At 35, Gwen is a successful businesswoman—an executive in advertising— and well-regarded but her personal life is another story. As the daughter of a highly controlling mother whom she tries desperately to please but who makes her feel like a failure because nothing she does is ever good enough, she still struggles with relationships: “ I am always waiting for the other shoe to drop. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a girlfriend or a lover—I anticipate rejection all the time. It’s driving my current boyfriend crazy, in fact. I think he’s tired of reassuring me.”
The kind of anxiety Gwen displays isn’t all that unusual for unloved daughters; it’s one category of insecure attachment called anxious-preoccupied. By her own account, Gwen never lets her guard down, even if the person she’s with appears to be caring and attentive; she’s too busy scanning the horizon for signs that things are about to go south and she’s going to be dumped and left alone, once again.
Is this you?
Check the following descriptions and see how closely they reflect your behaviors.
- You worry about the relationship constantly
No matter how well things seem to be going, you obsess about every gesture and word, and never relax or feel safe. If you text your lover and he doesn’t immediately respond, you’re positive that this is a sign that the relationship is on the brink. When you’re apart, all you can think about is that he’ll meet someone new and head out for greener pastures. When he doesn’t call you as promised, you are flooded with feelings of anger and panic.
- You cling to your partner for dear life
Unloved daughters generally have difficulty managing boundaries and, in your case, close others are always asking you for “more space” but you just can’t do it. No matter how hard you try, you spend just about every waking hour of the day thinking about him, worrying about whether the relationship will work out. Even when he makes you unhappy or angry, the only way you can reassure yourself is to hold tight.
- You’re reactive to his every word and gesture
Because anxiously attached women are always on the lookout for clues that they’ll soon be abandoned, they are overly sensitive, unconsciously interpreting events through the filter of anxiety. Small things—he’s late meeting you one day or forgets to bring the thing you asked him to pick up—get magnified as “signs” that he really doesn’t care about you after all. He’s meeting old college buddies and doesn’t ask you to join. Never mind that no one else is bringing girlfriends or even spouses; you’re convinced that he’s ashamed of you or on the lookout for someone new.
Is this you? If it is, there are better ways to cope. The first step is recognition.
Copyright © Peg Streep 2016
Photograph by Jonathan Velasquez, copyright free. Unsplash.com
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