Do you or your partner struggle with trust?
Does your partner feel insecure about the things you do outside of the relationship?
Do either you or your partner find it difficult to be on your own?
If so, this article on anxious attachment could really help.
Anxiety specifically connected to your relationship can be difficult to navigate, both for the individual experiencing anxiety and for their partner.
It can be especially challenging when one partner struggles with a fear of abandonment or a lack of trust in the relationship, leading to a feeling of a loss of security.
This type of anxiety often results in ‘protest behaviours’, such as a need for constant reassurance, jealousy, or an inability to be alone.
If you are in a relationship with someone who struggles with attachment anxiety, it can be helpful to understand the underlying causes of their anxiety and how it may be impacting your relationship.
One way I approach this in my sessions is through the lens of Attachment Theory.
Attachment Theory suggests that our early experiences with caregivers shape our attachment style in adulthood. Those who experienced consistent, supportive caregiving are more likely to develop a secure attachment style, which allows them to feel confident in their relationships and able to cope with challenges.
On the other hand, those who experienced inconsistent, unreliable caregiving may develop an anxious attachment style, characterised by a fear of abandonment and a need for constant reassurance from their partners.
Attachment styles are not exclusively formed in childhood, they are also impacted by your experience of adult relationships too.
It’s important to note therefore that attachment styles are NOT fixed.
Don’t feel that experience from those early years will represent the rest of your life.
There is always opportunity for change.
It’s crucial to understand that they can evolve and change over time, and it is possible for someone with an anxious attachment style to develop a more secure style with the right support and interventions.
So, how can you support your partner with anxious attachment?
Here are some tips:
Practise active listening:
When your partner is expressing their anxiety, it’s important to listen and validate their feelings, rather than trying to fix them or minimise their concerns. Show that you are there for them by using phrases like “I understand how you’re feeling” or “I can see why you would feel worried.”
It’s natural to want to support your partner and be there for them, but it’s important to also set boundaries to take care of yourself. This might include setting limits on how much time you spend reassuring your partner or finding ways to prioritise your own needs.
Encourage independence by helping them feel dependent:
This is a bit of a paradox, but at the heart of every relationship is dependency. Lead with this. It is also important to encourage their independence and help them build confidence in their own ability to cope with challenges. This can involve finding ways for them to spend time alone or encouraging them to try new activities that allow them to explore their self-development.
It’s important to take care of yourself as well, particularly if you are in a relationship with someone who struggles with attachment anxiety. This might involve finding ways to manage your own stress, making time for your own interests and hobbies, and seeking support from friends and family.
An obvious side-note…
When you do seek support from friends and family never negatively discuss anything about your partner. This will only result in further anxiety and pressure around this issue.
Navigating an anxious attachment in a relationship can be challenging, but with understanding, patience, and a commitment to growth and healing, it is possible to create a more secure and fulfilling connection.
It can be normal for people to feel anxiety or to have doubts about their relationship too.
If you’re looking for more information about Attachment Theory, this site is a great place to start!
However, if you are interested in analysing your attachment styles in greater detail, perhaps discovering if you or your partner has an anxious attachment, I help couples navigate these challenges every day so please do drop me a message and we can explore the next steps.