• TalkMatters
    Psychological Counselling & Coaching

anxious attachment style


If your partner happen to be of anxious-attachment style, read for the five techniques to relieve his/her sense of insecurity.

The case of Fion

Fion is a product manager of a French global brand. At the age of 35, she has been a high flyer at work. She is smart, elegant and well-poised.  She has stayed in Paris for a couple of years and speaks French fluently. All these make her a rising star at the company. The story began when she was an assistant manager.  On her first business trip to Paris, she met a charming monsieur.  He was 20 years her senior, a businessman with vivid life experience. The two fell in love and got married not long after dating. Her husband followed her to settle in Hong Kong.

The reversed side of love

The relationship was a sweet one at the beginning. They were in love with each other.  Her husband took good care of her such that the marriage was an enviable one to all. Be it big or small matter, her husband would arrange it meticulously, including picking up from work, what to wear, what sports to do and where to go on weekends.  After a two-year honeymoon period, however, Fion began to have a feeling of being restrained. Her husband's thoughtfulness became a form of control. Before she could make sense of this "weird" feeling, more "rules" were gradually introduced to her daily routines - dinner must begin at seven o'clock every day, making overtime or socializing impossible after work.  In addition, dinner etiquette said no speaking was allowed during meal time. 

She knew that it was her husband's immense love behind that caused this "suffocating" feeling.  Yet she was depressed as her freedom was deprived somehow. As a result, conflicts came in when she didn't obey the rules.  Every single conflict brought scars to the relationship.  Day after day, there were only withdrawals from the couple's emotional account. She was afraid that the account would soon dry up.  This was the last thing she wanted to happen.  She has thought about divorce. Her husband told her that everything he did was because of love and protection.

What is anxious attachment style

According to Attachment Style psychodynamic theories, the behaviors of Fion's husband are typical of Anxious Insecure Style. In intimate relationship, people of AIS (including men and women) generally demonstrate the following thoughts and behaviors:

1. Low self-image, fear of being rejected, abandoned and neglected.  They always wonder about "Is my commitment in the relationship reciprocated?", "Can I share everything about myself transparently?", "I am actually not worth of being loved" 

2. A sense of crisis causes them to overreact.  Individual incidents could be seen as personal criticism, making the relationship more tense.

3. The more the feeling of insecurity, the more one may urge to integrate into the partner's circle.  But such actions always backfire by being taken as intrusive.

Occasional conflicts in a relationship are almost inevitable. Yet anxiety-dependent personalities will appear impatient and restless, failing to respond in a calm and easy way. Psychodynamic theories believe that this could be traced back from a person's growth, especially in infancy. In other words, the relationship with his/her caregivers determines the appeal and expression of intimacy as he grows up. Babies' natural instincts, such as food, physical touch, love and attention, if not met in a timely manner constantly, the resulted connection could be considered as poor-quality interactions. This is believed to be how certain people would develop into behaviors of anxious attachment.

Typical behaviors may be presented as a lack of confidence in a partnership. A fear of loss and a desire to take full control, combined with a struggle for attention, for instance.  Unfortunately, as a person, he/she could be perceived as too clingy and demanding, and sometimes over-dominated and not empathetic to others' feeling.

Five ways to improve communication

A healthy and seamless relationship is one where both parties grow and dance in harmony. Nonetheless, there is no reason for emotionally-anxious and dependent people to blame themselves. The first thing is to accept this limitation and to attempt for change in the communication patterns with their partners. Five ways to help:
1. The first thing is to cultivate honest conversations and share your emotions transparently, for example, "I'm starting to get a little uneasy about the situation, what do you actually mean?"

2. Don't let your automatic thoughts dictate. Nobody's assumptions are always right.

3. Then, get to understand that your partner has own personal needs, discuss before you act to reduce the feeling that you are interfering or controlling
4. Create space for each other's growth. A mutual agreement to SSCs list always helps - what to Start doing, Stop doing and Continue doing
5. Finally, find nutrients of your own, such as sports, hobbies, circle of friends, etc.

If necessary, the therapist will go into the client's childhood development to discover relevant experiences and identify sources of anxiety and unhelpful communication style. The therapist might even challenge negative or distorted thinking patterns and helps to build self-confidence and self-image.

Featured image :Photo by iMattSmart on Unsplash