Does this sound like you:
// You obsessively check your texts to see if so-and-so has replied yet
// If they don’t, you start to spiral about if they still care about you, or what might be wrong.
// When you receive an email, you have a sort of mini-panic because it could be bad news about someone being upset with you – even though you haven’t even opened it yet.
// You overreact to minor feedback, or get overwhelmed by jealousy.
// Or maybe you avoid conversations because you don’t want to upset someone.
That type of anxiety and concern just keeps spinning and growing, right? And a large part of that comes from being socialized in a patriarchal society as well as our attachment styles that we’ve developed.
People socialized as womxn are told they must marry, be nice, be smart but not outshine, make others happy (especially the men in our lives), be patient… and put everyone else first. We’re also taught to evaluate our self-worth based on what other people think of us.
Anxiety in relationships is often rooted in worrying about what the other person thinks of us.
First, let’s review attachment theory basics, because it plays a big role.
Part of attachment theory is that our experiences as a child and how reliable our caregivers are at meeting our needs (plus some of whatever soul-wiring we’re born with) all impacts our attachment style.
Those same patterns of influence can be seen in all of our relationships as adults, especially with our intimate partners. It may not be the exact time style as when we were an infant, and the style can change as we enter different relationships (more on that in the pod).
To say it simply, there are 3 types of attachment:
- Secure attachment styles – these folx are comfortable with intimacy and they can also maintain independence. They’re not codependent or isolated. We are still going to be happy for them 😉
- Anxious attachment styles tend to worry about abandonment or rejections. This can manifest as jealousy or anxiety, and they may try to re-establish feelings of intimacy with graspy and clingy behavior.
- Avoidant attachment styles worry about losing autonomy and independence, and see relationships as a threat to that freedom.
Some people can also have a subtype that’s an anxious-avoidant attachment style, where when we become anxious, we fix it by creating distance.
And here’s the crazy part: anxious and avoidant attachment styles tend to be drawn towards each other! This can produce a kind of power dynamic that is very push-pull. I certainly experienced it myself in plenty of relationships.
You may have noticed that there is a tendency for people who have been socialized as womxn to be anxiously attached and for those socialized as men to be avoidantly attached, and that this is assumed to be “normal.” A lot of this is because people socialized as womxn and men (whether they identify that way or not( are taught different things about intimacy, sexuality, and romance (especially in heteronormative societies).
Knowing that womxn are told their value and worth and safety is dependent on whether they are in a committed relationship with a partner, it makes a lot of sense that we are anxious and constantly worried about losing a relationship or being rejected.
People socialized as men are taught that womxn are just trying to trap them and that they should not expose vulnerable feelings. So, the avoidance there makes sense too, right?
Add in any dysfunctional parenting dynamics and experiences and that just heightens the anxiety.
So we try to appease that anxiety by engaging in activity that attempts to establish intimacy and connection…but we do it in a graspy way like obsessively texting, asking “Is anything wrong?” and asking “Can we talk again?” which usually does the opposite of what we intend.
This anxiety also causes us to lose ourselves in relationships because we start to give up things we love to feel more secure and to protect ourselves from being abandoned – like giving up our yoga class so our partner doesn’t miss us; cancelling hikes with girlfriends because the partner is in town; not going on the retreat or attending the workshop so that we can make time for our partner; Skipping exercise or our hobbies so that our partner isn’t disappointed in us.
The root of anxiety in relationships comes from worrying excessively about what the other person thinks of us…and about if we’ll be left or not.
The good news is that we CAN start to notice that and change our patterns, and start to become mindful of our thoughts and emotions and the filters our life experiences pass through. We can become aware of the thoughts about our experiences in a way that better serves us and creates more of a sense of security and safety. We can see that though we may think scary thoughts about being alone, that it doesn’t mean they’re true.
We can say, “Ah this makes sense – I have this style that causes me to think certain ways about things – and that makes sense because of my past expereinces. It’s OK – nothing is wrong here.”
The best way to start combating that anxiety is to just understand that it makes sense that your brain is taking you there and creating these thoughts. Self-compassion also helps to combat any shame and guilt that might arise when we realize we have lost ourselves in a relationship. Then we can start to do the work to identify the patterns and habits we have based on our attachment style. It’s going to be uncomfortable, but all important growth is, right?
And remember, you should never have to sacrifice your joy and purpose and your own precious life for another. You are 100% worthy and lovable as you are right now. As you have been from the moment you existed, and all the ways you’ve changed since then.
In this Episode you will learn:
// The types of attachment styles we can have and how gender socialization affects them
// How to stop anxiety in relationships before you start to spiral
// How to stop being afraid of rejection and abandonment
// The main thing we need to feel secure
// Episode 2 – How to Not Care What Other People Think About You
// Episode 43 – Jealousy and Sympathetic Joy
// Episode 73 – How to Be Your Own Guru
// Episode 75 – Stop Apologizing
// My newest Elephant Journal article on setting boundaries like a Buddhist… and how to deal when people don’t like them.
// If you’re new to the squad, grab the starter kit I created at RebelBuddhist.com. It has all you need to start creating a life of more freedom, adventure, and purpose. You’ll get access to the private Facebook group where you can ask me questions! Once you join, there’s also a weekly FB live called Wake the F*ck Up Wednesday, where you can ask questions that come up as you do this work – in all parts of your life.
// If you’re interested in finding out more about how to free your mind and free your life, join Freedom School. Enrollment is open, and we are diving DEEP into ways to cultivate clarity and courage so you can create your best life. There are also some sweet bonus courses for you there. It will set you up to live the best version of you in the year to come. Learn more at JoinFreedomSchool.com.