Insecure Attachment Style Dating: Beth McColl On Navigating Relationships

My attachment style is disorganised. I want to be close to others, but often find it hard to get there. I want to be in love, to know someone and be known in return, but getting close to that can feel incredibly painful and frightening. I’m prone to freezing and wanting to pull back, and as a result, I’ve avoided romantic relationships.

Though there are ways we can all shift our attachment style to a more secure place, a lot of attachment healing is focused on practising effective communication and learning to honestly (and non-judgementally) assess whether the person you’re seeing is likely to actually be able to fulfil your attachment needs as they are, working collaboratively to create a happy and secure relationship. It can be a hard truth to accept, but sometimes the person we really want to be with is someone who is simply unable to offer us what we need. And as tempting as it can be to deny or play down our desires for certain expressions of commitment, communication and security just to ‘keep someone’, we’re doing ourselves and (them) a real disservice, and almost always delaying the inevitable breakup.

After a lot of self-reflection, self-compassion and hours in therapy, I’m now able to acknowledge the way it feels when my attachment system is activated and then simply sit with those feelings, resisting the urge to either pull back or hold on tighter. Experience has taught me that it’s not such a risk to be honest about what I need and what I’m looking for, and that it in fact helps me to avoid dating anyone who isn’t looking for the same, or whose own attachment style may bring the worst out in mine. 

By allowing someone this insight into who I am, I give them a chance to either flinch (revealing a fundamental incompatibility) or accept me non-judgementally, allowing us to get closer and to know one another more deeply. In this vein, I try to model my romantic relationships on the easy intimacy I have with my close friends- the organic give and take, the open and patient communication, the goodwill, the quality time we spend together, the absence of jealousy or ownership. A romantic relationship isn’t some elevated version of the relationships I have already and though they may look different and matter in different ways, they certainly don’t matter more.

I’m learning that my insecure attachment style isn’t some shameful secret I need to mask or avoid mentioning; it simply offers information about who I am at this moment, my needs, my ways of relating to others. I’m not working on my attachment to become more desirable or to immunise myself against heartbreak or pain (impossible for any of us). I work on it because I want to keep accountable to myself, resisting protest behaviours and self-sabotage in favour of talking and working things through calmly.

I also do the work because I’ve realised that I deserve a greater share of peace and a more stable base for relationships. So, to anyone reading this with their own heavy heart – with panic lapping at every other feeling, with frustration and a constant desire to flee – you’re not a strange thing stranded on a strange planet. Even those of us with insecure attachment styles – with difficult past experiences, with hurt – can have love, can give love, and can do so on terms that make sense to us. Relax your grip, adjust your perspective, and see what can be done.

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