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Fear, Avoidance, and Reassurance in Relationships

Zoe Mittman, LSW 

You may have heard the term “attachment style” and wondered, how is that applicable to me? Along with this, we tend to hear the words secure and insecure attachment quite often. Types of attachment aren’t so clear cut; they are on a spectrum and people can fall into one category, several categories, or move through them. For the purpose of this blog, I am going to explore the different attachment style patterns that may manifest in your relationships, as well as their potential causes. 

The Different Attachment Styles In Our Relationships

It is completely normal for anxiety to appear in relationships. However, the degree to which the anxiety impacts your relationship, and how often it occurs, might be related to your attachment style. That being said, relationships are a two-way street. One partner cannot give 100% alone. Open communication is essential in order for each partner to know what the other needs. Being in a romantic relationship is vulnerable. You open yourself up for love, but also for the potential to be hurt. Even if your relationship is going as you had hoped, desired, and intended it would, fear, avoidance, and the need for reassurance may still be present. 

This can be due to childhood experiences, previous partners, and current and past interpersonal relationships. Having an understanding of the past can help lead to acceptance and healthier relationships. In order to have relationships with others, you need to have a strong relationship with yourself. It sounds silly to say that aloud, but it is very true. Treat yourself the way you would treat a friend. If you wouldn’t say something to a friend, then don’t say it to yourself. Treat yourself with love, kindness, and compassion. 

Fear and Avoidance 

Fear can come in the form of avoiding romantic relationships or constant worries while in a relationship. If you are someone who avoids emotional intimacy, working with your therapist to understand where the fear originated is an eye-opening and valuable part of the therapeutic process. It can provide you with clarification and a perspective that was not available before. 

The fear may come from not having emotionally available parents during childhood or previous partners that betrayed your trust. For example, when a baby cries, the healthy response would be to stop crying when their parent comes over and soothes them. However, for a baby who did not receive any sort of acknowledgment when upset, or was yelled at, that can translate into adulthood. We learn from an early age how our caregiver responds to us. Without the proper nurturance, you might learn that expressing emotions is deemed bad or it is better to hold them in. 

Need for Reassurance 

There is a difference between assurance and reassurance. It is okay to get that assurance once; however, when it turns into something that is consistently needed, that becomes reassurance and there might be a reason why you’re seeking it. Your partner cannot give you reassurance 24/7. Even if they would like to, it is just not possible. This need for reassurance could stem from your childhood, previous relationships, or perceived self-esteem. 

In therapy, you can work with your therapist to identify where these anxieties may be coming from, as the root cause can be so deeply embedded. Also, with social media on the rise, it becomes very easy to compare yourself to others. It is important to remember that social media is only a highlight of people’s real lives. Comparing yourself to other people might contribute to low self-esteem and anxiety in your relationship. In addition, if a partner has betrayed your trust in the past, it can be extremely challenging to find that trust again. You might be searching for constant reassurance to make sure that your current partner will not cheat on you or abruptly leave you. That is totally understandable and valid. It is scary to trust anyone again. I am telling you that it is possible and you deserve to be able to have trust again. 

If this blog resonates with you, speaking with a therapist can be a beneficial way to overcome your fears, reestablish relationship patterns, and work towards acceptance of the past. Get in touch with Symmetry Counseling to connect with one of our counselors today.

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