GETTING OFF THE ROLLER-COASTER: BREAKING OUT OF THE ANXIOUS-AVOIDANT CYCLE
Attachment research suggests that if we are paired with a secure partner we are less likely to experience this roller-coaster dynamic. But what happens if we are not paired with a secure partner? If we have invested in a long-term committed relationship and don’t want to walk away? We can get stuck in a pattern psychological research calls the anxious avoidant trap.
I have a strong desire and passion to see people’s relationships and marriages flourish! Are there times when people need to end relationships? Yes! There certainly are, but if both partners are on board and willing to try, relationships can grow and thrive. Not every anxious avoidant relationship fits this mold; there are exceptions to every rule. However,without an understanding of each other’s needs and effective communication, this pairing can easily get stuck in this pattern.
So what happens if we find ourselves in the anxious-avoidant trap? Its called a trap because it is an unhealthy pattern of interaction between an anxious and an avoidant partner that is very difficult to break out of. The closer the anxious partner tries to get, the more distant the avoidant partner acts. Once that happens, the activated person seeks more reassurance from their partner and is met yet again with more deactivation. It is a cycle of exacerbating each other’s insecurities. One of the first steps in escaping the trap is to understand the various thoughts, feelings and actions that are at play and that perpetuate the situation.
When you take time to go through the thoughts, feelings and actions of each partner, you begin to see how they are operating from opposite places. These thoughts and feelings tend to trigger the other person, which just leads to a cyclical pattern in the relationship.
How can we break free?
ASK YOURSELF WHAT WOULD A SECURE PERSON DO?
If we read back over the secure attachment article or picture asecure individual in our lives, how would they act or deal with the situation? What would they do differently? Amir Levine and Rachel Heller suggest that they would be available, not interfere, act encouragingly, communicate effectively, not play games, view themselves as responsible for their partners well being, allow themselves to be vulnerable, maintain focus on the problem at hand, avoid generalizations during conflict and put out fires quickly. These are all things that we can consciously learn to do to avoid entering into, or prolonging these attachment system flare-ups.
UNDERSTAND WHAT MAKES YOU TICK IN RELATIONSHIPS.
Know what thoughts, feelings and actions you are prone to experience. When you do this you are better about to control your reactions and communicate effectively in your relationship. Also learn what makes your partner tick, it will help you to be less defensive and have a different perspective on their interactions.
START TO REFRAME YOUR PAST RELATIONSHIP EXPERIENCES.
We all have “working models” which are our belief systems around various topics. In this situation, working models about romantic relationships are the beliefs that we have about relationships based on our own experiences and the experiences of others around us. Let’s begin to change these working models by applying what we have now leaned to the memories of previous relationships. I know it is a bizarre concept to think that we can reshape our memories since we often view them as snap shots or pictures. But in fact, our memories are alive and fluid snippets that are highly biased to our perspective. Understanding ourselves now can better help us understand our previous experiences and change the way we view those situations. It all sounds so deep and nerdy of me I know, but trust me it works!