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How to Heal Anxious Attachment Style in a Relationship

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How to Heal Anxious Attachment Style in a Relationship

An anxious attachment style can negatively impact relationships if left unaddressed. This posts aims to educate readers on how to heal an anxious attachment style through self-awareness, communication skills, mindfulness techniques, and relationship maintenance strategies. Understanding attachment theory provides important context for healing.

What is Attachment Theory?

Attachment theory, first proposed by British psychologist John Bowlby in 1969, explains how we form emotional bonds with important caregivers in early childhood and how these affect our future relationships. According to Bowlby, we develop internal working models of either safety or anxiety in relationships based on how caregivers respond to our needs as infants.

Those with secure attachment styles felt caregivers were reliably responsive during distress, so they develop a sense of safety, trust and ability to healthily self-soothe. Those with anxious or avoidant attachment styles lacked consistent responsive care and form models of anxiety or avoidance in close relationships. While attachment styles are shaped in childhood, they are not set in stone and can be healed through awareness and effort.

Identifying Anxious Attachment Style

People with anxious attachment styles tend to worry their partner doesn’t truly love or accept them and will abandon them. To counter intense fears of rejection, they may cling too intensely to partners or constantly seek reassurance through communication.

They also tend to perceive more threat in ambiguous circumstances than securely attached individuals. Some signs of anxious attachment include:

  • Constantly checking in with partners and needing frequent contact or reassurance of their love and commitment.
  • Getting overly upset or worried when partners don’t immediately reply to texts or calls.
  • Strong jealousy and believing partners will leave them for someone better without their constant attention and effort.
  • Difficulty trusting partners to be faithful when apart for extended periods of time.
  • Needing partners to spend a lot of time together to feel secure in the relationship.
  • Getting anxious or angry when small issues arise in the relationship and worrying they may lead to abandonment.
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People with anxious attachment desire intimacy but have difficulty fully trusting others or regulating intense emotions related to fears of abandonment. This can strain relationships if not addressed through healing work.

How Anxious Attachment Affects Relationships

Unless healed, anxious attachment tendencies can negatively impact intimacy and closeness in several ways:

Constant Reassurance Seeking is Taxing: Partners of those with anxious attachment may feel emotionally drained by constant questioning of their commitment and need to frequently reassure and soothe excessive worries. This pulls them into a caregiving role.

Smothering Behavior Drives Partners Away: The clinginess, possessive behaviors and inability to give space that stems from intense fears of abandonment can push away even caring partners by making them feel controlled or uncomfortable with lack of independence.

Intense Jealousy & Insecurity Erode Trust: Strong, continual jealousy even without cause destroys the trust necessary for intimacy. Partners start walking on eggshells to avoid accusations and constantly proving their faithfulness.

Emotional Upheaval is Draining: Frequent anger, crying or mood swings in reaction to even small relationship issues tire out partners who feel they can never do enough to stabilize their partner’s emotions and behavior.

Physical Intimacy Suffers: With little ability to self-soothe and regulate emotions paired with deep seated fears, those with anxious attachment often struggle with emotional vulnerability during intimacy that can dampen passion and connection.

For relationships to thrive, anxious partners must heal their attachment wounds which often requires awareness, communication skills and mindfulness practices to better self-regulate the intense fears and emotions which drive unhealthy behaviors.

Building Self-Awareness

The first step to healing is recognizing anxious tendencies and understanding how they stem from childhood experiences rather than current relationship realities. This involves reflecting on:

  • Your earliest memories and relationship with caregivers. Were needs reliably met?
  • Common thoughts when minor issues arise (“They don’t love me”)
  • Typical reactions to perceived slights or conflicts (“I blew things out of proportion”)
  • Changes in behavior when feeling insecure (“I get clingy and jealous”)
  • Noticing physical signs of anxiety during perceived threats of abandonment
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Keep a journal detailing perceptions versus facts to build meta-awareness of patterns. Also research attachment theory to understand roots of behaviors on a deeper level. Increased self-knowledge is empowering for making positive changes.

Mastering Communication Skills

Anxious partners must learn to healthily communicate fears, set boundaries and problem-solve as calming, securebase figures rather than emotionally reactive ones. Here are some strategies:

  • Use “I feel…” statements to avoid accusations when bringing up concerns
  • Be a active listener when partners share to understand perspectives
  • Don’t bring up past issues but focus discussion on current problems
  • Compromise and negotiate when disagreeing rather than demanding one’s way
  • Validate partners’ perspectives even if you don’t fully agree
  • Express appreciation for efforts partners make to meet your needs
  • Be accountable for your role in issues through self-reflection

These skills help build understanding and defuse conflicts before intense emotions take over conservation. Remember, the goal is resolution not being “right.”

Practicing Mindfulness

Anxious thoughts are self-perpetuating if not stopped in their tracks through present-moment awareness. Regular mindfulness meditation builds this ability to observe thoughts objectively rather than believe and act on fearful projections. Additional ideas include:

  • Notice physical signs of anxiety and consciously relax muscles
  • Redirect thoughts to senses by focusing on breath, sounds or textures
  • Imagine anxiety as passing waves rather than a crushing tidal wave
  • Soften “threat” appraisal of thoughts through self-compassion
  • Write down anxiety triggers to prepare healthier responses
  • Use calming mantras like “This too shall pass” during upsetting events

Mindfulness releases anxious attachment’s rigid grip on one’s wellbeing, which had relied too much on others. This inner strength and self-validation fosters healthier relationships.

Maintaining the Relationship

Healing involves not just changing oneself but enhancing the bond through routine care. Some acts of service anxious partners can do include:

  • Schedule regular date nights to nurture passion and closeness
  • Help around the house without being asked to reduce partner’s stress
  • Give sincere compliments and affection each day
  • Respectfully attend to partner’s non-verbal emotional needs
  • Send occasional caring texts when apart to increase feelings of security
  • Share in hobbies together to build shared experiences
  • Surprise partner with small thoughtful gifts occasionally
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These signs of affection, reliability and availability when not directly seeking reassurance build goodwill in the relationship bank for harder times. Maintaining bonds is vital for self-worth, as anxious individuals tied too much to singular relationships.

Relapses and Self-Care

Healing anxious attachment requires patience through inevitable relapses from old patterns. Be kind yet accountable to yourself during setbacks by:

  • Reflecting on triggers for anxious thoughts and behaviors objectively
  • Resuming communication skills before emotions escalate further issues
  • Getting extra support from therapist if relapses persist or intensify anxieties

-Taking personal space if escalated to avoid hurting self or partner

  • Practicing self-care like hobbies, rest to process emotions healthily
  • Discussing lesson learned afterward with partner (no blaming)
  • Resuming efforts with determination rather than shame about imperfect growth

Healing is a lifelong process, yet each experience practicing new skills strengthens ability to form secure bonds by meeting one’s needs and considering the relationship as a team effort.

Conclusion

Anxious attachment develops from unmet childhood emotional needs but doesn’t have to define adult relationships with awareness and effort. By understanding its roots, communicating effectively, practicing mindfulness daily and consistently nurturing the bond, anxious individuals can feel and give the security necessary for closeness, trust and fulfillment in their most important relationship. Viewing it as an opportunity for personal growth makes the journey towards secure attachment and healthy love much more rewarding.

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