“You’ve heard from him. Knock it off.”
“There must be something wrong. I sent him that email 20 minutes ago, and still no response.”
Such are the words inside the mind of an Anxious Attacher.
She might start the day optimistic. She’ll have her to-do list ready, her projects prioritized, her appointments scheduled and her coffee consumed. She’ll be heading down a productive path that gets things crossed off her list, helps her feel positive and full of energy, and then… she gets an email where he sounds a little off. He sounds like he might be out of sorts. He may not even be out of sorts, but she so adeptly reads between the lines that she’ll be convinced he’s out of sorts by the fifth time she’s reread his email.
And then the slide down the slippery slope begins.
Her project will be put on the back burner. Her list … what list? Her focus will vanish. Her purpose – forgotten.
She’s adrift on a choppy sea of her own making.
She’ll fire off emails asking if he’s okay.
She’ll send a follow-up text asking the same thing.
She’ll pester, badger and smother him until she drives both of them crazy.
Her heart will beat faster. She’ll wonder if she’s consumed too much caffeine. Her palms will sweat. She’ll rake her fingers through her hair while standing next to the iPad that refuses to ping.
When it finally pings, she’ll hesitate to check her inbox because she’s afraid of what he might say. What if – this time – she’s finally driven him away? What if she’s pushed him to the brink?
We Don’t Have to be Attached to be Anxious
To be fair, the Anxious Attacher is anxious when she isn’t in a relationship, too. When she’s not attached, she’s anxious about not being attached.
Her mind races with questions. What’s wrong with me? Am I unlovable? Am I high-maintenance? Do I drive men away with my anxiousness? Maybe I’m happier as a single person? But what if I don’t want to be single?
How do I meet a Secure Attacher? Should I go to church? Take golf lessons? Sign up on one of those dating sites? Should I fake being secure? Can I fake being secure?
Will I end up alone? Will I be okay alone? Is alone bad? But I’m an INFJ. Alone is good, right?
Secure Attachers aka Unicorns
And then, in a rare moment of unanxious clarity, she notices other folks, who probably aren’t Anxious Attachers. They must be the fabled Secure Attachers. They appear comfortable in their own skins. They smile easily. They laugh without covering their mouths. They don’t seek approval from others.
They get stuff done! They learn to play golf, instead of always offering to drive the cart. They vacation at dinosaur digs or actually fill out every page in their child’s baby book. They have the ability to focus – even for several hours at a time – on pursuits that nourish them. They might have an amazing herb garden, or they learn taxidermy or they read every book by a favorite author. Because they can focus!
They can focus because they aren’t preoccupied with thoughts of whether they are attached or not – whether they are loved or not. They aren’t overwhelmed by what they think they need to do to make a relationship work.
Imagine going through life confident that – if you aren’t attached – it’s okay; or that if you are attached, it’s okay.
Imagine feeling okay!
What could you do? What could you focus on? What could you thoroughly enjoy? What could you freely, unequivocally say ‘no’ to? What could you wholeheartedly say ‘yes’ to?
What would it be like to not be anxious?
They say that the best thing for an Anxious Attacher is to find a Secure Attacher.
Is there such a thing as a Secure Attacher who is patient enough and willing to put up with the insecurities of an Anxious Attacher? Why wouldn’t that Secure Attacher say, “Who needs this crap? What’s in it for me? Why would I wanna help her deal with all the stuff from her childhood/failed relationships? Isn’t that what a counselor is for?”
Why wouldn’t a Secure Attacher want another Secure Attacher?
Avoidant + Anxious = Anxiety on Steroids
And so she summons up the courage to open up the iPad. She prepares herself for the worst. She can handle it if she’s pushed him over the edge. It wouldn’t be the first time.
She knows what the Avoidant Attacher would do. He wouldn’t respond at all. He’d wait a couple days before writing. When he finally did write, he wouldn’t respond to her questions/pleas. He’d be totally oblivious to the level of anxiety she’d been living in while waiting for him to respond. If she’d dare ask why he hadn’t written, he’d say, “I’ve been busy. I had work to do.” In the Anxious Attachers Handbook that means: “I can’t handle your neediness.” “Can’t you control your feelings?” “Must you be so clingy?”
Avoidant and anxious is a bad pairing – especially over any kind of distance.
She clicks on the inbox and takes a deep breath.
“Well, I guess that means he isn’t avoidant.”
She squints while reading to avoid the full impact of any possible negative words. (She’s learned that squinting while reading is a bit like partially plugging her ears when not wanting to hear rejection.)
She’s not sure she understands him, so she reads again – not between the lines, but the actual lines. He says, “I’m not going anywhere. Tell me what makes you feel insecure and we’ll try to work through it together.”
*This post is a product of reading lots about Attachment Theory.