How we bond or attach, detach, and re-attach is an essential part of who we are to ourselves and others. It impacts each and every one of our relationships—sometimes in very challenging ways. How we attach is something that is modeled for us from a very young age. This attachment strategy later influences everything from partner selection to conflict resolution to how you get your needs met (or not) and so much more.

What are Some of the Different Attachment Strategies?

Variations exist, of course, and there is always the inevitable blurring between the strategies but here are a few of the basic categories:

  • Secure
  • Anxious
  • Avoidant
  • Disorganized

What is Anxious Attachment?

Both avoidantly attached and anxiously attached children have caretakers who are perceived to be or actually are either:

  • Indifferent
  • Inconsistent
  • Insensitive
  • Unpredictable

Children who have an avoidant attachment strategy fall into a defensive pattern of not showing much distress. This sour grapes-style tactic is designed to avoid having to deal with the rejecting caregiver.

Anxiously attached children occupy the other end of the reaction spectrum. When expressing their discomfort they become extremely agitated and rely on an exaggerated response. Once they secure attention from their exasperating caregivers, children with anxious attachment also find it very difficult to detach from them to explore new surroundings.

4 Ways Anxious Attachment Affects Relationships 

1. Every Disagreement Feels Like a Break-Up

Reassurance is the norm. It’s a non-negotiable requirement. Those with an anxious attachment style often have trouble discerning a minor spat from an ominous crisis. As a couple, you wind up with a doubling down of sorts with each conflict. First, of course, you have the disagreement itself. But then, there are all the assumptions swirling around such a situation. What does it really mean? Is this the end?

2. Don’t Leave Them on “Read”

No one likes sending a social media message, knowing the other person got it, but not getting a response. If your partner has developed an anxious attachment style, this might feel like torture. When they text, they’ll count the minutes until you reply. Forget to charge your phone and the outcome may feel like an emotional emergency.

3. There’s Way Less Room for Spontaneity

Consistency is the goal. Unfortunately, this really puts a damper on spontaneity. Relationships thrive with some novelty but when change leads to anxiety, compromise is necessary. This is where couples counseling can be a game-changer. Both partners must assess long-term compatibility and the likelihood for changes on both sides.

4. You Become Communicators—by Necessity!

This may, at first, feel like a heavy burden. In the end, however, this is a gift. The person with an anxious attachment strategy is, by definition, in need of steady clarification, reassurance, and context. Such a scenario is exhausting. But when we use it as an opportunity to hone our communication skills, everyone wins.

Both partners become more attuned to the nuances of their unique connection. In addition, healthy communication makes it far more likely that conversations about one’s anxious attachment way of relating are productive.

How Therapy Can Help

Working with a couples therapist will introduce and/or reinforce some vital realities:

  • We can all have more than one attachment strategy.
  • Our brains are very plastic.  Attachment strategies can be changed and adapted.
  • Specific partners can have unique impacts on our attachment strategy.
  • We can do the work to recover from childhood issues.

Your weekly sessions are like an ongoing workshop. Ideas are introduced. Skills are learned. Patterns are exposed. Strategies are developed. We are empowered with the knowledge that we can regulate our emotions and change our behaviors. Therapy teaches those with anxious attachment to explore the roots of their patterns and apply new evidence as it emerges.

To learn more about couples therapy in Longmont, CO, click here.

If you’re ready to take a closer look at your relationships and the attachment styles involved please contact me to set up free 30 minute consultation soon.