Have you ever worried that your partner or spouse doesn’t love you enough, or that you can’t get close to them? In your marriage or love relationship, do you feel jealousy and fear of being abandoned?
These are just a few signs of an anxious-preoccupied attachment style, a type of relationship connection pattern that can affect both your romantic relationships and your overall health. What exactly is an anxious-preoccupied attachment style? How might this mode of communication affect your marriage or love relationship? What can you do to overcome its difficulties and create a more fulfilling and satisfying marriage or love relationship?
Defining Attachment Styles
Attachment styles are behavioral and emotional patterns that emerge in early childhood as a result of our caregivers’ responses to our needs as children for safety, comfort, and security. How caregivers respond to us influences patterns of how we form and maintain relationships throughout our lives, as well as how we identify and regulate our own and other people’s emotions (especially our romantic partners, but also friendships, coworkers, and authority figure relationships). However, because attachment style is not a personality trait, it can change depending on who we are in a relationship with and what we do to shift our patterns to a healthier, “earned secure” style that is more compatible with fulfilling marriages and love relationships.
An anxious-preoccupied attachment is defined by an overpowering desire for emotional closeness and intimacy in relationships. Partners with this attachment style frequently require constant reassurance and affection from their partner or spouse and may be overly concerned about rejection or abandonment.
If you have an anxious-preoccupied attachment style, you may overemphasize your romantic partner’s role in your life and become anxious or upset if they do not respond to your texts or phone calls right away, for example. You may be concerned about being overly needy or clingy, but you may also struggle to control your desire for attention and affection from them.
The anxious-preoccupied attachment style is characterized by hypervigilance. You may be constantly on the lookout for signs that your partner is losing interest in you. Every interaction or conversation you have with them may also be overthought as you look for hidden meanings or indicators that something is wrong.
For example, if your partner arrives home late from work, you may believe they are angry with you and punishing you. Alternatively, you may believe they are seeing someone else because your schema believes that relationships do not last, or you have an underlying belief that you will be betrayed and abandoned (mistrust schema) (abandonment schema). You may become so upset and worried that you bombard your partner with texts and phone calls in an attempt to reach them, but you end up overwhelming them with pressure, pushing them away.
Another feature of the anxious preoccupied attachment style is a strong fear of being alone. Even if there is no evidence that your partner is unhappy or dissatisfied with your relationship, you may be worried that they will abandon you at any time.
Your fear of being alone can cause a variety of negative behaviors in your relationship. For example, you may become excessively needy, clingy, and demanding, pushing your partner away and creating distance between you two. Alternatively, you may become emotionally distant or defensive, making deeper connection with your partner difficult. This could happen, for example, when your partner returns home and you greet them with rage and despair, upset at what you believe they have caused you. However, a critical point is that the schema distorts reality in most cases, causing you to react out of proportion to the situation.
Individuals with an anxious attachment style may struggle with low self-esteem and self-worth, which is referred to as defectiveness in schema therapy. This schema, or filter for how you perceive the world, can lead you to believe that you are unworthy of love and affection. The defectiveness schema can lead you to expect constant validation and reassurance from your partner, which can become exhausting for both of you.
The anxious-preoccupied attachment style can become self-fulfilling, which is one of its most serious problems. If you have an abandonment schema you may be constantly concerned that your partner will leave you. You may cope in ways that unintentionally cause this to happen, even if it would have been unlikely. You may, for example, become clingy, needy, or demanding to the point where your partner feels suffocated and decides to end the relationship.
Addressing your anxious-preoccupied attachment style
Increase your awareness
Recognizing and managing an anxious-preoccupied attachment style is the first step. Pay attention to your thoughts and emotions, and try to pinpoint times when you feel anxious or insecure about your marriage or love relationship. You can start managing your triggers and patterns by identifying them.
Concentrate on what you need to say
Be open and honest about your needs and concerns without overwhelming your partner or spouse. Reduce the frequency with which you seek reassurance or assistance from your partner or spouse when you feel you need it — can you work through it yourself rather than feeling compelled to demand that your partner reassure you? We have a term called “reassurance seeking” in cognitive behavioral therapy that involves a pattern that ends up reinforcing our anxiety even though we get a temporary reprieve from the panic from demanding reassurance. Simultaneously, try to be open to hearing your partner’s point of view as well as their needs, and work together to find a balance that takes both of you into account (rather than exclusively focusing on a demand for reassurance).
Accept your fears
Invite a better relationship with fear into your life, where you embrace it rather than trying to avoid it. After soothing and calming yourself through your breath or favorite meditation technique, take a step back when you start to feel anxious or worried and ask yourself if your thoughts and emotions are grounded in reality, or if they may be distorted. Schemas are not delusional, but magnifications or minimizations that distort our reality. Are you making assumptions or jumping to conclusions? Work to gain access to your healthier voice within as you regulate your nervous system. Your healthier voice can challenge your negative thoughts and replace them with more realistic ways of thinking, allowing you to respond with invitations to connect rather than demands for reassurance.
Take care of yourself
Self-care is essential for overcoming anxiety and developing resilience. Make time for activities that you enjoy and that help you relax, such as working out, meditating, or spending quality time with friends and family. You will be better able to deal with the challenges of your relationship if you prioritize your well-being.
Get professional help
Consult an expert therapist at Loving at Your Best if your anxiety is interfering with your daily life or your ability to form and maintain healthy relationships. We can assist you in dealing with your anxiety and developing healthier methods of navigating overwhelming emotions with your partner or spouse. We can offer you support and advice on how to better manage your marriage or love relationships based on our extensive experience.
An anxious-preoccupied attachment style is not a flaw or a weakness; it is simply a way you learned to cope with your emotions and the emotions of others that can change and improve dramatically. You can live a full and rewarding life by recognizing where you can get stuck and changing your patterns to become more compatible with satisfying relationships.
Unless changes are made, partners may find it difficult to be in a marriage or love relationship with a mate who has an anxious-preoccupied attachment style. Coping with the constant need for reassurance and the fear of abandonment that is common with this attachment style pushes them away. If you are the partner of someone who has an anxious-preoccupied attachment style, there are some things you can do to help your partner while also building a stronger, more fulfilling relationship.
Psychotherapy, also known as “talk therapy,” is an effective tool that we offer at Loving at Your Best to assist you in developing healthier, more fulfilling relationships if you have anxious-preoccupied attachment styles. Through therapy, you can learn more about attachment styles, develop new communication skills, and find ways to cope with anxiety and the fear of being alone. How can Loving at Your Best’s effective psychotherapy help an anxious-preoccupied attachment partner in a marriage?
What can the partner do to assist?
You may notice that your partner craves emotional connection and intimacy if they have an anxious-preoccupied attachment style, but they frequently struggle with insecurity, jealousy, and the fear of being alone. They may be concerned that you do not love them enough or that they are unworthy of your love and attention. As a result, they may become clingy, needy, or overly reliant on you.
You may begin to feel suffocated and angry if your anxious-preoccupied partner constantly seeks reassurance and attention from you. Your partner may also struggle to resolve conflicts because they either avoid confrontation until it explodes, or they become overly emotional during disagreements, trapping you in an emotional spiral.
What types of therapy can help?
We can help you and your partner become more self-aware in a variety of ways as therapists at Loving at Your Best, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), schema therapy (ST), and emotionally focused therapy (EFT). We identify negative thought patterns and develop new, healthier ways of thinking about yourself and your relationship using CBT. Clients in ST investigate the underlying causes of their attachment patterns and learn more about how their past experiences may be influencing their current relationships in order to develop antidotes to the schemas leading to more regulated emotions and ways of inviting each other that increase the likelihood of satisfaction as you both get your needs met in your relationship. We use EFT to assist clients in deeply identifying their emotions and developing strategies to help alleviate the intensity of those emotions while deepening connections with partners or spouses.
Loving at Your Best therapists may use role-playing or other interventions to help you practice new skills in a safe setting of sessions. Over time, you will gain more confidence in your ability to communicate effectively with your partner, resulting in a stronger, more satisfying relationship.
Managing fears of being alone
To combat loneliness and anxiety, partners can learn new coping mechanisms in therapy, such as mindfulness meditation or relaxation techniques.
We may also use exposure therapy to assist you in gradually confronting your fears and gaining confidence in your ability to deal with unpleasant emotions. Over time, partners can learn to cope better with their anxiety and fear of being abandoned, which can lead to greater emotional stability and stronger relationships.
Best therapy practices
Finding a therapist who understands attachment styles and with whom you feel comfortable opening up is critical. Work with a therapist who has the experience to understand your dilemmas and the skills to help you overcome them.
Depending on your needs, therapy sessions at Loving at Your Best can be conducted individually or within a couple’s therapy framework. Individual therapy can help develop more self-awareness and improve coping skills, while couples therapy can help improve communication and resolving relationship conflicts.
Self-help techniques like journaling, meditation, and exercise can also help partners with anxious-preoccupied attachment styles learn to control their emotions and take better care of themselves.
It takes time and effort to change one’s attachment style. Being open with a trusted therapist can help you practice new skills and strategies for connecting better outside of therapy sessions.
The goal of psychotherapy is not just to improve the quality of your marriage or love relationship, but also to help you develop a deeper sense of self-awareness, emotional regulation, and overall well-being. With commitment, effort, and the right support, partners with an anxious-preoccupied attachment style can build stronger, more fulfilling relationships and live happier, healthier lives.
More ways for partners to help
Understanding the meaning of an anxious preoccupied attachment style is the first step in assisting your partner. Learn about the characteristics of this attachment style, such as the need for constant reassurance and the fear of being alone. Understanding what your partner is going through will allow you to help and support them more effectively.
Assurance without succumbing to the reassurance-seeking trap
One of the most important things you can do for a partner with an anxious attachment style is to be a source of reassurance. Tell them how much you love and care for them, and how committed you are to the relationship. Pay attention to their wants and needs, and make time to spend together. By always providing reassurance, you can help your partner feel more secure and less worried.
When they become overly needy, clingy, or demanding, empathize with how difficult it is to not have certainty, reassure them once, and then set a limit that you will not continue to reassure them in that moment – their challenge is to accept your reassurance once while also understanding that guarantees do not exist as humans. We work one day at a time, one experience at a time, to grow and strengthen our relationships with no set goal in mind.
Communication is critical in any marriage or love relationship, but it is especially important if your partner has an anxious-preoccupied attachment style. Discuss your feelings and needs openly and honestly, and encourage your partner to do the same. Even if the content is about the relationship, challenge them to take in what you’re saying while still maintaining their own voice, rather than becoming overwhelmed with emotion and becoming self-absorbed.
Anxious-preoccupied partners have difficulty “seeing” their partners because they are often flooded with their own emotions. Partners I work with at the start of marriage therapy frequently express how lonely or ignored they feel because the relationship has evolved to only address the demands of the anxious-preoccupied partner, leaving their own needs to the side.
Empathically establish rules
While it is critical to understand and support your partner’s needs, it is also necessary to set boundaries when necessary. Indicate when you require time alone or to focus on something else, and encourage your partner to do the same. Setting and honoring boundaries can help you achieve a healthy balance in your relationship.
Kindness with limits
Dealing with anxiety and attachment issues can be difficult for both you and your partner. Even when things are difficult, be kind and patient while encouraging them to get help for their fears without pathologizing them. Your partner’s anxiety is not a personal attack, but rather a way for them to cope with pain via their attachment style. Compassion and understanding can help your partner feel more secure and supported in the relationship.
If your partner’s anxiety is interfering with their daily life or making it difficult for them to connect in your marriage or love relationship, encourage them to seek therapy. A therapist at Loving at Your Best can help your partner in managing their anxiety and strengthening your relationship. Offer to assist your partner in scheduling an appointment and, within reasonable limits, remain available to them throughout their journey.
It can be difficult to be in a marriage or love relationship with someone who has an anxious-preoccupied attachment style, but it can also be an opportunity to strengthen and fulfill your relationship. Understanding your partner’s needs, talking to them openly and honestly, setting limits, being patient and kind, and suggesting they seek therapy are all ways you can help your partner and make your relationship healthier and safer for both of you. It takes time and effort to build a strong relationship or marriage. Everyone deserves love and connection, and with some effort and assistance, you can find it and sustain it.