Anxious attachment in relationship is the kind I see most in us externalizers—folks with the thought habit of basing our sense of self worth in other people, in their thoughts and feels, their needs and how we can meet them, their opinion of us. From our codependent anxiety, we tend to cling, to put other people’s needs and wants ahead of our own, to get anxious about whether we are truly loved, wanted and cared about and that can lead us to rush into relationships.
When anxious attachment gets activated in dating, or in a new job or a friendship, even in our healing work, we can feel this desire to skip steps, to skip chapters in the story of our lives because we’re working from the false premise that doing so will help us to feel safe. We don’t know how to sit with the discomfort of the liminal space—the space of something being new and undefined, the space where the possibility of things turning out the way we want them to sits alongside the possibility of things not working out, the possibility of being rejected, ghosted, broken up with, fired. This all feels way too scary, too darn uncomfortable to even begin to allow for when our sense of self, worth and value are so tied to what we think other people think about us.
This habit of racing through discomfort can happen in avoidant attachment as well, it just looks a little different.
In anxious attachment, we race forward into relationship commitment, we leap before we look, and in avoidant attachment we push commitment aside, neither looking nor leaping. Either way we are making painful, self-harming choices in an attempt to feel in control, in an attempt to source safety outside of ourselves, and the results can be so super painful.
In codependent thinking, as in anxious anxiety, we believe that we need other people to make us feel safe because we don’t yet know how to be truly, deeply anchored in our own selves. From our childhoods, our family blueprint, we came to believe that we need other people to meet our needs, and so we race along meeting other people’s needs in an attempt to get them to want to meet ours. We believe we need someone else to validate our worth, our desires, our thoughts, our everything and we don’t feel safe and secure without a partner to task with that job of doing our internal work for us.
Sound familiar? It totally does to me! I did this for years, jumping from relationship to relationship, u-hauling so fast and not pausing to check in with myself to see if *I* actually wanted what this person has to offer. Instead, I dated the next person who seemed to maybe offer me safety, the next person who liked me, who made me feel wanted, not pausing to see if I really wanted them.
See, I wanted to feel chosen. I didn’t feel chosen growing up, I felt like a bother, a burden, a nuisance, an annoyance. Someone easily abandoned emotionally, someone whose needs weren’t much of a consideration, so I learned to push my needs and wants down and aside until I wasn’t really quite sure what I wanted for myself. I totally know what I could do for everyone else, how I could please everyone else, how I could ingratiate myself to everyone else in a subconscious attempt to get them to stick around so I could feel safe.
Of course the irony is that when you’re in relationships you’re not actually actively choosing, when you’re racing ahead and skipping steps and chapters… things don’t actually work out because you’re not choosing for you, you’re choosing from fear.
While that’s super understandable, it doesn’t actually lead to any kind of real safety because fear is a lousy guide for living—and I should know, fear was my habitual primary driver in so many of my relationship choices.
One of the main things that can happen when we have that energy inside us rushing us along to what feels like safety is that we can either misinterpret our bodily signals or we can run roughshod over them, and I have absolutely done both so if you’re like “ugh. It me.” It’s okay! No need for guilt or shame here—you’re always just doing the best you can with the relationship skills and awareness you currently have, right my tender ravioli? So pause on being mean to you—compassion always gets you so much farther than self flagellation.
So I can think back to a relationship where the red flags were blowing in the wind from minute one—many of the things that ended up being real sticking points, real pain points in that relationship were things I noticed, even wrote about in my journal, told my friends about, right at the beginning. Those red flags! I saw them. Took note. I actually broke up with the person I’m thinking about here—told them it wasn’t the right relationship for me, and this was many years ago and I didn’t trust myself in the way I do now—didn’t trust my intuition, discernment, inner voice.
So when something traumatic happened in my life, and anytime I say trauma I mean it in the clinical sense of actual life-threat, so something traumatic happened and this person showed up for me, which they really did, they were great in that moment, and my inner children and anxious attachment, which was still very much alive in me, then leapt to the fore to say “this must be a safe human, and maybe this person will protect you and care for you so… ignore those red flags, just keep moving forward to be in relationship. That sounds smart even though you’re actually not really into them… you just saw that you’re not safe on your own, so… attach!”
Because those were my thought habits that created my feelings, I rushed it. I jumped in, both feet first, without really pausing to check in, impatient to feel safety even at a deep cost to my long term and honestly short term joy. I let the oxytocin, the safety and love hormone, take the place of thoughtful consideration of fit, of my wants, needs and desires and oh wow did that end poorly!
Oxytocin and dopamine are the hormones that flood you when there is new like or love in your life. Omg those chemicals feel so amazing and it’s easy to confuse the chemicals of lust and desire with an intuitive gut telling you that whatever’s in is right for you.
It makes so much sense that when your attachment system is geared towards safety as something external of course you’re going to jump to gettin it!
Of course you are. Of course you did. That makes mammal sense. And we always honor that until we learn to pause and do thought work, until we learn to pause to do somatic work to feel and be truly and deeply embodied, until we learn how to take our lives back from our habitual unintentional way of being and learn how to get anchored in ourselves again, of course we let those chemicals rule us because we legit don’t know how to do life any other way!
So let’s talk remedies, like we do: Top amongst them is recognizing your desire to rush, and actively slowing things down.
This the importance of all the tools we talk about here on Feminist Wellness is that we learn how to slow our roll. To not jump from having a single date to telling the story that we’re in love with this person, to pause before we start planning our picket fence relationship life with them before we even know them, to pause to check in with our bodies and our minds, our spirits, our inner children and our inner parent to see if we really want to be with this person, or if we really want to be with any person.
So that’s the work.
To be your own loving watcher, to slow it down, to pause, to connect with your intuition, your embodiment, to see the red flags and to honor that inner wisdom that says “hold up a second, sailor,” to not race ahead to the proverbial finish line, to learn how to source safety from within ourselves. In that process we learn how to meet our own needs, and from there to voice them to a date or partner and from there to listen attentively and with curiosity to how your requests are met.
For me this was about learning to believe someone else when they show you they’re not willing or able to show up for you and your needs, and to stop doing what we do from codependent thinking which is to insist and insist that someone else be who we want them to be instead of who they actually are, to accept them in a radically honest way so you can decide if you want them, instead of agreeing to be with someone because they want you, instead of rushing into relationship instead of taking your time, instead of cultivating patience.
While of course we all show up as the best version of ourselves at first, when there are red flags in the beginning of the relationship, pay attention! Get curious.
That’s challenging when you’re rushing! Notice. Let your spider senses be up to notice what you don’t want to notice when you’re racing to make someone your savior and saint, while also your fixer-upper project. Pause. Breathe. Feel. Don’t just think. Notice how you feel around them. Notice how you hold your body around them. Notice your breath around them. Get present in you. Slow your roll.
This is so vital because we romanticize people and fall for the narrative of what may be instead of what is, because it makes us feel like there is possibility instead of seeing what’s real. From our codependent thinking, we believe that when we’ve totally fixed this person, saved them, taught them how to live right, how to be a good partner to us, then we can be happy. I’ve totally done it. I completely feel for the possibility I saw in my last partner, the change I thought I could bring to them, which by the way, they had no interest in, they didn’t want to change in the ways I wanted them to, and so I rolled right on through alla those massive red flags.
That’s on me, I didn’t listen to me.
The beauty now is that I choose me first, and when you choose yourself, truly choose yourself over others, you stop trying to save or fix others because the fixer story goes that if I can save them, they’ll love me.
Fuck that. Seriously. I’m so done with that kind of relationship. That happens when we rush, we jump feet first right back into that same painful pattern. When we slow our roll we can say that we won’t take scraps, we won’t take crumbs, we will only accept the whole damn croissant, and we’re not out here to try to turn a bagel into a croissant because that’s not our job and it’s not in service of your pleasure or joy.
Cultivating patience is a vital part of this. Learning to be just a little more comfortable each day with the discomfort of being on your own, of being alone with you, which is challenging from both codependent thinking and anxious attachment because of our habitual thinking. I promise my love, you can learn to live in harmony with yourself. You can learn to be okay with you. You can learn to love you and not judge you and not want someone else to fill that gaping attachment and security wound in your heart because you can learn to show up for you, to have your own back in real and lasting and fulfilling ways.
As you cultivate patience, you will learn to hear your own heart more and more. You can learn how to shift from that grasping anxiety into the peaceful ease of creating deep internal intimacy.
And what’s so true is that the slow path is so much more pleasurable. You can use thought work to rewrite the discomfort that comes from waiting, the impatience to feel safe and settled. I’ve had the opportunity to do it for myself and I have to tell you that shifting from impatient gotta-get-it energy to the energy of anticipation, excitement, awaiting….wow. That all just feels so much better in my mindbody. It’s sexy. Impatience? Not sexy. Not sensual. Not in flow.
Impatience and rushing are about forcing your agenda and trying to control the world vs just being present in it. And my love, there is so much to learn from going slowly. From letting things be.
From letting them unfurl versus trying to force life to be what you want it to be. There is so much sexiness and joy and connection possible when you let life unfold at its own sweet pace, like flowers in the sunshine. They have no interest in rushing or being rushed. They are patient. They focus on growing strong sustaining roots before flowering and my love, if this is resonating for you, this theme of rushing towards the story of safety, then your work is at the roots, to focus on what sustains and supports you, on your own and in community, before rushing in. No one can be your roots for you. That’s just not how it works, my beauty.
Pause and breathe. Find that moment of calm within yourself. Know and believe that it’s possible for you to connect with it, now and always. Know too, because science, that the more often you connect inward with your own ability to regulate yourself nervous system in the chill moments, the more ease you’ll have in the challenging moments, in the moments when you want to rush to the end without enjoying the middle, the moments when new and fresh and full of possibility feels more like scary and something to push through and against.
You can come back to your strong and anchoring roots and can remind yourself—as long as you stand strong by your own side, listen to your own heart, gut, intuition, as long as you pause to ask yourself “what would self love do now?” you’ll be able to slow it all down and to connect with your own truth, to feel more securely attached within yourself, versus letting your anxious attachment and codependent thought habits rule your life.
You truly can live with more pleasure, ease, alignment and intention. This I know is true.
Thank you for taking the time to read Feminist Wellness. I’m excited to be here and to help you take back your health!
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