Why does my relationship make me feel so anxious?

The Office Quotes (NBC)

I love this moment. The Office just understands the human condition, right? Sometimes we feel CRAZY in relationships and it’s incredibly frustrating for people when it seems to happen time and time again.

Whether we realize it or not, we live our life through patterns. Maybe you have a tendency to get bored in jobs, so you find something new every couple years. You don’t hang things on the wall because you know you’ll move once your lease is up and you don’t feel like patching any holes. When you can’t find something to watch on TV, you watch The Office—still. Humans are fairly predictable creatures. Even how people function in relationships is shockingly predictable.

Let’s play a little game of “Have you Ever?”

  1. Have you ever been so into someone that you have trouble concentrating throughout the day?
  2. Have you ever made a secret social media account to see if your significant other is talking to other people?
  3. Have you ever noticed feeling anxious whenever you’re not in contact with your significant other?
  4. Have you ever found yourself glued to your phone, constantly checking to see if they’ve reached out?
  5. Have you ever wanted to make your significant other feel jealous after feeling neglected?
  6. Have you ever struggled to get over a breakup? Fearful you won’t meet anyone else?

If these questions sound all too familiar, there’s a good chance you have what’s called an anxious attachment style.

Those who are anxiously attached deeply desire closeness with another person. They desire intimacy. They are also incredibly sensitive to rejection, often being preoccupied by the relationship, worrying they’ve done something wrong, and worrying their partner will leave. They also have a keen ability to pick up on the subtle ques that something is off. The majority of the time, they read the ques accurately, but where they often go wrong is that they often make it about themselves or the relationship. “He’s acting cold, maybe he’s having second thoughts about us” rather than, “He’s acting cold, maybe work was really overwhelming today”.

People with an anxious attachment style are often criticized and maybe even called “crazy”, but the truth is that people with an anxious attachment style are actually scared and the sooner their partner can help them feel safe and assured, the less anxiety they experience. In fact, with the right support from their partner, they can develop a secure attachment style and leave all the anxiety behind them.

Those with an ambivalent attachment don’t tend to mesh well with anxiously attached people. In fact, those who are ambivalently attached tend to exacerbate the anxiety because these people tend to prioritize independence and are uncomfortable with emotional intimacy. They often send mixed messages, use distancing behaviors, and are sometimes critical of their partners (again to keep them at a distance), but sometimes things are good—you guys connect—but then he retreats again (cue gut wrenching anxiety and distress). Keep in mind—just because the ambivalently attached prioritize independence and emotional distance, it doesn’t mean their love wasn’t or isn’t real. They often experience anxiety around relationships as well, but unlike anxiously attached people who seek connection and closeness in order to manage the anxiety, ambivalently attached people seek distance to manage anxiety—you can see how the two types can create a vicious and crazy-making cycle.

Learning about your attachment style as well as the attachment style of those you love and even those you have loved can be deeply impactful. Understanding these things can bring closure to past relationships you’ve struggled to let go, set you up for success in the future, and possibly save struggling relationships. When learning about attachment, keep a little self-compassion in your back pocket, and some compassion for your partner too. So many have an insecure attachment style, so it’s incredibly relatable. Just keep in mind—you’re in good company and things can get better.

**The information contained herein is not therapeutic advice nor a substitute for therapy. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any mental health problem. If you are located within the United States and you need emergency assistance please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. If you are located within Colorado you may also call the Colorado Crisis Line at 844-493-TALK (8255).

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