Avoidant and Anxious Relationship Struggles: How to Spot the Trap
Updated: Mar 3
If you are someone who finds yourself walking on eggshells around a partner, and always chasing them down for a little emotional connection…
Or on the other hand, if you struggle with feeling suffocated and losing interest in a relationship, just as things are about to get good and comfortable…
This video is for you.
In a previous youtube video, I discussed 6 signs of the anxious-avoidant trap, which is a circumstance that demonstrates itself on one of two conditions:
(1) One partner always feels as if they are chasing down the other, who seems to need to keep a certain amount of physical and emotional distance between them.
(2) In the second condition, one chases until the other turns around and starts to reciprocate, then, suddenly, the chaser freaks out, starts to doubt everything, and becomes the runner, instead.
These types of relationships evolve into a push-pull, roller coaster pattern that creates an addictive cycle of what Helen Fischer calls “frustration attraction,” which is when our brain’s reward centers are lit up when we receive intermittent and unpredictable reinforcement; like sporadic attention from an unpredictable lover.
And so, those six signs I mentioned in that other video, I will recap here in brief:
1. Emotional Token Economy: Love is expressed conditionally, and typically thought of as a scarce resource.
2. Stable Instability: The relationship predictably Involves conflict, and neither partner ever feels like they are on stable ground.
3. Pointless Fighting: you will find yourself arguing over small things which do not appear to warrant the kind of emotional reaction that is triggered.
4. Perceived as the enemy: you tend to view your partner as an enemy who is trying to control you, or get one over on you in someway.
5. Feeling trapped: avoidant individuals typically feel trapped by the expectations of their partners, anxious individuals typically feel trapped by the idea that this is the best they can do, and a compulsion to settle.
6. The roller-coaster effect: to balance destabilizing conflicts there will typically be phases of intermittent positive reinforcement, which generate an addictive quality to the relationship called “frustration attraction”, which stimulates chemicals in the brain similar to a gambler at a slot machine.
Now, the point I really want to make today, is that you don’t need to have experienced significant trauma or attachment disruptions in your past, to slip into experiencing anxiety or avoidance as a go to coping skill for stress in a romantic situation. There are some folks whom we might qualify as generally secure, who will lean in one direction or the other when under stress in a relationship---just perhaps not to a degree where it leads to significant dysfunction in their lives and relationships.
To help you understand what this might look like,I wanted to offer a basic example in this 18 minute clip of this month’s livestream replay, so that you might be able to spot the trap before you fall into it.
You’re gonna love it!
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In love and abundance,
Briana MacWilliam ATR-BC, LCAT
Licensed and Board Certified Creative Arts Therapist
Author, Educator and Reiki Practitioner