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How to make anxious-avoidant relationships work

You reap what you Sow

This idiom makes sense to me now when I talk about how I attach myself to people in relationships. When I first met my partner some 5 years ago, we hit it off well upon initial meeting. I had always been someone who desired constant reassurance and intimacy from my partners. I used to do everything in my ability to keep them happy because I had tremendous anxiety about them losing feelings for me So their being happy was a source of validation for me that everything was all right in the relationship. However, even after all my efforts my relationships would fizzle out and fail which almost made me resentful towards my partners that even after all this work they failed to recognize and reciprocate my feelings.

Needs become Problems

So, when I met my partner, I was very cautious with how I moved around in the relationship as it progressed because they happened to be someone who from the get-go seemed distant. They would like to spend time with me and conversate but would always tiptoe around the idea of a serious relationship which made me feel extremely nervous and hurt. It felt like it was a repeat of all my previous relationships where I put too much into relationships and did not get much in return.


Talk Through the Problems

We were usually able to talk through our problems because even though we were inherently different in how we approached those problems we always found common ground. However, these problems reached a tipping point where there was a total communication breakdown for a period and then we ended up having a huge fight where I said my feelings were not being validated in the relationship and whenever I tried to bring up those problems, they always try to flee from the issue rather than engage with them and they said that my constant need for reciprocity and “neediness” was stifling and smothering them.


Anxieties and Paranoid Feelings

I did not know how to initially react to their words it felt like all my worst fears were coming true, all the anxieties and paranoid feelings I had about the way my partners felt about me were real. We stopped talking to each other for a while until they contacted me a few months after the fight to say that they wanted to make things better. I felt like neither of us was in the headspace to communicate our feelings constructively so we decided to go to couple’s therapy. It felt nice it felt like we were a team trying to make things work again.


How Therapist helped Us

The therapist helped us realize that we had incompatible attachment styles which weren’t the be-all and end-all of a relationship but that being aware of each other’s attachment styles could help us navigate through the consistencies and the turbulence of our problems by understanding them better. My partner had an avoidant attachment style which meant that they find themselves very intimidated and overwhelmed by outward displays of emotions and confrontations, so they tend to pull back or ignore them completely to protect their feelings.

This stemmed from the fact that their parents always told them to pull themselves up by the bootstraps any emotional display was either scorned or ignored which on one hand made them very independent and self-sufficient but also not completely in touch with their emotional side. Whereas I on the other hand had an anxious attachment style where I was extremely clingy around my parents since childhood, and that played into adulthood where I would repeat the same pattern with my partners. I sought emotional consistency, but I was also very insecure about myself and my interaction with other people.


Empathy Grew between Us both

Realizing this we both grew more empathetic to each other’s needs because we both didn’t want to hurt each other over something our parents had done wrong in our childhoods. We now actively listen to each other, and I try to give them space if they find themselves too overwhelmed by certain situations. My partner always tries to reassure me whenever they can about the security of our relationship and that they don’t want me to carry the emotional brunt of the relationship all by myself. There are small bumps and hiccups every now and then, but we realize how well we work together as a team and take it one step at a time.


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