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How To Stop Insecure Attachment from Wreaking Havoc on Your Love Life

How To Stop Insecure Attachment from Wreaking Havoc on Your Love Life

We are naturally wired biologically to desire attachment to others. Learning how to attach to others begins from the day we are born. We begin learning from birth about attachment and how relationships work through the interactions and care we receive from our primary caregiver (usually mom or dad).

The attachment of an infant to parent (or caregiver) can have a lasting impact on an individual and their adult relationships. Our relationships in infancy can have a profound affect on our future relationships because of what we learned in our earliest relationships.

When insecure attachment takes place during infancy and childhood, this can wreak havoc on adult relationships. Problems such as abuse, clinging to abusers, low self esteem, control issues, jealousy, emotional dependency, and relationship paranoia can become prevalent when insecure attachment in infancy/childhood affects adult relationships.

Not to fear though; there are many individuals who have experienced insecure attachment in infancy and childhood and have healthy relationships in adulthood. The key is recognizing the behaviors that may stem from insecure attachment and learn how to handle them.

What Causes Insecure Attachment?

As infants, we need a caregiver that is loving, attentive, and affectionate. The relationship between the caregiver (typically a parent) and baby creates a bond or attachment. A healthy and secure attachment occurs when the caregiver meets the babies needs and is loving. When there are problems with the care that is provided, insecure attachment occurs.

Healthy attachment is known as secure attachment. When secure attachment doesn’t occur, then by default an insecure attachment takes place. It is helpful to understand why insecure attachment may have occurred, so you can understand how your adult relationships have potentially been affected by your first relationships in life.

Insecure attachment can happen for a variety of reasons. There are also levels of insecure attachment based on the severity of the situation.

Physical Abuse and Neglect by Caregivers

For example, a baby that has endured physical abuse and neglect by their caregiver will likely be highly insecurely attached. They have a distrust of their caregiver because of the abuse. They will likely also have fear of this caregiver.

The infant desires love and care from the caregiver, but what they are given is harm and lack of care. This will affect their adult relationships, because they intrinsically learn that the one that they are supposed to trust the most harms them.

No Affectionate Interactions

Another way that insecure attachment occurs is when the physical needs for the baby are met, but there is no affectionate interactions. You can see extreme cases of this example in orphanages. The babies are provided with basic essential needs such as a crib to sleep and milk to drink. They are clothed and diapers are changed.

However, these babies do not receive affection and interaction from their caregiver. They are left alone in their crib for most of the hours of the day. They have learned that crying for affection and attention has not brought anyone to meet this need, so they have stopped crying for these emotional needs to be met.

Instead, they have a lack of emotional attachment or an insecure attachment because they do not have an interactive, affectionate relationship with a caregiver. This insecure attachment will likely affect their adult relationships.

A child can also grow up in a “normal home” and not have these emotional needs met. Their primary caregiver may attend to the physical needs, but fail to interact with them. The caregiver does not talk to the baby, play with the baby, or give the baby cuddles, hugs, and kisses. The caregiver, for whatever reason, does not provide the emotional interactions that are needed for the baby to bond and attach. Thus, insecure attachment occurs and adult relationships are affected in the future.

Inconsistency in Meeting the Baby’s Needs

Another example of why insecure attachment occurs is that of inconsistency in meeting the baby’s needs. In this situation, the baby’s needs are sometimes met when they cry and fuss. However, other times the baby is left to cry and cry without their needs being met.

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There is an inconsistency in the care from their primary caregiver. This creates a distrust from the child to parent. The baby learns that they cannot fully count on their caregiver to provide for their needs or comfort them all of the time.

An insecurity within the child will develop because they do not know when they can count on their caregiver to provide for them. There is an uncertainty in having their needs met which creates anxiety as well as distrust.

This can obviously carry into adult intimate relationships and wreak havoc.

10 Signs of Insecure Attachment

There are some behaviors that are caused by insecure attachment. A variety of unhealthy behaviors can present in early childhood because of insecure attachment.

This article will focus on the behaviors that are evident in adulthood because of insecure attachment. Here are some behaviors that can result from insecure attachment in infancy which results in unhealthy and insecurely attached adult relationships:

1. Demand Time

For example, you do not want your spouse or partner to do things without you. Your desire is to spend all of your and their spare time together. You demand their time and attention, to the exclusion of other friendships and relationships.

2. Suspicion or Jealousy

For example, you are suspicious of your partner or spouse’s behavior and the people they work with. You question their work relationships and who they interact with in the workplace.

You are suspicious of anyone that you feel they are getting to close to, as you fear they may leave you for another individual.

3. Lack of Emotional Intimacy

For example, your spouse or partner feels that they emotionally can’t get close to you. They describe you as someone who “puts up walls” or that you are generally hard to get close to emotionally.

4. Emotional Dependency

For instance, you depend on your spouse or partner for your emotional well-being. Your expectation is that your happiness comes from your relationship.

If you aren’t happy, it’s because you feel you aren’t being fulfilled by your partner or spouse.

5. Fearful

For example, you desire closeness in your intimate relationships. However, your experience has been that if you get too close to your loved one, they will hurt you. This causes you to be a mix of emotions.

You draw your loved one near and then you push him or her away. Your fear of getting too close because you don’t want to get hurt causes relationship dysfunction.

6. Lack of Trust

You don’t trust your spouse or partner to do right by you. You fear they may cheat on you or you fear that they will leave you. You cannot seem to bring yourself to fully trusting him or her.

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7. Emotionally Shut off

In heated arguments you shut down and turn off emotionally. You close yourself off emotionally because you don’t want to get hurt any further.

8. Fear of Abandonment

You fear that your spouse or partner will one day leave you. You don’t have any justified reason for having this belief. Instead, it is a fear you harbor deep inside and it prevents you for getting too close to him or her because deep down you believe they are someday going to leave you anyway.

This fear may stem from being left by your caregiver. Even if they came back to get you, the fear can still remain if you have an insecure attachment.

9. Controlling

You dominate your intimate relationship and try to control your partner or spouse. Your underlying fear of rejection or of having the relationship not meet your needs drives your controlling behavior.

You may dictate how things are run in your household and how your spouse/partner is to act. You feel that if you have control over their behavior and the functioning of your household, then you have control over the potential for being hurt in the relationship.

Fear drives the controlling behaviors.

10. Affection Issues

You are not comfortable with hugs and other forms of public displays of affection that seem normal to others. You may not have any issues being intimate in private because you are having a need met, but your physical affection in public suffers.

Your discomfort may stem from not being held and provided with attention as an infant or child. Your relationship with your caregiver was cold in comparison to a securely attachment caregiver and child relationship.

Because of this lack of affection, you have not learned how to give and receive physical affection comfortably.

A Rocky Relationship

Typically what you can expect in an insecurely attached adult relationship is one of two directions: rocky with lots of ups and downs or ambivalence.

The rocky relationships develop because the individual has mixed feelings. They want a close relationship, but they have been harmed by the one who was supposed to care the most for them (their caregiver in infancy).

They draw near and then push away when things get tough. This causes them to also create defense mechanisms to protect themselves when problems arise in the relationship. Defense mechanisms can be unhealthy and cause more turmoil.

The ambivalence can stem from not having needs met as an infant, so they have learned to not care. They develop a wall because they cannot count on others to meet their needs (or so they think because of their past experience).

They will prevent themselves from getting too emotionally involved and attached to others because they have a distrust of others to meet their emotional and/or physical needs.

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The Solution to Your Attachment Problem

The solution to your attachment problem is first recognizing that there is a problem. Next you must figure out which behaviors in your current relationship are unhealthy and stem from this problem, so that you can then work to correct the behaviors.

1. Recognizing the Problematic Behavior

You cannot fix something unless you recognize that it is broken. The first step to healing a relationship and resolving insecure attachment is identifying that there is a problem.

The problem manifests itself in our behaviors. The examples provided above are just some of the behaviors that can result from insecure attachment. There are many others.

The key is recognizing if there is something wrong in your intimate relationships which is revealed in a pattern of behavior that potentially stems from insecure attachment.

No parent or caregiver is perfect, because there are no perfect people. We are all flawed beings, so don’t be quick to blame your parents for your current relationships. They may not have done everything perfect, but you are responsible for your own actions as an adult.

You can learn to have securely attached adult relationships, even if you had the most broken and insecurely attached relationships in infancy and childhood.

2. Develop Relationships with Those who can Securely Attach

A relationship between two individuals who suffer from insecure attachment will never result in a securely attached relationship without help. It is hard enough to have a relationship between two healthy individuals who experienced securely attached relationships in childhood.

When one individual has attachment issues, there will be problems in the relationship because their behavior will manifest the problem. If both individuals have attachment issues, it is more likely that the relationship will have a great deal of problems, drama, and extreme behaviors.

The goal is to have a healthy relationship between two individuals who can have healthy and secure attachments in their adult relationships. If one or both recognize that there are behaviors that stem from insecure attachment, then help should be sought.

If you are wondering whether you are able to securely attach in a relationship, there is a free test that you can take here: Attachment Styles and Close Relationships. This test can help you better understand the way you think, behave, and your subsequent ability to securely attach in a relationship.

3. Therapy

Therapy is the best way to overcome behaviors that stem from insecure attachment.

When seeking out a therapist or counselor in helping you overcome your insecure attachment, ask the right questions. Ask if they have helped others with this problem. Then ask if their client was able to overcome the insecure attachment and in turn able to develop a healthy attached relationship.

If you are currently in a relationship, also ask if they will work with both you and your spouse/partner if necessary. In some cases, couple’s therapy is helpful as it can help the other person better understand your problems, so you can work together on the solutions.

4. Deal with your Defense Mechanisms

Defense mechanisms develop as a way for us to protect ourselves. When we have anxieties and fears that we don’t know how to handle with good coping skills, we then develop defense mechanisms.

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For example, we may have fear of abandonment issues because of real abandonment that happened in childhood. We carry that issue into our intimate relationships in adulthood because we haven’t learn to deal with this fear properly.

In turn, we displace (the defense mechanism) the fear from childhood onto our current partner and act out of this fear. We question their motives and then act clingy when we fear the relationship is rocky. This is obviously not a healthy way to act in a relationship.

Understanding defense mechanisms and recognizing the ones you may be using to squelch your fears and anxieties can help you. Read up on defense mechanisms and look at yourself introspectively to determine if you utilize any unhealthy defense mechanisms.

If you do, then knowing is half the battle. Find new, healthy ways of handling your fears and anxieties. Counseling can help with this as well. Here is a helpful article on the subject: How Not to Let Your Defense Mechanisms Control You

5. Work on Change

The way to change is to recognize the problematic behavior and work to correct it. Once you know that the problem causing the behavior is your insecure attachment from earlier in life, then you can work to change.

For example, you have always avoided talk about marriage and a future together with your significant other. You have a fear of abandonment, so you don’t want to even broach the topic of marriage, because if you got married and they left you it would hurt even more. Your fears are over-riding your decision making.

Once you realize where the fear is coming from, then you can make the decision to take your fears head on by having the discussion about a future and potentially marriage.

If you feel that you can’t do it, then seek out a counselor for help. They can help you work through your fears. Some fears and anxieties are so deeply imbedded that we need help drawing them out and taking them on.

Another example of making change is trusting your spouse/partner. Recognizing that they haven’t had any reason to deserve your distrust is the first step.

Next, work on changing the behaviors that stem from your lack of trust. Perhaps you secretly check their phone daily. Stop doing it.

Make yourself change the behaviors that stem from your past insecure attachments. If you are unable to stop the behavior on your own, then seek a therapist to help you.

Final Thoughts: Don’t Give Up!

Don’t give up on having healthy relationships. Chalking up your behavior to “that’s just who I am”, will not help you have healthy, securely attached relationships.

Identify that you do have a problem, then work to correct the behaviors and you will be on your way to healthier and happier intimate relationships.

You do not have to remain stuck in an insecure relationship status. You have the ability to work to change yourself, starting today.

Featured photo credit: Pablo Merchán Montes via unsplash.com

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Dr. Magdalena Battles

A Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault

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Published on May 4, 2021

How To Spot Fake People (And Ways To Deal With Them)

How To Spot Fake People (And Ways To Deal With Them)

They say we are the average of the five persons we spend the most time with. For a minute, consider the people around you. Are they truly who your “tribe” should be or who you aspire to become in the future? Are they really genuine people who want to see you succeed? Or are they fake people who don’t really want to see you happy?

In this article, I’ll review why it is important to surround yourself with genuine individuals—the ones who care, bring something to our table, and first and foremost, who leave all fakeness behind.

How to Spot Fake People?

When you’ve been working in the helping professions for a while, spotting fake people gets a bit easier. There are some very clear signs that the person you are looking at is hiding something, acting somehow, or simply wanting to get somewhere. Most often, there is a secondary gain—perhaps attention, sympathy, or even a promotion.

Whatever it is, you’re better off working their true agenda and staying the hell away. Here are some things you should look out for to help spot fake people.

1. Full of Themselves

Fake people like to show off. They love looking at themselves in the mirror. They collect photos and videos of every single achievement they had and every part of their body and claim to be the “best at what they do.”

Most of these people are actually not that good in real life. But they act like they are and ensure that they appear better than the next person. The issue for you is that you may find yourself always feeling “beneath” them and irritated at their constant need to be in the spotlight.

2. Murky in Expressing Their Emotions

Have you ever tried having a deep and meaningful conversation with a fake person? It’s almost impossible. It’s because they have limited emotional intelligence and don’t know how they truly feel deep down—and partly because they don’t want to have their true emotions exposed, no matter how normal these might be.

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It’s much harder to say “I’m the best at what I do” while simultaneously sharing “average” emotions with “equal” people.

3. Zero Self-Reflection

To grow, we must accept feedback from others. We must be open to our strengths and to our weaknesses. We must accept that we all come in different shapes and can always improve.

Self-reflection requires us to think, forgive, admit fault, and learn from our mistakes. But to do that, we have to be able to adopt a level of genuineness and depth that fake people don’t routinely have. A fake person generally never apologizes, but when they do, it is often followed with a “but” in the next breath.

4. Unrealistic Perceptions

Fake people most often have an unrealistic perception of the world—things that they want to portray to others (pseudo achievements, materialistic gains, or a made-up sense of happiness) or simply how they genuinely regard life outside themselves.

A lot of fake people hide pain, shame, and other underlying reasons in their behavior. This could explain why they can’t be authentic and/or have difficulties seeing their environment for the way it objectively is (both good and bad).

5. Love Attention

As I mentioned earlier, the biggest sign that something isn’t quite right with someone’s behavior can be established by how much they love attention. Are you being interrupted every time you speak by someone who wants to make sure that the spotlight gets reverted back to them? Is the focus always on them, no matter the topic? If yes, you’re probably dealing with a fake person.

6. People Pleaser

Appreciation feels nice but having everyone like you is even better. While it is completely unrealistic for most people to please everyone all the time, fake people seem to always say yes in pursuit of constant approval.

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Now, this is a problem for two reasons. Firstly, these people are simply saying yes to things for their own satisfaction. Secondly, they often end up changing their minds or retracting their offer for one reason or another (“I would have loved to, but my grandmother suddenly fell ill.”), leaving you in the lurch for the 100th time this year.

7. Sarcasm and Cynicism

Behind the chronic pasted smile, fake people are well known for brewing resentment, jealousy, or anger. This is because, behind the postcard life, they are often unhappy. Sarcasm and cynicism are well known to act as a defense mechanism, sometimes even a diversion—anything so they can remain feeling on top of the world, whether it is through boosting themselves or bringing people down.

8. Crappy friend

Fake people are bad friends. They don’t listen to you, your feelings, and whatever news you might have to share. In fact, you might find yourself migrating away from them when you have exciting or bad news to share, knowing that it will always end up one way—their way. In addition, you might find that they’re not available when you truly need them or worse, cancel plans at the last minute.

It’s not unusual to hear that a fake person talks constantly behind people’s backs. Let’s be honest, if they do it to others, they’re doing it to you too. If your “friend” makes you feel bad constantly, trust me, they’re not achieving their purpose, and they’re simply not a good person to have around.

The sooner you learn to spot these fake people, the sooner you can meet meaningful individuals again.

How to Cope With Fake People Moving Forward?

It is important to remind yourself that you deserve more than what you’re getting. You are worthy, valuable, precious, and just as important as the next person.

There are many ways to manage fake people. Here are some tips on how to deal with them.

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1. Boundaries

Keep your boundaries very clear. As explained in the book Unlock Your Resilience, boundaries are what keep you sane when the world tries to suffocate you. When fake people become emotional vampires, make sure to keep your distances, limit contact, and simply replace them with more valuable interactions.

2. Don’t Take Their Behavior Personally

Sadly, they most likely have behaved this way before they knew you and will continue much longer after you have moved on. It isn’t about you. It is about their inner need to meet a void that you are not responsible for. And in all honesty, unless you are a trained professional, you are unlikely to improve it anyway.

3. Be Upfront and Honest About How You Feel

If your “friend” has been hurtful or engaged in behaviors you struggle with, let them know—nicely, firmly, however you want, but let them know that they are affecting you. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, you’ll feel better and when you’re ready to move on, you’ll know you tried to reach out. Your conscience is clear.

4. Ask for Advice

If you’re unsure about what you’re seeing or feeling, ask for advice. Perhaps a relative, a good friend, or a colleague might have some input as to whether you are overreacting or seeing some genuine concerns.

Now, don’t confuse asking for advice with gossiping behind the fake person’s back because, in the end, you don’t want to stoop down to their level. However, a little reminder as to how to stay on your own wellness track can never hurt.

5. Dig Deeper

Now, this one, I offer with caution. If you are emotionally strong, up to it, guaranteed you won’t get sucked into it, and have the skills to manage, perhaps you could dig into the reasons a fake person is acting the way they do.

Have they suffered recent trauma? Have they been rejected all their lives? Is their self-esteem so low that they must resort to making themselves feel good in any way they can? Sometimes, having an understanding of a person’s behavior can help in processing it.

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6. Practice Self-Care!

Clearly, putting some distance between the fake person and yourself is probably the way to go. However, sometimes, it takes time to get there. In the meantime, make sure to practice self-care, be gentle with yourself, and compensate with lots of positives!

Self-care can be as simple as taking a hot shower after talking to them or declining an invitation when you’re not feeling up to the challenge.

Spotting fake people isn’t too hard. They generally glow with wanna-be vibes. However, most often, there are reasons as to why they are like this. Calling their behavior might be the first step. Providing them with support might be the second. But if these don’t work, it’s time to stay away and surround yourself with the positivity that you deserve.

Final Thoughts

Remember that life is a rollercoaster. It has good moments, tough moments, and moments you wouldn’t change for the world. So, look around and make sure that you take the time to choose the right people to share it all with.

We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with, so take a good look around and choose wisely!

More Tips on Dealing With Fake People

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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