Do you find yourself incessantly fretting about your partner when they’re not in your immediate vicinity? Is there a lingering sense of unease or anxiety that only seems to dissipate when you’re in their presence? If these feelings resonate with you, you might be grappling with an anxious attachment style.
This style of attachment can make relationships feel like an uphill battle, but with a deeper understanding and concerted effort, it’s entirely possible to navigate these emotions and foster a healthier, more secure relationship.
It’s important to note that this article is not a diagnosis. Attachment styles are not diagnoses; they are frameworks that psychologists have developed to help us understand how people relate to others. If you identify with the characteristics of anxious attachment, it’s a possibility that this attachment style might apply to you.
Understanding Anxious Attachment
Anxious attachment is a type of attachment style that is characterised by a potent desire for closeness and intimacy, coupled with a fear of abandonment. This fear can be so intense that it triggers anxiety when separated from a partner. It’s crucial to comprehend that this attachment style often stems from early childhood experiences, and it’s not something that you consciously opt for.
Recognising the Signs
The first step in dealing with anxious attachment is recognising the signs. These can manifest in various ways, and it’s important to remember that everyone’s experience with anxious attachment can be different. However, some common signs include:
Constant worry about your partner’s commitment: You may find yourself frequently questioning whether your partner truly loves you or is committed to the relationship. This can lead to a constant need for reassurance and affirmation from your partner.
Fear of abandonment: This is a hallmark of anxious attachment. You might fear that your partner will leave you, even when there’s no real reason to believe this. This fear can be so intense that it causes significant distress and anxiety.
Overthinking and rumination: You may find yourself overthinking your partner’s words or actions, looking for hidden meanings or signs of potential problems. This can lead to rumination, where you’re constantly thinking about your relationship and unable to focus on other things.
High sensitivity to changes in your partner’s mood or behaviour: If your partner seems distant or less affectionate than usual, you might interpret this as a sign that they’re losing interest in the relationship, even if there’s a reasonable explanation for their behaviour.
Needing constant contact: You might feel a strong need to be in constant contact with your partner, whether through text messages, phone calls, or in person. If you can’t reach them, you might feel a sense of panic or distress.
Difficulty enjoying time alone: While it’s normal to miss your partner when they’re not around, if you have an anxious attachment style, you might find it particularly difficult to enjoy time alone. You might feel anxious or restless when you’re not with your partner, even if you’re engaging in activities that you usually enjoy.
Remember, these are just potential signs of an anxious attachment style. Everyone’s experience can be different, and it’s possible to experience some of these signs without having an anxious attachment style. If you’re unsure, consider seeking professional help. A therapist or counsellor can provide a more accurate assessment and help you understand your attachment style.
Navigating an anxious attachment style can be challenging, but it’s not an insurmountable task. There are several strategies that can help you manage your anxiety and become more secure in relationships. However, it’s important to note that there are no quick fixes when it comes to managing an anxious attachment style. It’s a process that requires time, patience, and a commitment to personal growth.
One approach is to take a step back from dating to focus on understanding and managing your anxious attachment style. This involves spending time on self-reflection, self-care, and possibly therapy. It’s about building a life you love, understanding your core values, and learning how to sit with your feelings without immediately reacting to them. This period of self-improvement can be a valuable time to grow and develop as an individual, and to prepare yourself for healthier, more secure relationships in the future.
Alternatively, you can continue to date while working on your anxious attachment style. However, it’s crucial to be upfront about your needs for closeness and intimacy. You need to choose a partner who understands and respects your attachment style, and who is willing and able to meet your needs for closeness. This doesn’t mean that your partner is responsible for managing your anxiety, but rather that they are supportive and understanding as you work on managing it yourself.
Regardless of the approach you choose, it’s important to remember that managing an anxious attachment style is a journey, not a destination. It requires ongoing effort and commitment, and there may be setbacks along the way. But with patience, understanding, and the right strategies, it’s entirely possible to navigate your anxious feelings and form secure connections.
Here are 5 useful starting points:
Understanding your anxious attachment style is the first step towards managing it. Recognise your patterns of behaviour and how they impact your relationships. This involves introspection and a willingness to confront potentially uncomfortable truths about your emotional responses. It’s about acknowledging that your anxiety stems from a deep-seated fear of abandonment and understanding how this fear manifests in your relationships.
2. Self-care and self-love
Prioritise taking care of yourself physically, emotionally, and mentally.
This can help reduce anxiety and improve your overall well-being. Self-care isn’t just about bubble baths and spa days; it’s about setting boundaries, ensuring you’re eating well, getting enough sleep, and taking time to engage in activities that you enjoy.
It’s about making sure that you’re not pouring from an empty cup and that you’re giving yourself the same care and attention that you give to others.
Consider seeking professional help.
A therapist can provide tools and strategies to manage your anxious attachment style. Therapy can provide a safe and supportive environment to explore your attachment style and its origins.
It can provide you with the tools and strategies you need to manage your anxiety and build healthier relationships. It’s not a sign of weakness to seek help; in fact, it’s a sign of strength and a commitment to your personal growth.
Practice mindfulness and meditation. These techniques can help you stay grounded and manage your anxiety.
Mindfulness involves staying present and fully engaged with what you’re doing at the moment, without judgement or distraction. It’s about accepting your feelings without trying to change them or push them away.
Meditation can help you cultivate mindfulness and reduce anxiety by focusing your attention and eliminating the stream of jumbled thoughts that may be crowding your mind.
Open, honest communication is key in any relationship, but it’s especially important when dealing with anxious attachment. It’s important to express your needs and fears to your partner in a non-blaming, non-defensive way. This might involve using ‘I’ statements (e.g., ‘I feel anxious when I don’t hear from you’) rather than blaming or criticising your partner (e.g., ‘You never text me back’).
It’s perfectly okay to desire closeness and reassurance from your partner. These are legitimate needs, especially for someone with an anxious attachment style. It’s crucial to communicate these needs to your partner. If you find that your partner is often away or tends to ignore you when they’re not present, it’s worth having a conversation about this.
Remember, a partner who is right for you will be willing to meet your needs for closeness and reassurance. They will understand and respect your attachment style, and work with you to ensure that the relationship is fulfilling for both of you. If your partner consistently fails to meet your needs, despite your efforts to communicate them, they’re not the right one for you.