Relationship attachment science recognizes three main attachment styles which describe a person’s basic relationships needs and approach to love. Two of these styles, the anxious and the avoidant, are commonly attracted to each other and form relationships. Unfortunately, a person with anxious attachment essentially desires to be as close to their partner as possible, while an avoidant has a fundamental need for independence. In other words, each has an entirely different approach to relationships and requirements which contradict each other.
When a person with an anxious style forms a relationship with an avoidant they bring out each other’s insecurities. What initially attracted them –their differences– causes constant discord and unhappiness as the two can rarely agree on how their relationship should be. This dynamic is known as the anxious-avoidant trap. Usually the relationship doesn’t last long as one or both sides grow weary of the never-ending disagreements.
However, things don’t always have to end that way. If you’re already in an anxious-avoidant relationship, there are steps you can take to increase happiness and fulfillment. There are no guarantees, but using some of these simple techniques can help:
1. Understand your differences
This can not be stated enough. Much of the unhappiness of the anxious-avoidant dynamic occurs because one or both partners can’t or don’t realize that their relationship needs are very different. Lots of time is spent resenting or criticizing the other’s approach to the relationship. Time that would be better spent trying to understand the partner’s unique needs and desires in a relationship.
2. Respect your differences
Don’t attempt to change your partner. This especially applies to you if you’re the anxious partner. Due to the anxious relationship orientation, an anxious partner is constantly thinking about their relationship and how to improve it. Which is okay, as long as you’re working on improving your relationship around your partner’s needs, not against them.
If you’re the avoidant partner, appreciate the strengths your anxious partner brings to the relationship. Try not to belittle or ignore their need for greater intimacy than you’d normally want.
3. Work towards greater security
Both the anxious and avoidant relationship styles are insecure relationship styles. This doesn’t mean their relationships are destined for failure, but it does mean they don’t express their relationship needs as well, and tend not to be comfortable with the state of their relationships at any given time.
Both partners could improve their happiness by simply stating their issues as they arise and communicating their needs directly and clearly. Even having regular discussions on the progress of your relationship could help. Nothing is too obvious to state outright or too simple to work on when you’re a part of the anxious-avoidant dynamic. Assuming your partner should be one way or should know what you need will only cause more confusion and resentment.
Are you involving in an anxious-avoidant relationship? Do you have experience or any more tips on making the relationship work?