How we seek relationships, behave in a relationship, end a relationship and/or react when a valued relationship ends is driven by our attachment style.
Relationships that develop and thrive on “I want them and they want me” dynamic are considered “secure” because both people in the relationship feel safe. They have no fear that their love will not be returned and trust the other to always have their back – to always be THERE for them.
Insecure relationships have a different dynamic:
- Anxiously preoccupied: “I want them even if they don’t want me” .
- Conflicted/Fearful Avoidant: “I want them but what if they don’t want me”.
- Dismissive avoidant :”They want me more than I want them”.
Let’s talk about this insecure attachment dynamics in detail.
For the purpose of this article, I will be using “PA” to refer to an individual with Preoccupied Anxiety attachment style, “DA” an individual with a Dismissive Avoidant Attachment style and “FA” an individual with a Fearful Avoidant Attachment style.
1) Anxiously preoccupied: “I want them even if they don’t want me” .
Very often you find the person with attachment anxiety chasing after someone who:
- Shows little or no interest in them whatsoever
- Is insecure or has self-esteem issues that makes it hard for them to trust people
- Takes a lot more from the relationship than they put in
- Disrespects them in subtle ways and sometimes openly
- Suffers from depression, addiction and/or for some other reason is unable to be fully present in the relationship
- Treats them like an option (someone they come back to when the new relationship ends)
- Constantly questions and doubts the relationship
- Gets close then pushes them away
The less interest interest the other person shows the more they want them. The less they get from a relationship, the more they put into it. The more the other person pulls away, the harder they chase.
PA – DA Dynamics – When an individual with preoccupied attachment anxiety stops chasing, the DA stops running away. The PA assumes that because the dismissive avoidant stopped running away it means that they are interested/want them. They start acting like the dismissive avoidant is interested and wants them.
I see this a lot in people trying to attract back an ex. Even a slight sign that their ex maybe interested in blown way out of proportion. They read way too much into texts and words and overthink their meanings to mean more than what it actually means. Then they start acting like they are either still a couple/not broken up or they are back together already. This scares away the dismissive avoidant who wants to take things slow and cautiously.
PA – FA Dynamics – When the PA stops asking for more from the relationship, stops complaining about what they are not getting from the relationship and/or expressing how they feel unappreciated or taken for granted, the FA takes that to mean they are being a good partner and their PA is happy. The fear that they might not be wanted is temporarily gone.
But because PAs always need more from the relationship and FA are hypervigilant for any signs that they or the other person might not be ‘good enough” or that others are unhappy with them/want to break-up , the dynamic of pulling away/withdrawing and wanting someone who is trying to get away even more plays over and over.
Deep inside most people with attachment anxiety know and can feel that their ex is pulling away but instead of looking at what they are doing to push their ex away, they think that if only their ex can see how much they love them, their ex will want to be with them. They even tell themselves that no one else can love their ex like they do and their ex knows it too (despite an ex being happier in a new relationship). So they chase harder and try harder.
But the more they chase and want, the more unsafe their ex feels. A dismissive avoidant feels “why can’t they let me be myself and do my own thing?” and a fearful avoidant feels “something is wrong with this person” and/or “this is not going to last”.
This can go on for months even years. With time, resentment towards the person they want but does not seem to want them builds and builds until it becomes the obstacle to making the relationship work.