Dear Patti,

I’ve been dating Trevor for seven months and the relationship is very good in many ways. He’s intelligent, handsome, interesting, musical, athletic, artistic and academic. Due to all his pursuits, he has lots of fascinating friends. Unfortunately, he seems to want to spend more time with all his various communities than he does with me. I’m the one who always wants more time together and he wants less. He says it’s not true, but it appears he’s pulling away more and more. I’m afraid I’ll never find someone I could feel this same way about. The more he distances himself, the more anxious and insecure I get and keep reaching out to him. I keep asking if I’ve done something to make him angry, but he assures me everything is fine and that he’s just very busy. He keeps breaking off dates. When he’s with me, he seems aloof.

I worry I can never be interesting enough. How can I ever compete with his friends? I talk to his best friend’s girlfriend and she’s positive Trevor isn’t seeing anyone else. She also believes he loves me but commonly acts distant with a girl after he’s dated her for a while.

He’s all I think about and the only person I want to be with. I am afraid my neediness will push him away even further. My friends say I should play” hard to get,” but I’ve never been the type to play games.

  — Marina

Dear Marina,

I’d like you to consider a psychological theory which might be relevant to your situation. Adult attachment theory describes three basic personality types relative to behavior in romantic relationships: (1) secure attachment style, (2) avoidant attachment style and (3) anxious or insecure attachment style. Those in the secure group normally feel safe and happy when becoming close or intimate with another. Avoidant persons are prone to distancing themselves from intimate partners due to a fear of being trapped, smothered and losing their independence. Anxious individuals constantly desire closeness, commitment and are preoccupied with their romantic partner whom they often fear losing.

There’s a possibility Trevor might lean toward the avoidant attachment style since it appears he’s becoming more aloof as your relationship deepens. Further, his friend’s girlfriend reports that it’s been his pattern to “commonly act distant with a girl after he’s dated her for a while.”

What’s the likelihood you lean toward the anxious/insecure attachment style? While you valiantly try to keep your worries in control and allow the relationship with Trevor room to grow by keeping these feelings to yourself, it appears you tend to be preoccupied with your relationship and the fear of him leaving or no longer loving you.

If you find there might be some truth to this, explore exactly what triggers your day-to-day insecurities. What are your typical thoughts, emotions and reactions? Reviewing your own personal process can give you a different perspective. It’s also helpful to identify a few people in your life that you see as secure and confident in how they handle intimate relationships. It can be helpful to use them as role models. Becoming secure is an ongoing process and, of course, different people at different times in their lives have varying needs to be close and emotionally attached to another. It’s important, though, to understand what happens when their different needs clash with one another; i.e., one partner wants intimacy and the other feels uncomfortable with it. It can then be difficult to move toward a more stable relationship because there’s a repeated pattern where each person’s insecurities keep becoming exacerbated.

If you and Trevor can start to understand your own attachment insecurities, you both might be able to view your relationship differently as well as take responsibility for how you’re each negatively contributing to the relationship. Is Trevor ignoring your genuine needs and — by dismissing them — triggering more neediness/dependency? Are you distancing Trevor by becoming more demanding for contact?

I recommend further exploration by reading and possibly attending a few psychotherapy sessions with a professional schooled in these attachment principles. An excellent book to help you get started is “Attached” by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller. Take heart, as it’s possible to become more secure as you continue with your emotional growth.


Patti Carmalt-Vener, a faculty member with the Southern California Society for Intensive Short Term Psychotherapy, is a psychotherapist in private practice with offices in Pasadena, Santa Monica and Canoga Park. Contact her at (626) 584-8582 or email pcarmalt@aol.com. Visit her website, patticarmalt-vener.com.