What do you do when you're home alone, or you're jealous that your partner is spending time away? What do you do if you're the one pulling away? We'll explore in the moment actions as well as deep reflections about attachment styles, and finding stability in close relationships.
Hear it all on this episode QRQJ: where two relationship therapists explore what it looks like to see joy in queer relationships. The Attachment Project www.attachmentproject.com
Second Adolescence Podcast www.secondadolescencepod.com
Put QRQJ into action with our free 5 question worksheet. Get it here: bit.ly/QRQJworksheet
Shop at As You Like It here: bit.ly/asyoulikeitshop
Connective Therapy Collective website: www.connectivetherapycollective.com/queer-relationships-queer-joy
FB & IG: @queer_relationships_queer_joy
Melisa: this whole concept goes so much deeper than having a list of activities to do. They're like, I have a whole list of things, but then I don't do them like, cause you're not addressing what's actually happening in your nervous system.
Keely: Hello. Welcome everyone.
Melisa: Welcome to Queer Relationships, Queer Joy.
Keely: We're back again for another week, and you thought we'd take a moment to outline a structure or kind of structure, at least for the one, for the topics and the times that it's just the two of us talking and we don't have an interview.
Melisa: So for anyone who is just tuning into our podcast for the very first time my name's Melisa DeSegiurant, I'm one of your hosts.
Keely: And my name is Keely C. Helmick, I'm the other host.
Melisa: We're gonna do some personal updates about our lives. Then we're going to formally introduce ourselves in a more full way, and then we will dig into our topic today around anxious attachment.
Keely: Weee! And in that theme of exploration. We're gonna explore what it is like to navigate an anxious attachment.
Melisa: Especially in queer relationships.
Keely: Yes. And especially at those times when you find yourself, if you're an anxiously attached person and you find yourself alone at home and your partner's off doing other things. What do you do? So quick updates before, why don't we introduce ourselves and we'll do quick updates.
Melisa: Alright! Switching it up. Totally.
Keely: Since we started with intro of new listeners again, my name is Keely C. Helmick. I am the owner of Connective Therapy Collective. I am a white, queer, non-binary fem who is nonmonogamously dating. I don't know the whole relationship thing, it just keeps getting, I don't know if it's, cuz it's Scorpio season, that's what everyone keeps saying or it's getting close to the holidays or in Portland. It just gets kind of gloomy in seasonal depression, I don't know. But relationships are very interesting right now, to say the least.
Melisa: Yeah. Yeah. And I'm Melisa DeSegiurant. I am licensed as a marriage and family therapist and a professional counselor working at Connective Therapy Collective. And I am white bisexual able bodied.
I am polyamorous and I am genderfluid, I use she and they pronouns.
Keely: So. Updates. Who wants to go first? I'm trying to decide what do I even say? Sometimes I-
Melisa: I'm trying to decide if I even have an update. It's one of those, like, we're in, we're we're, I mean, I know it's not winter yet, but it feels like it.
Keely: No, it's really nice and sunny today in Portland, but yes, it does, it's definitely winter and Thanksgiving for those who celebrate. I don't even like saying that word, but it is a celebrated thing for some folks. Demarcates this holiday season in general. So I think there's a lot of that going on too, depending on how you view the holidays. I know that for my update, what do I even say?
I think I left off talking about how the person who I was dating earlier in the year and then they went off to do, they went off to another state to do a contract for a while. They're back. We have been hanging out, interacting. So I guess that's an update and we're actually talking about what it would like to be more seriously dating.
Keely: In the context of they have a primary partner and so what would that look like for us to date? And I see it as like when we say more structured.
Melisa: Sure. Yeah.
Keely: I mean, after a year, it's been a year since I reconnected with them, so it's been, things happen. You know, there's a quote that I read where someone was like, if you keep having sex with someone, feelings are going to come into play. You are gonna develop feelings. And I think that's what happened. And we were wondering what it'd be like to have some months apart. And I think what we actually realized is even though we weren't physically together, we were very connected when they were gone and talking a lot and talking about really intimate things together. And so it actually built our intimacy. So now we're gonna see what that means to be back physically together.
Melisa: Yeah. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, right? Isn't that what they say?
Keely: All right. And uh, yeah, I might have a drop the L word this weekend too for the first time. So,
Keely: We were talking about vulnerability, I was like, Oh no, I like cringed. I got like, oh, I felt like I was back in high school. I was like, I still like if people are watching on the video, my face gets, and I'm not one who get embarrassed very much, but that was some big V vulnerability this weekend.
Melisa: Ah, well done. Go you.
Keely: So where are you at?
Melisa: Gosh, I, yeah, I, I love living vicariously through your updates, Keely. I don't, I don't feel like I, I would be really like I don't know the word. Struggling to find relationship specific updates. I think week to week right now, things are pretty calm and steady. You know, being the solo poly moment that I'm having in my life means that a lot of my time is spent alone. So I would say the most active relationship right now, like every day I'm thinking about it, is my relationship with myself. And I think that's, you know, still part of the rebuilding that I'm doing in my life. So it's going pretty well. I mean, I like myself, so that's good. uh, I can drop the L word towards myself a little bit more often.
Keely: Yes. And I do wanna say Melisa, one of our listeners was talking about their experiences and was really, you know, you're saying you're steady and don't have much. Updates to give, but they were, this person in particular was saying how much they get from listening to you talk about like your solo dates and they
Melisa: Aw, good.
Keely: Said, Oh, I've been on these, like, they, they text me when they go on dates with themselves. It's adorable. And so,
Keely: You even say this type of update you just gave is so useful.
Melisa: Good, Yay. Thank you for that validation. Thank you listeners who, who feel something when I say these things. Yeah, truly that's, that's really been my focus. Part of being cold means I stay inside of where it's warm. I did get myself out on some walks this weekend cuz it's super sunny and I know that's a rarity here in Portland. But I did a lot of internal time, I think I, I'm like, is this my queer joy too? I shouldn't spoil. Like I didn't do that much this last week. I'll save what I did. But I had some solo time that was very, I, some of it was really reflective, actively so, and some of it was me just enjoying a chill day at home.
Keely: Awesome. Yeah. Awesome.
Melisa: That's what I'm doing. I'm chilling.
Keely: Our topic today really is being informed by a question and a topic that comes up a lot, at least for me, I hear it a lot where you have a person who either identifies or has anxiety or identifies with the idea of anxious attachment and asking us when we're in therapy mode, but not even just asking in general. I have friends asking me this. It's like, what does the person do who is at home? Their partner or partners are off doing other things and they just happen to not have anyone to hang out with at night. And that rares up their anxiety and anxious attachment comes in.
Melisa: Mm-hmm, this, this comes up for so many of my clients, like I, I can think of at least four people in the last week I've had this conversation with. And I, I think it's a good one to have here for that reason, cuz it's a widespread experience. I also want to name it's a good one for me to continue to have because I can come off sometimes insensitive to that experience because I don't often have the same experience. My attachment style works differently and I'm also so used to alone time and it was a rarity for me growing up. So alone time is like coveted time for me.
Keely: Yeah. Such a different experience than what we're talking about with people who have this anxious.
Melisa: Yeah, so, so for me, my mind goes right to problem solving instead of really unpacking what is anxious attachment. You know, not just like, okay, here's the list of tasks you can do.
Cause I can think of so many things, but that's missing the point of the, the injury, the interpersonal injury that's informing this response, which is I think, where we have to start.
Keely: I wanna just talk briefly. Before we dive in specifically to this question about attachment and what attachment styles are, and I got some really great reframing from a queer lens about attachment and the influence of anti queerness in attachment styles. Now I wanna make sure and say that this information, or some of the phrasing and quotes that I'm gonna be using are from the Attachment Project and Second Adolescent podcasts. So these are not all my, my own thoughts, but going through. So the way they deemed, and for listeners have heard attachment or like, you know, it's talked about a lot, but one way to define it, the way they define it is attachment styles are formed in childhood and these are the ways we perceive and respond to closeness and intimate relationships. And so what they go through, and since we're talking about specifically anxiety, anxious attachment, which then on the other side of that coin can be avoidant. What I really, what really struck me about this information is they, they talked about how, and we've said this before, is how common it is for LGBTQ+ folks to have insecure attachment styles and when having insecure attachment styles really can interrupt our access to the relationships we want in our lives.
And so from the lens, I mean, when you hear that Melisa, what do you think about, I mean, I know you and I both talk about attachment style a lot, but the idea that insecure attachment styles specifically with the queer community.
Melisa: Well, the first thing that comes to mind, and, and maybe like the most obvious, I suppose, is just not everyone's biological family or family of origin is accepting of queerness of queer people. And so that's an immediate injury, attachment wound or trauma to be rejected by one's family, you know? And even if that doesn't look like getting kicked out of the house and you're on your own, even if that's I'm rejecting a part of your identity, but you can still live here and I still love other parts of you. Like that is still that's still an attachment wound, an injury that's created there.
Melisa: So we think like additional attachment, I mean, you know, what do you call, I don't know what you call that, but.
Keely: Yeah. Well, until we think of the baseline of what we all hope to have, which is secure attachment, secure security is feeling comfort and safety in our relationships and the overarching themes of secure attachment is when we feel safe, when we are seen and known, we are comforted, valued, and supported to explore that, that security piece where, you know, even when they talk about attachment with young kiddos, where they'll go off and explore, but then come back to their base.
Keely: And going off just what you were saying, Melisa as well, is thinking about like this idea of being seen and known and valued, like if you're not able, if the home that you grew up in, it wasn't safe to come out, or you didn't have the opportunity, or you weren't supported to explore your gender and or sexuality. That already sets us up as adults with insecure attachment styles.
Melisa: Mm-hmm. and internalized beliefs about other people in the world. People will leave me, I can't trust people. You know, things like that that inform that. I like being specific about what the secure attachment actually feels like. We've talked about this before, but just to name it, for those of us who have had attachment wounding and injury and have developed these insecure patterns, actually being in a secure attached, securely attached relationship can feel very foreign and scary. Yeah. To our nervous systems because it's not what we are used to. It's not what, so we don't know how to like operate this, this world. Um, But I like when I'm talking about what secure attachment looks and feels like with clients. I like using Jessica Ferns terminology from Poly Secure, which even if you're not non or even if you are, yeah, not nonmonogamous, even if you are monogamous, that's a great resource and I think the first section of the book is really a around attachment and has some great material, but the idea of the secure base. And the safe haven. And those are two sort of different things. Um, The safe haven being someone who's emotionally receptive to you and is a safe place for you to be really vulnerable with parts of self. The secure base is kind of what you talked about earlier, Keely, where you're some, there's consistency there and there's security that if you go or I go, we're gonna come back and you're still gonna be here for me.
Keely: Yeah, Yeah.
Melisa: Any, those two things could be uh, shattered by trauma, you know, from early childhood.
Keely: Yeah, and if you think about, so there's three different insecure attachments that they're talking about, and I think about, I'm jumping to disorganized attachment. This feeling, which you can think about it as like maybe a mix of anxious and avoidant, but disorganized attachment is desperately wanting to be loved, but also having a strong fear that people closest to them will harm them.
Keely: Expecting rejection and disappointment that will come at some point and holding onto an unconscious fear of emotional intimacy.
Keely: So then there's anxious attachment, which is the anxious person or a person who experiences anxious, anxious attachment often is preoccupied with whether or not their partner will stay. So again, we're talking, this is not going full in depth attachment. We're talking specifically how this may play out within the dynamic of relationships and then avoidant attachment folks often pride themselves in being self-sufficient and most comfortable by when by themselves. And they also have an unconscious fear of people getting too close. And so that's interesting to think about, like the differences of like the avoidant, disorganized. And I'm always curious, I think disorganized actually pops up more than we realize. When I think of the idea of disorganized attachment, that can play out differently depending on your partner and the partner, their style. So in one dynamic, a person can seem more anxious attached in a different dynamic. They may come off as more avoidantly attached.
Melisa: Yeah. And you know, there, there's a growing idea that attachment patterns do change over time. It's not this like, you know, we had one injury when we were in our youth, and then that's the, that's the attachment pattern from there on out. Like maybe we do see that that influences people for sure, but you know, other relationships will impact our attachment patterns and styles.
Keely: Yeah. And so now that we've reviewed a little bit about attachment ideas and theories, and specifically why or theories around why this idea of antiqueerness really influences a lot of queer folks to have these insecure attachments.
Okay, what do we do with it now we have this example. You know, you have a person who's sitting at home feeling really anxious because their partner is often other things. Now I-
Melisa: My self-reflection comes to mind for me. And being really specific about, I mean, first, like, what am I feeling right now? You know? But getting more detailed into that. I've been going in depth with clients about, which part of you is anxious right now?
Melisa: Is this a childhood part? How old is that part? Let's get to know it. And I actually have one client in particular where we're doing right now in, in therapy, we're doing sort of a, an attachment survey and going through various people and figures in their life that have created, I would call them attachment waves, you know just waves of different attachment things that have come up. And so with that, actually we were able to pinpoint you know, there's some early childhood stuff that it would be very easy as a therapist to say, Oh, that's where everything comes from. Actually, no. When this person sat down in this moment of being left alone and getting triggered, they realized it's not my seven year old that's coming out. It's my high school. You know, it's my little high schooler. You know, it's from all that bullying that I experienced in high school. So again that's where the self-reflection becomes really helpful. It's not just about what am I feeling, but like, where is this coming from? When have I felt like this before?
Keely: Yeah. Yeah. And so reflection for the person that is feeling that anxious attachment, I think in the moment what happens is there are times when the person who's feeling anxious will try to get their partner to stay at home and not go out.
Melisa: Let me control the situation so I don't have to feel anxious.
Keely: Yes. And so the work is recognizing both people sit down and realize, okay, you're having these feelings come up in the moment, but the partner is still gonna go out and hang out with their friends or hang out with another partner because this, again, I wanna really emphasize that we're not just talking about polyamorous relationships here. This can, this can come out in monogamous relationships as well.
Melisa: Yeah, absolutely.
Keely: And sometimes, and it can get heated because if someone isn't pausing and taking time to reflect and go over with their partner. It can come across as jealousy or we can just jump to jealousy.
Melisa: Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. .
Keely: And that could be part of it.
I'm not saying it's not, but right now we're focused on the idea of the person who is feeling anxious. How do they sit with that and, and work through that and still have their partner or, you know, go out and do something with someone else.
Melisa: Yeah, I do see, see people getting stuck in like, how do we talk about this as partners and how do we create agreements?
Melisa: Because it is fair to have requests, you know, like, Hey, I have an anxious attachment. If you're gonna be on a business trip for a week. I have a request that we talk to each other every night, for example. You know, that may or may not be a reasonable request. I don't know. That's not for me to decide, that's for like the relationship to decide, but I would say I get, I start to get nervous when the requests feel like they are, essentially someone saying, I have this request that we make an agreement so that I don't have to feel my feelings.
Keely: Yes. And it's not about avoiding the feeling. Yeah. And that's something to recognize. And again, if we go on the same, when we were talking about explorations, like notice, explore, what happens in your body and what is your instinct?
You know, are you trying to control the situation? Are you looking to your partner to soothe yourself? And this kind of dabbles in, I don't wanna go too much into this, but when we're talking, there's this idea PM Melody talks about called Mother Hunger, and you were referring to parts when someone's sitting with that anxiety is that the seven year old is at the high school, you know, high school self. Oftentimes it is this desire to have someone else soothe.
Melisa: Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. .
Keely: And that can be linked to somebody not getting that soothing
Keely: From their caretaker.
Melisa: Yeah. Totally.
Keely: Notice that it is not your partners, and I know we've said this probably so much, it is not our partner's job to constantly soothe us.
Melisa: Right. Yeah. And why I think it's so important to get specific about which part of you're working with that informs how you soothe yourself. You know, if, if the little inner five year old is acting up, then maybe we watch cartoons and we hug a pillow and we draw and we finger paint and we do silly things and we, you know, like seriously, I have clients who do this as self-care. If it's like the rebel teen, maybe we paint an angry picture and listen to metal music. I don't know. Like it can really change how you handle yourself. And that's why I said at the beginning, this whole concept goes so much deeper than having a list of activities to do. And I have clients get stuck. They're like, I have a whole list of things, but then I don't do them like, cause you're not addressing what's actually happening in your nervous system.
Keely: And in that, along those lines, when they were talking about going forward, exploring more is what are the beliefs about myself or others that I might have internalized? So when we're reflecting on where this comes from, whether it's when you're 7, 14, whatever, wherever that wound possibly happened it's, you know, what beliefs, and they gave some examples like it is a threat and, and we call this in therapy especially in EMDR, we may call this like core negative beliefs. So some examples, it is a threat if people truly know me. Now think about that through a queer lens. Yes. Like truly it can, depending where you're at and if you know, being a person who's trans, being a person of color who's trans, it is in certain situations a threat. And so those internalized messages, I'm not lovable, I hear that all the time.
Keely: I cannot trust people to keep me safe. I am not someone who gets close with people. And so reflecting and thinking about what the core negative belief is that then is being triggered, then you can more fully explore, analyze that, talk to your therapist about it.
Melisa: And address it. Right? The one I hear is it's not safe to be seen. Yeah. And I definitely hear that in a queer context. I also hear that from my clients who are people of color. It's not safe to be seen in the world. I also. Yeah. I guess with that, analyze it. You can talk, talk to the therapist about it. Definitely EMDR is a good way to really get at those core beliefs if you've ever done that therapy. But also it can be how, what's the belief you tell yourself instead, it can be the reframe or the mantra you repeat to yourself.
You know, Like for example, if your negative belief. You know, core kind of belief is people are gonna leave. Like bringing yourself to the present moment is probably a good idea. Like, I know so and so loves me. They come back every time, you know?
Keely: Yeah, Yeah.
Hey, it's Cardinal. You're behind the scenes buddy coming back at you every time with tools and resources to provide inspiration and support. Find links to things mentioned in the episode description. Discuss and share on Instagram at queercore relationships. Underscore queer Joy mosey over to our website and browse the resource library.
And while you're there, sign up for the Connective Therapy Collective Monthly Mental Health New. Of course, new episodes of QR Qj come out every Friday. Love ya. Back to the show.
Keely: So you mentioned a couple minutes ago about what do, There's the pieces we're talking about, which the person who's feeling the anxiety works on and dresses with themselves, but also there is a piece that the person and their partner can talk through and starting with reflecting on, okay, it's not my partner's job to, to solve this, but how can the two of us together have some solutions or come up and you said, you know, the agreements. And yeah, and remember when we were talking about agreements, I've been hearing boundaries that