Okay, so let’s talk about fleabagging. Of course, with a new year comes a new wave of dating trends that I need to get up to speed with so that I can understand what the heck my clients are talking about. One of these new wondrous experiences is fleabagging.
What is fleabagging? Well, I’m glad you asked.
The term ‘fleabagging’ comes from the hit BBC show, Fleabag, created by Pheobe Waller-Bridge. The character of Fleabag just kept dating people that were completely wrong for her. So, bringing it back to you, basically, you start seeing someone, they treat you like shit so you end things. But then, the cycle repeats over and over and over again. You (or more likely your friends) can’t help but notice that you only seem to be interested in people you know are bad for you. It’s happening – you’re fleabagging.
We all have that friend who constantly dates the wrong person, don’t we? Maybe that friend is actually us, but for the purposes of self-delusion and denial, let’s pretend it’s someone else’s problem. So why do they do it? What continually draws our friend to these people who can never be “the one” – assuming you believe in such a restricting concept, more on this another time – and why can’t they date someone different for a change? According to a survey of its users by dating site Plenty Of Fish, half of the singles feel they have consistently dated the wrong person for them and although at 63% the issue is more prevalent among women, it’s still very much a guy thing – 38% of men have fessed up to Fleabagging.
What if I told you there is Science around why some people are fleabaggers?
So, of course, the natural question to ask is “what leads us to fleabagging?” Can it possibly be all about bad-boy fetishes or a desire to annoy our parents? Maybe it’s a belief that we should never be happy. Could that be it? Well, no, you’ll be pleased to hear that there’s actual science behind this one. I believe that one of the key reasons we consistently “pick the wrong person” comes down to our attachment style: either “Secure”, “Anxious” or “Avoidant“. Or, occasionally, a combination of the latter two.
“Half of the singles feel they have consistently dated the wrong person for them and although at 63% the issue is more prevalent among women, it’s still very much a guy thing – 38% of men have fessed up to Fleabagging, according to dating site Plenty of Fish.
If we can understand ourselves in terms of the characteristics of these styles then we can shine some light on the dynamics of our relationships and so that we can begin to understand why what we think is accidentally repeatedly falling into the same style of relationships is, in fact, a pattern. It also helps us to not blame or use loaded language such as ‘needy’ or ‘cold’.” These labels aren’t meant to judge, but they can help us understand why we behave we do in relationships.
Secure people, for example, are usually warm and affectionate and responsive to intimacy. Anxious people might worry their partner doesn’t love them back and need reassurance or feel jealous. Avoidant people tend to be distant and unwilling to commit, equating intimacy with a loss of independence. We are able to see that certain attachment styles often end up in combination with another. Examples of these combinations are secure-secure or anxious-avoidant. So, even if the person is different, you’re still following the same blueprint.
How do you stop fleabagging? Keep reading.
Does it help to know that going from bad relationship to bad relationship isn’t just you blundering your way through life, but an actual personality trait? Maybe. But if you do find yourself with unsatisfying partners time after time I’m sure one of the important things to do is to break the cycle. I mean, it is better to find someone who makes you happy, right? But if the way you behave is hardwired into your attachment style, does it mean you will never be content? Nope. It doesn’t mean that at all.
The first step to doing things differently and breaking this Fleabag behavior is to gain an understanding and awareness of what you are putting into these relationship dynamics, not just blaming the other person. Relationships are a two-way street. It’s likely that Fleabaggers are pretty rough on themselves, and the way you treat yourself also models how others treat you. So, naturally, if you aren’t able to offer yourself care and respect, a partner will also pick up on that and may not offer you the same, which can create an unhealthy relationship dynamic.
To break these patterns, though, you might need a minute or two of tough love and introspection, by working out your own attachment style. There isn’t a need to beat yourself up about it, but it’s important to acknowledge your natural characteristics. Knowing what your attachment style is can really highlight what’s going on for you and make alert you when you begin to fall into similar patterns. I recommend a book called Attached: Are You Anxious, Avoidant Or Secure?, which has all the info, along with quizzes to help you work yourself out.
Fleabag, herself, never quite got that happy ending, although I’d like to think that as she walked away at the end of series two it was toward a brighter future. If you look into yourself a bit more, acknowledge the way you think in a relationship and the effect it might be having on you, you can have a brighter future too.
Have you read the original anthology that was the catalyst for The Good Men Project? Buy here: The Good Men Project: Real Stories from the Front Lines of Modern Manhood
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