You’re in the middle of an argument with your partner and they tell you that they need space. For some, this is no big deal. For others…this feels like purgatory. You feel an urgency to “solve” the argument so everything is okay. It is extremely uncomfortable to tolerate your anxiety and can feel unbearable. You may wonder if this argument means your partner doesn’t love you or that the relationship will end. Maybe you are beginning to see someone you are really interested in and are anxiously waiting for them to contact you. You keep checking the clock as hours pass…they usually text you by now. You wonder if they are losing interest in you (when in reality they are actually sleeping in and can’t wait to text you when they wake up). If this is relatable to you, then you may have an anxious attachment style.
Some common anxious attachment behaviors include blaming (many of us grew up in blaming environments so this is how we get our partner’s attention when we are hurt), protesting (when we are trying hard to be heard and responded to), demanding (for reassurance since we can have trouble with trust), “raising the bar” (to look for the ultimate proof that our partner loves us and won’t abandon us), using lots of words (we want to make sure our partner hears us), filtering for the negative (so we aren’t taken by surprise if something bad happens in the relationship), criticizing (we try to get our partner to see things our way so that we can feel safe), and having one foot out the door (our greatest fear is abandonment so we use this in a last-ditch effort to be heard by our partners).
A common saying that pertains to anxious attachment is: we only feel as good as our last interaction with our partner. If the last interaction with your partner was an argument…well, that tends to set the tone for the rest of your day. If the last interaction was loving and positive, then the rest of your day is likely to be similar.
I want to emphasize that there is nothing wrong with you. So many amazing people move through the world with an anxious attachment style and have successful relationships. The whole purpose of understanding your anxious attachment and taking steps to move towards a more secure attachment style is to soothe your anxiety and positively enhance your relationships. Here are merely some ways you can do this:
Learn about your attachment style.
Attachment theory posits that attachment style develops in childhood. However, it is important to recognize that attachment can be changed and molded throughout our lives. It is not necessarily fixed. Learning about attachment can empower us to spot trends in our relationship history and take action in breaking unhelpful patterns (such as filtering for the negative).
Enhancing emotional awareness.
Learning to tolerate and express our emotions makes us better able to accept and empathize with our partner’s emotions. This decreases reactivity and increases attachment security. We can better tolerate emotions when we practice self-soothing. Self-soothing can look like deep breathing, a short meditation or yoga session, stretching, taking a shower, practicing self-compassion, and much more.
An emotionally aware response to relationship anxiety would be recognizing when anxiety shows up, then taking part in a self-soothing practice (such as deep breathing), and then communicating your concerns respectfully to your partner (which is a nice transition to the next point).
Communication is foundational to any relationship. Secure attachment requires communicating in a respectful, transparent way. Good communication entails each partner serving as the sharer and the listener. When conflict happens, collaborate with your partner to help each other feel understood and connected, even when you disagree.
Many of us who live with anxious attachment feel powerless over our relationship anxiety. It is important to engage in confidence-building activities and behaviors that increase independence and strengthen self-esteem. Spending time with good friends, leaning into activities that we are interested in and passionate about, and doing things we feel we are good at are some ways we can empower ourselves. This could also look like stepping out of your comfort zone to try something new.
Seek Therapeutic Help.
Therapy can help you develop insight around where your attachment style comes from and how it came to be. Additionally, therapy can help you look critically at outdated beliefs and interpretations that have been hurting your relationship while forming new, healthy, and accurate beliefs. Therapists provide empathy and compassion while helping you work through the root of the issue to help you lead a less anxious life. For help with this, more tips, and attentive support, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Love Heal Grow.
Hi, I’m Ashley Barnes, therapist for individuals and couples at Love Heal Grow Counseling.
I help individuals and couples who seek to improve and enhance their relationships, those who wish to heal from painful experiences and navigate big life changes, and those who aspire to improve their mental well being.
You can read more about me or schedule an appointment here: About Ashley