Anxiety and relationships are almost inseparable. You’re anxious about finding someone with whom to have a relationship. Then you’re anxious about if the person you found really wants to be in a relationship with you. Then you’re anxious when something goes wrong in the relationship. You’re anxious about the relationship ending. If the relationship does end, then you’re anxious about being alone forever and having your cats consume your dead body. Or is this just me?
I can’t pretend to be any sort of relationship expert; I’m still currently in my first one. And I’m the first to admit that this status is one of the sources of my relationship anxiety. I have nothing to compare it to, after all. What’s good? What’s bad? Is there such a thing as “normal” when it comes to relationships?
Then there’s the fact that I’m an anxious person–clinically so. An anxious person who is in the process of fully transitioning into adulthood.
So to sum it all up…
First relationship + anxiety disorder + learning how to be an adult while in this relationship = a crap-ton of relationship anxiety
I recently read a book called Love Sense, by Dr. Sue Johnson, which spent a lot of time explaining the different attachment styles that people have in relationships. One of the main theses of the book was that our attachment styles in romantic relationships mirror the kind of relationship style that we formed with our parents/guardians–especially the maternal figure.
According to Dr. Johnson (and other psychologists who prescribe to this theory) there are 3 attachment styles in relationships:
- Secure – This is the “good” one. People who are securely attached are able to get close to and trust another person relatively easy. They tend to have more positive views of their relationships.
- Anxious – People who attach anxiously may find that others are not willing to get as close as they would like, or they may worry that they care more about the other person than the other person does about them. They may seek reassurance or signs of approval obsessively. (Some researchers add a “preoccupied” dimension to the anxious attachment, to contrast it with the fearful-avoidant style explained below.)
- Avoidant – These people may be completely comfortable without close relationships (“dismissive-avoidant”) or may fear close attachments and avoid them in order to avoid vulnerability (“fearful-avoidant”).
There are quizzes out there to help you figure out your dominant form of attachment, but for me, they just confirmed what I already knew–that I have an anxious attachment style. According to one quiz, I am fairly close to being fearful-avoidant, which is not too surprising to me. For me, the part in the description of anxious attachments about wanting to get closer than others is not a source of my anxiety; I tend to keep people at arm’s length.
The matter of attachment styles brings up that age old question–nature or nurture? Are we born with a certain attachment style interwoven into our genetic codes, which then affects our first close relationship (with our caregivers)? Or does that first close relationship mold our attachment style for future relationships? Or is it a combination of the two?
But my biggest question is this: No matter how our attachment style is created, it be changed?
I have some more posts in the works about anxiety and relationships, so be on the look-out for those! In the meantime, I’d be interested to hear other people’s opinions about attachment styles, anxiety, and relationships (romantic or otherwise). Do you know your attachment style? Do you agree with your results from an online quiz?