Recently, I matched with an Aussie by way of Italy who was visiting San Francisco. He was handsome, radiated warmth, bantered glibly, and saw me 3 of his last 4 days in town. Back in Australia, he kept in touch every day and made plans to fly back for Christmas week.  

True to his word, he made the 16,000 mile round-trip to share time and space together. That follow through disarmed me. We wine tasted, met up with friends, and walked my neighborhood as he talked about moving for me. He did boyfriend chores around the house. He revisualized my third bedroom into his home office.

Once he returned to Oz, we settled into weekly videocons. Sometimes, he sent pictures of places he went that he thought I’d be interested in seeing, which made me feel included from afar. But I started to worry. Our calls grew shorter. Details were hazy on a couple of his excursions. And he never resurfaced moving again or the interim February/March trip he said we’d take. So, I asked him. He asked to postpone that discussion again, then again.  

I grew anxious that videocons and messages couldn’t sustain or grow the relationship. The worry seeped in. I was jumpy. When he was ready to talk about our trip, he was serious. Work is busy. His online coursework eats into his free time. He can’t get away until July at the earliest, but he doesn’t want to think about anything until after he completed his coursework. What if I visited him? That’s ok as long as I don’t distract him from his studies. It seemed logical so I agreed and got my visa. When I told him, he didn’t respond for nearly his entire day. Then, he asked we pause the trip planning so he could do some thinking. 

So I did some thinking too. I said that it seemed his feelings have changed, that we should move on. He confirmed both counts right away. And just like that, our Hallmark romance plot disintegrated.

Like in the aftermath of a natural disaster, recovery starts with clean-up. Assess the damage and fix what I can. The obvious rift is the void where once was a promising relationship. There’s no piecing that back. But what’s salvageable is more important: rebuilding the broken part of me. I should be as comfortable in a relationship as I am in my perennially single state. So I set out to understand why I derailed. 

I’ve since learned that I have attachment anxiety. I stopped taking my own cues to watch his. And my anxiety grew as I internally digested his signals. Had I discovered this tendency earlier, I would have  developed ways to catch myself and recenter on my relationship with my own wellbeing. Instead, I further spiraled into insecurity chasing feelings and him.

As an anxious attacher, I looked to my partner for reassurance like he had given me before his Christmas trip. But the words of commitment dwindled. I was listening for but didn’t hear the reassuring things he told me before, like “the most important thing is that we found each other” or that “you’re the only person I want on and off the dance floor” (he was a bachata enthusiast).

At the same time, long distance killed spontaneous affection – that meeting of eyes across the room, a quick kiss during meal prep, a shared meal. That is hard when touch and acts of service are your love languages. Looking back, sending him job postings and visa info because he appreciated them before were clumsy acts of service that may even have backfired in stressing him out. Likely, pics of me going about my day might have been better since early on, he’d mentioned appreciating seeing my face.   

Without realizing it, I gave myself up in looking to him for the emotional stability I naturally give myself when I’m single. If he messaged me quickly, I would be happy. If he was “late,” I would worry. The small things compounded my anxiety over his silence on future plans. When he would move our weekly videocon for his scheduling changes, I protected that time by forgoing something else I would have liked to do, like go to a Niners’ fan party. Once, I suggested Friday night instead, but it didn’t work for him so I didn’t ask again out of fear of losing that time completely. 

Present day me is annoyed at myself. Why did I stop looking to myself for my emotional support? I had spiraled into an emotional dependence that makes me blush today. Sure, I was still working and socially, but I shifted my focus on him in an unhealthy way. Surely I could have found a way to attend one Niners party when the team was on such a hot streak! If only someone would have said to me, “Hey, you’re losing your sense of self. Keep living as you were before him!”  

Sadly, the Hallmark magic ran out. And there are no deus ex machina saves. The only move forward is learning to cope with anxious attachment. If I see myself becoming upset over external triggers again, I’ll recenter. It’s one thing if there’s a logical concern but it’s a hit pause if my emotions are running the show. Odds are, he’ll be local so we won’t have the strain of distance. I work out daily and eat a Mediterranean diet because fitness matters to me. Added to that, I’ll work on being emotionally fit.