share a raw take on their past. Bringing joy or comfort to others with tales of your own traumas is rewarding for some.

If it is used right, oversharing can be a powerful tool to help you open up and connect with like-minded individuals. Sharing your depression struggles only to be met with support, or by announcing to your friends that you’re struggling as a way to explain why you’ve not been replying to their texts can be therapeutic.

So what does all of this have to do with “attraction”?

Well, because my anxious attachment style seems to heavily influence who’s attracted to me, and also to include those to whom I’m drawn towards!

This happens in complicated and confusing ways that I’ve been working to unpack for years, and I finally feel like I’m making some progress on understanding and untangling the mysteries.

From early March 2021 to early September 2021 I was in my 4th ever dating partnership, and my 3rd to be with a fellow ace person. I’ll give this now-already-an-ex of mine the pseudonym Teresa on my blog. Teresa actually chose her pseudonym while we were still together.

(So did two of my other exes, Asher and Robert, while I was dating them. When I date someone long enough, I know I’ll want to be blogging about them and I want them to approve of the name I use 😉 Robert, Asher, and Teresa are the 3 different long-term dating partnerships I’ve been in with fellow aces. I’ve been lucky enough to be in 3 ace/ace relationships, although I mostly feel “unlucky” that I couldn’t make one last.)

While I was with Teresa, I was (and still am) 31 years old, and she was 27 and turned 28 one month prior to our breakup. We were together for 6 months.

I’ve actually dated 4 aces, but one of them I didn’t date long enough for it to become “a relationship” or an actual dating partnership, as she and I only dated for a week. I didn’t date her long enough for her to choose her own pseudonym on my blog, but I’ll pick one for her now – “Natalie”.

With Natalie, it was the relatively classic case of me sharing more than the average person does on an online dating profile, because of my compulsive oversharing and perhaps a need to protect myself from the pain of being rejected once we start talking by trying to put it all out there ahead of time – I’m a sex-averse asexual, I want to become a foster parent, and a person knows this about me before we’ve even met.

Natalie saw my profile, and everything clicked as if it was a dream-come-true for both of us. She had never even heard of asexuality, but instead of being scared away by my profile, my profile explained a lot of big confusing things about herself that she hadn’t even realized she’d needed explanations for – her husband had been the only person she’d ever been sexually attracted to, and she’d been with him since she was in high school, and as she was 25 years old at the time of reading my profile, it had been 7 or 8 years with him at this point. I was 28.

I was really excited about things we had in common… until I found out all the things we clashed completely on.

I was so happy to have found someone who wanted to foster kids with me, and who didn’t want sex with me, and while I just used cloth menstrual pads she actually sewed and made them herself! She was interested in things I had to offer like deep explanations about asexuality and demisexuality as she was figuring out her own demisexuality. She understood having an abusive parent. She had left behind Christianity. These were the types of personality “compatibility” factors that deeply attracted me to her. And attracted her to me as well! I would guess that we both had an anxious attachment style, in this case, and saw in each other the potential to meet some of our deepest desires – to find a co-parenting life partner who wouldn’t make sex an issue between us, and when you see the person’s potential to meet your deeply held desires, that is something that is VERY attractive in a potential partner.

One thing that tends to be said about people with an axnious-preoccupied attachment style is that we

often feel emotional hunger [and are] frequently looking to [a] partner to rescue or complete them. 

And regardless of if it’s a partner, a friend, or someone else in our lives, we can grasp extra “clingily” hard to any hint that we’ve found a person to fulfill the role of our dream or fantasy. We didn’t get what we needed as kids trying to bond with a parent, so we perhaps may have filled in the gaps with an ability to fantasy bond – which was a useful coping mechanism as children but needs to be unlearned as adults or else it’s unconsciously hindering us. We form stronger bonds with fictional characters too! Which is obviously not a relationship grounded in reality at all but rather, and as adults we know on most levels it’s not at all real, but there’s this part of our emotional selves that is drawn to this that is complicated to unpack.

Two anxious-preoccupied people can potentially work out sometimes, but in this case we each jumped into it too fast, wanting it to work so badly we convinced ourselves it would based on just a couple conversations, which made it hurt more when it became evident it wasn’t gonna work out. I literally only had Natalie in my life for about a week and a half? But I remember all of this, because it was all so significant and powerful and emotionally BIG for me.

We went on our first date to lunch and we both didn’t want the date to end, and continued the date by her following me to an ace meetup I was attending that afternoon to design posters for carrying in the Pride Parade.

But… She was much more unavailable than I thought she was, and I was trying to be open to polyamory for the first time so I tried to be open to the fact that she was separated from her husband but thinking of trying to stay with him and be with me, and stuff like that. I actually had just not even fully noticed her relationship status as “separated” on her dating profile when she’d reached out to me But when I found out she was an anti-vaxxer and despite claiming to be anti-corporal punishment actually did spank her 18-month-old daughter and wished the principal of school was allowed to spank her 14-year-old nephew, I knew we definitely weren’t the match of my dreams I had been thinking we were just days earlier.

A big thing which I had convinced myself about was the idea that “I wasn’t choosing a person who I was attracted to” because… I just took whoever was interested in me. I would take whatever I could get as long as they didn’t have super huge dealbreaker incompatibilities with me. Beggers can’t be choosers, right? If I’m already “picky” enough to need my partner to not need sex with me, not need to kiss me, and need to be interested in parenthood via fostering/adoption, then anything else should hopefully be fine, right? I already feel like I’m asking for too much, and how can I really ask for much more? How can I feel secure in having even more desires and boundaries than those? I didn’t know any of the answers.

Long before I knew I was ace, I asked a guy to junior prom when I was in high school too – but he turned me down. The guy I asked had extreme acne scars all over his face and was not at all what others would stereotypically find aesthetically attractive, so he was therefore not likely to be deemed “attractive” by the majority of our classmates, and he was the shyest and most quiet guy I’d ever met. So why was I drawn to ask him of all people out? What did I see in a guy who… revealed less about himself than almost anyone else I’d ever met?

I’m often really attracted to the avoidantly attached individual, the people who are listeners and act interested when I talk or write so very much, who are impressed by my emotional expressiveness and words and ability to feel so fully and admire that about me. I’m drawn to want to get to know them better because they are such a mystery.

I was talking to a friend of mine recently, a friend who self-describes herself as avoidantly attached, and she said something that helped me understand why anxiously attached individuals also are so drawn to me, be it for friendships or dating partnerships. She talked about how hard it is for her to express her emotions so openly and how watching how I just… like the lyric in a OneRepublic song,

Like it or not, all my shit is right there
I wear my issues like tattoos across my chest
And when people notice I tell them you ain’t seen nothing yet

We’re drawn to each other like magnets are attracted to opposites. This article explains it as:

When these two opposing extremes meet, it can feel electrifying. The child in one sees the other and says at some unconscious level, “There is a consistent person. Now I will be cared for. Now I can relax.” The child in the other says, “There is another child, like me, someone who will not control me. Now I will be safe.”

And they are consistent people, it seems. Super functional and together. My dad trusted the most when I dated Teresa and Robert, and they were my partners who ended up being avoidantly attached. Who ended up suddenly cutting me off without explanation and without warning because I was too much for them. Because I was upset when they were pulling away from me and didn’t know how to handle it other than to become even more wordy and begging for reassurance and validation that we were still a secure relationship, which only served to weaken even further the connection between us, because my desperation did indeed scare them away. Because they were fragile people too who could quite easily be scared away by my emotions.

What drew them to me at first, what they were sure they loved about me, in time became something they could not tolerate.

[T]he one wanting to feel cared for begins to feel abandoned, and the one wanting to avoid oppression realizes they have re-created their childhood. They have found yet another person who cannot meet their needs, another person who is not really attuned and is instead distracted by their own panic, continuing the belief of the oppressed: “I am alone. I have to be self-sufficient. I cannot count on my partner.” So, they’ll pull away and say with resentment, “Take care of yourself. I have to.” And the dance begins.

They pull away from me, leaving me more traumatized than I already was, and I really was already a traumatized mess of a person! I feel confused as to how any couples can stay together for years, when I can’t keep my best partners, the ones I felt the most sure of, from leaving me if it’s been 6 months or so. As that’s about when they pull away!

Years ago, I requested and received this fanvideo as a gift once, because the lyrics of this song spoke to my point of view so powerfully:

And the very first line of the song is:

You don’t say much
You don’t say any more than you have to

“Some Kind of Home” by Thriving Ivory

It’s kind of laughable to me, looking at it now, realizing what I do today. To love a song that explicitly is about falling for and wanting to build a home with a person who is extremely… quiet.

It’s… this draw to a person who… is so different from me, and so interesting, like a mystery I feel compelled to unlock the secrets of, who I begin to feel so amazingly seen by in a way most others don’t see me, and who I also feel special in that they let me in more than they let in everyone else in their life. I say way too much, and they say so little, and yet…

I am compelled to be a caretaker in a more extreme way than the securely attached people out there seem to ever be. It’s a manifestation of childhood trauma coping strategies. Both wanting to be a foster caregiver in the first place is a sign of this, and a potential explanation for why none of the securely attached people in ace meetups or on dating sites are drawn to me enough for them to seem to be potential partners. The only people left to be drawn to me at all are the fellow traumatized and insecurely attached individuals, who are drawn to help the kids in the foster care system for similar reasons as me, and who have their own issues when it comes to navigating dating relationships.

The lyrics of that song build to a bridge:

It’s hard enough to walk a line in pieces
But you don’t have to do this on your own
We can pass the time by reading signs along the freeway
You don’t have to do this alone

And it’s all about wanting to help a person not be alone. I should have realized when Teresa and Robert didn’t have close friendships at all that this was a sign for concern, that they were too isolated, and that it was a bigger deal for each of them to have been 27 when I first got into a dating partnership with them and they had never been in a serious dating partnership before, that it wasn’t just the ace and sex-averse complexity of it all for all of us and our inexperience levels, but it was the insecure attachment tendencies made apparent, in their case being so extremely good at independence.

(Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad sign for someone sex-averse and in their 20’s or 30’s to have never dated before. I understand it myself, not having dated at all till my twenties, and I think it’s exceedingly common for a ton of reasons that make a lot of sense. But… it’s still something I can’t help but keep in mind as a piece of a puzzle of why didn’t they date at all before me, kind of thing. And the older I get, the more it’ll be relevant as my partners age with me. There will have been more years for them to have tried dating, and the more comfortable a person is not dating, the more avoidant attachment style becomes one possible explanation for it.)

When I met Teresa, she was much more confident about potentially pursuing parenthood while single, although she’d take a partner if one were to come along. And one did, in me. We were both commenting on a post in a Facebook Group called “Queer Platonic Aromantic Connections” (yes they spelled queerplatonic like it was 2 words) and realized we had similar interests and goals for who we might look for in a life partner and when it came to parenthood.

Meanwhile, I was pretty much the opposite. I was never fully confident about the thought of pursuing parenthood while single, and have been desperate for years to find a partner, because I felt like I wouldn’t be able to handle it by myself. It always felt overly… almost arrogant, and very risky to the kid, to trust oneself enough to think you yourself with no input from another parent is all that a child needs. I don’t know why I was so stuck thinking that, but I really wanted, “just in case” I became a parent who wasn’t actually doing what was best for my child, have a person there to balance out my influence, a person to notice and correct me. But for years, I’ve been trying to get myself into a place where if I was forced to I would handle parenthood while single and it would be okay. I didn’t want to just never experience parenthood at all if I couldn’t find a partner. And foster parenthood put me in a unique position where it would be easier to convince myself that at least me, one parent, trying her best, would be better than no one, possibly better than a group home, better than some options. Where the kid is already there, in need of someone. So stepping up to be that someone feels different than going through and conceiving and creating a new baby would feel.

Teresa & I didn’t quite define our relationship as queerplatonic, or romantic, or alterous, or anything else, although all of those were discussed as relevant and sorta applicable at different times. This isn’t the post to explore that. But she was asexual and so was I. She and I both didn’t like kissing at all back years before we’d met each other when we’d tried it with other people. We didn’t ever consider cuddling, complimenting each other based on looks, etc. Our partnership wasn’t based on things like that. We didn’t feel a lot of the types of attraction that it’s possible to feel. We did feel emotional/alterous attraction, things that kind of felt romantic-adjacent, but nothing really physical or about looks.

When Teresa broke up with me, it reminded me a lot of what Robert had said when he broke up with me the first time. Both of them leaned into those avoidant tendencies by using the breakup moment to express thinking they maybe were more aromantic than they thought.

I had been both Teresa & Robert’s first ever serious, months-long dating relationship and they both thought maybe I’d be their last, at least for a very long while.

Teresa and Robert each said at the time that there wasn’t any one reason for us to break up. These partners of mine weren’t willing to communicate their unhappiness until it was too late for us to fix things or discuss it at all—in fact in both cases, because I tend to ask for such reassurance, both partners had very recently reassured me everything was fine between us, essentially gaslighting my perception of how unhappy they seemed near the end. Then, all of a sudden, they’d made up their minds and were sure of the decision to break up and… that was that!

Asher was different, was more anxiously attached like me instead of an avoidant partner, and in fact was more strongly exhibiting the anxious-preoccupied attachment style than even me. Asher also was demisexual and demiromantic and over the course of us dating began to feel various forms of attraction towards me that I didn’t feel back—a strong-directed desire to kiss me, a directed desire to cuddle with me, sexual attraction for me once their demisexual switch flipped, aesthetic attraction towards me… desire to call me a term of endearment, which eventually I sorta started feeling a slight temptation towards calling them a different term of endearment sometimes and at times I felt a directed desire for hugging them, being a demisensual person myself, but.

Mostly I didn’t feel the attraction they felt towards me, which triggered me feeling very insecure at times in the relationship. Asher was desperate for me to always reassure them I wanted them. Asher needed to work hard to believe that not being desired sexually and romantically by a partner didn’t mean the partner didn’t deeply want to be with them, as they had learned in past relationships to associate a partner’s attraction for them with their love and desire for being with them. More than that, they needed to know that I wasn’t going to leave them just because they felt feelings they couldn’t control, including biological drives like sexual attraction, towards me.

Meanwhile, I was desperate to feel sure I was wanted for who I was even without feeling those attractions, and that I would be enough for them as I was. And I needed to feel secure like at times, if I needed it, my partner could be relied on. And I especially wasn’t getting that latter part. My partner was struggling a lot with suicidality and constantly needing me to be a caretaker to them, and could not be relied on or even left alone. I’d try to enjoy events away from Asher, trying to fully be present with my friends on at least 2 different occasions and I’d end up having to leave early or spend a ton of time in another room on the phone with Asher, reassuring Asher that I was there for them and bearing witness to their mental health struggles. And this became more and more the norm. We weren’t equal partners in anything, and it slowly but surely became evident to me that it wasn’t being balanced out by Asher being there for me when I would need it.

As much as Asher wanted to parent alongside me, I began to realize it would be more like having an additional person to take care of if things didn’t change. Their mental health was all so treatment resistant and I didn’t see things changing for the better anytime soon. I realized it would be easier to parent single than with Asher as my partner. And I was the one to break up with Asher after 8 months of dating.

There was something I felt emotionally attracted to in Asher at first. All the stuff we had in common. The fact that Asher was not scared away by me was maybe all I thought I needed at first, the extremely low bar of taking anyone who will have me. It feels so good to be wanted and desired and it can, at times, trigger me desiring the person back! Wanting to really be there for them in every way imaginable. But with time, I didn’t feel like my needs were being met, but by then I was so afraid Asher was the only person I’d ever find that I couldn’t hold my relationship to a higher standard. I couldn’t dare admit to myself how unhappy I was. I couldn’t let myself really see that even being single was better for me and my life than being in this partnership, not at first.

But when I was with my avoidant partners, Teresa and Robert, I saw how much they had to offer. They were good at being alone. They were confident. They would be able to handle helping me through hard times, at least it seemed that way in the early parts of our courtships, and they could take care of our future (hypothetical) shared children in a way that I’d trust and feel a lot of comfort in. They were strong, stable people I could mistake for emotionally healthy, when really they were putting up a front of strength to protect themselves from pain. They were very anxious people, who couldn’t actually handle my big emotions over time. They weren’t as interested in fiction as I was and might never fully understand my passion for fandom things. Robert seemed emotionally moved deeply by a lot of it though, unlike Teresa. They were closeted to their family about not being religious whereas my atheism is such a big part of my life. Robert was really closeted about his queerness. Teresa just didn’t get how or why my asexuality was such a big deal to me, because hers was such a non-issue in her life.

I thought for a long time that I must be exempt from being actively attracted to a certain “type” of person, including when I saw general allo-centric stuff about traumatized people being attracted to toxic partners or partners who are otherwise bad partners. I’m asexual, I don’t even feel most “types of attraction” in a clearcut way. Those rules shouldn’t apply to me!

But I am attracted to people with insecure attachments for all sorts of complex emotional reasons. I notice their quietness, they notice my emotional expressiveness, and a bond has already instantly formed. I notice people with things in common with me or extremely the opposite of me and I don’t even notice the other people who are more securely attached and right in the middle.

And now I’m ready, now that I’m 31 years old and approaching age 32, to be asking the right questions, and working on how to become more securely attached. I’d love to figure out a way to train myself to find securely attached people attractive, and to tame the parts of me that has been making only insecurely attached people, and no one else, find me an attractive enough potential mate for a shared future and raising kids together. To present a more attractive version of myself so that the securely attached people out there might want to be with me. “More attractive” not in any physical or looks-based sense, but in the sense of my personality, my demeanor, my behaviors when people interact with me (or my profile!) for the first time. I know people think I have an attractive smile sometimes, which is one of the kindest seemingly-looks based compliments I can receive, because what I realized over time it really is is an attraction to my emotional expressiveness. It’s being drawn to my joy and not really about my mouth at all lol.

But I really want to stop scaring away the emotionally healthy people when I open said mouth!

I am starting to notice a sign that I’m healing from some of these wounds, these unhealthy tendencies, though – and it’s coming out in an unexpected place. I’m starting to be less drawn to – or attracted to – couples that are exhibiting extreme anxious/avoidant or anxious/anxious tendencies in the ships I prefer on my favorite TV shows. I used to feel really intense shipping feelings for some dynamics that when I rewatch, I don’t feel excited anymore… I feel uncomfortable. I feel the unhealthiness of the way the dating dynamic is playing out, and I’m starting to crave, more and more, the examples of secure attachment in dating and marriage partnerships in my favorite fandoms. It feels sad to lose the excitement for some of my old ships, and a part of me will always love the dysfunction that I’ve memorized… but less and less of me is finding that attractive in some core way, and that’s such a positive sign and gives me a lot of hope for my future.

Whatever my next dating relationship has in store, I’m more ready now than I was before.

6 thoughts on “How Can I Be Attracted to People Who Are Bad for Me, If I’m Not Even “Attracted” to Them?! (Anxious-Preoccupied Attachment Style in This Aro-Spec Asexual)

  1. Thanks for sharing this! I totally relate to you about wanting to overshare…I tried that over at reddit and was hoping to get validation for the stuff I felt under the blanket/shield of anonymity. But reddit was not … the best place for that. I hope blogging is a better outlet for my need to share my thoughts and feelings. But I try to be more … filtered when I blog, lol. I have more thoughts, but trying to get the roundup together right now! ><
    (I'll add more thoughts in the roundup itself!)

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha same. I’m mostly done with it. But I’m too tired to read through it right now and see if it makes sense. So I think at this point, I’ll finish it up tomorrow. 😅


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