“This is just how I am when I’m in a relationship.” No, struggling with a relationship problem, such as feeling insecure in your romantic relationships, can be caused by an adult attachment style you have. Adult attachment styles are characterized by the behavior that you exhibit when your relationship is threatened. Some of these behaviors can be experiencing constant self-doubt and low self-worth (“I wonder if I’m even worthy of love”), catastrophizing about the future of your relationship (“I know he is going to break up with me, everybody leaves anyway”), jealousy (“I don’t want you to go to this work event, your attractive coworker will be there”), having low self-esteem (“I always fail in relationships, I guess there is something wrong with me”), having poor body image (“I gained a lot of weight recently, I’m afraid of my husband cheating on me”), and constantly seeking reassurance (“You didn’t tell me you love me today. Something is going on”). The good news is your adult attachment style can change as you continue to build safer connections with yourself and others. Knowing your current attachment style helps you to understand who you were in your past relationships, and who you want to be in your current romantic relationship. Adult attachment is categorized as secure and insecure attachment styles.
Secure attachment style: You have a very strong sense of connection with yourself and your partner. You can acknowledge your needs by sending clear and coherent messages to your partner and can recognize their boundaries without feeling rejected, unwanted or unloved. You are more likely to give your partner the benefit of the doubt when things don’t go as expected. You can be yourself in your relationship and still can accept your partner’s positive influence. When you two are apart, you don’t get overly anxious or feel distracted.
Insecure attachment style: There are three types of insecure attachment styles – anxious, avoidant, and fearful-avoidant.
1. Anxious attachment style: This style manifests itself in romantic relationships as feeling embarrassed to express your needs because you may be afraid of being perceived as “too needy or clingy” by your partner, finding yourself becoming overly fixated on the other person or on your relationship, feeling overly anxious or jealous when you are away from your partner, and needing constant reassurance or attention. You may often think that you face the world alone. When there is a threat to your relationship, you can become more hyperaroused – waiting for something bad to happen or looking for cues that are telling you something is wrong and become more vigilant – being more sensitive towards the unknown or rejection.
2. Avoidant attachment style: When you have an avoidant style, relying on your partner and tolerating emotional intimacy can be challenging. You can be dismissive towards your partner’s needs. You often define yourself as an “independent person” and when your partner tries to get closer to you, you may withdraw. You shut your feelings down and you shut other people out. You can also go into a hypoarousal stage by minimizing your needs and your connection with others. Example: “He probably never loved me at the first place. Anyway, I don’t need love. I’m too busy for this.” This is a fragile strategy. It only works when the world isn’t going upside down. Once the world starts to go upside down and you get unsure of yourself, this kind of numbing breaks apart and you may feel lost by not knowing what to do.
3. Fearful-avoidant attachment style: This style is often called disorganized attachment because you may flip between the two, you flip between anxious and avoidant attachment styles. For example, you call your partner to say “Where are you? You aren’t here for me. I worry all the time”. And then, when your partner tries to comfort you, you say, “You only support me because I told you so, not because you really want to support me. I don’t need your support”. You can find romantic relationships confusing and unsettling. If you have a fearful-avoidant attachment style, you may have experienced neglect, abuse, or a traumatic childhood. There is a high need for comfort and caring (anxious attachment), and then you can flip into avoidance and shut down because your partner’s care can’t be trusted, and you must avoid it.
If you recognize an insecure attachment style in either yourself or your romantic partner, please seek help. Contact us today.