Dear New Shrink,
Several weeks ago you wrote a great article about people who you called “anxiously attached” and tend to be jealous and clingy. You also mentioned an avoidant/detached type, which sounds like it could be my fiancée.
I tend to get anxious around him but never thought of myself as anxiously attached. In this case, however, I feel like I might become so. Is it possible that relationships create this or at least trigger it in us? Or am I kidding myself? Also, how do I know if l am engaged to an avoidant type of person? From what you wrote, I am wondering if this might be a big mistake, even though I love him.
Thanks so much,
Grateful for your advice
Thank you for your kind words. I truly hope that I am helping someone with my articles; otherwise, I would not write them.
You ask excellent questions and I hope to answer them for you.
As I said in the earlier article, people are either securely attached, anxiously attached or detached and avoidant. This latter group, the detached avoidant, is highly self-reliant and they often feel like they don’t need anyone. It is actually the far end of the spectrum in relationships to being securely attached, which is ideal and healthy.
These detached and avoidant folks have been the most disappointed in their attachments, and while often lonely underneath, their defenses make them feel as if they are in control and comfortable, and from an outside perspective they often look better off than most of us. They are usually high achievers because their intense drive to avoid needing anyone pushes them to work harder and be better than others.
It is only after achievement has left them lonely at the top that they seek help for their loneliness and accompanying depression when it starts to be felt. However, often feeling down and seeking help never happens.
Unless a major depression or severe loneliness brings them into treatment, they usually do not reach out for help. This is because they have suffered the most injurious of losses and disappointments in their attachments, either early on or along the way. They really do not want to rely on anyone, it is simply too dangerous in their minds, and they do not trust most people, if anyone.
In terms of your question, avoidant/detached types find ways to soothe themselves because they prefer to avoid relying on others. Because they are often very accomplished due to this drive to not need others, they often have acquired many “things” that they can use to soothe and comfort themselves with.
Honestly, they often prefer being alone and using their things and their fantasies to comfort and stimulate themselves. They may have elaborate fantasies about relationships, but more often than not they are just fantasy. They actually prefer being in their own world and often view or experience relationship interactions as intrusions.
Your question about could your partner be creating this in you is a good one. There is no one hard and fast rule, but most experts would agree that if you are truly in love and he is attached but avoidant, then this indeed could be making you feel anxious. Being in a relationship and of course this means forming an attachment, always brings with it some conflict. You may have two very different attachment styles.
But one thing is for sure, to be the same with everyone is to be with no one! Our reactions to others are always somewhat a part of who they are and what they bring to a relationship. How we react and what we do with it comes back to us. It actually can become very circular.
I think the securely attached would give it a try but after a short while, call it a day. They would not tolerate the subtle (or not) rejections.
So, if you are truly hanging in and thinking of marriage, yet find yourself feeling anxious and a little helpless with him, then maybe something is being triggered in you, i.e., something in your own history. Ask yourself the question, “Is this a familiar feeling?” if it is not, then there is something about him that causes anxiety and a sense of being alone in the relationship. You would be well advised to get premarital counseling before taking your vows. A life alone, albeit married, is not fun or healthy. As I have said before, there are very good treatments available today for these types of attachment problems.
I think you might want to “pause before you plunge.”
Dr. JoAnne Barge is a licensed psychologist and marriage and family therapist with offices in Brentwood. Visit her at www.drbarge.com or please write your anonymous inquires and responses to firstname.lastname@example.org Got something on your mind? Let us help you with your life matters.