(This is part 2 of 5 in the Attachment Series. If you missed the others, you could find them on my website)
Are you constantly worried about losing the people you love? Do you crave reassurance and validation in your relationships? If so, you may have an anxious attachment style.
Anxious attachment style is characterized by a deep-seated fear of abandonment and a constant need for validation and reassurance in relationships. People with this attachment style often struggle with trusting others and may become clingy or possessive in their relationships.
Anxious attachment style develops in childhood as a result of inconsistent or unpredictable parenting. A child who grows up with a parent who is sometimes nurturing and sometimes distant or rejecting may develop a belief that they are not worthy of love and that they must constantly work to earn it.
The focus is on the caregiver’s needs and demands. It is the child’s role to make sure the adult is happy in exchange for connection, attention, and affirmation. You may have been made to feel bad about your own needs or feelings. Caregivers often shame, guilt, punish, or appease out of obligation. So, you’ve learned to hide your needs and feelings.
The beliefs that you must earn love and that you’re not worthy or good enough carries over into adulthood and impact all your relationships.
Here are some common behaviours of someone who has an anxious attachment style in relationships (you may NOT experience all of these): demanding, protesting, blaming, raising the bar, over-talking, nagging, looking for and focusing on the negative, criticizing, doubting the relationship, overfocusing on others, not knowing what you need but knowing what you don’t like, clingy, needy, emotionally reactive, testing, craving validation.
If you identify with an anxious attachment style, it is important to understand that healing is possible. Here are 2 relational skills that can help:
1. Look for the good in your partner.
Break the habit of looking for the negative and create a new habit of recognizing when your partner gets it right and is trying their best. Affirm what you see. Aim for the ratio of 5 positive comments to 1 negative.
2. Ask for what you need instead of criticize/complain about what you don’t have.
Instead of nagging, complaining, criticizing, over explaining, etc., ask for what you need. Specify the behaviour you want to see changed and briefly explain how it’ll help you out or make you feel better. For example, “I would like you to wash the dishes each night after dinner because it will help me feel supported with all the housework.”
Note that people with anxious attachment also have many strengths. For instance, you are loyal, thoughtful, and giving. What is mentioned above does not take away from all the good that you have.
If you recognize yourself in the description of an anxious attachment style, take the first step towards healing by practicing these relational techniques. Remember that you are worthy of love and that healing is possible. With intention, patience, and practice, you can develop a more secure attachment style and experience more fulfilling relationships.