WHEN ANXIOUS ATTACHMENT REARS ITS UGLY HEAD
I used to be an Anxious Attachment through and through, but doing a lot of inner work allowed me to graduate, and I didn’t even see it happen. One day, I looked up, and didn’t feel the need or desire to people-please, chase, or overextend myself to anyone.
My self-esteem was healthy AF. I knew my worth and no longer lowered myself for anyone. Alas, I made it to the land of the Secure Attachment and I loved that for me.
In all the education I had received and studied about Attachment Styles, no one ever told me that I’d be in recovery for the rest of my life, and that once I did get into a healthy, happy relationship, the slightest bit of conflict to arise within that relationship would trigger the residue of the Anxious Attachment that still lived within me to rear its ugly head. What the fu…
My fiance and I have a relationship that I can only describe as what I manifested for myself in the thick of my inner work. I had written out everything I needed in a man, and he is all of those things I wrote and then some. The very first disagreement we ever had that caused our emotions to shift from happy and blissful to frustrated with one another, came many months later into our relationship.
He was at work and we were on the phone having our daily afternoon chat.
As usual, we were laughing, joking, flirting, and verbally loving on one another.
We had switched gears to speak seriously about something that was a tad bit of a sore topic for both of us. We knew the goal was to come to a resolve together, how we were going to get there was a different story.
The minute I realized that we had indeed stepped into a “hard conversation”, I felt it…It stirred inside of me, then awoke. It stretched and yawned, then swiftly traveled upward from the pit of my stomach, shapeshifting itself into a ball of anxiety and took a seat in the middle of my throat.
“Either he’s going to end things with you, or give you the silent treatment for the next week to punish you,” it whispered. “That’s what so many of the men before him have done whenever it was time to have a hard conversation—have you forgotten? You know the drill: You have to apologize even though there is nothing for either of you to apologize for, then you have to send him seventeen text messages in a row after y’all get off the phone to make sure he’s not upset at you. Oh, yeah! Don’t forget to over explain yourself since so many men in your past required that of you, and most importantly—chase him. Even if he’s not running, and this minor disagreement isn’t anywhere close to being a reason for anyone to run…chase him just in case.”
What the fuck is this? I thought, and before I could even stop myself, out of my mouth it spilled like word vomit, “Are you going to break up with me over this? Or ignore me for the next week?”
There was a twenty second pause on the other end, then finally, in the most gentle tone he asked, “Babe…what?”
I felt dumb. Immediately, I felt dumb.
“I…I don’t know why I asked that,” I managed.
“You asked that because that’s how those immature ass dudes in your past dealt with things, my love. You asked that because we don’t ever really have disagreements, and now that we’re having one, as small as it is, it probably triggered those painful memories.”
In that moment, my mind flashed back to the list I wrote of what I needed in a man. One of the things on that list was: a man who could attune to me.
Here that man was, doing exactly that.
I started to cry.
“It’s okay, my love,” he tenderly assured me.
“I think this is really normal, and there is nothing we can’t work through together. Wanna take some deep breaths together?”
“Okay,” I managed again through my tears.
I closed my eyes and followed his lead as he began taking deep breaths in, then exhaling them out.
A minute and half later, I felt my nervous system regulating, and the ball of anxiety that was in my throat started to dissolve.
“How are you feeling?” he asked me with love.
“Better. A bit embarrassed still, but a lot better,” I admitted.
“You never have anything to be embarrassed about with me, babe,” he said.
“Also,” he chuckled lightly, “I’m not going anywhere…I’m marrying you in T-minus one year, girl! You betta act like you know! Shieeet.”
His playful tone made me giggle, the way he handled the residue of my Anxious Attachment Style with love, compassion and understanding…made me feel safe.
Feeling safe with a man was yet another thing I had written in my lists of needs.
“Are you feeling okay to continue our conversation, or would you like to take a minute and maybe we can pick it back up when I get home from work?” he asked.
“I’m okay to continue now,” I told him. “Thank you so much for checking to see if I was okay first.”
“I love you,” he said, sincerely.
“I love you back,” I said with equal sincerity.
We ended up finding a healthy resolve within a matter of minutes. A topic that had been a sore one for the both of us ended up turning into a conversation that was, in its own way, healing for both of us.
We ended the call that afternoon with the same energy we began it with, all because we worked together.
Twenty minutes later, while I was at my desk in my home office, trying to work, I heard the front door open.
“Hello?!” I called out, startled, as I stood and made my way to the front door.
Into the house walked…him.
Dressed in his work uniform, a warm smile on his face and a coffee in hand for me—there he stood.
“I knew you probably didn’t leave to get your afternoon coffee yet, because you probably cried a little bit more after we got off the phone, because crying is how you release any emotions that are still weighing on you. I wanted to come bring you a coffee, and I wanted to come and hug you because I know that’s what you need right now.”
My heart damn near exploded in the best of ways as tears cascaded down my face.
He put the coffee down on the table, then pulled me into his chest for a long, healing, safe, and grounding hug.
“Thank you for being you,” I whispered.
He gently stroked the side of my hair, then kissed my forehead, “Thank you for being you, too.”
We stood in our embrace for a few more minutes, before he whispered, “I have to get back to work, my love.”
I nodded, and slowly began peeling myself out of his arms.
“I love you,” I told him.
“I love you more,” he smiled.
“Mmmm, debatable,” I smiled back.
Debatable is something we always playfully say in response to one of us saying ‘I love you more’.
He chuckled, placed a tender kiss on my lips, then left to head back to his job.
Thirty-seven year old me stood in the middle of my living room feeling loved and cared for in a way that I knew I had never felt from any man before, and this brought on a whole new slew of feelings that I wasn’t prepared for, and had no idea what to do with.
I turned to the thing I knew how to do best when this much was going on inside of me: journaling.
I sat back down at my desk, opened my journal, and began writing about the events of that day along with all the feelings that were coming up.
“Could it be that we can only heal so much from an Anxious Attachment Style on our own, and the rest of the healing is done with a healthy partner?”
I mused at the Carrie Bradshaw style of writing I penned in my journal, as I followed my own question down a hand-written rabbit hole.
Taking the time to do as much inner work as we can on our own is a must. It’s our responsibility to do our own emotional labor so that we can identify the wounds we have that need healing, then start our healing journey. At the same time, however…
No matter how much inner work and healing we do on our own, once we enter even the healthiest of relationships, there will always and forever be things that can (and will) trigger old wounds and old versions of ourselves; being in a healthy relationship means having a partner who gets that, and wants to help us work through that by consistently showing us with their actions that they are safe for us.
Throughout the toxic relationships I have been in along the way, somewhere inside of me I always knew that true love wasn’t supposed to be a chaotic battlefield…instead, it was supposed to be healing.
I was thirty-seven years old when I learned that I was right all along.
I’ve accepted that I will always be a recovering Anxious Attachment Style even though I am secure within myself and my relationship, because triggers are part of life.
The secret is learning how to navigate those triggers when they come up, and making sure that when you do choose a partner for yourself, you choose one who can help you navigate when you need it.
I hope this inspired you in some way, shape, or form today. If nothing else, it’s food for thought.
Finish your plate and go be great.
P.S If you want to get serious about your inner work journey but don't know where to start, click here to grab my Sis, Get Your Ish Together journals, they have prompts in them to help you do just that...start.