February 2, 2023

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The agony of fearful attachment and how to attract better relationships

“If you don’t love yourself, you will always look for someone else to fill the emptiness inside you, but no one ever will.” ~Lori Deschene

There are four attachment styles: fearful, avoidant, fearful/avoidant, and secure.

Attachment theory teaches us that the way we attach to our romantic partner mimics the relationship we had with our primary caregivers growing up.

So if you were like me and had parents who weren’t physically or emotionally present, you grew up feeling empty and always worried about whether you were lovable. This emptiness makes you feel unlovable and unworthy of love, causing you to be attracted to partners who are perceived as avoidant.

An avoidant partner is someone who believes their independence is more important than being in any relationship. They feel uncomfortable opening up to others. They prefer a casual connection to an intimate relationship. And the moment they feel vulnerable or like you too much, they go ghost.

Suddenly, that super cute date you both had planned is canceled or postponed without explanation, and you question your worth and what you might have done wrong. I know because I’ve been there before.

In a way, your subconscious is trying to recreate the experiences you’ve had. For example, if you told your parents that you love them and tried to hug them, and they responded with “stop being so touchy” and “get off me,” you started hugging yourself normalize being rejected when expressing love. Now your subconscious is drawn to avoidant partners who will respond in the same way as your primary caregivers.

Our attachment styles play a big part in our relationships, and our relationships impact our mental health. If you are a person with an anxious attachment style and you are subconsciously attracted to avoidable partners, you will go from one toxic relationship to the next.

If you are someone who is anxious you tend to:

Attach quickly; You go from 0 to 100 if you like someone. Constantly worrying if they will stop loving/liking you. Worry that they don’t feel as deeply for you as you do for them. Fear that when they get to know the real you, they will stop loving you and leave. Think “I’ll never find anyone else” or “This is as good as it gets” when you think about your relationship, even though deep down you know your needs aren’t being met.

In 2018 I decided to go into therapy for the first time. I was a young graduate student with a bright academic future ahead of me, but that’s also when I decided I was ready to start dating — and oh boy, did that open a can of worms.

I had gone from being this super cool, calm and collected young woman to being a constant fear. “Why hasn’t my date texted me yet?” “It’s been four hours since I texted him.” “He doesn’t like me anymore?” Those were just some of the brooding thoughts that kept running through my head buzzed around. i lost it

I didn’t know it at the time, but I kept attracting men who were avoidant, and the more I sensed them trying to put some distance between us, the more obsessed I became with bridging the gap. I wanted to feel close to them; I wanted them to love me because if they didn’t, it meant something was wrong with me.

You know how people say, “If they’re not into you, is it their loss?” It didn’t feel like that to me. To me, it felt like I had to win her love, and if I didn’t win her, it meant I wasn’t worthy of her time and attention. I started focusing on every detail of our interactions. I started noticing if they texted me back with a period at the end of a sentence or if they added an emoji.

I would even measure how long it took for them to reply to me. When I was with someone and they usually responded to my texts within two hours, it meant I could feel safe and relaxed for the first hour, but once it got closer to the two hour mark, I would do feel the fear rising.

I could feel the fear in my body starting with my stomach. It would feel tense and tender, then my shoulders would feel tight and my appetite would go away. I’ve lost about twenty pounds during this period of my life due to the stress and anxiety I couldn’t control.

I even got a bald spot on my head. I was amazed at the rapid deterioration in my mental and physical health. A few months ago I had been a new graduate student, excited about life and building a successful career, and now I was barely holding on and smiling to appear sane.

I have an anxious attachment style, so I get hypersensitive to the slightest changes in a person’s tone, body, facial movements, the words they use, etc. If my date said “I love you” one day and “I like you a lot” the next, that was enough to brood over me for the rest of the week.

I knew something was wrong and that I needed to get my emotions under control again, so I started looking online for help. I have landed on Tiny Buddha many times and it has been extremely helpful to read other people’s experiences to help me better manage my situation.

Since I couldn’t force my romantic partners to meet my needs, I thought, it has to be me. I need to relax and not expect too much from them. i can change And change, I tried. I’ve read countless articles on how to let go of expectations.

I told myself that the problem was me, that I expected too much from a friend. I thought that men just weren’t able to meet my needs and show up for me the way I did for them. Because up to this point in my life I had never met a man who was consistently loving. At one point I even tried to cleanse myself of my “bad energy” by doing a limpia (cleansing).

I really wanted to be the problem because if I was the problem I could be in control and fix it. But the more I tried to change and relax my expectations, the deeper I fell into depression.

As you can see, the way we bond with romantic partners can affect our mental health, and if we are not aware of the types of partners we are attracted to, we can get caught in a cycle of being deprived of move from one toxic relationship to the next.

Going to therapy and seeking help was the best decision I’ve made for myself. I could have someone show me the toxic cycle I was in. If you find yourself in the same toxic cycle and are ready to break out of it, there are a few things you can do.

1. Admit to yourself that you are ready to break the cycle.

Be honest with yourself. Identify the ways you have betrayed yourself by choosing partners who only hurt you. Make a commitment to end this cycle.

2. Start working with your inner child.

If you’re feeling hurt and lonely and want to reach out to those toxic partners, instead imagine what you were like when you were five to seven and connect with your little self. Write them a letter. What would you say to Little You when you’re feeling hurt and lonely? i would tell myself i love you You are sure. i will always be there for you

3. Write a list of all the negative feelings and emotions your partner aroused in you.

Write a list of all the reasons you need to stay away from this person and refer to them whenever you feel like reaching out to them.

4. Regulate your nervous system.

When our sympathetic nervous system is activated, our fight-or-flight response kicks in and that’s what makes it so hard for us to endure the discomfort of separation from the person we’re anxiously attached to. A breakup can feel like imminent danger, so we panic and return to our comfort zone and remain in a toxic relationship.

Some easy ways to regulate your nervous system are going for a barefoot walk in nature, exercising at moderate to intense intensity, breathing exercises, and/or listening to music that will calm you down.

5. Start developing a self-love and self-care routine.

You can start journaling for 10 minutes a day to reconnect with yourself, process your feelings, and identify patterns in your thinking and behavior. You can make a list of your physical, mental, and emotional needs and find small ways to meet them each day. You can have weekly dates with yourself; Go out to eat and watch a movie.

Do whatever makes you happy and full. When you become more comfortable and more comfortable being alone with yourself, you will be less inclined to turn to another person to fill a void within yourself.

You can create the life and experiences you want to live. And while it may feel like you’ll never find the right partner for you because of your anxious attachment style, that’s simply not true. As you begin to fill yourself with love, even if you attract an avoidant partner, at the first sign of trouble you will leave rather than stay and try to fix it.

Eventually you will meet a partner who is secure and/or willing to commit to you securely.

You will find someone to share your fear with, and instead of rejecting you and telling you to stop being so sensitive, they will respond with, “What can I do to relieve some of the fear? you feel?” or “What can I do to make you feel safe?” Remember, you are always in control of creating the reality you want to live in.

About Esther Gutierrez

Esther Gutierrez is a Life and Mindset Coach with a mission to help BIPOC Millennials take control of their current reality to create the life of their dreams and heal their relationships. She integrates astrology and human design into her life coaching practice. If you would like to work with her you can visit www.EstherTheMindsetCoach.com

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