How do you experience love?
As you think about your past relationships, pick the option that describes how love most often feels to you:
Perhaps you’ve had relationships from BOTH categories.
You remember an old boyfriend who was stable, secure, and reliable.
You can also remember a few who were unpredictable, intense, and broke your heart in a thousand different ways.
Those experiences of love were so different, weren’t they?
The stable and secure guy didn’t give you those dizzying highs and lows, but the unpredictable guy made your life so stressful.
In general, we gravitate towards one type of relationships over the other.
If secure love feels best to you, you won’t tolerate unpredictable love.
If unpredictable love excites you and sweeps you off your feet, security will bore you.
Knowing your tendency can help you understand how your attachment style is affecting your relationships…
And why the guys you love keep pulling away.
Secure vs Insecure Attachment
If your past loves were all stable and secure guys, you know what secure attachment feels like.
When you’re securely attached, you can trust your beloved. You don’t worry when he goes away, because you know he’ll return. You can open up about your feelings without scaring him away.
If the relationship does end, you don’t let the pain close down your heart. You don’t mind being alone. You know that eventually you’ll meet someone else.
But maybe that hasn’t been your experience at ALL.
Maybe you tend to feel anxious in relationships.
You’re worried you’ll say or do something that will put him off and he’ll break up with you, leaving you alone yet again.
You love being in love. It makes you feel amazing when you finally find someone who clicks with you and ignites that spark.
You don’t understand why anyone would choose being single over being with somebody, even if that person isn’t perfect.
For you, relationships are a frustrating experience. Love is always dangling out of reach.
No matter how excited you are at the beginning of a new relationship, the same old dynamic strikes.
Your new guy ends up pulling away from you, no matter how attentive and passionate he was at first.
Is it you?
Are you too needy?
Do you come across as desperate?
Or are you just insecurely attached?
The most common insecure relationship pattern is the anxious-avoidant relationship.
This is a relationship between someone who craves closeness (anxious) and someone who craves space (avoidant).
If you find yourself constantly thinking of ways to feel closer while he blocks your efforts, chances are you’re in an anxious-avoidant relationship.
Now, the need for distance and the need for closeness exist in secure relationships, too.
But in a secure relationship, there’s no shame or secrecy involved.
One partner can take some space and the other partner will let them go, knowing they’ll return and feel better for it.
One partner can ask for closeness and the other partner will give it to them, knowing it makes both of them feel good.
What makes the anxious-avoidant relationship different is the way each person is triggered by their partner’s intimacy needs.
The avoidant person needs space, because they feel threatened by closeness.
The anxious person needs closeness, because they feel threatened by distance.
So it becomes very difficult to give each other what they want.
Too much intimacy suffocates the avoidant partner, while too much distance makes the anxious partner feel rejected and unloved.
What can you do?
These 3 tips can help.
Tip #1. Stop the Shame
When you have different intimacy needs, it can be tempting to judge each other.
The avoidant partner seems like a jerk. The anxious partner seems needy.
That’s why the first step is to acknowledge and honor the fact that you have different intimacy needs.
Those differences don’t make you bad or good. They just are.
Tip #2. Talk about Your Intimacy Mismatch
Resentment breeds in silence.
When you can’t talk about how you experience his distance, or when he feels he can’t talk to you about feeling suffocated, you both end up using covert methods to get your needs met.
It can be such a relief to get the idea of an anxious-avoidant relationship out in the open and talk honestly about how you experience each other’s intimacy needs.
Tip #3. Work on Trust
Anxious-avoidant relationships are stressful. They’re hard to maintain in the long-term.
It’s much easier to sustain a relationship with someone who likes a similar degree of closeness as you.
But if you love each other, and you want to make this work, you can set goals.
The anxious partner can work on giving her avoidant partner space when he asks for it, trusting that he will come back feeling refreshed and ready for closeness.
The avoidant partner can work on responding to his partner’s bids for closeness, trusting that the intimacy will strengthen their bond.
If you can lay down a foundation of trust, knowing that you can ask for what you need and reliably get it, then you will have moved closer to secure attachment, the experience of feeling secure in your love for each other.
Excellent insight :
I can own this dynamite and chose to grow with this knowledge
James, you are so on target.
I enjoy all your programs and books I own and or have read
Wow! I totally relate. I’m in an anxious-avoidant relationship. This advise is spot on, giving me the tools to work through our differences. Thank you so much for providing this amazing information! I’m looking for a secure relationship but it will take honesty and work from both sides. I’m learning to just enjoy the process.