the anxious preoccupied attachment styleThe first article in this series was the Introduction to Attachment Styles. It provides a brief overview of attachment theory and may be helpful for you to read before getting into this week’s article on preoccupied attachment.

Preoccupied attachment style is characterized by a person who has a negative view of themselves and a positive view of others. They see others as better than themselves and will go above and beyond to keep people in their lives. They often feel as though people don’t care about them as much as they care about others and they feel a sense of unworthiness in relationships. I would say that such people tend to be people pleasers, trying to avoid conflict and keep those around them happy.








The preoccupied attachment style according to Kim Bartholomew (1991) “is characterized by an over involvement in close relationships, a dependence on other people’s acceptance for a sense personal well-being, a tendency to idealize other people, and incoherence and exaggerated emotionality in discussing relationships” (p 228). Those who have a preoccupied attachment style tend to fall head over heels in love with a new romantic interest in a short period of time. They exhibit strong dependency on others to maintain positive self-regard and they reach out to others to fulfill their needs (unlike the dismissive attachment style). This becomes their main approach to attachment due to their positive regard for others and negative self-perception.

Some of you may read this description and feel like it defines you completely while others may not be able to relate at all. If you do feel like this attachment style defines you, I want to reassure you that many people feel and attach in this way. It is beneficial to know and be aware of your attachment style so that you can understand your strengths and weaknesses. With that being said, here are a few target areas I would suggest you to work on if you think that you have a preoccupied attachment style.

  1. Work on being autonomous: find a goal, hobby or ambition outside of your partner. Work on developing yourself, your identity and your purpose in life because those things are not defined by the presence of a partner.
  2. Allow space for conflict: those who are preoccupied with their partner are very fearful of conflict. They will bend over backwards and compromise their thoughts, opinions and desires in order to keep the peace. This is a recipe for resentment, bitterness and unhappiness. There is something very validating in having your partner hear and understand your opinions and your feelings.
  3. Work on being assertive: those with a preoccupied attachment style tend to be very passive and easy going. When asked a direct question about where to go for dinner or what to listen to they tend to just go with the flow and default to what everyone else wants. While this may be a good strategy to keep the peace in friendship and relationships, it does very little for one’s self esteem and confidence. Being assertive and authentic to your own desires and opinions in a diplomatic way is much more fulfilling and validating.

This is a very brief introduction to preoccupied attachment style. If you relate to this attachment style may also find these articles helpful: The Five Stages of FriendshipCommunication Breakdown: The Five Cycles of Passivity and The Three Styles of Communication.

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