For as long as I can remember I have tended towards anxiety; I was an anxious child and to this day have bouts of anxiety about things I don’t quite understand. This being said it comes as no surprise to me that I would also have an anxious attachment style.

Finding out my  attachment style suddenly made my entire dating history make sense. For those of us who are preoccupied (another name for anxious), dating and relationships can be more difficult for us than others. It consumes us in a way that other styles don’t quite understand. In Attached, the authors discuss that anxious attachers benefit the most from knowing their attachment style and I couldn’t agree more.

All of those times I thought I was crazy or too needy, and mostly just really insecure, it was my attachment style being activated. Anxious attachers are less trusting of themselves and their own instincts and decisions than they are of others’.  We want people to need them in relationships and where less secure, can be somewhat clingy. Most importantly we have a difficult time expressing our needs because we believe they are invalid or we are unworthy. Communicating what we need to feel secure in a relationship is the easiest way out of a the needy trap because we are only as needy as our unmet needs.

When emotional needs are met, and the earlier the better, then I am fine. Why is it so darn difficult to ask for what I want or need? I’ve been told by (avoidant) men that they really dislike having to talk about stuff like this. On the avoidant note it’s important to remember that anxious and avoidants have a very special relationship and often unconsciously  attract each other. This pattern of course creates a lot of strife for both partners as their attachment styles are continuously triggered by one another. (And I wondered why certain men made me feel so awful about myself.)

So, does this mean those of us who are anxious shouldn’t date avoidants? Not necessarily, but knowing that it could be a far more complicated relationship than with someone who is secure. A securely attached person won’t run away when you need to talk about your needs or are feeling insecure.

Ultimately both avoidants and anxious fear dependency (the anxious just seem more ashamed of it, which is why we don’t ask for what we need and instead cling). Codependency has a bad rep in Western American culture; we are taught to be self-sufficient and that our well-being is no one’s responsibility but our own. When someone around us is sad we should be even keeled enough to distance ourselves and not be affected. If we can’t do these things then we could be considered the “c-word” –co-dependent.

In this way of thinking the worst possible scenario would be to need someone else. But the secret out — we do. Many studies have demonstrated that when two people have an intimate (whether physical or emotional – hopefully both!) relationship, they regulate each other’s psychological and emotional well-being.

Psychologists, and especially those in Attached, have speculated on the dependency paradox from page 21, “The more effectively depending people are on one another, the more independent and daring they become.” Dependency always exists, read that again. Dependency always exists.  I’m learning to accept this for myself as well, which is why I wanted it in this post. Does this mean we have to be around each other all the time? Of course not! The opposite is actuall true.

Our ability to step out into the world stems from knowing someone besides us whom we can count on. We are wired for others and somewhere along the line in our culture convinced ourselves we don’t need anyone but ourselves. That sort of thinking is what has made anxious people like myself (and many others) feel pathetic that I can’t seem to meet all of my needs by myself.

Here’s a great blog post I found about dating tips for anxious attachers:

http://aloftyexistence.wordpress.com/2012/01/16/dating-survival-tips-anxious-attachment/

The tips are really advice on how to move from anxious to secure. Something I’m wanting to do, so the next and final attachment post (which also coincides with my final “Relationship and Intimacy Group” session) will be next week on something we all want…healthy, secure attachment.

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2 comments

  1. Awesome Becky! Thanks so much for opening the conversation on these themes. I have often puzzled over trying to define the difference between healthy interdependence and co-dependence. For me at least, I\’ve come to try to check whether I feel like my actions are contributing to the other\’s sense of self-empowerment, or to their sense of dis-empowerment, by doing things for them which they might benefit from doing for themselves.

    I tested as secure in the test from your last post (Thanks for posting that!), but I find I act differently in different relationships and think the test results may have just been an averaging out of those differences. I tend to feel more avoidant when I perceive anxiousness in a partner, and feel more anxious when I perceive avoidance in a partner. So I wonder how much of these are ingrained patterns, and how much are just contextually dependent? I suppose its different for everyone.

    Thanks so much for sharing your research!

  2. Thanks Kerri! Yes, from what I’ve read our style changes depending upon our partner (we become more secure with secure partners and sometimes I am avoidant with anxious men)…really fascinating. It seems we also have a habitual way of attaching as well…that can change over our lifetime. thanks for reading Kerri!

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