Doyou find yourself constantly stressing over your love life? Do the words “anxiety” and “relationship” go hand in hand in your life? Do you have difficulties fully enjoying dating due to the stressful thoughts — regarding your relationship — that keep dancing around in your head?
If these things sound familiar, you may have an “anxious attachment style”.
In the 1950s, British psychologist and psychiatrist John Bowlby changed the course of psychology, by developing the attachment theory.
In simple words, the attachment theory supports that we all have a specific attachment style, one that is formed through the way our parents — or caregivers — cared for us when we were little.
Basically, your attachment style is the way you interact with your romantic partners and approach dating in general, and there are four major styles of it: secure, anxious/insecure, disorganized, and avoidant.
Knowing your attachment style can help you get in tune with your emotions and recognize where they come from, understand why you keep dating the same people, and ultimately, develop a healthier, more secure style.
On the other hand, knowing your partner’s attachment style can help you better understand how they function in your relationship and choose a more appropriate response to their actions/behavior.
Let’s dive right in and take a closer look at what’s a person with an anxious attachment style like and what you can do if you recognize these signs in yourself or your partner.
1. They Find It Increasingly Hard to Trust Their Partner
People with an anxious attachment style find it difficult to trust their romantic partners. They constantly worry that the latter will cheat, lie to them or abandon them.
For example, if you have an anxious attachment style, you might get easily jealous every time your partner meets someone new or talks to a colleague for a long time because you think that they’ll start liking this other person and eventually leave you for them.
Or, you might be constantly suspicious of their behavior and find it hard to, let’s say, believe them every time they tell you that they took longer to respond to your message or couldn’t call you because “they were busy with work”.
2. They Seek Constant Reassurance and Validation From Their Partner
People with this attachment style suffer from low self-esteem and often fear that they’re not good enough for their partners.
As a result, they constantly seek reassurance and validation from them by checking in non-stop on their behavior to “measure” their love, for instance, or by continuously asking them about their feelings.
Their fear of abandonment and negative emotions make them crave for their significant other to keep telling them how much they are being loved and valued. A typical example is their tendency to bombard them with questions such as “Do you really love me?”, or “Why don’t you say you love me more often?”
3. They’re Overly Sensitive to Their Partner’s Actions and Moods
If you have a friend who is overly dependent in their relationship and constantly agonize over their partner’s actions and moods, chances are they have an anxious attachment style.
Individuals with this attachment style tend to be overly sensitive to their partner’s words, actions, and behavior. Plus, they usually fall into the habit of catastrophizing, e.g. viewing any change in their partner’s behavior and any problem that might arise in their relationship as way worse than it actually is.
As psychotherapist Sherry Gaba explains in her article in Psychology Today:
“The anxious attachment style is always concerned about the stability or security of the relationship. People with this attachment style tend to agonize over the meaning of words or actions by a partner. They read negatives into otherwise neutral or positive interactions.”
4. They Tend to Suppress Their Needs and Desires
As I mentioned above, people who have developed an anxious attachment style, usually have low confidence and struggle with their self-esteem.
That makes them live in fear of their partner’s abandonment. To calm this fear, they tend to go out of their way to please their partner, suppressing their own needs and desires along the way.
They’ll do everything in their power to make their significant other comfortable, whether it is going to restaurants they don’t like, watching films they find boring, or having sex when they’re not in the mood.
5. They Often Find Themselves in Toxic Relationships
This might sound strange at first, but once you get into the mind of someone with an anxious attachment style you’ll understand why they keep finding themselves in toxic relationships.
They tend to seek constant attention and validation from their partners and these are things that toxic individuals, like narcissists can easily provide them with (at least for the first few months of the relationship).
As psychotherapist Sherry Gaba’s explains at the end of her article:
“In many situations, a person with an anxious attachment style finds himself or herself in a toxic relationship. Their need for constant attention makes them vulnerable to the initial charisma that is often used by narcissists and addicts in the first few months of the relationship. However, once this period is over, the narcissist or the addict can use this as a source of power and control, keeping the individual in a toxic relationship through providing attention and then pulling it away.”
What to Do if You Have an Anxious Attachment Style
Remember that although these signs can suggest you have an anxious attachment style, they are not clear indicators.
For example, the fact that you seek constant validation from your partner might mean you have low self-esteem, without, being anxiously attached to them.
If all these signs ring true for you, however, you might need to acknowledge that you have, indeed, developed this style. The question is, what can you do next?
- Keep in mind that your attachment style doesn’t define you. It’s something you develop during your childhood, with no possible control over.
- Work on your self-esteem either by yourself through some courses, books, or articles or ask for a professional’s help. Increasing your confidence and understanding your worth will help to stop feeling inadequate and not good enough in your relationships.
- Be honest with yourself, by learning to acknowledging and accepting your emotions, instead of running away from them. Do some self-reflection in order to understand your triggers.
- Talk to your partner and share with them your inner thoughts, fears, and feelings. Don’t be afraid to ask them to help you, show more understanding, or be more patient towards you. This way you will prevent a lot of misunderstandings and you’ll be able to work together with your partner and set some healthy boundaries.
- Remind yourself to stay in the present and not focus too much on the future. Thoughts about the future will only increase your anxiety.
What to Do if Your Partner Has an Anxious Attachment Style
Sometimes, helping our partner can be more difficult than helping ourselves, in the sense that we can never know for sure all of their inner thoughts and feelings.
However, if you recognized an anxious attachment style in your partner, you can’t just sit with your arms crossed and expect them to change their behavior. You should be patient, support them and try to help them in developing a healthier attachment style.
Some things you could do are:
- Tell them often how much you care about them
- Be consistent in giving them attention
- Follow through with your promises to them
- Don’t try deliberately to make them jealous
- Be patient whenever they make a scene, or if they keep asking you about your feelings toward them
- Let them know in a gentle way that their behavior is hurting your relationship and that they should work on changing some patterns of it
- Encourage them to do some self-reflection in order to understand their triggers
- Assure them that you will help them overcome their anxious behaviors
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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