Your attachment style can significantly affect how you approach and maintain relationships, and it's not just something that develops in childhood. Your adult experiences can also shape your attachment style. Negative relationship experiences, whether minor or major, can make you more anxious or avoidant. For instance, if someone comes on too strong, you might shut down and become more avoidant. On the other hand, if someone is inconsistent and fails to follow through on their promises, you might become more anxious and mistrustful.
The good news is that your attachment style is not set in stone, and you can work to change it over time. By using specific techniques and practicing regularly, you can move from an anxious attachment style to a more secure one. I've personally done this, working on it for the past three years, and have noticed a significant improvement in my dating experiences moving from always being triggered to being back in control. Here are three strategies that can help you do the same.
Communicate Your Needs
The key to moving from an anxious attachment style to a secure attachment style is effective communication. When you have an anxious attachment style, you may hold back from expressing your needs and fears out of fear that doing so will push others away. However, when you have a secure attachment style, you understand that communicating your needs and feelings is essential. Securely attached individuals understand the value of clear communication in relationships. During conflicts, it's crucial to express what you need and share your feelings in a concise and understandable way. This approach helps to prevent misunderstandings and enables both partners to work together towards resolution.
As well as conflict resolution, expressing your needs and expectations early on in a relationship can help you find someone who shares your goals and desires, leading to a more fulfilling relationship. Instead of compromising your needs and desires, you bring the power back to yourself by realising you can say "no" to people if they don't suit you. By setting boundaries and communicating clearly, you can weed out those who are not a good match for you. While learning to communicate effectively may not be easy, it's a skill that can be practiced and developed over time, leading to healthier relationships and a more secure attachment style.
Take it SLOW
When it comes to dating, I've learned the hard way that pacing myself is ESSENTIAL. Back in 2020, when I first started dating again I used to get so carried away when I first met someone it was no wonder my anxious attachment style was triggered so quickly! I soon realised that this wasn't the best approach; I had to learn to take things slow and not get too attached too quickly. For me, this meant being mindful of when I replied to someone's messages. If I was busy, I didn't rush to reply, but if I was free, then I would respond. It was less about playing games, but more about making sure I wasn't always available, that I had other things going on in my life that fulfilled me, and a potential relationship needed to complement that, not override it.
This approach was particularly useful for me in the first few weeks of dating when it's hard to resist the temptation to text and talk obsessively. It's important to remember to take it easy and not put too much pressure on yourself to reply quickly. Instead, go with the flow and pace yourself, especially if you have an anxious attachment style.
Reflect On Your Past Experiences
Moving from an anxious attachment style to a more secure style requires understanding why you react and behave the way you do. This takes a willingness to reflect on your past experiences and how they have shaped your beliefs and behaviours in relationships.
Working with a coach, therapist, or even friend can give you the open space to explore your feelings and reactions when potential dates are responsive, and they can encourage you identify the underlying fears and anxieties that are driving these reactions.
Whilst I worked with therapists, I found the most effective form of recognising these patterns was regularly journalling, noting down my thoughts, feelings and experiences as they were happening. As well as starting to connect to myself more, (which helped me to communicate effectively, going back to point number one), I was then able to prompt myself with further questions to understand why I felt the way I did, and came up with past events in my life, alongside observations of my environment, that helped me to piece together what might have shaped my experiences in dating so far.
By understanding the roots of your attachment style, you can begin to challenge your old patterns of thinking and behaving, and develop new strategies for relating to others that are more secure and adaptive. Over time, as you practice these new behaviours, you can start to see a shift in your attachment style, from anxious to more secure. It may take time and effort, but the payoff can be a more fulfilling and satisfying relationship with yourself and others.
Let Go of Control
One of the biggest obstacles to developing a secure attachment style is the need for control. When you have an anxious attachment style, it's easy to try to control every aspect of your relationship, from the way you communicate to how often you see your partner. However, this need for control can be counterproductive, leading to increased anxiety and mistrust in your relationships.
To move towards a more secure attachment style, it's essential to let go of the need for control and learn to trust your partner. This means accepting that you cannot control everything in your relationship and being comfortable with uncertainty.
With an anxious attachment style, you'll be hyper vigilant to the smallest of indications that someone will leave. In turn, your behaviour changes - you might call or text more, or start wanting to see them more times in the week so you feel safe and secure, but this intensity pushes people away. Instead of letting things play out, you've tried to take control, but also given yourself "evidence" that you were right - when in actual fact, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy that you made happen as a result of your behaviour change.
By letting go of control and trusting the people you date, you can foster a deeper sense of intimacy and connection in your relationships. It takes time and practice, but with patience and self-awareness, you can develop a more secure attachment style and enjoy healthier, more fulfilling relationships.
From Anxious to Secure
Learning to shift from an anxious attachment style to a secure one can be a life-changing process. When I look back at my past relationships, I can see how much I've grown and learned about myself. In the past, I used to demonstrate some avoidant tendencies when it came to showing affection in public. I was uncomfortable with holding hands or kissing in front of others, and I didn't know why. Since my divorce, I've demonstrated behaviours that align with an anxious attachment style, worrying that any potential dates and relationships will leave at the drop of a hat - even when it's simply that they can't make it to an event.
By recognising and understanding the patterns of behaviour that stem from your attachment style, you can start to challenge negative thoughts and beliefs that may be holding you back in your relationships. Practicing self-compassion, communicating effectively, and building trust with your partner, are all tools that can help you create a secure foundation for your relationship to thrive.
Remember that change takes time and effort, but with commitment and support, it is possible to move towards a more secure attachment style and experience deeper, more fulfilling relationships. Keep working on yourself, and if you want to discuss your next first step to moving from an anxious attachment style to a more secure one, you can book your FREE 15-minute dating gameplan session here.