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Why Being an Anxious Dater is Keeping You From Finding Love


A few years ago, the book “Attached” by Amir Levine and Rachel S.F. Heller, had everyone in the psychology world engaging in conversations over our attachment style in intimate and familial relationships. This book claimed that there were basically 3 attachment styles, and most people were fundamentally one type, but could switch if in the right type (or wrong type) of relationship.

The types as discussed in the book were avoidant, anxious, and secure. Avoidant types are those who tend to be commitment phobic and hard to get close to. Avoidant types could be successful in love, but they simply want to keep their lover at arms length. Fundamentally they equate intimacy with death of personal freedom. Secure types crave intimacy and want to be close to someone, but in a healthy way. Though things aren’t always perfect for them, they have the inner tools to create fulfilling relationships without too much drama. And the anxious dater? Well, dating and relationships can be a touchy subject for this type. If you find that dating takes up most of your thinking and your relationships can be described as passionate and tumultuous, you probably fit in this category. I myself have been an anxious type for most of my 20s. Now that I’m in my 30s, I wouldn’t say I’m cured completely, but my inner work did help me land the amazing partner I have now.

Here’s the same advice I would have given myself, if I could go back in time.

Why are you anxious?

The reason you’re so anxious is probably because of your childhood. For some reason your emotional needs weren’t met and now you’re seeking validation through your partners. The trick is that you probably didn’t get your needs met because your primary caregiver was an avoidant type, or because of circumstances, couldn’t connect or give you the amount of love you craved. So now you keep trying to prove your value to partners who just can’t give you the attention, because they’re avoidant, or for other problems in their psyche.

“Because my mother was raising me on her own,” Tina R. laments, “I felt I was always craving her attention. I was always competing with her job or with her boyfriends. The boyfriends were the worst. I felt like they paid attention to me for a little while, and just to be with my mom, but I hated them all. I felt like my mother would rather spend time with them and not me.”

You choose the wrong partners

If you’re an anxious dater, you make it harder on yourself by choosing guys who will make you anxious. Maybe your friends have noticed that you seem to be a magnet for the biggest loser in the room. It feels natural to be with guys who can’t commit or ones you don’t trust. Even if you don’t pick the guys who are obviously bad, sometimes you just pick boyfriends who aren’t completely into you and since you don’t feel completely secure, it sets you up to be miserable. Not good.

Tina R., someone currently receiving therapy for her anxiety, and love life, has a long varied history of picking some bad partners. “My first boyfriend ever was Jake. There was instant chemistry, but before long we started to become toxic. I was always jealous of every girl he spoke to, and in turn he was the same way. As the relationship progressed our fights started to become physical.” Now, looking back, Tina is able to see why she stayed in the relationship:

“I never felt secure in my relationships. I think even though he beat me, he also validated me when the fighting was over with attention. I think he was also an anxious type.”

You’ve established unhealthy patterns in your relationships

Being an anxious type, you tend to create the drama in your relationships. Your partner isn’t showing you enough affection? Well, maybe you should go cold and ignore them completely until they’re able to read your mind and give you the affection you crave. Maybe you should also accuse them of cheating on you with their new coworker. See if you can get a reaction out of them. Even if it’s not a good reaction, it at least gets them to show some emotion, and that’s good right?

Though being an anxious type, you tend to choose bad partners, you also can be the bad partner.

In Tina’s case: “After dating the guy who was physically abusive, I started dating someone who had had relatively calm relationships with his girlfriends in the past. I started accusing him of being with other girls, though I had no proof or reason to think he was. I was always just paranoid. Before long, we started to argue constantly. We’d have big blow outs every few months and break up and then get back together.”

You lack the confidence for better partners and relationships

Even if you know you keep choosing the wrong partners, you start to think you’re not good enough for the stable, healthy, and emotionally secure partners. You may notice that your friends are choosing boyfriends who are very handsome and successful. They also end up having a wonderful relationship built on mutual trust and respect. You wish you could trust someone enough to have the same fun laid back relationships.

Steps to stop

If you feel that you’re an anxious type and it’s affecting your dating life, you may want to consider seeking professional help. Start with analyzing what common themes and patterns your past partners have all shared. How did your behavior hurt or help the relationship? What emotions or thinking occurs during this behavior?
The partner that you pick is also integral to your well being. If in the past you picked others who were untrustworthy, start by picking people who you can trust. Start a relationship with someone where you feel safe in the partnership. The good news is that even an anxious type can become secure with the right information (to realize their destructive behavior) and with the right person.