The fearful-avoidant attachment style is one of four attachment styles that describe how a person feels and acts in their relationships based on how they learned to attach to their caregivers growing up. The other attachment styles are anxious/preoccupied attachment, avoidant/dismissive attachment, and secure attachment. Not sure which style fits you? I highly recommend this quiz from The Attachment Project.
So what is the fearful-avoidant attachment style? Sometimes called disorganized or just plain “fearful” attachment, this is an attachment style based on fear. Fear of everything: abandonment, intimacy, being too much, not being enough, everything presents a potential danger to you. Generally, people with this attachment style grew up with caregivers who were unable to appropriately and consistently comfort them when they were afraid or upset. These children learned that sometimes their caregiver was just as frightening or upsetting as whatever upset them in the first place. As a result, they craved closeness, but also feared it.
Sound familiar? Here are 14 signs you might have a fearful-avoidant attachment style:
- You sometimes find yourself missing your partner, but when you do finally see them, you end up picking fights.
- You often attempt to hide your feelings (to avoid seeming clingy, to avoid conflict, to avoid vulnerability) but can’t seem to keep them to yourself.
- When you’re upset about something, you plan out exactly what you’re going to say to share your feelings with someone, but then you just can’t bring yourself to actually say it.
- You’re constantly looking for cues that your partner is upset.
- You find yourself creating self-fulfilling prophecies. For example, you worry that your partner thinks you’re clingy, so you try not to need them but that just makes you clingier until they really do think you’re clingy, even if they didn’t at first.
- You have no idea how to get your needs met. You might not even really understand what your needs are until they are overwhelming.
- It feels like you and your partner always have bad timing. If they’re in a good mood, you’re in a rotten one. If you want to be intimate, they aren’t into it. You’re just never in sync.
- You tend to take everything your partner does very personally.
- You feel like you have a frustrating lack of agency over your own life. You often feel like your choices don’t matter because no matter what, you just can’t win.
- You want to be in a relationship, but any time you start talking to someone you either panic or shut down.
- You have the feeling that you’re just doing relationships wrong, somehow. Surely it should be easier than this.
- You have a very hard time disagreeing with your partner politely. You either shut up or blow up.
- You are very good at letting people get to know you well enough that they feel comfortable without actually being vulnerable in any way.
- Deep down, you’re worried if someone really knew you completely, they would hate you.