Fearful Attachment: Conflicted in Love

This conflict between an intense fear of rejection and a desperate need for reassurance and closeness is typical of people with a fearful attachment style. When they are not totally avoiding relationships,
they end up behaving in contradictory and confusing ways. Prone to seeing partners as emotionally distant, they sometimes try desperately to get their partners’ approval and attention by using hyperactivating strategies such as exaggerating their distress. However, when they perceive
their partners as getting close, they feel vulnerable to getting hurt. So they instinctively look to protect themselves from their partner, turning to deactivating strategies to avoid intimacy.

In case, he would spend his weekends repairing old furniture, limiting the time he could be with his girlfriend (when he had one). This constant tension between being too close or too distant leaves fearfully attached people chronically distressed, insecure, extremely passive, and emotionally distant. Not surprisingly, they are at high risk for anxiety, depression, and other emotional struggles.

Convinced that their partners are emotionally unavailable, fearfully attached people tend to view their partners in a particularly negative light and have trouble empathizing with them. For instance,
when a man was dating a pretty woman and would meet her after work for dinner, he would invariably conclude she was uninterested in him when she was really just tired from a long day. This predisposition, of course, creates tension in relationships. But those with a fearful style are likely to just stew in their feelings rather than directly address them. Probably because of their sense that they are unworthy of love, they tend to remain in their relationships even when those relationships
are seriously troubled or even abusive. On the other hand, because of their discomfort with intimacy and being appreciated (though it’s what they desperately want), they are likely to feel something
is wrong and end a relationship, even when they are in love and their partner is truly caring.

Just as they struggle with being emotionally intimate with their partners, they also struggle with being physically intimate. Sometimes this means using casual sex as a way of remaining emotionally distant and safe while also trying to meet their need for comfort, acceptance, and reassurance. They might do this with one-night stands or short-term relationships (that end when they start feeling vulnerable). When they are less focused on meeting their attachment needs and are more in the mode of protecting themselves, they are likely to avoid sexual intimacy and its accompanying vulnerability.

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