Living with an Anxious Attachment Style
Hey, y'all! Are you ready to learn about something that will change your life?? This may not be something all of you deal with, but for those of you that have an anxious attachment style - or are in a relationship with someone who does - this information can be life changing on the mental health front.
First I'm going to start with a true life story.
Several months ago - after being asked for the 2,000,000,000x time if he still loved me - Phil finally asked me why? WHY do I always assume the worst? WHY do I always assume he doesn't love me, or is tired of me, or is getting annoyed by me when he's given me zero reason to assume that.
It stopped me for a minute, because I hadn't even realized I was doing it, but I was, and I didn't have an answer as to why. But I wanted to figure it out.
Thinking that it probably had something to do with the emotional abuse I've endured in my life, I started doing some research. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how I discovered attachment styles, and - more importantly - the anxious attachment style.
So what is an anxious attachment style?
There are three different attachment styles: secure (healthy), ambivalent (avoidance) and anxious (clingy). I'm not going to talk about the first two (mostly because I have no experience with them. FML!) But let's dive into an anxious attachment style.
Anxious attachment can form in childhood, but there is evidence to support the theory that our attachment styles can change in adulthood. Most research on anxious attachment focuses on the parent/child relationships. I'm not good at talking in psychology terms, so if you're looking for that Psych Alive has a great article on the different attachment styles and how they form. But in layman's terms, if you had a parent that was very hot and cold in their affection, you probably have an anxious attachment style now.
By “hot and cold” I mean that sometimes you could count on them to be loving, and nurturing, and at other times they were harsh, unfeeling, and emotionally distant. If that was the case you probably grew up learning to sense their different moods so you knew how to interact with them. If it was a "good day" you could have a relatively normal parent/child relationship with them, and if it was a "bad day" you knew to stay out of their way and not bother them.
Sound familiar? I know it does to me!
In the situation above this "spidey sense" - as we'll call it - is great! It's part of our natural, self preservation instincts. The trouble comes when the child grows up and is in healthy relationships. That "spidey sense" is so sensitive to any perceived changes in the relationship, that it often gives a false positive, which causes the anxious attacher to seek a means of "restoring" the "problematic relationship," when in actuality, no such problem may exist.
If the anxious attachment receives reassurance that everything is aok, and their relationship is not in jeopardy, they go back to their normal, calm, cool, collective selves... but if not, they stress more and more about the "problem" the longer it goes on. This causes them to spiral out of control, until they're a clingy, emotional, moody and - possibly angry - monster that in no way resembles who they usually are.
Are you still with me? If not, here's a real-life example.
Phil and I were hanging out and he was really tired after work, so he was more quiet than usual. I asked him a couple times if something was wrong, and he told me he was just tired. So everything is fine, right? Nope.
I took his quiet, cool demeanor to be distant and upset and was trying to figure out what I had done wrong, and why he was upset with me. This bothered me for literally days. Days I spent irritated and unable to shake the feeling that he was mad at me for something. I don't remember what the final straw was, but by the end of the week I was feeling completely isolated from him, hurt that he was upset with me/didn't want to be around me, and more than a little mad that he was acting like this. He, in turn, was getting frustrated at being hounded by me to tell him what was wrong (because, ya know, nothing was wrong). He ended up falling asleep while we were texting, and I spent the next 12 hours panicking that he was really mad at me now, and was going to break up with me. All the while nothing was wrong! And that is when I discovered attachment styles and I realized that I had created this whole scenario.
This sort of scenario actually caused a lot of problems in the beginning of our relationship, and figuring it out has been a key to fostering a more stable relationship.
So how do you know if you have an anxious attachment style? Here are some common signs:
you get jealous easilly
you often assume that people don’t like you
you are quick to notice if it takes your SO longer than usual to get back to you
you sometimes resort to the silent treatment if you feel ignored
you feel the need to match your partners “disinterest” (i.e. “it took him over an hour to message me back. I’m not going to respond for at least that long.”)
you often worry about your partner leaving you
you find it hard to believe that your SO isn’t mad at you even when they say they aren’t
So now that you know what an anxious attachment style, what can you do about it?
In my experience just admitting that you have an anxious attachment style can be life changing. Realizing that the reality I perceive is not always the truth is weirdly comforting. As soon as I realized what the problem was I talked to Phil about it, and how he can help. I told him that I was going to try really hard to believe him and trust him, but that I need extra reassurance to stay stable and healthy.
Nowadays I have a rule for myself: I only ask Phil if something is wrong once - unless we’ve had a fight or some other extenuating circumstance is at play - then I trust that the answer I get is the truth. I’m also really blessed because Phil is very patient with me. He has no experience with anxiety himself, but he tries to understand what I’m going through, and when I ask for some extra loving or reassurance he gets that it has nothing to do with me not trusting him. I can always ask him “do you still love me?” without annoying him (which is always a huge fear of mine).
So, basically, your biggest takeaway from this should be: if you feel like this is something you might be dealing with, talk to your SO! If they really care about you and are really the one for you they’ll try to understand, be patient and never make you feel crazy or like you’re a burden. Definitely don’t settle for anything less. Not only do you deserve better, but your mental health will thank you later!
So what do ya’ll think of this post? Was it helpful, informative, boring? Shoot me a comment and let me know if you’d like more posts on this topic (or relationships/mental health in general) or if I should stick to fashion and fitness posts. Either way, let me know.