For the individual who consistently attracts unavailable partners, or for the person who finds themselves in relationships with “needy” people, I highly recommend diving into attachment theory. I have learned a lot in understanding the push/pull dynamics at play and would love to share a little bit about the two styles of insecure types.
I’d also like to acknowledge the secure attacher. They have a great deal of emotional resource and trust. Despite what they feel, they are able to respond to others needs and can be easeful with a partner who either wants to be really close or needs space.
This sharing is an over-simplification of the two insecure types, and these distinctions are based on my experiences and perceptions. Also, depending on the relationship as well as other moving pieces, you might find yourself noticing you’ve experienced or responded with both tendencies.
Either way, I hope that this is a useful introduction into attachment theory if you’ve been curious but haven’t had the time/space to look into it.
And for those of you that are already familiar with the concepts, the bottom part contains simple reminders that could be refreshing to read.
More often than not:
- I have more boundaries/limits than my partner. I say no when I don’t want something.
- I rarely overextend myself.
- I struggle with sitting with emotional discomfort. I collapse or disassociate when my emotions feel like too much.
- There is an urgency to feelings that I express—-if I feel vulnerable enough to share them. And there is an urgency to my needs/desires being met though I am quick to say/believe I don’t “need” anything from anyone.
- I have a tendency to push away my partner, because I want space from what I am feeling/experiencing.
- I have an extremely strong value of self-reliance, freedom, flexibility, and independence but am often times unwilling to be flexible for my partner and feel easily overwhelmed when having to adapt to changes.
- I struggle with commitment—-not just to my partner, but also, with others, whether its making plans, committing to a gig, etc.
- My desire for my partner wavers. When things get challenging, I am more willing to give up/break up.
More often than not:
- I overextend myself/am more willing to be flexible to meet my partner’s needs/desires.
- I do not ask for support but will offer support without my partner asking.
- I have a tendency to keep my feelings inside because I worry that my partner will push me away if I trigger them.
- It is hard for me to say “No,” typically because I am afraid it will result in space/distance from my partner.
- I usually initiate contact/reach out to my partner.
- When triggers come up, I have a strong need to talk it out. I feel incredibly uncomfortable with space, especially if things don’t feel resolved.
- My desire with my partner rarely wavers. I commit in relationships and also follow through with promises.
If you have a partner who struggles with feeling or expressing their emotions (avoidant style of attachment):
Make sure you are doing self-care. Check in with yourself about what you’re giving. Your partner IS capable. Overextending yourself by giving your partner what they want/need rather than what you want/need, is ok every once in a while, but if it is done often, it creates a co-dependent relationship. And resentment.
Just because you are capable of giving something, does not mean that you have to give it. Your self-worth is not about what you have to offer. You are not a need-meeting machine. That is the definition of conditional love.
Learn to follow your desires more.
When you are giving every little thing to your partner, you are not giving them the chance to stand on their own two feet, to be and feel their capability and resilience. They are becoming more dependent, less secure. It perpetuates the belief they are “incapable.”
Give them the opportunity to support themselves by saying “no.” Having boundaries is important for you both.
Acknowledge the part of you that benefits from feeling needed.
Make requests. Ask for things. Shift from giving to receiving. This is where part of your work is: learning to receive.
Wait for your partner to ask for support rather than giving them what you think would be supportive. Let them be empowered in their voice. This might be challenging, but another part of your growth is knowing that discomfort is ok. Pain is transformational. Wanting to take away your loved one’s hurts is actually taking away their opportunities to fully feel their experience and to learn and grow from it.
Take up more space. Talk about your process. Otherwise, you are continually telling yourself that you are not as important as your partner = resentment.
For the partner who has the avoidant tendencies:
Learn what it takes for you to be flexible/adaptable. Focus on the kind of self-care that is needed for you to feel secure/movable/generous. Your partner most likely gives more often. If you feel like defending yourself there, ha! Then its probably true, so be more proactive with your wellbeing so that you can also be giving.
A lot of your work will be with fully feeling and expressing emotions. Consider getting a therapist, learning about things like NVC (non-violent communication), or reading a book like “Hold me Tight,” which can help you understand how to be emotionally close to someone, and help soften your resistance to investing time/energy in your relationships.
Then, utilize your emotional tools with others and get support in and outside of your relationship. Create consistency with others. Emotional support needs to be spread out. Relying on your partner when you both bring up a lot within each other can create a lot of challenges.
Work on initiating contact. Reach out to your loved one. Yes, it is vulnerable. But it is also important and impactful.
Offer reassurance if you need some space when you’re triggered. Let your partner know you will come back together, that you care about them, and that you will use the space to process your feelings so that you could unpack the challenges that came up between you both together later.
This simple act of reassurance is incredibly valuable. It helps create ease and trust. The game of pulling on your partner by leaving and having them sit alone in the unknown is not actually what you want. Fear is not the way to generate love.
Take personal responsibility for your emotions. If you need support, ask for it, rather than wait for it to be given. No, it is not obvious to your partner what would be supportive and even if it was, to have them continually tracking your experience is perpetuating a belief that you cannot support yourself. Use your voice and be pro-active with your wants/needs.
Make commitments and follow through with them. You have a tendency to value following your own flow, shifting and changing constantly. Practice sitting with discomfort around plans/commitments, especially with your partner. Shifting plans has a huge impact on others. At a certain point, it impacts trust. Your partner might not feel like they can rely on you. Safety to you might be in flexibility. But your partner will find their safety in structure, agreements, and commitments. Learn to compromise.
What I appreciate around naming tendencies is it has allowed my partner and me to understand each other more, and to see how we both contribute to the dynamic. Acknowledging that we have different values around space/closeness or flexibility/structure has helped us figure out ways to meet in the middle, to work with one another.
Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, I hope this framework supports connection and inspires your curiosity in exploring different pathways in your relationships.
A version of this post was originally posted on Facebook and is republished here with permission from the author.
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