A Day in the Life of an Anxious Attacher

“Focus, already!”

“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.

“PING, dammit!”

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?

Gah!   Anxiety!

 

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.

Ha!

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.

 

Unicorn Sighting

She clicks on the inbox and takes a deep breath.

He responded.

“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.

 

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13 comments

  1. We all have insecurities. Learning not to judge one by all the others is the hardest. Learn to write that morning email or text and just go on with your daily life. Do not allow your self to look for an answer for a couple of hours is a first step. If there is no answer go on with your day. This is like waiting for the other shoe to drop.

  2. Hi Kath!

    Thanks for writing.

    He is the secure to my anxious. Finally. Yay for unicorns. I’m not waiting for the shoe anymore.

    :)

  3. Speaking as an INFJ myself, that is the sweetest and most romantic thing I’ve ever read. Heart. Melted.

  4. Sandy,

    Oh good! I’m glad. :)

  5. I like him. :)
    And I am so happy for you! Sandy is right. It is romantic and he obviously values and understands you. You deserve a tender heart to take care of yours. Lean in, my dear, he will teach you a lot about yourself. xxx

  6. Z,

    Thank you. Leaning in and ready to learn. There’s still so much more to learn …

  7. And challenge yourself to share your raw feelings. I became very brave after I shared a few times and he reacted better than I had ever hoped he would. Eventually, I trusted my feelings again and now have no hesitancy in voicing my feelings, when appropriate, of course. It’s a place I had never been and never want to leave.

  8. Z,

    I’ve had success with that. So far…

    Is there a limit? Are some feelings too raw?

  9. Not that I have found and I have given them all…in pretty big doses.

  10. ;)

    Yeah… I’m not holding much back. It’s scary and freeing and I’m learning so much.

  11. Trusting someone with your soul is the greatest gift.

  12. This is such an insightful post. You don’t give yourself enough credit. He knows you are a gem and he knows it.

    I love him more each day!!!

  13. Dee,

    Me, too!! :)

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