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Self-Fulfilling Prophecies & Breakups


(The Youtube Embedder isn't working, but click the circle above to be taken to the YT Vlog!)

 

Have you heard of the "self-fulfilling prophecy"?


The fancy definition is: the process through which an initially false expectation leads to its own confirmation.


Basically: You think, "I'm going to F up this presentation at work", and then you get so nervous that you don't perform well during the presentation.


I wanted to explore this concept in the context of relationships.


Particularly in the context of being in a relationship with someone who has an Avoidant Attachment (that someone could be you).


Just a reminder, an Avoidant Attachment is the term used to describe someone who avoids emotional closeness. Think Kat from 10 Things I Hate About You or Samantha from Sex and the City.


People with an avoidant attachment can be described as almost "too independent". They're a bit of a lone wolf emotionally (they can have lots and lots of people around, but the quality of those relationships is distant).


What tends to happen is that people with an avoidant attachment actually fear being alone more than anything.


Because of the way they grew up, they might not know how to get close to someone in a way that feels safe. Their inner monologue is something like "If I never get too close to anyone, then I'll never be hurt."


The problem is: human beings are wired to connect. It's a natural thing to want to be in relationship with others (whether friendships or romantic relationships). So how does this tie into the self fulfilling prophecy?


The cycle goes a little like this*:

Sabrina has an avoidant attachment. She considers herself an island of one- she has no problem going to dinner by herself. She has friends but sometimes struggles to handle conflict with them because as soon as conflict pops up, she dips out. She'll go take a "friend vacation" and hang out with one of her other groups of friends.


Sabrina met Ed a couple of months ago. She thought he was cute but didn't have any expectations. They're "hanging out" pretty often, even texting multiple times a week. Sabrina doesn't want to "put her eggs in one basket" so she hesitates to consider them "dating".


Ed is starting to mention the future: "where should we go for the summer holidays?". Uh-oh. Sabrina gets a weird feeling in her stomach when she hears that. She starts to sweat and feels her chest get tense.


Sabrina's subconsciously terrified of being alone, so she starts to push Ed away. Better to create distance than to be left afterall, she thinks.


She leaves his texts on read for a few hours longer, just so he doesn't think she's "too available". She redownloads Hinge, perusing what else is out there. She actually likes Ed, but the thought of telling him that? Oh hell no! Better to build up her armor.


Ed is getting confused AF. He thought Sabrina liked him but she's acting so... aloof? He tried to mention the future with her and she got real cagey. He's starting to doubt her interest in him. "Hmmm, maybe she doesn't like me as much as I thought she did" he thinks.


So now Ed's pulling away. He saw a Hinge notification pop up on Sabrina's phone while they were out one night and he figures, "damn, she really doesn't like me, does she?!". He feels embarrassed and stupid, he didn't know he was so bad at reading these things. He stops talking about the future. He doesn't text her as often during the day, fearing that she's totally over him.


Sabrina reads his pulling away as "ah ha! I knew it- I knew he wasn't interested in me. No point in investing in this one." A few more nights, a few more miscommunications, and this relationship is over before it really got a chance.


Sabrina is sad about the breakup but feels vindicated. She just knew this wasn't going to work.


Buuuuut... did she create a self-fulfilling prophecy? Her subconscious story was that it's not safe to get close to someone: being close to someone means you'll be abandoned or rejected.


That story created the actions of pushing Ed away. Now Ed is gone. So her story became true because of her actions. And who knows- maybe it would've worked out and maybe it wouldn't have, but acting from an unhealed attachment wound is almost certainly going to create the reality you're trying to avoid.


Though there are a lot of similarities between people with avoidant attachments, each case is so unique and can require its own tools to heal. Therapy is an excellent one of those tools.


If this sounds like your or someone you know, have them book a free consultation today: healing attachment wounds is one of my favorite specialties


Does this sound like a couple you know or are in? Keep your eyes peeled: this summer, I'm launching a couples' therapy group that will cover this exact topic. If you're in a relationship and still struggling with this- this is the group for you! Special discounts will be sent out to newsletter subscribers.


*this is a fictionalization based on over ten years of being a therapist combined with my own horrendous dating history






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