We might not realize it, but the way we learn to form relationships in childhood affects us throughout our lives. While some people have been taught from a young age that they can feel trust and safe in a relationship, others struggle to feel this way. If you excessively worry about abandonment, you may have an anxious attachment style.
You can cope with this by learning emotional regulation and developing healthy communication patterns.
What is an anxious attachment style?
There are four main attachment styles that form when we are children. These are anxious attachment, avoidant/dismissive attachment, disorganized/fearful attachment, and secure attachment. A person with anxious attachment will:
- need constant reassurance from friends and partners
- take perceived slights very personally
- jump to catastrophic thinking
- worry about infidelity and abandonment
- try to fix other people’s problems at their expense
- often wonder whether others are angry at them
- feel anxious, angry, unworthy, and/or resentful
- overreact to perceived threats to the relationship
Those with anxious attachment styles most likely grew up in a neglectful, unstable home. Their emotional needs were unmet by a parent or caregiver. Their parents may also be anxiously attached, and they then learned to model this behavior at an early age. But if you have an anxious attachment style, you can unlearn healthy relationship patterns and regulate your emotions.
How you can cope
Learn your thought patterns
Next time you and your partner argue, or you experience extreme stress, write down your thoughts in the moment. As you keep doing this, you’ll start to notice patterns. Maybe every time your partner goes out with their friends on the weekend, you wait nervously by your phone, send them paragraphs of texts, and argue with them the next day.
As a way to cope with feeling abandoned, you lash out. Before it happens again, make a plan and anticipate your emotions. Work with your partner on how you can best address these feelings of abandonment so they don’t fester and lead to an argument.
Sit with your feelings
Not all feelings need to be acted upon. Sometimes our minds go into overdrive, and when that happens, we can make rash decisions that undermine our relationships. Instead of acting impulsively every time you feel a negative emotion, allow your emotions to arise, notice them, and let them pass.
For example, the next time your partner doesn’t text you when you asked them to, don’t blow up their phone. Most likely they got caught up and lost track of time; they’re probably not out cheating or purposefully sabotaging your relationship.
Part of sitting with your feelings also involves taking a step back and noticing your sensory experiences. When you feel your mind racing or your blood pressure rising, pause for a moment. Try to name not only your emotions but also what you’re seeing, hearing, feeling, touching, and tasting. Bringing your attention back to your body will calm you and help you better regulate your emotions.
Engage in self-care
Taking time for yourself can reduce stress and make yourself feel like a priority. Take pleasure in what you do for yourself rather than worrying about other people. You can also work self-care into anticipating your triggers and negative emotions. For example, if your partner goes out of town for work, plan to spend the weekend cooking lavish meals, going to the movies, and taking luxurious baths.
Processing through therapy
A licensed therapist won’t just help you learn better coping strategies for your anxious attachment style. They’ll also spend time getting at the root of why you form attachments this way. By working through your patterns and triggers, you’ll be better equipped to form secure attachments and have fulfilling relationships.
To find out more about how therapy can help you strengthen your bonds with others, please reach out to us.