If you do these 9 things in a relationship, you have an anxious attachment style

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In his book Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment, Amir Levine says: “Most people are only as needy as their unmet needs.”

As someone who grew up with an anxious attachment style, I can attest this is very much true.

However, your unmet needs may not be what they seem.

Sometimes, it’s not your romantic partner who’s the crux of the problem – just because they need a little bit of space today doesn’t mean they don’t love you, after all – but rather the attachment you formed to your primary caretakers as a child.

Anxious attachment is often the result of inconsistent parenting patterns, such as when your parent’s very loving one day and completely detached the next. The uncertainty is what makes you cling to the person, hoping that the more love you give them, the more control you’ll have over the situation.

Unfortunately, an anxious attachment style tends to be at the root of many relationship problems, so healing your anxiety and forming a secure attachment ought to be your primary goal.

First things first, though – how can you recognize that you’re anxiously attached?

If you do these 9 things in a relationship, you have an anxious attachment style.

1) You just can’t get enough love

I’m guessing you’re deeply in love with someone – so deeply, in fact, that you kind of want to crawl into their skin and live there.

It’s a bit insane, I’m not going to lie, but this is actually quite a universal experience. Falling in love is like triggering a hurricane of feel-good hormones. The experience is so ecstatic that it quite literally compares to drug addiction.

However, anxiously attached people take it a step further.

Their natural instinct is to hold onto the object of their desire really tightly because they’re so terrified of abandonment that they’re always on the hunt for more intimacy and more contact.

I’ve met quite a lot of people who have battled with an anxious attachment style – myself included – and one of the main characteristics is that you just never seem to have enough.

In other words, you can get super clingy. And even if you can tell you’re too “needy” and feel frustrated with yourself, it’s very difficult to turn it off.

No wonder. You’re basically addicted to a person, and we all know that addictions are hard to beat.

Hard, but not impossible. I say that as someone who’s made active progress in creating a secure attachment style.

2) You feel anxious when your partner distances themselves from you

Space. An important part of any relationship.

Space is what allows you to have a fully-fledged identity outside of the relationship. Space is what lets you take a breather and come back to your partner feeling refreshed.

Space is also something anxiously attached people really struggle with.

Your partner’s gone out with friends and hasn’t immediately replied to your text messages. It must mean they’re cheating.

They’ve said they want some alone time this evening. Surely, they find you annoying and are losing feelings.

And how about when they’re not in the mood for intimacy? They don’t find you attractive anymore! Time to have an argument about it because a bad reaction is better than no reaction!

The thing is, partners distancing themselves from each other *can* be a sign of trouble. But there’s a difference between a relationship that’s lost its spark and a relationship ruled by abandonment fears.

3) You self-sabotage a lot

When I was deeply submerged in my anxious attachment, the one thing I hated most was how much I loved to sabotage my own happiness.

If your partner wants some space, the last thing the relationship needs is for you to pick a fight about it. And yet that’s precisely what you want to do because a fight is better than nothing.

However, the argument usually pushes your partner even further away from you, proving to you that they don’t love you enough and that you’ll end up alone and miserable for all of eternity.

That belief is so familiar to you by now that, in a weird and twisted way, it’s become a place of comfort.

Reprogramming my beliefs about myself was therefore one of the most effective ways I healed my relationship anxiety.

4) You create nightmarish scenarios in your head

I’ve read widely on the science of attachment, and I find that this one is quite rarely mentioned even though it was a major symptom for me and other people I know.

Let’s say you and your partner have argued about their extensive phone use. Although they’ve promised to stop being on their phone so much when they’re with you, you can’t stop thinking about it and feeling wounded.

And then the scenarios begin. Your imagination runs wild.

Suddenly, you’re on your honeymoon five years from now and they spend all of it on their phone.

Or you have children and your partner doesn’t pay any attention to them because, guess what, their phone is more interesting.

As the scenarios get more and more unhinged, you’re completely drowning in misery and contemplating how far this issue would have to go in order for you to break up.

It’s a way of taking control over the narrative. Of preparing yourself for the worst.

But it never brings any resolution or peace of mind. It’s just…endless running in circles.

5) You constantly seek reassurance

“Would you still love me if I was a snail?”

While this is a funny joke on social media and a sign of healthy playfulness in the relationship, anxiously attached people can quickly turn it into an argument.

“What do you mean you wouldn’t? Do you not love me enough?”

Seeking reassurance and taking things personally is pretty much the universal sign of an anxious attachment style. I, for example, used to constantly ask my ex if he hated me just to hear that he did not, in fact, hate me.

Sigh.

It’s safe to say we were both relieved when I finally felt secure enough to stop.

6) You’re overly allowing

The problem with getting anxiously attached is that you create a sense of co-dependency in the relationship. Just the idea of breaking up is so painful that you’d do anything in your power to prevent it from happening.

Including letting your partner cross your boundaries, settling for the bare minimum, rationalizing their hurtful behavior, and hoping that they’ll change even though there’s a walking evidence right in front of you showing you all you need to know.

One of my favorite quotes about love is by Stephen Chbosky, who wrote in The Perks of Being a Wallflower: “We accept the love we think we deserve.”

This brings us back to your beliefs about yourself. You don’t deserve to beg for scraps of attention or to be stuck in toxic cycles.

You’re worthy of so much more. And the right person will give you that – if you let yourself have it.

7) You get easily jealous

This list wouldn’t be complete without another obvious sign: thinking that everyone wants to steal your person or that your person doesn’t love you enough to be faithful.

While this doesn’t apply to all anxiously attached people, it’s still important to keep in mind.

Jealousy isn’t always bad – a little bit of it can be a fun way to spice up the relationship, for example – but once there’s a real lack of trust, you might have a problem.

If you can’t build trust and let your partner breathe, you’re only increasing your chances of losing them.

Which is yet another example of our good old self-sabotage.

8) You find it difficult to express your needs

Ah. Fear of rejection. One of the most terrifying things there are.

What if you tell your partner that you need them to spend time with you because you’re not feeling well, and they say no?

What if you confide in them about an issue that’s been troubling you, and they mock you or invalidate your feelings?

What if? What if? What if?

Well, guess what?

Those fears won’t go away if you don’t face them. They’ll manifest through other behavior, such as picking a fight about an unloaded dishwasher or whispering passive-aggressive remarks that only sour the atmosphere.

It’s scary to tell your partner what you need. But vulnerability is always terrifying – that’s what makes it so beautiful.

9) You feel like you’re not enough on your own

There’s this narrative in our society about “finding your other half”.

But if our partners are halves of ourselves, how come we manage to live and flourish after breakups?

You’re not 50% of yourself. You’re 100%.

A partner is someone you want on top of that, not someone you desperately need just to feel whole.

So, on a final note… You are enough. 

Denisa Cerna

Hi! I’m a fiction author and a non-fiction freelance writer with a passion for personal development, mental health, and all things psychology. I have a graduate degree in Comparative Literature MA and I spend most of my time reading, travelling, and – shocker – writing. I’m always on a quest to better understand the inner workings of the human mind and I love sharing my insights with the world. If any of my articles change your life for the better… mission accomplished.
Get in touch at denisacerna.writing@gmail.com or find me on LinkedIn.

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