People seem to think that we all have one kind of attachment style and until we own it and recognise what one we have, we aren’t able to change it and develop more meaningful relationships, but what toying with the idea that attachment styles seem to be as fluid as the tea we’re spilling to our friends about our relationship paths?
What if, some of us will experience different levels of attachment depending on how the person we’re with is making us feel within the relationship we’re developing with them?
Many attachment theorists believe that by the age of five, we develop a primary attachment style that will more or less define the way we emotionally bond and attach to others in our adult lives.
There are four primary attachment styles and 90% of us will be able to associate with either one or two of them: secure, avoidant dismissive, avoidant fearful and anxious.
But what’s the reason some of us seem to push people away when we’re getting close to them in the initial stages of dating? Well that could be down to you having an avoidant fearful attachment style.
None of which are bad or good by the way, there isn’t one in particular that you should aim to fall under.
Generally people who have this kind of attachment style will start in an anxious dismissive style and then transform into an anxious fearful style, so how can you recognise an anxious dismissive attachment style in someone?
Generally these people will give off an ‘I don’t need you or anyone else, all I need is my freedom to do what I want and when I want it so please don’t crowd my space and expect too much from me‘ kind of vibe and it will be hard for them to create an initial bond with someone. A person with this kind of attachment style will make you feel like they don’t need you, so be wary of that, but also know that once you break through that barrier you’ll be with someone who would give you the world and more.
People with anxious attachment styles crave intimacy, are often preoccupied with their relationship, and tend to worry about their partner’s ability to love them back. They have an inherent fear of rejection and abandonment. Even a slight hint that something is wrong will activate their attachment system, and once activated they are unable to calm down until they get a clear indication from their partner that the relationship is safe. So that initial ‘I don’t need you attitude’ coming from them being dismissive will transform into them becoming fearful once they start to develop feelings for you.
If you are dating someone with an anxious attachment style, you just have to understand that their wiring is different from yours, and that they require higher levels of intimacy and closeness than people with secure attachment styles. You can learn what their what triggers are, and how to best respond to make them feel loved and supported. Here are some tips on how to date someone with an anxious attachment style:
Lack of safety is the underlying baseline that subconsciously rules an anxious persons way of perceiving their relationships. Many theorists attribute an anxious attachment style to inconsistent caregiving, where the baby/child never knew if they would have their needs met. Therefore, their attachment system goes haywire as a means of survival. Being hot and cold and mirroring the inconsistency they received as children will be one of their greatest triggers and cause them to react in a destructive way – so be consistent, opt for balance versus extreme peaks and valleys in your attention and energy.
LET THEM KNOW HOW YOU FEEL – ON A REGULAR BASIS
Anxious types have difficulty believing that you actually like them and without clear signs indicating your interest, they will convince themselves that you don’t. They need reassurance that you care about them, that you’re sticking around and won’t abandon them. Sounds exhausting, but it’s really not that hard. A simple “I’m thinking of you” text or a phone call to check in can go a long way. If you assume they know how you feel, think twice. They don’t. Proactively tell them how you feel instead of holding it in.
WHEN IN A FIGHT, REASSURE THAT YOU’RE NOT LEAVING THEM
Studies show that people with an anxious attachment style are more sensitive and quicker to perceive offset emotions. They have a unique ability to sense when their relationship is being threatened. They have a tendency to think worst-case scenario because unconsciously, they deeply fear rejection and abandonment. When in a fight, their instinctive reaction is to think that the relationship is over. Their heightened alert system will make them think you’re going to leave them, so they will prepare for rejection and may even try to break up with you first. It’s important that you assure them that just because you’re in a fight, it doesn’t detract from how much you love and care about them and that a disagreement doesn’t mean the end.
FOLLOW THROUGH ON THE LITTLE THINGS
If you say you’ll call, do it. If you say you want to go out, make it happen. Follow through on promises – small or large. It’s extremely important to build trust with anxious types, who are used to being let down or disappointed. Since anxious types are more sensitive to cues, they pay more attention to the things you say and will remember the promises you make.
DON’T INVALIDATE THEIR FEELINGS
So if you’re wondering why you’ve been drawn to someone like this it’s likely for an array of reasons, one being that they are very heart and feeling oriented and you like that, you like that they show that they like you. They have needs for intimacy, availability and security in a relationship that are necessary for them to feel safe so that they can trust and love with reckless abandon. Know that with the light, comes the dark, and the emotions that you love are also the emotions that become challenging for your logical, busy mind. Do not shame or judge them for feeling and instead show compassion. Understand why they’ve been feeling unsettled or upset by something without making them feel like it’s not important.
While it may sound challenging to date someone with an anxious attachment style, the good news is, through support from their partner and their own self-work, they can move from anxious to secure. Once they realize that they are safe, a healthier narrative becomes reaffirmed through time and experience, and they gradually rewire their baseline, so basically once they realise you’re in it for the long haul. They’ll calm down and just remain content. It’s the early relationship stages that freak them out.
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I'm a relationship psychologist with years of experience helping people through the ups and downs of their love lives.
My motto has always been to help people put a bit of logic back into matters that are normally controlled by our hearts.