Dating with an anxious attachment style: why is it so hard to move on after a relationship?

Dating with an anxious attachment style: why is it so hard to move on after a relationship?

How having an anxious attachment style can impact your relationships, from break ups to ‘boomeranging’.

Break ups of any kind of relationship, be it romantic, platonic or familial, are emotionally taxing.

However, our “attachment style” – the specific way we relate to others – also plays a large role in how difficult we find it to move on from relationships.

There are four main adult attachment styles: secure, anxious, avoidant, and fearful-avoidant.

According to clinical psychologist Lisa Firestone, those with an anxious attachment pattern tend to connect their own identity and sense of worth to their partner, sometimes causing them to ‘boomerang’ back into proximity even after a relationship has ended. 

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If you feel concerned about your relationship, this doesn’t necessarily mean you have an anxious attachment style.

“If you have noticed that you felt really anxious in all your relationships, being preoccupied about your partner cheating or frequently wondering if your partner still fancies you, you might consider thinking that you have an anxious attachment style,” psychosexual and relationship psychotherapist Silva Neves previously told Stylist.

If you struggle to move on after a break up, you may have an anxious attachment style.
If you struggle to move on after a break up, you may have an anxious attachment style.

While many of us may have found ourselves getting stuck on or returning to the same partner, multiple studies have concluded that “individuals measuring high in rejection sensitivity and anxious attachment style experienced the most adverse effects to romantic break up and rejection.”

So not only do these personality types take breakups harder in the immediate, they find it increasingly difficult to detach themselves and move on.

“A person who forms an anxious preoccupied attachment is often more likely to feel insecure and to have fears of being alone, abandoned, or rejected,” Firestone writes in Psychology Today

“People with an anxious attachment pattern may be inclined to uphold a fantasy about their partner or the relationship,” she explains.

A “fantasy bond,” Firestone says, is the illusion of connection and security, the idea that a couple is fused in some way that can make them lose a sense of their individual identity.

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“Anxiously attached people who are in a fantasy bond with their partner often build up their partner or the relationship and feel like they can’t live without it,” Firestone expands. In reality, the actual relationship may be limiting them and causing more harm.

While it’s not uncommon to assume being with anyone is better than being alone, Firestone explains that those with an anxious attachment style may intellectually understand that their relationship is hurting them, but feel unable to turn their backs.

“Breakups aren’t easy for anyone, but for people who have experienced an anxious attachment pattern, understanding this pattern can be a crucial step toward recovering from rather than staying stuck in their pain,” she concludes.

To find out more about how your attachment style impacts your relationship, check out this article.

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