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How to Date When You Have an Anxious Attachment Style

Because playing hard to get isn’t an option.

“You don’t need someone to be happy.” I’ve heard over and over from my friends but I’ve always felt the exact opposite.

When I’m alone I feel incomplete in some way and I know that’s not healthy. And worse than that, I’ve always clung to partners, even partners I know are not good for me because I convinced myself it was better to have someone — even if they don’t care about me — than to be completely alone. It’s a vicious cycle that I keep allowing to repeat, like my existence is useless without someone to share my life with, and friends just don’t do it, I need that ‘romantic’ connection, even if it’s just me begging for attention and feeling validated every few days.

I never knew this had a name until I was asked, “do you know what an anxious attachment style is?”

I didn’t.

So, I bought (and completely indulged myself in) Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel S. F. Heller and my world changed.

I realized I wasn’t the only one who felt this gross, off-putting clinginess and I felt more understood. I felt like I had answers and was more aware of what I was doing. I felt like I might finally be able to change my behavior.

Standard dating tips don’t work when you have an anxious attachment style. You can’t pretend you’re uninterested, unavailable or that you don’t want a relationship because that’s total bullshit.

Here’s what I’ve learned about dating with an anxious attachment style:

1.  Wait before reacting to small things.

People with anxious attachment styles are more in tune to changes in others’ emotional expression and can have a higher degree of accuracy and sensitivity to other people’s cues. This essentially means that we tend to jump to conclusions very quickly and can often self-sabotage our relationships. I once dated a guy who lived two hours from me and I invited him to come camping for a weekend and he said yes. I was thrilled! Then he texted me shortly after that he couldn’t make it because he got called into work. So we adjusted and made plans to hang out on Sunday since I was driving back past his town. When I started driving Sunday morning I had a three-hour drive ahead of me to get there. I hadn’t heard from him so I texted him to tell him I was excited to see him only to find out he couldn’t hang out because he got called into work, again. I was convinced he was lying and that he just didn’t want to hang out with me before my (much more reasonable) friend told me that I was going to self-sabotage the relationship if I started acting short or accused him of lying.

2. Don’t mistake the anxiety, obsession, and the short bursts of joy with love.

Mixed messages from your partner, or potential partner, often lead us to believe we are in love but it’s more often than not our attachment style activating. Every time you get mixed signals and you’re left guessing your attachment system is activated and you become preoccupied with the relationship. Then when he compliments you it creates validation and you tell yourself he’s into you after all. You’re activated attachment system is confused with passion. I never realized before why I was so attracted to people who mostly treated me like they wouldn’t have cared if I died, but now it makes sense. It’s the one little comment or gesture that makes it feel like they care. It creates that feeling of reassurance and makes me feel loved, even if it’s short-lived.

3. Acknowledge and accept your true relationship needs.

There have been so many guys I’ve dated who have made me feel “needy.” I always felt like I was asking too much from them or that I was the reason that things never worked out but I realize now that there is nothing wrong with me and that more often than not I’m dating guys who have an avoidant attachment style. These two attachment styles tend to cling to each other. I realized I didn’t need to change myself to please my partner, I just needed to find someone who is secure and can give me what I need.

sexy couple

4. Avoid dating someone with an avoidant attachment style.

Like I just mentioned anxious and avoidant attachment styles are often attracted to each other. I’m almost certain every guy I’ve dated has been avoidant. Now that I’m aware of my attachment style, I’m aware that I need to avoid avoidants. Avoidants typically send mixed signals, disregard your emotional well-being, suggests you are “too needy” or “too sensitive,” gives the indication that he’s still looking for “the one,” doesn’t care what you’re saying and ignores things you want/say that inconvenience them. If you have an anxious attachment style, avoid people with an avoidant attachment style at all costs because they’re never going to be able to give you what you need or change (seriously, it takes five years to completely change your attachment style, and it’s rare to do so).

5. Express your needs.

In so many relationships I’ve tried to be exactly who I thought the other person wanted without any regards to myself and what I wanted. I’d try to change, make myself uncomfortable to make them slightly more comfortable and I’d hide what I needed so that I wouldn’t get called “too much.” I wanted to be the cool girl, which doesn’t fucking exist, btw. I’d hide my wishes, wants and needs because I thought it would make someone else happy. Now that i say that it sounds insane, but for so long I did it and the sad part is I will probably still do it because I still have an anxious attachment style but I have got better at expressing my needs and wants without worrying about if they’ll think I’m needy or not because the right person won’t make me feel that way at all.

6. Give “boring” people a chance.

I’ve gone on a decent amount of dates and I walked away with the same immediate text to my friends, “he was SO boring!” I recently learned that those people I go on dates with who I find “SO boring” are usually people with secure attachment styles – the kind of person I should be dating. But with secure people, there is less drama so my anxious attachment style isn’t activated the same way that it is with someone who is avoidant. It’s typically to confuse the calmness and stability with boredom and lack of attraction. I’ve learned it’s important to give secure people a chance, especially because that’s the ideal partner for an anxious attachment style.

Understanding your attachment style, especially if you’re anxious, is really crucial for having healthy romantic relationships. Learning more about your behavior, why you do the things you do and feel the way you do when dating will finally make you feel not alone, which is exactly what I felt. Relief. Understanding your overall attachment style when you’re anxious will help you find that happy, fulfilling relationship we’re all longing for.  

Recommended next story: 8 Ways to Stop Letting Your Insecurities in Relationships Outweigh the Good.