Supporting an anxious partner

Helpful:

  • Respond to requests for reassurance promptly - a small act of love goes a long way and they will naturally 'back off' once they feel safe

  • Anxious partners often feel guilty about having needs - validate that they are lovable for who they are and worthy independent from others' opinions

  • Encourage them to share their needs. Ask them what makes them feel really loved and incorporate the feedback

Unhelpful:

  • Trying to teach them to toughen up by withdrawing attention (this will only heighten their distress. Tough love doesn't work. Emotional warmth does)

  • Telling them they are childish, weak, too sensitive etc when they express being hurt by your actions

  • Assuming you have the same needs/ they are happy with how things are (they often avoid conflict to keep the peace)


One of the most important points which encompasses all of the bullet points is to work with your anxious partner to decrease their shame and increase their self esteem.


Anxious attachment is a combination of negative view of self and positive view of others,


They are likely to be quick to blame themselves for conflict in the relationship, bend over backwards in an attempt to please you etc. Because that's what they had to do in order to receive love at an earlier time in their life. They learn that love looks like always checking in with how the other person is feeling by noticing body language, being especially attentive, and making personal sacrifices.


An ideal partner for an anxious style:

  • Is able to commit to them fully and be clear about their intentions

  • Expresses their appreciation for the anxious partner. E.g. meaningful compliments, saying I love you

  • Makes them a priority in their life e.g. spending quality time, considering their feelings when you make a big decision

  • Validates their feelings and needs 'it's normal/understandable to feel that way'

  • Empowers and encourages them to feel good about themselves not because it pleases someone else but because they are inherently valuable

  • Communicates boundaries gently and when healthy, finds compromises e.g. 'this is something I really need to do for me and I know that might be hard to hear.' 'I'm not able to come over tonight but I just want to remind you how important to me you are. How about we spend some time together on Tuesday?' - if you're a dismissive avoidant style you probably don't have to speak as bluntly as you might tend to with some others. Maybe in the past you had to speak that way because your caregiver was controlling and invasive, but if your partner is a kind person then telling them what you need to do extra softly will often get the best reception from them.

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