“Are you ok?” I asked my husband for the third time in an hour.
Baffled that I was asking yet again, he replied, “Yes! I already told you, I’m fine.”
This is a common conversation in our home which stems from my anxious attachment style.
I first learned about attachment styles in premarital counseling. There are four attachment styles: anxious, dismissive-avoidant, fearful-avoidant and secure.
Here is a quick summary of each attachment style from betterhelp.com:
“Anxious Attachment Style
People with this attachment style are usually more anxious about their relationships than a person with a secure attachment style. Partners with an anxious-preoccupied attachment style may feel a greater need for reassurance and affirmation. This sometimes leads people with an anxious-preoccupied attachment style to invent or magnify conflicts or difficulties in their relationships. They may feel a sense of security in a shared focus on these issues. People with an anxious-preoccupied attachment style often have a more pessimistic, anxious, or paranoid view of their relationships. They might be more afraid of losing their partner, and they may act in jealous or possessive ways.
Dismissive-Avoidant Attachment Style
People with this attachment style can sometimes seem cold or distant. People with a dismissive-avoidant attachment style may be very wary of commitment to relationships. They might say that they don’t want to be tied down. Partners with a dismissive-avoidant attachment style can show their independence through preoccupation with hobbies or work. They might maintain a busy social life with acquaintances that do not involve their romantic partners. A person with a dismissive-avoidant attachment style is more likely to be passive-aggressive or display more narcissistic tendencies than people with other attachment styles.
Fearful-Avoidant Attachment Style
People with this attachment style often find themselves in chaotic relationships. They may experience internal conflict over both their desire and fear of intimate relationships. They may desperately desire the benefits of close relationships but may also be afraid of the cost of vulnerability and commitment required. Within an intimate partnership, people with a fearful-avoidant attachment style may simultaneously obsess over, and push away, their partner. They may shower affection one day, and become cold the next. Partners with a fearful-avoidant attachment style may fear to lose themselves in relationships. They can seem pessimistic and have a hard time defining healthy boundaries.
Secure Attachment Style
People with this attachment style know how to maintain appropriate boundaries while still participating fully in intimate partnerships. They tend to approach their relationships with confidence. They experience low anxiety about their relationships. People with a secure attachment style tend to communicate effectively about any topic, including difficult ones. A person with a secure attachment style generally has an optimistic view of their relationships and has the ability to be upfront about their wants and needs. They expect the same from their partner. People with a secure attachment style are usually less afraid of being without an intimate partnership, as they have a strong identity in themselves alone.”
After taking the assessment in our counseling session, Jake shared that his attachment style was secure. I looked at the results on my screen. “Anxious attachment style.”
I shifted awkwardly in my chair. It made sense, but I didn’t like seeing it laid out plainly in front of me. I was being called out for behavior that wasn’t healthy. Due to trauma from past relationships, I am hypersensitive to the feelings of those around me. I’m sure that I used to have secure attachment. My family is affectionate and loving, but somewhere along the way I lost it. I’ve had friendships end without closure or explanation and my attempts to mend the situations were fruitless. My first boyfriend would literally run away from me when we got in fights. He left me alone in public places multiple times. My second boyfriend blindsided me with a breakup while I was abroad in Europe and when I came back, I found out he’d cheated on me. So as a form of self-defense, I’ve learned how to read subtle social and emotional cues. Unfortunately, those relationships affected me mentally and emotionally and I learned that someone who says they love you could leave you at any given moment. And while I have healed tremendously from those wounds, there are still scars.
So if I sense a slight mood-shift in Jake, my anxiety kicks in and I automatically assume it is because of something I did or said. But Jake is my husband. He loves me dearly and I need to release the pain I’ve experienced in the past and not let it affect my marriage. I want to grow confident in my relationship with Jake and let go of the way I’ve been treated in the past. As I continue to reflect, I’ve thought about some things that I can do to shift from an anxious attachment style to a secure one.
- Reminding myself of the truth
I know that Jake loves me deeply. He strives to love me as Christ loves the church.
- Give myself time and space to heal
Sometimes I think I should be over something because it happened so long ago, but emotional damage really leaves a mark. I need to give myself grace when it comes to the healing process.
- Ask for reassurance and be open about my triggers
When I recognize that my anxiety is being triggered, I can ask Jake to reassure me that he’s not mad and that he loves me.
- Stop putting my partner on a pedestal
Sometimes I expect too much from Jake. I need to spend more time with friends and do things I love.
- Start relying on God
The creator of the universe knows and loves me. I don’t need to seek validation from any other relationship when I can grasp this truth.
If you’re wondering what your attachment style is, you can take the assessment here: https://www.attachmentproject.com/attachment-style-quiz/
Do some self-reflection when you get your results and see if there are steps you can take to achieve security and confidence in your relationships. If you have a secure attachment style, more power to you! Hopefully you can use your position to help your partner if they have an anxious or avoidant attachment style. As a new mom, I’m already on a few spiritual journeys and doing a lot of heavy emotional lifting, but I know that continuous reflection will help me in my marriage and in motherhood. I never want to stop growing and maturing as a person and I know the effort will be worth it in the end.