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2 Steps Towards Creating a Secure Relationship: Avoidant and Anxious Attached Partners

Updated: May 1



couple watching sunset


“You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

~ Pride And Prejudice



Exposure to unsafe or unsecured early childhood environments -care, supervision, or treatment of the person, leads some to find safety by avoiding or by seeking. In therapy terms, these are known as Avoidant Attachment and Anxious Attachment styles.


The Distinct Mottos of The Avoidant and The Anxious: 


Avoidants want to be left alone. Their motto is: I walk alone, I think alone and I can survive alone. I am my own island and I make my own rules. If you need too much of me, then I see you as dependent, and it makes me want to retreat from you even more. Don’t you realize you don’t need anyone to survive? Why are you so emotionally needy? It makes me uncomfortable. I have learned how to detach myself from uncomfortable emotions, and therefore, your need for me to emotionally regulate your anxiety is annoying. 


Anxious wants to be with you all the time. Their motto is: I need you, your presence reassures me that I am not alone and that you have not yet abandoned me. When I seek you out, it’s because I cannot feel safe on my own. Being next to you, hearing your voice, or just being seen by you, helps my emotions to soothe. I need you near so that I feel loved, important, and safe. 


An Avoidant believes that if you are left to your own devices, you will eventually find a way to manage your emotions, and you will be able to not be so needy in needing them. The more an Anxious attaches to an Avoidant, the more the Avoidant detaches to the Anxious. The Anxious are, then, unable to learn how to manage their emotions because they become consumed with getting the Avoidant to reassure them they are still loved and not going to be abandoned, ever. In adulthood, these attachment styles typically play out in the following ways.



The Dance of an Insecure Attachment Between the Avoidant and the Anxious:


The Avoidant gets home from work, says hello to the Anxious, and at some point, retreats to their cozy alone space to reflect; {this is the Avoidant’s pattern of not relying on anyone to feel emotionally safe; they do this on their own}. At some point, not too far in the future, the Anxious seeks out the Avoidant. And, begins to make conversation about nothing really important; {this is the Anxious goal to be seen, heard, and validated, i.e., emotionally safe}. The Avoidant wants to engage but internally wishes the Anxious would leave them alone and find their own thing to keep them occupied {at this point, the Avoidant feels uncomfortable and like too much work or energy is needed to be emotionally available}. This goes on for a while, until both begin to feel disconnected to one another, Even though their personal goal is the same: to feel safe, it is their approach that is opposite to the other. The Avoidant feels safe in their own space, while the Anxious feels safe in the Avoidant’s space.   


Let's look at how this dance can change to a sense of safety for both while remaining connected to one another. 


The Dance of a Secure Attachment Between the Avoidant and the Anxious:


The Avoidant gets home from work, says hello to the Anxious, and at some point retreats to their cozy alone space to reflect (emotional safety). The Anxious seeks out the Avoidant (emotional safety). The Avoidant at this time, can take a minute to steady their mind and allow the moment to be one of simple connection> this can be done by recognizing the safety of being emotionally accessible (for 5 minutes or so). The Anxious in response to the Avoidant's accessibility, can take a moment to recognize having been seen and recognized (emotional safety). In the effort to continue to feel safe, both will soon default to their normal pattern of safety -retreating vs seeking. 

 

couple talking

During this default stage, the Avoidant can practice the following 2 steps towards creating a secure relationship: 


Step 1: Because the Avoidant has mastered internal reflection, that time can be used to monitor their physiological response toward emotional accessibility. Does their breathing change? Do their shoulders tense up? Do they engage in leg jiggling? Whatever the condition, that is the perfect moment for the Avoidant to self-talk and engage in grounding or relaxation techniques that signal the mind, feelings, and body that they are safe in these small emotional connections. The same holds true for the Anxious. As the Anxious becomes mindful of their own physiological changes, the use of grounding/relaxation techniques can help increase the feeling of control -emotional regulation; and in return, begin a new pattern of decreasing their dependence on the Avoidant for emotional regulation.


Step 2: The use of language. An Avoidant avoids the expression of real deep vulnerability by sorting things out on their own and keeping their partner in the dark. Disclosing real fear is a death trap for an Avoidant who is terrified of truly letting someone in. Because vulnerability is believed to expose them to real hurt or rejection from their partner, the Avoidant keeps it safely hidden behind lock and key. Small, gradual steps in sharing vulnerable feelings, hopes, or fears with their partner, can provide the Avoidant a new roadmap to feeling safe in expressing the human side of the need to be loved and accepted. The Anxious can utilize their voice to express their needs in a more clear and direct language. In that moment, the Anxious can learn to accept the accessibility of the Avoidant (who is practicing the acts of listening, keeping eye contact, and remaining engaged), as an indicator that expressing their needs clearly and calmly is safe -rather than insecure language such as: “you don’t care,” “why do you always call me needy,” or “you don’t feel anything.” Clear-stated needs such as: “I’d like 15 minutes of connecting with you,” provide both the Avoidant and Anxious to practice the use of mind, and body connection in being present, while their emotions learn that connection can feel safe rather than alarming. 


In conclusion, the Avoidant learned to navigate circumstances out of their control, by creating a world of their own. In this space, the Avoidant experienced love and safety. The Anxious learned to heal by surrounding themselves with one or more significant others whose presence was a visual representation of not being alone.  To suddenly take away said attachment styles would be like taking their oxygen. The trick is to honor the learned safe spaces by acknowledging that they were developed from a deep need to feel safe. And gradually, introducing a new sense of safety, where both partners can be seen, heard, understood, and loved.


Treading with love and care, these suggested steps daily will allow the Avoidant and Anxious to together create new safety patterns of a Secure attachment style.



For more tips, please check out our other tips here: https://www.plantationcounseling.com/blog). You can always find us at 954-903-1676 for counseling services. 



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