Have you ever dated someone who freaked out when you didn’t call them back right away? Perhaps you fell asleep, only to wake up to 15 missed calls and an assault of text messages escalating from “Hey what are you up to?” – to complete hatred “I don’t believe you’re ignoring me you f*cking as*hole!” Or perhaps you’ve dated someone who got upset that you didn’t give her enough attention and so she punished you by ignoring you, or broke up with you as a reaction to her feeling unloved. If this sounds familiar, chances are, you’ve dated someone with an anxious attachment style.
Our attachment system is a mechanism in our brain responsible for tracking and monitoring the safety and availability of our attachment figures. Many attachment theorists believe that by the age of five, we develop a primary attachment style that will more or less define the way we emotionally bond and attach to others in our adult lives. There are three primary attachment styles: secure, avoidant and anxious.
People with an anxious attachment style crave intimacy, are often preoccupied with their relationship, and tend to worry about their partner’s ability to love them back. They have an inherent fear of rejection and abandonment. Even a slight hint that something is wrong will activate their attachment system, and once activated they are unable to calm down until they get a clear indication from their partner that the relationship is safe.
If you are dating someone with an anxious attachment style, relationship bliss isn’t necessarily doomed. You just have to understand that their wiring is different from yours, and that they require higher levels of intimacy and closeness than people with secure attachment styles. You can learn what their what triggers are, and how to best respond to make them feel loved and supported. Here are some tips on how to date someone with an anxious attachment style:
Lack of safety is the underlying baseline that subconsciously rules an anxious’s way of perceiving their relationships. Many theorists attribute an anxious attachment style to inconsistent caregiving, where the baby/child never knew if they would have their needs met. Therefore, their attachment system goes haywire as a means of survival. Being hot and cold and mirroring the inconsistency they received as children will be one of their greatest triggers and cause them to react in a destructive way – so be consistent, opt for balance versus extreme peaks and valleys in your attention and energy.
Let them know how you feel – on a regular basis
Anxious types have difficulty believing that you actually like them and without clear signs indicating your interest, they will convince themselves that you don’t. They need reassurance that you care about them, that you’re sticking around and won’t abandon them. Sounds exhausting, but it’s really not that hard. A simple “I’m thinking of you” text or a phone call to check in can go a long way. If you assume they know how you feel, think twice. They don’t. Proactively tell them how you feel instead of holding it in.
Find out their love language
There’s a great book, The Five Love Languages, that explains how we all have a primary love language in how we receive and give love. The categories are broken down to: words of affirmation, gifts, quality time, physical touch and acts of service. Find out what your partner’s love language is and make an effort to love them in the language they understand.
When in a fight, reassure that you’re not leaving them
Studies show that people with an anxious attachment style are more sensitive and quicker to perceive offset emotions. They have a unique ability to sense when their relationship is being threatened. They have a tendency to think worst-case scenario because unconsciously, they deeply fear rejection and abandonment. When in a fight, they’re instinctive reaction is to think that the relationship is over. Their heightened alert system will make them think you’re going to leave them, so they will prepare for rejection and may even try to break up with you first. It’s important that you assure them that just because you’re in a fight, it doesn’t detract from how much you love and care about them and that a disagreement doesn’t mean the end.
Follow through on the little things
If you say you’ll call, do it. If you say you want to go out, make it happen. Follow through on promises – small or large. It’s extremely important to build trust with anxious types, who are used to being let down or disappointed. Since anxious types are more sensitive to cues, they pay more attention to the things you say and will remember the promises you make.
Don’t invalidate their feelings
You’re drawn to the anxious likely for an array of reasons, one being that they are very heart and feeling oriented. They have needs for intimacy, availability and security in a relationship that are necessary for them to feel safe so that they can trust and love with reckless abandon. Know that with the light, comes the dark, and the emotions that you love are also the emotions that become challenging for your logical, busy mind. Do not shame or judge them for feeling and instead show compassion.
While it may sound challenging to date someone with an anxious attachment style, the good news is, through support from their partner and their own self-work, they can move from anxious to secure. Once they realize that they are safe, a healthier narrative becomes reaffirmed through time and experience, and they gradually rewire their baseline.
To learn more about how to change old relationship patterns, and how to create healthy ones, join my 2-hour Live Workshop on Sunday, April 25 where I’ll guide you step by step on how to become more secure in your attachment, manage emotions and our reactions to pain and create healthy relationships. Get your ticket here.
10 Replies to “How to Date Someone With an Anxious Attachment Style”
Great article. Thanks. Quick qs: At the end of the article you state “through support from their partner and their own self-work, they can move from anxious to secure.” Could you please say more and/or offer suggestions on what that “self-work” could include, look like, and entail?
Thanks in advance!
Hey there! For me, it’s a matter of self reassurance. Things like “she still loves me, I’m just over thinking this” and reminding myself of the things the other person has done in the past to let me know they care. It’s also important to know yourself and understand your needs. I personally need to be told “I love you” or some variant thereof on a somewhat regular basis to feel better. I openly express this with my partner and we work on it together.
Hope this helps!
Great article! I have an anxious attachment style and everything you said is spot on.
So very spot on. I also have this type of attachment and everything that’s said in the article exactly describes it. Thank you. It helps to show this to my partner so he understands that I am who I am. I also really improved over time by talking/reassuring myself and by understanding that I am not to be ashamed to have emotions.
I find it very hard to believe that anxious attachment types should be in a romantic relationship at all. Two complete people should be in a relationship and the anxious attachment is based on not being good enough within yourself. Also constantly being fearful or anxious means that love comes from fear which is a condition and at that point I’d hardly call the actions they take as being love based. It seems like you end up being their emotional safety cushion. The helping them grow part possibly makes sense but they need to do that more on their own being that it’s such a deeply routed subconscious belief. And yes this is based on experience. I just got out of a relationship with a girl who was almost exactly this list. I was broken up with twice in a month and she had to travel for work and couldn’t handle it and broke up with me. These attachment styles are surely not meant for healthy relationships.
Bob- Studies have shown that anxiously attached (or avoidantly attached) people may have this ‘condition’ for life, given the deep grounding it has in childhood. Being in secure relationships is not a ‘job’ for the secure partner, it is a choice to love and support. I agree with you that those who are not doing the work for themselves to heal the wounds that cause the anxiety will not make good partners- I too have been there. But that’s true of any issue. Whether it be alcoholism, preoccupation with work, poor communication, self-sabotage, anger, whatever the problem may be that is dividing the relationship and damaging intimacy, if the person suffering from the problem is in denial or unwilling to work on the issue, talk about it openly, and acknowledge it, then I agree with you. That’s not a partnership, that’s a recipe for pain and conflict.
However, studies have also shown that being with a secure partner is healing and transformative for anxiously attached people who want to become more secure. I can sense that the relationship you got out of recently was really hard for you- can you sense that you are speaking out of your own pain? Saying that people don’t deserve to be loved and in relationships until they are healed from all trauma is unrealistic and some might even say cruel.
This is a rather biased and shallow reply Bob. You’re saying that 20% of the human population doesn’t deserve love just because we have anxiety. We just need a little coaching, and clearly you couldn’t do that for your girlfriend. That’s the real reason why you’re mad—not because of our deficiencies, but because of your own 🙂
I think some compassion and understanding and not taking things so personally and seriously all the time is how someone should be with an anxious attachment style man or woman. I have an anxious style attachment style and rest assured if you really love the person because of how sweet they actually are, not all those things they don’t actually mean, then you will stay with them long enough for them to develop a secure attachment style with you. Don’t like it? Then you’re pretty heartless… you have no idea what these people have been through and they are actually good-hearted people.
This article made me feel like I know a bit about myself now, I been like this for years and relationships have be wrecked by the way I am because I and the other people I was with didn’t understand how I loved the person and idk it made me feel kinda like I’m clingy or pathetic because of the way I act and anything like that. I’m glad that I found this so I’m able to work on this, I really feel like I’m going forward in life now and I can finally tell people who care about me so they can understand me more then also help me too. I’m so glad that you came out with this article and spoke your experience because it made me find out who I am and I hope people find out about this article because this will help me in the long run
I’m dating a guy with this attachment style. On the plus side, he’s very caring and warm. But the other side, i feel like Im tiptoeing on a thin ice, not knowing when he’ll be upset or feel unloved.
Falling asleep without saying good night or a game night with friends. These can trigger his insecurities.
I want to make him happy, but I’m so tired. Any missteps or any rejections can make him really upset or amgry. I need love to. I need him to respect my space and I need freedom to say no!
Sorry I actually came for advice, not to vent out.