Anxious Attachment in Relationships: How To Become Secure
What is the Anxious Attachment Style? 4 Common Signs
Our attachment styles indicate the particular ways we relate to other people (e.g., partners, friends, family members). These behavioral and cognitive tendencies are learned during childhood and are based on our experiences. However, the styles are not immutable. This means that we can work towards learning novel skills and building new habits that will help us become more secure. There are 4 types of attachment styles: secure, dismissive-avoidant, disorganized, and anxious. In this article we explore how to spot the signs and manage the anxious or preoccupied attachment style. For a more comprehensive picture of the other attachment styles, in our previous article we delve deeper into each of the styles.
Before we learn how to manage our anxious attachment tendencies, we must first explore what being anxiously attached means and the signs of this particular style. The 4 main signs that you or your loved one has an anxious style are:
First, a person who has an anxious or preoccupied attachment style is a person who overanalyses their relationship, rather than actively participating in it. A person with this particular style might think highly of other people, but has low self-esteem. Most of the times, they are sensitive and attuned to their partner's needs. But, at the same time, they are often insecure and anxious about their own worth in the relationship.
For example, if their partner is not available and is not responding to their needs, this person might blame themselves. They might label themselves as being not worthy of love and belittle themselves for doing everything wrong, or being the problem in the relationship.
2. Need for Validation
Generally, people with an anxious style need constant reassurance that they are loved, worthy, and good enough. They tend to be really scared of abandonment and these worries can cause them great amounts of anxiety. The fear of abandonment can even make them intensely jealous or suspicious of their partners. The by-product of having this fear is that it can make us desperate, dependent, clingy, and preoccupied all the time about the state and quality of our relationships.
3. Afraid of Being Alone
In most cases, people with this style are afraid of being alone. Or, even worse, they think that they will never be able to be alone and that they will always need somebody next to them. They tend to seek intimacy and closeness in their relationship which makes them highly dependent on others. However, the presence and reassurance from others does in fact appear to ameliorate the anxious thoughts of people with this style. But, this effect is only temporary, as their insecurity still lurks in the background. If they sense a small hint or evidence that something is wrong in the relationship, they most likely will revert back to their insecure and anxious selves. Naturally, this can be really exhausting for the anxious person, their partner, and the overall relationship. It might feel like an emotional rollercoaster all the time and, in the long run, it can create anxiety, unhappiness, and low relationship satisfaction.
4. Committed To The Relationship
One positive aspect of people with this attachment style is that they are highly committed to their relationships. Their approach can sometimes be 'life-saving' for the relationship. This is especially the case if they are related with an avoidantly attached partner. In this scenario, the anxious partner is the person who points out what needs to be fixed in the relationship. It is the person that openly expresses their emotions and facilitates a lot of difficult but important conversations. In this way, individuals with anxious attachments protect the partnership and encourage conversations that can positively impact the relationships. Nevertheless, feeling insecure all the time about where they stand in their relationship can drain both partners and the relationship.
How To 'Fix' Your Unhelpful Patterns
If you or a loved one is struggling with an anxious style, these tips can help you develop a more secure attachment and improve wellbeing and relationship satisfaction.
If your partner asks you for space, practicing grounding exercises can help you remain calm and grounded. Grounding, mindfulness meditation, and relaxation techniques can help pause the whirlwind of anxious thoughts. You can also try practicing diaphragmatic breathing, yoga, exercising or going for a walk in nature. All these activities can help you relax, maintain you active, and regulate your anxiety.
Instead of anxiously texting your partner and worrying every 10 minutes, you could try to write your thoughts in your journal. Journaling can be very helpful because it enables us to observe our thoughts and understand how scary, unhelpful and unhealthy they can sometimes be. So, before we voice our thoughts with our partner, and before we damage the relationship by saying all these things and regretting it, it is safer to just put it in a journal first and reflect on it. And, while you are there, try to remember that your worth does not depend on other people's actions, decisions, feelings, or perspectives.
Practice Self-Compassion and Self-Love
You are worthy no matter what. This is something that an anxiously attached person needs to cultivate in their minds. As we discussed, you are a person who is probably feeling insecure and you feel that you are not worthy of love sometimes. Everybody makes mistakes here and there, so what we need to believe and remind ourselves is that we are worthy of love, even if we make mistakes. Even if we are not perfect, we are worthy. Also, remember the fact that your partner has chosen you. And, this person has chosen you not despite, but because you are not perfect, because of all your unique vulnerabilities and weaknesses. And, of course, because of your strengths, talents, skills and character.
Another helpful tip is to practice daily self-love and self-compassion. You might be feeling lonely, rejected, hurt or sad at this moment. So, what would you do for your best friend if they were feeling this way? You would probably hug them and validate their feelings. You would probably help them understand where this pain comes from. You would help your friend realize that these feelings are the accumulation of loneliness and pain that has been there throughout their life, and it gets triggered every time their partner leaves them alone. So, remember to treat yourself as a friend. Hug yourself, embrace your feelings, your pain, and take good care of yourself when you are lonely. Do not try to invalidate your feelings or tell yourself that you should not be feeling this certain way. Your feelings make perfect sense, it is normal and it is human.
List What Makes You Lovable
Making a list of all the things that make you lovable can be a great pick-me-up for when you are feeling down. Write down that you are important, that you matter to other people, and list all those things that people appreciate about you. Think about what your partner and all the other people in your life love about you, and put it down on paper. For example, if they like that you are funny, kind, and that you make them feel good. This process will help remind yourself again of your worth. You can practice this exercise in your journal and not only when you are feeling down or hurt. You can preemptively write the list to read it to yourself whenever you feel in need.
Communicate with your partner
Perhaps one of the most important steps you can take is to communicate with your partner. If your partner asks you for some space, share that you trust them and that you know that they do not want to suffer in isolation. You can already give them the lead for reaching out to you. Let them know that when they feel ready to connect with you again, you will be there waiting their embrace. You do not have to take the lead all the time, your partner can also learn to reach out when they want, and to communicate their needs.
Coping Skills and Strategies
Another important thing that you can do is write a list of things that calm you down and serve yourself. This list could include activities such as making yourself a cup of tea, going for a walk, talking to a friend, and/or watching your favorite movie. Come back to this list of coping strategies every time you are feeling anxious, overwhelmed or insecure about your relationship, and perform some of these activities.
Finally, as an anxiously attached person you probably tend to focus too much on your partner. That is, your antennas are probably always focused on your partner's needs and feelings, while you neglect your own. But now you are trying to break this pattern and these tips can help you achieve just that. First, practicing gratitude and reflecting on what you have in your life and how far you have come can help you improve your wellbeing and focus on your personal journey. Remind yourself also that people do not love somebody and then fall out of love from one moment to the other. Some people struggling with this attachment style might fear that their partner will fall out of love out of nowhere. Remember that people do not unlock the feelings of love so easily and write this down. Practice self-care, tend to your needs, and write as many lists describing what a wonderful person you are. And, remind yourself that even if you feel lonely, you are not alone.
Your Journey Towards Healing
If you have an anxious or preoccupied attachment style, you probably feel very insecure in your relationships and struggle with low self-esteem. We hope these strategies and tips help you break the pattern and allow you to become more secure. Let us know what you think of these strategies and which ones will you practice by leaving a comment below. And, remember, the first step is to become aware of our unhelpful styles, everyone has little things that they need to work on, you are not alone. If you ever need a helping hand, here at AntiLoneliness, we are always happy to help. Take care.
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