This Is Why Breakups Hurt More If You Have An Anxious Attachment Style, And What To Do About It

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Breakups are never easy, though it can be much harder or easier for you to leave a relationship that’s not working or move on from a break up based on your attachment style.

RELATED: What It Means To Have An Avoidant Attachment Style (& How To Change It)

What is an anxious attachment style in dating? 

If you have an anxious/preoccupied attachment style, you want to be very close to your partner but tend to worry a lot about your relationship, or your partner leaving you.

You can often feel insecure and be on the lookout for any signs of any emotional distance from your partner. You may try to avoid conflict, bend to your partner’s wishes, and often worry that you are more emotionally invested or your feelings are not equally matched. 

Your attachment system can get easily over-activated and you are especially sensitive to separations — emotional or physical. In this way, a breakup can feel devastating since you are already hyper attuned to losses of any kind.

This can also lead you to get stuck in the pain after a breakup, since abandonment wounds can be triggered.

Even if you are the one initiating a breakup or divorce, the intense emotions of loss can send you into a tailspin

Six Reasons Why Breaking Up Is Harder If You Have An Anxious/Preoccupied Attachment Style:

1. It’s more difficult for you to self-soothe and regulate your emotions in relationships which means you can feel overwhelmed, scared of being alone and out of control during a breakup.

2. You want to be close but tend to be anxious about trusting or relying on others. A constant need for approval to feel safe can unconsciously push others away when you need them most.

3. You are highly attuned to look for any negative changes in your partner’s emotions or behavior. If you are the one being left or broken up with, you may feel like everything is falling apart and that your worst fear about being unlovable is confirmed. 

4. Breakups and divorce can trigger old abandonment fears or wounds when you are anxious/preoccupied. If you’ve been left, you can feel afraid of being on your own, like you’ll never get over him or afraid you will never find love again. If you’ve fallen out of love or haven’t been able to make your relationship work, the fear of the pain of loss or hurting your partner can result in you postponing a breakup.

5. Your fear of relationships ending may also mean that in addition to the fear of being left, you can stay too long in relationships that are not satisfying or fulfilling because of the fear of conflict, fear of loss or being alone and difficulty managing your own emotions in the breakup process. 

6. You can tend to enmesh your feelings with your partner’s. You may feel a deep responsibility for your partner’s emotions and wellbeing and fear hurting him. You may even secretly wish for your partner to be the one to initiate a breakup to avoid the conflict and pain of hurting your partner. 

What are the other attachment styles in dating? 

1. Secure:

If you are securely attached, you bond easily with others and don’t worry too much about your relationship or your partner leaving you. You find it easy to trust your partner and feel comfortable relying on your partner and having your partner rely on you. 

During a breakup or difficult time, chances are higher that you are able to regulate your feelings and communicate your emotions and needs.

You can self-soothe and also stay attuned to your partner when upset or overwhelmed, something which is more difficult for anxious/preoccupied or avoidant partners. 

2. Fearful Avoidant (or Disorganized):

This one is characterized by a desire to get closer to a partner, as well as being afraid of intimacy. There is a conflict between wanting closeness and also a deep fear of getting hurt or engulfed by the relationship or your partner’s needs. 

You may notice that your partners often want more closeness than you are comfortable with.

Similar to the anxious attachment style, dating fearful avoidants can be complicated because they have difficulty regulating their emotions and can be prone to blowing up and walking away, or getting close then at the same time wanting to flee. 

For a fearful avoidant, a breakup may be disorienting and painful but also filled with relief since maintaining a consistent level of intimacy or learning to be interdependent in a relationship can be an ongoing struggle.

RELATED: If You Have An Insecure Attachment Style, You’re Probably Sabotaging Your Love Life (Here’s How)

3. Dismissive Avoidant:

If you have a dismissive avoidant attachment style, you may be called or self-identify as “a loner.” You may seem confident on the outside and prioritize your independence over interdependence. You are much more comfortable being on your own, not relying on anyone or having anyone rely on you. 

During a breakup, you may use deactivating strategies to turn down the intensity of your emotions such as walking away from a fight, not calling, disappearing for a couple of days or ignoring your partner to avoid the overwhelming emotions. 

You may be able to dull the pain by keeping busy and can appear unruffled, though inside you can be deeply affected. Since you prefer to prioritize your independence and self-sufficiency, the ending of a relationship may not be as difficult for you if you are dismissive/avoidant.

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Tips For Helping Yourself Through a Break Up If You’re Anxiously Attached

1. Learning to self-soothe

This means finding healthy ways to calm your emotions so that you can take a moment to process before you react. This can be learning how to meditate, taking a walk in nature, journaling, listening to music, yoga, or any physical activity that connects you to your body, for example.

Learning to self-soothe can also help you learn to be alone with yourself and your feelings without ‘text bombing’ or reaching for less healthy options such as alcohol, drugs or junk food to calm down.

2. Working on emotional self-awareness and communication

This can build your skills in identifying and expressing your feelings and needs in a non-threatening way — even if it feels scary or risky in a heated moment.

The benefit to this in your relationships is that you then no longer rely on your partner or others to magically guess what you are feeling or needing (and then get upset when they do not guess correctly!)

3. Reaching out for support

Reaching out can help you get through the emotional havoc of a breakup, divorce or heartbreak. Get help from a reliable and non-judgemental friend or family member.

You can also work with a somatic therapist or coach who can help you to identify emotions and how they may be presenting in your body.

Does anger get stuck in your throat or chest? Does heartache literally make your heart or stomach hurt? It can all feel like anxiety or pain if you can’t separate the emotions out.

Being on the anxiously attached spectrum of attachment styles may make it harder to get through or initiate a breakup but it doesn’t mean that you or won’t make it through or find happiness and a sense of security in a relationship.

Learning to self-soothe, working on communicating your needs and reaching out for support can help you build the skills to be more successful and confident in your relationships moving forward.

RELATED: 6 Signs You Have An Anxious Attachment Style & How It Affects Your Relationships

Stephanie Lazzara is an ICF certified holistic life and relationship coach who helps women reconnect to their strengths and power in the aftermath of divorce and breakups. She is also a certified yoga instructor and teaches yoga in Brooklyn, NY. You can find out more about her relationship and life coaching programs at stephlazzara.com.