Ask iris: "My anxious attachment style is ruining my relationship. Help!"
I am three months into my first serious relationship at 24 years old, and BOY, I AM ANXIOUS. He is a great guy and has a secure attachment style. I'm starting to realize I have an anxious attachment style. It really comes out when I see he is active on social media and has not responded to my text. Sometimes I feel like I text too much, not often enough etc. So as you can see, a lot of overthinking is going on. Even though he told me he wants me to share any time I am overthinking, I still get in my head and tense up in my anxiety out of fear that it will be too much for him to handle. Any tips?
Signed, Too Anxious
Dear Too Anxious,
First, let me congratulate you on finding someone with a secure attachment style. Not because I want you to feel like you hit the jackpot, but because you’re in an excellent position for a healthy, fulfilling relationship. Plus, you won’t have all your anxious attachment tendencies triggered like you would with someone avoidant.
I understand how consuming your anxiety feels. I have an anxious attachment style too, and it’s kept me from enjoying more relationships than I’d like to admit. But the difference between that younger version of myself and you is that I didn’t have any awareness of what was going on. My anxiety ran rampant without me having the words for it. You, on the other hand, are a lot further along than most people. So let that reassure you, even only a tiny bit.
There are two things I want to address here. The first is your boyfriend’s open invitation to talk to him when you’re overthinking. That’s great. Don’t feel like a burden when you open up to him. He’s created a healthy boundary with you by saying this is how he wants the relationship to work. It’s up to him to say if it’s too much. Don't let your mind trick you into thinking you’re too much.
Aside from opening up to your boyfriend, you should also work on helping yourself. Venting to your boyfriend about every single thought you have won’t help you feel more secure in the relationship. That kind of work has to happen on the inside, with you.
An exercise that helps a lot of people with an anxious attachment style is journaling. Track the anxious thoughts that you have in your Notes app or a physical journal. By doing this, you’ll start recognizing when something triggers your overthinking and how it makes you act differently. Once you get the hang of that, start challenging your obsessive thoughts. When you have a thought like, “It’s been an hour since he texted me, he hates me,” replace it with a statement like, “He’s busy, everything is fine, and I’m safe.”
What will also help is only allowing yourself a certain amount of time to obsess over something and then distracting yourself. When you start overthinking your relationship, set a timer on your phone. Allow yourself to think about whatever is bothering you, without judgment, for two to five minutes. When the timer goes off, do something to distract yourself. That could be calling a friend, going for a walk, listening to music, painting, baking, or video games. Whatever consumes your full attention.
A big part of feeling better in a relationship when you have an anxious attachment style is getting a handle on your thoughts. They’ll only control you as much as you let them. It’ll take time, but replacing your thoughts with positive ones and limiting how long you allow yourself to overthink will start to change the way your mind works. Again, don’t be afraid to use the bridge your boyfriend built by saying you can be open with him, but doing the work to feel more secure will be the key to feeling a lot less anxious in your relationship.