5 Signs You Have Anxious Attachment in Relationships

And what to do about it.

K Meraki
K Meraki
May 12, 2020 · 6 min read

How you formed an attachment to your caregivers in infancy often sets the tone for how you experience your adult relationships.

If your parents were slow or inconsistent with tending to your needs, you might have become anxiously attached.

When you’re an adult, you may subconsciously repeat similar behaviours you experienced in childhood, in your romantic relationships.

“People are drawn to whatever they are familiar with, and they end up replicating the same patterns they experienced in their earliest relationships.” — Dr. Sarah Rodman

My attachment style was anxious-avoidant for years. My father was absent for a good chunk of my childhood, and my mother was busy with her own life.

As an adult, I attracted people who were always emotionally unavailable, just like my parents were. I was desperate for love, but I kept getting hurt.

When you keep repeating the same patterns, learning about your attachment style can help propel you learn from your mistakes.

Here are 5 signs you have an anxious attachment style.

5. Your Sensitivity Meter Is Running on High

Your thoughts and feelings come from your past memories.” — Dr. Joe Dispenza

When you’re on high alert, you can sense the slightest changes in your partner. It could be their mood, or their tone of voice or if their interest in us wanes — real or imagined.

When we feel triggered, our bodies become flooded with fear that we are being abandoned or rejected. This can cause us to resort to behaviours, where we try and pull our partners closer to us.

But these behaviours may also drive our partner away.

When this happens, it just confirms our fear that we aren’t good enough, replicating the same feelings and thoughts we may have experienced in our earliest relationships.

What to do

  • When you’re feeling overwhelmed, try and remember that it’s likely old trauma bubbling up to the surface.
  • Journaling your thoughts and feelings can help you uncover the underlying issues.
  • Practice mindfulness techniques to help you stay in the moment rather than focusing on what could happen.

4. You Resort To Protest Behaviours

When we’re feeling triggered by our partner, we may start acting out with protest behaviours. These behaviours can look like this:

  • Ignoring your partner, and their calls and texts
  • Lying to your partner
  • Starting a fight with your partner
  • Saying things like “you’re better off without me!”
  • Trying to make them jealous.

Protest behaviours are a way of trying to get your emotional needs met. I used to do this all the time with my ex-partner, and although you realise you’re doing it — it can feel hard to stop.

“You have a right to ask for the things you need in a relationship. In fact, you have a responsibility to yourself and your partner to be clear about your needs.” — Brett & Kate McKay

What To Do

  • Learn how to communicate your needs with your partner rather than resorting to unhelpful protest behaviours.
  • Rather than saying things like “you need to do this” when speaking to your partner, try using “I need this to feel…” This way you aren’t blaming your partner.
  • Remember that your brain is making you react the way you did in a past experience, and try to understand where this behaviour stems from. Ask yourself: which needs aren’t being met? How can I satisfy my own needs at this moment?

3. You Constantly Seek Reassurance from Your Partner

“The irony is that by engaging in these defences that we’ve learned we are actually recreating the very thing we were trying to avoid.” — Allison Abrams.

When you seek reassurance from our partner, you’re most likely experiencing low self-worth and fear that you aren’t good enough for them.

This can make you feel the need to check in with them regularly. I did this with my partner often, and felt like she was going to leave me, which made me feel clingy.

Clinging onto your partner is a sign that you fear they’ll end the relationship and find someone better.

These behaviours are a subconscious way of trying to ensure you won’t experience the same things you went through as a child with your parents.

What To Do

  • Understand this is a way of you trying to escape what you experienced as a kid. Having self-awareness is a huge advantage.
  • Communicate with your partner about what you’re going through. Come up with a plan together on how you’ll manage your triggers.
  • Learn how to avoid running from your emotions, and rather tap into them and understand where these triggers are coming from.

2. You Have Trouble With The Green-Eyed Monster

Jealousy often stems from fear of losing control and rejection. When you experience jealousy, it can be a sign that you’re afraid of abandonment and don’t feel good enough.

Jealousy can feel like your body is being taken over by anxiety or rage, and you may resort to the protest behaviours we spoke about earlier.

You might feel jealous when your partner:

  • Talks to other attractive people (friends, colleagues, etc.)
  • Is close with their family
  • Hangs out with their friends
  • Wants to do things outside of your relationship — like play sports, or other do other hobbies.

I experienced jealousy when I was anxious-avoidant, I didn’t trust people around my partner.

I felt triggered when she would talk to attractive people because I was afraid she’d leave me for someone else.

Psychologist Sarah Schewitz says your partner‘s actions may “trigger you in a way that’s uniquely painful for you.”

What to do

  • Reflect on an event you experienced that may have triggered your jealousy. For example, I felt jealous when my mum found a new partner because I felt neglected after this.
  • Speaking to a therapist is a safe way to uncover where your jealousy is coming from, and strategies you can learn to manage this emotion.
  • Healthline recommends using mindfulness techniques and meditation to help you learn how to regulate and respond differently to your emotions.

1. You’re Dependent On Your Partner For Everything

“People who are needy or codependent have a desperate need for love and affection from others. To receive this love and affection, they sacrifice their identity and remove their boundaries.“ — Mark Manson

High levels of dependence can look like:

  • Not having your interests outside of the relationship and focusing on your partner’s interests instead
  • Relying on your partner to make you feel happy by being around them
  • Not wanting to visit your friends, or attend events without your partner there
  • Feeling anxious or sad without your partner around

When you fear losing your partner, you can often forget that you and your partner are both individual people who have their own lives outside of the relationship.

I clung to my ex like superglue because I was afraid to be alone and do my own thing. When she ended the relationship, I lost my identity too.

When you depend on your partner for everything, it can erode the relationship over time and stunt your growth.

What To Do

  • Know that it’s healthy and essential to have interests outside of your relationship.
  • Try finding activities you enjoy. Even if it’s sitting in a different room away from your partner meditating, drawing or writing poetry.
  • If you’re struggling with anxiety when you’re away from your partner, it may be best to speak to a therapist to come up with coping strategies.

Summary

When you’re anxiously attached, it can feel triggering if your partner loses interest, or ignores you for whatever reason. We all have unique experiences that have shaped us. It doesn’t mean we can’t change our patterns, we can.

I always recommend seeking help from a therapist as they offer a safe space for you to vent and work through your issues. You can learn coping strategies and how to communicate with your partner.

It’s critical to help yourself and work through your limiting patterns so you can enjoy secure and happy relationships. And most importantly, feel secure within yourself.

Enjoying this content? Feel free to join my exclusive Substack newsletter Attached for more.

© Kathrine Meraki

Change Your Mind Change Your Life

Read short and uplifting articles here to help you shift…

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store