How to Navigate Dating for the 3 Insecure Attachment Styles: From Dread to Delight
Tue Jun 27 2023
Tue Nov 14 2023
The Personal Development School
Does dating give you a tight knot rather than butterflies in your stomach? If so, you’re not alone. You may just have one of the insecure attachment styles that each comes with its own challenges.
In attachment theory, there are four main types of attachment styles: anxious preoccupied, dismissive and fearful avoidant (also known as disorganized attachment style), and secure. The first three are "insecure" attachment styles, with the latter being the only secure style.
And attachment styles have a big impact on your love life. The insecure attachment patterns affect how you interact with people, and is considered the predicator if an adult relationship can work or not. This is all due to childhood experiences with inconsistent parenting styles, and their emotional needs not being met.
From first dates to long-term situations, after reading this article about attachment styles and dating, you’ll hopefully feel better about this exciting yet sometimes tiring activity. You’ll also know what to consider when dating someone with an insecure attachment style different than yours. Let’s dive in!
Understanding the Anxious-Preoccupied Attachment Style
People with an anxious-preoccupied attachment style, or anxious attachment style for short , crave emotional closeness and reassurance. They are sensitive to signs of withdrawal from their partner and tend to feel anxiety at the slightest sign of distance from their partner. Anxious-preoccupied (AP) people often assume the worst, take things personally, and jump to conclusions if their partner isn’t responding how they expect them to.
Dating can feel particularly challenging for these people since it’s the phase of a relationship where there’s more insecurity, potentially less communication, and commitment hasn’t been made yet. A typical scenario is if they don’t hear from the person they’re dating for a few days or if the other person takes time to reply to texts. The anxiety can feel almost unbearable. This can put the AP person in chasing mode, where they double text, call until they get an answer, or just demand some kind of reassurance.
Anxious and avoidant types often overly identify with adult relationships and make them the most important thing in their life. They operate from the core wounds of “no one wants to connect with me as deeply as I do” and “I’ll get abandoned sooner or later”. The fear of abandonment is the biggest fear of an AP person.
Anxious-Preoccupied Attachment Style: 3 Dating Tips
Here are some tips for making the relationship rollercoaster for APs feel more like a smooth sail:
Get clear on your values and needs. Awareness is the first step to change. To know what makes you feel anxious in a relationship, journal or contemplate your values and needs. When you feel triggered, you can tie the feeling to what value is not being met and communicate it to your partner.
Communicate instead of jumping to conclusions. AP people tend to take even the slightest emotional distance personally. Because of their fear of abandonment, they tend to have poor boundaries and avoid sharing their worries. Remember that you matter, and it’s better that you are open and honest from the start – it’s all about how you communicate your concerns.
An example: everything is going well with a new love interest, when suddenly, you don’t hear from them for a few days. You feel that anxiety and intense fear build up. Have they lost interest? Did you say something wrong?
When this happens, the trick is to catch yourself in the moment, take a deep breath, and feel how you can communicate your feelings from a place of love. It could look like sending a text like this:
"Hi there! How are you doing? I assume you’re busy since I haven’t heard from you for the past few days. I just wanted to be fully transparent that I feel anxious and insecure when we go several days without speaking. Are you free this evening to catch up over the phone? It would mean a lot to me."
Notice the use of “I” and “we” over you – it’s important to share your experience rather than accusing the other person.
Avoid playing the relationship out in your head. Of all the attachment styles, AP people may be the most prone to falling in love with potential, thinking about future relationships. This can look like idealizing your partner before they have proven themselves, going into neediness and becoming attached to them. While it’s important not to assume the worst, the opposite is also true – the evolution of the relationship needs to be assessed based on facts rather than fantasies.
If your partner shows no effort in compromising and meeting your needs despite you communicating them clearly, and you are in a constant state of anxiety, it’s probably best to move on.
Understanding the Fearful Avoidant Attachment Style
Around 2% of us are fearful avoidants. A fearful avoidant (FA) person carries traits from both the anxious and the avoidant – they want closeness, yet fear it. They are desperate to be loved but terrified to be seen. When dating, they tend to be quick to express love and affection, but withdraw as soon as commitment comes up for discussion.
The amount of texting/engaging from a FA during dating may be the most unpredictable of all attachment styles since it’s highly dependent on their current emotional state. Job stress or family issues often make them go MIA. If their date is anxiously attached, this can be interpreted as the FA not caring or losing interest. They are the most likely to engage in hot/cold behavior – either from fear of commitment or because of emotional stress in other areas of life, which can confuse potential securely attached partners.
The biggest fear of the FA is to be abandoned, rejected, or betrayed. They have developed the opposite coping strategy than AP people: rather than chasing, they run away when feeling distance from their partner – abandon to avoid being abandoned.
FAs are used to people-pleasing and have poor boundaries. They avoid for other reasons than the dismissive avoidant: because close relationships are equal to codependency, and they feel the heaviness of being responsible for another person’s feelings together with the guilt and shame if they “fail” – so it’s easier to stay away from easy intimacy. Vulnerability feels scary because of the fear of being rejected if they express their true self.
Learning how to overcome your fearful avoidant traits can help you date without insecurities, helping you find your true love.
Fearful Avoidant Attachment Style and Dating: 3 Tips
Journal around your relationship beliefs. Get aware of the limiting beliefs you have around relationships. Do you (subconsciously) believe that relationships lead to codependency, or losing your sense of self? Is there a part of you not feeling worthy of receiving love? Clarity makes it easier to understand your triggers when they arise and be able to choose a different reaction. This can be particular common if they've had previous toxic past relationships.
Get clear on how often you desire to communicate during dating. It’s easy to assume everyone has the same standards around communication. That’s not the case. As a FA, you might feel trapped if you’re expected to communicate daily. To avoid friction and conflict, once you’re clear on how often you feel like being in touch, share this with the person you’re dating. If you can’t agree on this, you may want to consider moving on.
Practice communicating instead of running away. Due to subconscious programming, you may feel the instinct to run away as commitment comes up, or your date seeks to get to know you. As scary as it can feel, practice communicating that you need distance instead of just dropping out without explanation. One way to reprogram limiting beliefs is by taking actions that disprove them so that you can make space for more abundant thoughts – and a more abundant reality – instead!
Understanding the Dismissive Avoidant Attachment Style
People with a dismissive avoidant attachment style escape when they feel triggered. They find it challenging to open up and be vulnerable – they want connection but not commitment. Because of this fear of commitment, dismissive avoidants (DAs) are sometimes referred to as love avoidants. Their childhood trauma makes them disconnected from their emotions to the point of not noticing when they catch feelings for someone until months or years later.
In reality, DAs want closeness just like everyone else, but their nervous system has been programmed to associate love with danger. Their fight-and-flight response fires when someone gets too close too fast. This is why dating can feel challenging for DAs. They often want to take things slow and stay in the dating phase longer than the other attachment styles, which can be misinterpreted as a lack of interest.
Dismissive Avoidant Attachment Style and Dating: 3 Tips
Set a timeframe for commitment. As mentioned above, DAs often need more time than the other styles to commit. This can be a dealbreaker if they see someone with a different attachment style. A tip is to set a timeframe that both parties can agree upon for when commitment will be discussed. The DA gets their time and space, and the other person knows that there’s a “deadline” and that they won’t be stuck in a situationship for years.
Practice vulnerability – one step at a time. Vulnerability is key in romantic relationships. It’s an ingredient you can’t skip in moving the relationship forward. As a DA, needing to be vulnerable likely trigger your instinct to escape – so this is probably the number one thing to focus on healing.
Allow yourself to take one step at a time and positively reinforce when you dare open up. The goal is to reprogram your subconscious and show yourself that vulnerability is not dangerous, but beautiful.
Communicate your needs for alone time. Just like the FA, you need alone time during dating. If you have spent a weekend together with your date, and feel the relationship is getting more serious, you probably want to retreat and get into your own space. This can be triggering for the person you’re seeing.
Practice communicating that this is how you work right now, and that your need for alone time is nothing personal. The right person will understand, and if the relationship matures into a healthy commitment, this urge will be less prominent.
Dating can be daunting for all the insecure attachment styles. Knowing how to navigate this phase, and that you’re not alone in what you’re going through, will hopefully make the road less bumpy. No matter what you’ve been through, shifting into a secure attachment style is always possible. And before you notice, you will slowly start to enjoy dating!
Our courses on attachment styles can help you learn how to let go of old baggages and attract healthy and secure relationships.
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