Attachment Series Part 3: How to Fix Anxious Attachment Style
Katy Kandaris-Weiner, LPC
We all approach relationships differently based on what we were taught and also from our past experiences. From infancy to our current walk in life, our experiences with friendships, romances, and every other human connection have guided us in forming and maintaining relationships.
Our attachment style, or how we act within any relationship, is primarily determined in infancy and early childhood. How our caregivers provide affection and security will affect us well into adulthood. Children tend to develop an anxious attachment style if affection and security are inconsistent.
However, even someone that feels insecure about their relationships can learn to cope and even overcome some of the fears that they’ve lived with. Learning how to fix an anxious attachment style can help you in any relationship.
How Do I Know If I Have an Anxious Attachment Style?
Children who develop an anxious attachment style typically learn that they can’t fully count on their caregiver to provide comfort. They’ll cry out when they need something but don’t know if they’ll be comforted or soothed.
This insecurity carries over into adulthood. People tend to refer to those with an anxious attachment style as “clingy” or “needy.” Usually, those with this attachment style need a lot of reassurance that their partners (or counterpart in any relationship) still like them.
If you think you have an anxious attachment style, you might notice certain behaviors in yourself like:
Fear of abandonment
Catastrophic thinking when they’re away from you
Constantly thinking about that person and your relationship
Internalizing or taking your partner’s decisions and actions personally
Jealousy and distrust of your partner and others
Low self-esteem or self-esteem tied to the relationship
Needing to please them or putting their needs before yours more often than not
If these seem familiar to you, you may consider yourself anxiously attached. On a small scale, these aren’t relationship-destroying traits. However, the more pronounced they are and the more of them you display, your relationship is probably significantly strained.
Not only can this put a lot of pressure on your partner, but undue, frequent stress isn’t healthy. Anxiously attached people can become codependent and, at worst, emotionally abusive.
Anxious Attachment Triggers
You may not feel anxious or jealous all of the time in a relationship, but there are certain things that your partner does that cause these feelings. They might be super benevolent, such as not texting back immediately or changing their plans last minute.
Other common triggers for anxiously attached people are:
Catching your partner looking at or talking to someone you believe they are attracted to
Inconsistent communication or amount of affection
Independence in your partner
Staying late at work, or last-minute changes in plans
It’s essential to pinpoint what makes you doubt your relationship so you know where to start changing your thinking.
How to Self-Sooth Anxious Attachment
It is possible to learn how to manage an anxious attachment style. Once you’ve identified your behavior patterns, the next step is adjusting your mindset to create new habits.
Control Your Anxiety
Anxiety disorders often require talk therapy and medication for complete management, but you can fight those occasional anxious feelings that pop up. If you find yourself overwhelmed by relationship fears, take a few minutes to ground yourself.
Breathing Exercises—box breathing has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety. Breathe in for four seconds. Hold it for four seconds. Breathe out for four seconds. Hold it for four seconds. You’ll notice your heart rate slow and your emotions ease after a few rounds of box breathing.
Consistent Stress Management—Even if your feelings are triggered by certain events or actions, getting ahead of your stress can help in these moments. Yoga, a healthy diet, meditation, or even a clean house can produce positive reactions.
Regular Self-Care—Do things daily that will make you feel good about yourself. These can be something you do just for you, like making yourself a big, delicious lunch, drinking more water, or investing in a skin-care routine. Or create a little independence by starting a neighborhood dog meetup. Anything that can separate your self-worth from your relationship is the right kind of self-care.
Get Your Feelings Out
Just because your feelings might feel “irrational” doesn’t mean they’re not valid. Writing your thoughts and feelings down in a journal can help you gain some perspective about your thoughts and emotions. It can also help you organize your thoughts if you address them with your partner.
Slowly Push Your Limits
Once you understand your anxious habits, take a moment to breathe before you react. If your partner isn’t home from work precisely on time, give yourself a few extra minutes before you call them. Think about what other logical things could have held them up besides the worst-case scenario. Tell them where you want to eat instead of only going where they want to go.
If you’re unsure where to begin, many types of therapy can help get you on the right track.
Helping Your Partner with Anxious Attachment
If your partner is getting help to turn their insecure attachment style into a secure one, you can help the process and ease their mind.
Set Clear, Healthy Boundaries
Everyone is allowed to have expectations of what they will and will not tolerate in a relationship. Tell your partner what they are and what you will do if they violate them.
“I won’t be in a relationship with someone who snoops through my phone without telling me.”
Boundaries like this curtail unhealthy behaviors while establishing trust without needing dire actions.
Similarly, you can help your partner establish healthy boundaries through mutual expectations. Discuss with your partner things like what you both consider cheating and what you deem a reasonable amount of time to respond to a text. Mutual expectations will help them push their limits on old habits and help you both establish new, healthy ones.
Show You Appreciate Them
Anxiously attached people tend to go above and beyond to keep their partner happy. They do so out of fear of abandonment. Showing gratitude for their efforts can help reduce these fears. Tell them you appreciate what they do, or return the favor—give them a gift or do something for them without asking.
We can’t control everything that happens daily, but we can manage much of it. Not only can a routine help you, but it will also help your partner.
Consistency doesn’t always mean following a schedule; it could be consistent communication, too. Tell your partner whenever you’re going to be home a little late. If you can’t respond for some time (a work meeting ran over, you’re at the gym, etc.), let your partner know what happened and that you will be away from your phone.
Healing Anxious Attachments
We understand that the desire to change how you approach relationships might feel like you’re fixing something broken. But you’re not broken. Change is just self-improvement, and there isn’t a single person who couldn’t benefit from it in some form or another.
Schedule a consultation with Inner Balance Counseling today. Our clinically-trained therapists can help you establish the right behaviors to feel more secure in your relationships. Healthy attachments are possible. Reach out today.