How to Change Your Attachment Style

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We’re wired for attachment – why babies cry when separated from their mothers. Depending especially upon our mother’s behavior, as well as later experiences and other factors, we develop a style of attaching that affects our behavior in close relationships.

Fortunately, most people have a secure attachment, because it favors survival. It ensures that we’re safe and can help each other in a dangerous environment.

 

It’s customary to feel anxious when we don’t know the whereabouts of our child or a loved one. It’s normal to worry during a disaster, as in the movie “The Impossible.” Frantic calls and searching are considered “protest behavior,” like a baby fretting for its mother.

Attachment Styles

We seek or avoid intimacy along a continuum, but one of the following three styles is generally predominant whether we’re dating or in a long term marriage:

Secure – 50 percent of the population
Anxious – 20 percent of the population
Avoidant – 25 percent of the population
Combinations such as Secure-Anxious or Anxious-Avoidant are 3-5 percent of the population.

Among singles, statistically there are more avoiders since people with a secure attachment are more likely to be in a relationship. Unlike avoiders, they’re not searching for an ideal, so when a relationship ends, they aren’t single too long. This increases the probability that daters who anxiously attach will date avoiders, reinforcing their negative spin on relationship outcomes.

Secure Attachment

Warmth and loving come naturally, and you’re able to be intimate without worrying about the relationship or little misunderstandings. You accept your partner’s minor shortcomings and treat him or her with love and respect. You don’t play games or manipulate, but are direct and able to openly and assertively share your wins and losses, needs, and feelings. You’re also responsive to those of your partner and try to meet your partner’s needs. Because you have good self-esteem, you don’t take things personally and aren’t reactive to criticism. Thus, you don’t become defensive in conflicts. Instead, you de-escalate them by problem-solving, forgiving, and apologizing.

Anxious Attachment

You want to be close and are able to be intimate. To maintain a positive connection, you give up your needs to please and accommodate your partner. But because you don’t get your needs met, you become unhappy. You’re preoccupied with the relationship and highly attuned to your partner, worrying that he or she wants less closeness. You often take things personally with a negative twist and project negative outcomes. This could be explained by brain differences that have been detected among people with anxious attachments.

To alleviate your anxiety, you may play games or manipulate your partner to get attention and reassurance by withdrawing, acting out emotionally, not returning calls, provoking jealousy, or by threatening to leave. You may also become jealous of his or her attention to others and call or text frequently, even when asked not to.

Avoidant Attachment

There are two sub-types: Dismissive-avoidant and fearful-avoidant. If you’re the former, you’re easily able to cut-off difficult emotions. Narcissists fall into this category and those who repress their feelings. If you’re conscious of wanting closeness, but distrust or are fearful of it, you have a fearful-avoidant style.

If you avoid closeness, your independence and self-sufficiency are more important to you than intimacy. You can enjoy closeness – to a limit. In relationships, you act self-sufficient and self-reliant and aren’t comfortable sharing feelings. (For example, in one study of partners saying goodbye in an airport, avoiders didn’t display much contact, anxiety, or sadness in contrast to others.) You protect your freedom and delay commitment. Once committed, you create mental distance with ongoing dissatisfaction about your relationship, focusing on your partner’s minor flaws or reminiscing about your single days or another idealized relationship.

Just as the anxiously attached person is hypervigilant for signs of distance, you’re hypervigilant about your partner’s attempts to control you or limit your autonomy and freedom in any way. You engage in distancing behaviors, such as flirting, making unilateral decisions, ignoring your partner, or dismissing his or her feelings and needs.

Your partner may complain that you don’t seem to need him or her or that you’re not open enough, because you keep secrets or don’t share feelings. In fact, he or she often appears needy to you, but this makes you feel strong and self-sufficient by comparison. You don’t worry about a relationship ending. But if the relationship is threatened, you pretend to yourself that you don’t have attachment needs and bury your feelings of distress. It’s not that the needs don’t exist, they’re repressed. Alternatively, you may become anxious because the possibility of closeness no longer threatens you.

Relationships

Even people who feel independent when on their own are often surprised that they become dependent once they’re romantically involved. This is because intimate relationships unconsciously stimulate your attachment style and either trust or fear from your past experiences. It’s normal to become dependent on your partner to a healthy degree. When your needs are met, you feel secure.

You can assess your partner’s style by their behavior and by their reaction to a direct request for more closeness. Does he or she try to meet your needs or become defensive and uncomfortable or accommodate you once and the return to distancing behavior? Someone who is secure won’t play games, communicates well, and can compromise. A person with an anxious attachment style would welcome more closeness, but still need assurance and worry about the relationship.

Anxious and avoidant attachment styles look like codependency in relationships. They characterize the feelings and behavior of pursuers and distancers described in  The “Dance of Intimacy” and Conquering Shame and Codependency. Each one is unconscious of their needs, which are expressed by the other. This is one reason for their mutual attraction. Pursuers with an anxious style are usually disinterested in someone available with a secure style. They usually attract someone who is avoidant. The anxiety of an insecure attachment is enlivening and familiar though it’s uncomfortable and makes them more anxious. It validates their abandonment fears about relationships and beliefs about not being enough, lovable, or securely loved.

Anxious types tend to bond quickly and don’t take time to assess whether their partner can or wants to meet their needs. They tend to see things they share in common with each new, idealized partner and overlook potential problems. In trying to make the relationship work, they suppress their needs, sending the wrong signals to their partner in the long run. All of this behavior makes attaching to an avoider more probable. When he or she withdraws, their anxiety is aroused, pursuers confuse their longing and anxiety for love rather than realizing it’s their partner’s unavailability that is the problem, not themselves or anything they did or could do in the future to change that. They hang in and try harder, instead of facing the truth and cutting their losses.

Distancers need someone pursuing them to sustain their emotional needs that they largely disown and which wouldn’t be met by another avoider. Unlike those securely attached, pursuers and distancers aren’t skilled at resolving disagreements. They tend to become defensive and attack or withdraw, escalating conflict. Without the chase, conflict, or compulsive behavior, both pursuers and distancers begin to feel depressed and empty due to their painful early attachments.

Changing Styles

Although most people don’t change their attachment style, you can alter yours to be more or less secure depending upon experiences and conscious effort. To change your style to be more secure, seek therapy as well as relationships with others who are capable of a secure attachment. If you have an anxious attachment style, you will feel more stable in a committed relationship with someone who has a secure attachment style. This helps you become more secure. Changing your attachment style and healing from codependency go hand-in-hand. Both involve the following:

  • Heal your shame and raise your self-esteem. (See books on shame and self-esteem.) This enables you to not take things personally.
  • Learn to be assertive. See How to Speak Your Mind: Become Assertive and Set Limits.
  • Learn to identify, honor, and assertively express your emotional needs.
  • Risk being authentic and direct. Don’t play games or try to manipulate your partner’s interest.
  • Practice acceptance of yourself and others to become less faultfinding – a tall order for codependents and distancers.
  • Stop reacting. This can be a challenge, because our nervous system is used to reacting automatically. It often entails being able to identify your triggers, unhook the causes of them, and learning to self-soothe – all which is hard to do on your own. Listen to a Youtube exercise and read tips on self-nurturing
  • learn to resolve conflict and compromise from a “we” perspective.

Pursuers need to become more responsible for themselves and distancers more responsible to their partners. Anxious types must learn to go slow in dating. Distancers need to uncover their vulnerability, honor their need for love, set boundaries verbally, and learn to receive. The result is a more secure interdependent relationship, rather than a codependent relationship or solitude with a false sense of self-sufficiency.

Particularly after leaving an unhappy codependent relationship, both types of fear that being dependent on someone will make them more dependent. That may be true in codependent relationships when there isn’t a secure attachment. However, in a secure relationship, healthy dependency allows you to be more interdependent. You have a safe and secure base from which to explore the world. This is also what gives toddlers the courage to individuate, express their true self, and become more autonomous.

Similarly, people in therapy often fear becoming dependent upon their therapist and leave when they begin to feel a little better. When dependency fears arise, they should be addressed. They’re the same fears that keep them from having secure attachments in relationships and propels them to seek someone avoidant. In fact, good therapy provides a secure attachment to allow people to grow and become more autonomous, not less. Herein lays the paradox: We can be more independent when we’re dependent on someone else – provided it’s a secure attachment. This is another reason why it’s hard to change on your own without therapy or in an insecure relationship without outside support.

To determine your style, take this quiz designed by researcher R. Chris Fraley, PhD.

Suggested reading on attachment:
The many books by John Bowlby
Mikulincer and Shaver, Attachment Adulthood Structure, Dynamics, and Change (2007)
Levine and Heller, Attached (2010)

©Darlene Lancer 2014

 

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Lucy
Lucy
4 years ago

Hi, I just finished your interesting article and also read the dance of intimacy.
I found out that I have an anxious att. But in past I was an avoidant. How this can be possible? Thank you.

Steve
Steve
5 years ago

Hi Darlene,
Thank you for the great article. I found out recently that I am anxious preoccupied, and I am wondering how would anxious – anxious pairing work? Seems like if we both want the same thing, we will make sure to do everything possible to never leave each other. That logically seems like even a more perfect match than anxious secure. Yet I can find no information on the internet about this pairing, it’s all about “look out for the avoidant and stay away”.

Thanks!

Roseanne
Roseanne
5 years ago

Hi Darlene Thank you for an interesting and helpful article. I have been working on codependency issues for some time now. From my own experience, it seems that people with different attachment styles can sometimes ‘react to’ one other. In a previous relationship I was the ‘clingy’ partner fearing rejection, which eventually alienated the other person (who, in hindsight, perhaps wasn’t all that committed to the relationship anyway). In my present relationship my partner seems to need a lot of reassurance and validation, and as a result I crave more separateness and autonomy. Do you have any advice on how… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
5 years ago
Reply to  Roseanne

You might read my article and blog, “The Dance of Intimacy” for suggestions. Conquering Shame and Codependency goes deeper into this dynamic.

Rose
Rose
5 years ago

How would you describe me if this is our case. My husband is a very loving man and he is loving and understanding and meets my needs, I think he is cute and I like being around him too, I do feel that some times he is too loving and I dont always show being loving but we both do our best to meet our needs. I think I have anxious attachment but its leading towards secure attachment with my husband but i never played games to get what i wanted with him. we talk about out needs more and… Read more »

Ana Sanchez
Ana Sanchez
5 years ago

Hi Darlene, I am currenlty 28 years old and have never been able to maintain a relationship for more than 4 months. Like a mysterious switch, “something” happens that just makes everything feel so different. I suddenly start feeling completely disconnected from my partner, from a future being in a couple and start to feel accute anxiety all day long which I cannot convey how painful and utterly distressing it is. I feel panic and dont know why. My partner has done nothing wrong and I am afraid I will never be able to sustain a long term relationship with… Read more »

maryam
maryam
5 years ago

Is It possible that secure attachment change to insecure attachment in marital relationship?
could you please give me some reference to read more about It?

William
William
6 years ago

Hi. I am in a same sex relationship and hope that this does not alter the actions or thoughts of the relationship. I need to focus on me and my concerns. I was laid off from work 3 years ago. I also suffer from depression. I believe that I can relate to the co-dependant in every possible way. My downfall,depression started when I couldn’t find a job. I do have college experience but left the nursing field 12 years ago. My Education etc overqualifies me from jobs I enjoy (waiting tables) talking to people etc. During my unemployment (way too… Read more »

Elle
Elle
6 years ago

Hi Darlene, even though I had been exposed to the codependency literature a number of years ago I didn’t ‘get’ it. Having been in a cult for ten years and having therapy to try and heal, I embarked on a counselling course. I am now in my final year of an advanced counselling diploma. Although we do not study the attachment theory in this course (that is on level five), I stumbled across it and have taken the time to educate myself a little. I have recently also rediscovered the codependency literature again but the difference is this time I… Read more »

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
2 years ago

Darlene,

I love how well you explain attachment. I feel like menopause has played a part in shifting from an anxious to an avoidant attachment. Do you believe menopause can impact it? If so, how common do you think this is?

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
2 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

I never heard of that, but some women have less of a sex drive, and if you feel unattractive, that may influence your desire to mate. Ask yourself how your feelings about yourself and relationships and your priorities have changed.

Jake
Jake
2 years ago

Hi Darlene, I have always been a fairly serious monogamist and now have come to believe that it is due to my anxious attachment style. I push for “answer and commitments” early in relationships even when red flags are present that alert me of a mismatch of personality and life style. I feel like I need the approval of another human to calm myself down and then typically get frustrated because I am not getting enough fulfillment out of the relationship – even if they are great! I am going to begin working with my therapist ASAP. I had a… Read more »

Derek
Derek
3 years ago

Hi Darlene, loved your latest book. Babies develop secure attachment, which begins in utero and goes until the first few years of life. Makes perfect sense, that this attachment style, sets the stage moving forward. And of course, in my past relationships, I would feel secure when my girlfriend would be there and feel incredibly insecure when she was not there. If we’re relying on a lover, a therapist, another person for our security (which is only temporary and conditional), what happens when that person leaves? I feel like, it still doesn’t cut to the core of ‘why we feel… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
3 years ago
Reply to  Derek

Good therapy doesn’t build reliance on the therapist, but over time builds self-reliance. It develops self-love, confidence, and courage and should help you to accept and respond to your feelings and needs in a healthy way. Practice the self-love mediation

Lucy
Lucy
4 years ago

Hi, I just finished your interesting article and also read the dance of intimacy.
I found out that I have an anxious att. But in past I was an avoidant. How this can be possible? Thank you.

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
4 years ago
Reply to  Lucy

It’s not unusual to behave differently in different relationships, because we don’t live in a vacuum. Relationships are systems and we trigger one another. In “Dance of Intimacy,” I point out that partners can reverse roles. If you’re with someone emotionally unavailable, the dance continues as you become a pursuer. The label isn’t as important as realizing that you need to work on deeper issues around intimacy, which accompany codependency, which are explained more fully in Conquering Shame and Codependency.

Bella
Bella
4 years ago

A question: is it necessarily your attachment style when you have a physical deformity or other vulnerability that *does* cause people to have mixed feelings about you/leave you? I score as preoccupied, but I could take this test as the person I was before I ever dated and probably not get that result.

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
4 years ago
Reply to  Bella

Life crises that create shame can make us more vulnerable, but we can heal with therapy and support and become strong again if, even more than we were before. I recommend reading Conquering Shame and Codependency and watching How to Raise Your Self-Esteem.

Mike Wood
Mike Wood
4 years ago

Darlene I am avoidant and I would very much like to change that. I am making headway, but I am challenged in discerning between distancing patterns and real challenges, ex parenting. I am working with a therapist but I was wondering if you had thoughts on how one can determine the difference between real issues of compatibility and avoidant criticism? I recently broke up with a woman I love and It is the first time in life I have missed someone. We disagreed over parenting for a good but spirited child whose behaviour often made us both unhappy. Thanks for… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
4 years ago
Reply to  Mike Wood

You can definitely change your style, but it takes time, guidance, and effort. I couldn’t speculate on your question without know the context and dynamics of the relationship. Learn to be assertive rather than avoidant. There’s more on the dynamics in Conquering Shame and Codependency

Steve
Steve
5 years ago

Hi Darlene,
Thank you for the great article. I found out recently that I am anxious preoccupied, and I am wondering how would anxious – anxious pairing work? Seems like if we both want the same thing, we will make sure to do everything possible to never leave each other. That logically seems like even a more perfect match than anxious secure. Yet I can find no information on the internet about this pairing, it’s all about “look out for the avoidant and stay away”.

Thanks!

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
5 years ago
Reply to  Steve

It’s an interesting question. It predicts a codependent relationship. I presume it’s a new relationship, which is why you’re asking. My guess is that the avoidance-ambivalence will eventually emerge in time, but meanwhile develop your autonomy and heal your anxiety.

Steve
Steve
5 years ago

Hi, maybe I am misunderstanding your reply but. I’m not in a relationship right now. I’m just saying since I am anxious preoccupied, and need intimacy and reassurance as my foremost need. Would it make sense for me to look for and try to find another anxious preoccupied, who wants the exact same thing, and we can completely relate and understand and help each other to feel safe?

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
5 years ago
Reply to  Steve

You’re not in one, because the attraction is unlikely – like same ends of two magnets not attracting.

Tani
Tani
5 years ago

I’ve been in a 10 year off and on relationship with a severe avoidant. We love each other deeply and have had issues leaving one another’s lives for good, but acknowledged and understood our intense anxious-avoidant pattern several years ago. Working to just be friends now. Still, he wants me always. I want him always. But, we’ve become highly aware of our “patterns” and how we trigger one another. The problem is outside of him I’ve been single 11 years. I can’t find someone new to date. Most men I meet just want casual sex or polyamory. So, I stay… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
5 years ago
Reply to  Tani

It sounds like the pain of being alone or fear of it is worse than your relationship. Until that equation changes, nothing will change. Perhaps, go to couples counseling so you can change your pattern together, or invest in creating a happy life single. Also, there are many men who want a serious relationship, so I’m not sure why or whom your attracting or attracted to. See my blog on emotional unavailability. I discuss this in more depth in Conquering Shame and Codependency

Marion Da Silva
Marion Da Silva
11 months ago

I have just left a narcissist after 4 yrs of just emailing him. He never ever wrote to me or sent me a card or emailWas 25 yrs old & I was in my 60’s but very easily fooled!.He Had major fears. I am Hurting!but have assertiveness training & said Goodbye for the 100thtime but mean it this time! Advise me please. Have no money to pay you!

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
11 months ago

Great that you’re learning to be assertive. Do read Codependency for Dummies and ebook and webinar on self-esteem. Attend CoDA.org meetings and lookin into low-fee counseling in your area.

waking up
waking up
5 years ago

I am realizing that when Im talking with people I feel a need to keep the conversation going ..and it relates to a slight feeling of abandonment, as they are detaching . I see it in their eyes and i feel this weird sense of my spirit lodging away from me as they pull away…almost like a small panic attack. I do well socially but I am now realizing how this has caused me to talk too much, when things were going great . and I wreck it. I now know thanks to writers like you, that I have not… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
5 years ago
Reply to  waking up

Your last sentence is very sad, but your insight is incredibly powerful. I think you’re accurate that the need to fill the space probably pushes others away. Another reason people keep talking is not to be judged, or even seen, if they’re silent. I recall using this defense around my mother, who could unexpectedly be judgmental. Experiment with being silent, and see what happens.

Roseanne
Roseanne
5 years ago

Hi Darlene Thank you for an interesting and helpful article. I have been working on codependency issues for some time now. From my own experience, it seems that people with different attachment styles can sometimes ‘react to’ one other. In a previous relationship I was the ‘clingy’ partner fearing rejection, which eventually alienated the other person (who, in hindsight, perhaps wasn’t all that committed to the relationship anyway). In my present relationship my partner seems to need a lot of reassurance and validation, and as a result I crave more separateness and autonomy. Do you have any advice on how… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
5 years ago
Reply to  Roseanne

You might read my article and blog, “The Dance of Intimacy” for suggestions. Conquering Shame and Codependency goes deeper into this dynamic.

Rose
Rose
5 years ago

How would you describe me if this is our case. My husband is a very loving man and he is loving and understanding and meets my needs, I think he is cute and I like being around him too, I do feel that some times he is too loving and I dont always show being loving but we both do our best to meet our needs. I think I have anxious attachment but its leading towards secure attachment with my husband but i never played games to get what i wanted with him. we talk about out needs more and… Read more »

Ana Sanchez
Ana Sanchez
5 years ago

Hi Darlene, I am currenlty 28 years old and have never been able to maintain a relationship for more than 4 months. Like a mysterious switch, “something” happens that just makes everything feel so different. I suddenly start feeling completely disconnected from my partner, from a future being in a couple and start to feel accute anxiety all day long which I cannot convey how painful and utterly distressing it is. I feel panic and dont know why. My partner has done nothing wrong and I am afraid I will never be able to sustain a long term relationship with… Read more »

kh
kh
5 years ago

Hi Darlene, thank you so much, I have ordered your books too. I’ve been in therapy made gains on loving myself and self-esteem, but I am still baffled why I still have the same problems of getting enmeshed with others. For me, I don’t really try to solve their problems, the people I am attracted to are usually pretty healthy, but I just get obsessed with them, preoccupied about them in my thinking constantly, and need their love to feel ok with myself. And it’s with just one person at a time, always in a friendship with another woman (not… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, MFT
5 years ago
Reply to  kh

Obsessions are often a mental way to cope with powerful feelings that need to be explored and released.

Angie
Angie
5 years ago

Thank you for this wonderful, informative article! I have a question about the fluidity of attatchment styles and how for me, it really seems to alternate between being anxious and avoidant during the course of the relationship. In the early stages I am very anxious, sure I am not good enough and hopeful that he will truly love me. Along the way it seems that I pull in my feelings and try hard not to care either way (games). I boost up a sort of false confidence which makes them begin to feel anxious towards me and that behavior repels… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, MFT
5 years ago
Reply to  Angie

I’m not sure that would characterize your true style. Many people are anxious in the beginning of a relationship, until trust and commitment develop. It’s also true that as couples get closer, one or both will become afraid of real intimacy that happens after the romance stage. This is due to the shame you describe. See my blog on “The Dance of Intimacy” and how shame affects intimacy in Conquering Shame and Codependency.

maryam
maryam
5 years ago

Is It possible that secure attachment change to insecure attachment in marital relationship?
could you please give me some reference to read more about It?

Darlene Lancer, MFT
5 years ago
Reply to  maryam

There are references at the end of the article. I’m not sure if any research has been done on your question. The person’s style would have to have been established before the marriage. I do know that someone who is in a relationship with an unavailable or unfaithful partner, will become more anxious, but a distancer with a pursuer will also become more distant – whether their styles predated the relationship, I wouldn’t know and it might be idiosyncratic to the people and particular relationship. The changes you imply may indicate problems in the relationship that need to be addressed… Read more »

Gale
Gale
5 years ago

How does the attachment style relate to “stuff,” personal belongings? I am in the preoccupied range on the scale and I’m also overwhelmed and really struggling to deal with my books and collections and/or downsize a crowded house. I’m not a hoarder but I’m strongly attached to my stuff and it is painful to part with it. Is there a correlation between keeping too much stuff and codependency? I’m sorting through and shedding stuff, but it’s very slow going.

Darlene Lancer, MFT
5 years ago
Reply to  Gale

If you think you may be codependent you likely are. Attachment style refers to interpersonal relationships not to stuff; however, there is some evidence that cluttering is related to past trauma and is also learned behavior from your family of origin. Do some self-examination on what your stuff means, how it makes you feel, what are the pro’s and con’s of keeping it. What does it prevent you from doing. Also, read the “Symptoms of Codependency” and take the codependency quiz in Codependency for Dummies.

Karen
Karen
6 years ago

Dear Darlene, Thank you. I now (maybe?) understand why my husband of 22 years (27 together) just left me. I have anxious attachment and he is an avoidant. Six months ago he said he didn’t want to be married anymore. We went back to our therapist and he said he wanted us to grow old together, loved me, wanted to connect, etc. Our therapist was even surprised. I blamed his job and stress. He said he doesn’t want conflict, wants to be alone, this is how he “feels” and now he is calm and relaxed. (Sure-I’ve got the kids and… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, MFT
6 years ago
Reply to  Karen

Your feelings are quite understandable. If you change your style, it might. Since I don’t know how you two operate, you’d be better off asking your therapist. You might see yourselves described in my book, Conquering Shame, Chapter 3

MPR
MPR
1 year ago
Reply to  Karen

I’m coming up on just the first anniversary of my marriage and I already feel the same way I end up feeling in every relationship after the initial phase passes and cohabitation occurs – exactly like this woman says her husband feels – the only way I can feel relaxed and calm is when someone else’s constant need for attention, validation and companionship is not my responsibility. My wife has even said that she isn’t as needy or preoccupied with thoughts about me as I claim to think she is, but having been involved with even less securely attached partners… Read more »

Crystal Manning
Crystal Manning
6 years ago

Hi, Darlene. I’m interested in adapting my attachment style from anxious to secure. I am looking for a psychologist, but I can’t pin down a specialty. Attachment theory doesn’t exactly pop up on the clinician’s list. I don’t even know if co-dependency is in the DSM (or whatever that big book on mental conditions I learned about in psych 1 was. lol). How do I pinpoint the proper help? I need to get started as soon as possible, but I can’t find the right person. :/ Thanks.

Darlene Lancer, MFT
6 years ago

Healing codependency and individuating heal your attachment style. A good therapist will help with this. CBT as well as psychodynamic work are called for. If you’ve had abandonment trauma, typical of codependents, be sure that they work with that, too. Going to CoDA and doing the exercises in my books will help, also.

William
William
6 years ago

Hi. I am in a same sex relationship and hope that this does not alter the actions or thoughts of the relationship. I need to focus on me and my concerns. I was laid off from work 3 years ago. I also suffer from depression. I believe that I can relate to the co-dependant in every possible way. My downfall,depression started when I couldn’t find a job. I do have college experience but left the nursing field 12 years ago. My Education etc overqualifies me from jobs I enjoy (waiting tables) talking to people etc. During my unemployment (way too… Read more »

Elle
Elle
6 years ago

Hi Darlene, even though I had been exposed to the codependency literature a number of years ago I didn’t ‘get’ it. Having been in a cult for ten years and having therapy to try and heal, I embarked on a counselling course. I am now in my final year of an advanced counselling diploma. Although we do not study the attachment theory in this course (that is on level five), I stumbled across it and have taken the time to educate myself a little. I have recently also rediscovered the codependency literature again but the difference is this time I… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, MFT
6 years ago
Reply to  Elle

It’s been said that codependency is an attachment disorder, so be compassionate with yourself, as the map was laid out before you had any choices. However, it is changeable, but takes time and patience.

Natalie
Natalie
6 years ago

Hi Darlene Thank you so much for your great blog I learned alot I recently got married to a man i know for 10 years. I took the quiz and i fall into the preoccupied section. I will try to work on the tips you have given. I think my husband has a secure attachment style however it hasnt helped me. From the beg of our relationship til this moment i dont feel like he will stay with me. I continuously feel as if he will get bored of me and leave me eventually. Every little thing is a signal… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, MFT
6 years ago
Reply to  Natalie

You seem to realize that you’re projecting. Cheating may have been part of your legacy in your family of origin, and that’s something to explore and also why you cheated. Change the beliefs and learn what you need so you won’t do that again. Believing he will leave is based on your feelings of unworthiness. Read my book on Conquering Shame and do the exercises there. It’s helped many people.

anon
anon
6 years ago

Is it possible to start off avoidant and become anxious? In my teens I was in a lot of relationships but I stayed emotionally detached and was really just in it for the sex. I considered sex and love to be mutually exclusive. I wasn’t massively upset when relationships ended either, although I guess I was usually the person to end them so maybe that’s why. I was also trapped in a relationship with someone who was definitely anxiously-attached in a destructive and abusive way when I was a teenager (he stalked, he controlled, he was constantly jealous, etc.) Years… Read more »

lisa wilson
lisa wilson
6 years ago

Another great article, Darlene! I have learned a lot from you and refer clients to your blog as well. Thanks for being so open to sharing your wisdom!
Lisa

Tani
Tani
5 years ago

I’ve been in a 10 year off and on relationship with a severe avoidant. We love each other deeply and have had issues leaving one another’s lives for good, but acknowledged and understood our intense anxious-avoidant pattern several years ago. Working to just be friends now. Still, he wants me always. I want him always. But, we’ve become highly aware of our “patterns” and how we trigger one another. The problem is outside of him I’ve been single 11 years. I can’t find someone new to date. Most men I meet just want casual sex or polyamory. So, I stay… Read more »

Mike Wood
4 years ago
Reply to  Tani

Darlene I am avoidant and I would very much like to change that. I am making headway, but I am challenged in discerning between distancing patterns and real challenges, ex parenting. I am working with a therapist but I was wondering if you had thoughts on how one can determine the difference between real issues of compatibility and avoidant criticism? I recently broke up with a woman I love and It is the first time in life I have missed someone. We disagreed over parenting for a good but spirited child whose behaviour often made us both unhappy. Thanks for… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
4 years ago
Reply to  Mike Wood

You can definitely change your style, but it takes time, guidance, and effort. I couldn’t speculate on your question without know the context and dynamics of the relationship. Learn to be assertive rather than avoidant. There’s more on the dynamics in Conquering Shame and Codependency

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