emotional attachment

Emotional Attachment: 4 Unhealthy Signs You Fall Too Soon

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After another lengthy and mentally taxing fight with the narcissist, it’s common to find yourself wondering, “how did I ever get myself into this mess?”

You’re certainly not to blame for the abuse you suffer, but what if you never had never entered the relationship at all?

What even drew you towards this person in the first place?

What if you had noticed (or not ignored) the red flags? What if you had strengthened yourself to provide an adequate defense?

We needn’t fortify ourselves with a metaphorical militarized wall and refuse all entry in the name of avoiding narcissistic abuse. We can, however, identify our own emotional attachment style and take measures to make sure a partner will fulfill our needs before finding ourselves in a big mess again.

What’s Your Emotional Attachment Style and How Does it Affect Your Romantic Relationships?

Recovering from and avoiding future narcissistic abuse requires plenty of introspective reflection. It’s easy (and completely right) to blame the narcissist for luring you into their trap and sucking you dry.

If you want to avoid future narcissistic abuse, however, you’ll want to identify and treat unique parts of your psyche. Specifically, why you enter relationships in the first place – what draws you to specific people and not others?

Relationships may seem mysterious, but when we inspect them more closely we are likely to find patterns related to our attachment styles. That’s a term psychologists use to describe basic orientations that we form starting in our infancy and early childhood years.

Secure Attachment Style

In a relationship where both parties experience secure attachment, they are both happy with themselves and don’t rely on the other party for validation of self-worth. People with secure attachment tend to have high self-esteem.

Secure attachment helps us to feel confident and enjoy healthy, close relationships. People with secure attachment styles are comfortable with their emotions and are more trusting of their partners. They are happy with themselves and their relationships.

Individuals with a secure attachment style make good partners for other securely attached people, but also for those with an insecure attachment style, discussed below.

Insecure Attachment Style

The insecure attachment style is constantly hypersensitive to the possibility of being rejected or abandoned.

Individuals with an insecure attachment style often attempt to attach themselves to the first person who gives them attention. In other cases, they may become completely infatuated with the first person who exhibits a specific trait or quality they admire.

The insecure attachment style is very common when someone has a traumatic past of emotional or narcissistic abuse. Also, studies show that there is a link between chronic widespread pain in people with insecure attachment.

Insecure attachment may lead to pushing people away by being too sensitive to the possibility of rejection. People with anxious attachment styles often feel jealous, needy, and worried and generally have a hard time trusting romantic partners. Ironically, they tend to attract the very partners who enhance their anxious feelings.

Folks with an insecure attachment style fare better in relationships with people who have a secure attachment style.  However, a relationship with someone with an avoidant attachment style (discussed below) can be a living nightmare.  

Avoidant Attachment Style

People with an avoidant attachment style generally shun intimacy and bonding. 

Avoidant attachment is associated with being isolated and emotionally distant. People with avoidant attachment styles basically turn off their need for any emotional or intimate attachment. They may come across as agreeable and sweet, but whenever their partners express any emotion, the avoidant person becomes angry and dismissive.  The avoidant attachment style may seem open to talking about relationship issues, but it’s only a matter of time before they explode like a ticking time bomb.  Because of these tendencies, those with an avoidant attachment style make the worst partners for people with an insecure attachment.  

This category of attachment style includes narcissists, as well as the garden-variety love avoidant. 

Healthy Vs. Unhealthy Emotional Attachment

Emotional attachment is a normal part of every relationship – whether it be with parents, family, friends, or loved ones.

Because someone has a relationship with their partner based on secure attachment, it doesn’t mean they won’t feel sad or hopeless when they leave – be it temporarily or permanently. It just means that they don’t rely on another person for validation in themselves.

What Causes Unhealthy Emotional Attachment?

Most causes of unhealthy attachment can be traced back to when we were young. In some cases, we retain feelings of abandonment from things that happened when we were an infant or child.

In other cases, we may feel unhealthy emotional attachment from issues that happened with other relationships in the past, be it with friends, family members, or romantic partners.

Previous relationships, whether they’re from 30 or five years ago, set the stage for how we function in current or future relationships.

4 Red Flags You’re Prone to Unhealthy Emotional Attachment

Here are a few signs that you’re experiencing unhealthy attachment with an insecure or anxious attachment style.

1 – You Get Easily Distracted with Superficial Qualities

Superficial qualities could refer to material aspects like a nice body or secure job. However, it could also apply to shared hobbies or other specific qualities. For instance, someone who shares your hobby of exercise or reading isn’t the best match based on that reason alone – they should also be supportive and understanding.

The point here is that you cling to specific qualities and develop an emotional attachment or infatuation based on these qualities instead of developing a healthy relationship based on mutual respect and trust.

2 – You Follow Emotion Instead of Logic

We all rely on emotion to an extent. If you allow unhealthy emotional attachment to dominate your relationship choices, however, this will only lead to trauma and pain later.

Relying on emotion means ignoring red flags, rationalizing, and making big life changes without considering the real-world implications or outcomes.

3 – You Can’t be Happy Alone

It might be a cliché that we can’t make anyone happy until we’re happy with ourselves, but it’s also true. We need to feel satisfied with ourselves before bringing another person into the mix.

If we can’t be happy alone, this means we may easily develop an unhealthy emotional attachment to fulfill specific needs. This isn’t fair to ourselves or others.

Bringing another person into your life to fill a void means you will almost always be unfulfilled because another person can only do so much to fill another’s emptiness.  It’s a huge burden to impose on someone.

4 – You Rationalize and Suppress Emotions

When we’re suffering from unhealthy attachments, we suppress our own feelings and emotions to avoid upsetting our partner. The thought of them leaving is utterly devastating so we keep our mouth shut when their actions bother us.

As a victim of narcissistic abuse, it’s natural for you to actively avoid conflict. You probably stopped expressing your emotions a long time ago out of fear that it would trigger a massive fight and leave you feeling worthless.

If you start dating a new partner, however, and he likes to hang out at strip clubs or she likes to attend Burning Man with her friends and this bothers you, you need to speak up. You’re not doing anyone a favor by masking your emotions to avoid conflict – you’re just pretending to feel secure.

How to Break the Cycle of Unhealthy Emotional Attachment

Chances are, if you experience unhealthy attachment – particularly insecure attachment style – you might describe yourself or others may describe you as needy. Maybe you have mini panic attacks when your special someone doesn’t respond right away or you constantly fear the worst.

“I haven’t heard from her all day. She must be cheating on me.” In reality, she was just stuck at work all day without a phone charger and worried that she couldn’t text back.

Unfortunately, if you don’t heal your wounds from narcissistic abuse and work towards healthy emotional attachment, you’ll carry these unhealthy behaviors and attachment styles over into every relationship.  Worse, it can make you attractive to narcissists and other manipulators.

If you find yourself in this position, it isn’t a good idea to jump into another relationship and hope your issues sort themselves out. You’ll either end up:

  • Devoting your time and energy to the wrong person based on your need for emotional security.
  • Hurting or damaging a relationship with someone who may genuinely be right for you because of your own insecurities.

Here are a few ways you can work on healing your past trauma before attempting a new relationship.

  1. Work on your self-esteem. Once you feel comfortable with yourself, other relationships won’t feel like such hard work because they aren’t filling a void.
  2. Get outside yourself. Focus on your career or hobbies to build your sense of self-worth.
  3. Talk to a counselor. This is important to see things from an objective perspective.
  4. Make new friends. Don’t rely on one person to fill your emotional needs.
  5. Manage stress. Find new ways to reduce stress so you don’t act on every impulse.

How to Heal Insecure Attachment

After suffering from months or years of abuse, it’s natural to feel different or uncomfortable embarking into new relationships. It’s important to take some time to develop a strong sense of power and self-worth.

Rediscover Your Lost Self after Narcissistic Abuse (and prepare yourself for true love)

Check out my groundbreaking video course THRIVE!

You will get video training (in digestible bursts) to help you to create better boundaries, stop betraying yourself, and stop acting out of alignment with your own integrity. 

Learn more now!

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Leave a Comment:

Jackie says September 1, 2020

Thank you for your insight. The realization of this has been so hard to deal with. We’ve been married for 9 years. This man was my best friend and neighbor growing up. We both had moved away and lost contact for 15 years after going through a divorce with a narcissist a year prior I decided to look up my old friend. We lived over a thousand miles away from each other he had recently been divorced. I felt that I have found my soulmate and my best friend. He had children in school and did not want to leave them so we had a long-distance relationship for 5 years finally he came here to stay and asked me to marry him. I had a home and a job and two children still at home myself, I guess truly that’s what brought him here was my stability and what I could offer him. The first four years were absolutely wonderful, even though he left and worked out of state for most of the year the time we had together was wonderful and it was supposed to just be temporary. One time he came home and everything has changed. I’ve spent the last 4 years in hell trying to figure out what was going on what’s happening here, now I know. Thank you for your help on the road to recovery

Conrad says April 23, 2019

I am with a person who I sense is not being truthful and I’m so tired of the warm and cold treatments. I love this person so much but I don’t know what to do anymore.

    Kim Saeed says May 2, 2019

    If you believe the person is not being truthful and you are getting the hot and cold treatment on a regular basis, it’s best to cut your losses now and end the relationship. Our love means nothing to toxic and manipulative people. Wish I had better news.

    Wishing you the best.

    – Kim

John says April 22, 2019

I have been divorced for 14 years and truly want marriage and companionship. I found a person who was warm and affectionate like I had always dreamed. I wasn’t completely true to my values and morals when we dated but wanted to after we got married. My wife and I got trapped in a cycle where she would hurt and abuse and shut down, withdraw and be apathetic and I would overly pursue and insist on being treated fairly and respected. I talked and reasoned and didn’t let her be but demanded and overly pursued and kept trying. This was unhealthy and left me exposed to be attacked and hurt more and broke down the relationship.

I liked myself and felt in many ways ready to marry again and share my life and sought to be wanted and appreciated. I wanted to belong and to love and give love. I wanted things to be equal and fair in my marriage and for us to take care of each other and care. Be close and best friends, confidants and supportive and loving. This was taken from me. It seemed my wife didn’t have a conscience and didn’t feel. Just wanted to change me and control me and blame me and not share any responsibility or look inwardly. I could do that but insisted it be a joint effort.

In the end she turned back to chasing men and wanting them chasing her and alcohol.

    Cath says May 17, 2021

    I totally understand. I gave too many years to i can’t even call him a man. A narcissist who it was his way or the highway and manipulated me with my children. To this day 20 years later he still is messing with there heads. My daughter is like a stepchild. I am not really her mother anymore. The pain is deep. Now he got to my youngest. Who said his heart is no longer into me.. sad part. He was the biggest cheater. I held tight until it was safe to go. But you see it is still unrelenting pain. I don’t really know my grandkids. Yet he comes off as the town perfect drunk. They all like him. No I refused to drink. That outcasted me right then and there. Love is unconditional but it does not mean you accept liars and cheaters.. in his eyes I had to go thru his better and worse of his worse god said. Funny he never went to church. So scared of being a dog in a cage again. That sounds horrible but it is true.

Lee says April 18, 2019

A LESSON FOR YOU ALL: Unfortunately I reconnected with an old boyfriend (together 15 years ago) over Facebook messaging – we messaged long distance and I had had no intention of moving it on to something more in the beginning other than friendship after my terrible divorce. Over the years he had been attempting to communicate with me but I had ignored these as I had been married at the time. I thought after having a horrendous marriage to a covert narcissist and well aware of the red flags after 3 years of intense book reading and counselling, I would be fully versed to realise another narcissistic ‘attack’. My ex and I messaged for 4 months and over this time I got sucked into the vortex further day by day – he blasted me with a whole load of amazing statements about my being wonderful, beautiful, an angelic sublime being, his ‘gold standard’ of love (he was a few years younger than me when we dated), a major love of his life who had left an indelible in-print on his soul blah blah blah blah etc etc etc….. We ended up messaging daily and I became very very attached to his messages and it has to be said after years of a terrible marriage ‘his non-stop flattery’…. He is a highly intelligent man and the messages were very stimulating and of course what I now know were ‘tailor’ made exactly for me and my tastes – his photographic memory recalled every single love, like and interest I have/I had, from the tiniest detail including my pleasure points (yes scary I now realise). I had never intended on meeting up but this is what happened…. we had 2 weekends together and I now regret it totally. Something was completely off – he was verbally still amazing and stimulating but for everything else my beliefs that we would return to the chemistry we had enjoyed before was totally wrong- it was a disaster and instead of leaving me feeling on top of the world I came away feeling low and confused. Whilst my ex husband had been a covert narcissist the feelings I got from my ‘friend’ and the lack of connection and emptiness physically and spiritually when we were together in bed felt exactly the same as my husband’s physical contact – he was like a robot and completely devoid of emotion … and it had shocked me (the tantric connection and fireworks he had promised me did not even come into it). Suffice to say (and this is the warning) within days of our last weekend meet up his normal daily messaging just ‘ceased’. I contacted him after a week for an explanation – he had been ill blah blah blah… I made it clear I would revert back to being just a ‘friend’ again with no more meet ups and reduced comms. The messaging dragged out for another few weeks then when I told him I was having a major trauma due to my divorce I heard nothing back at all…. and I have left it. Now looking over the messaging/our relationship and reconnection, I began to realise with real horror and shame, he had clearly been a fledgling narcissist when we had first met 15 years ago, and now he has due to his intelligence and high powered job (plus the amazing body and plastic surgery he’s had on his face) become a fully fledged professional overt narcissist and ‘player’. I have since looked over his messages and now realised he has told me numerous lies which would stop me from contacting him/his work and his family, lies told very very early on which is scary since he clearly knew he would PLAY me then drop me: lies where his family live (as he did when we were together I now know), lies about where he works (he has a director level job but not in the area he told me), his area of where he lives was a lie, he refused to give me his address afterwards so I don’t even know if he lives with someone or has a proper girlfriend…. His ‘life stories’ have numerous holes in them…. I have now found.

On reconnection, I thought he was just a very vain man who was eccentric and stimulating intellectually but not capable of deliberately hurting me emotionally etc. He said the sweetest things early on that made me feel supported and understood. When I got the increasing niggling feeling of there being a ‘script’ on his part, I ignored the flags believing I was safe just being a ‘friend’…. Now I can see how I was completely sucked in and I am shocked that I fell for it. I am shocked that he did not treat me as a friend during that time but had intended from the very beginning to ‘play’ me as a romantic narc supply. I also now believe he ONLY reconnected with me to show me that he had a fabulous life and was professionally extremely successful (financially any way) and to get his revenge for my breaking off our relationship all those years ago. I think his plan was to show me how amazing he was, how amazing his face and body still was (he has the stats of a 20 year old he told me/and now I realise facial surgery/cosmetic fillers/botox has maintained his looks yet he is only 40!). I have to face the fact my first experience of romance has failed the NARC test and I am astounded with myself. What he doesn’t realise is that I have now completely recalculated our previous relationship together and how I view him as a person. I now know he was/is a deeply deeply troubled and dysfunctional individual – his fabulous life is a complete sham and the only thing he apparently wants is narc supply – the most beautiful, the most richest, the most successful… his pursuit of it is apparently never ending. I do not view him as successful in his life but a person to be pitied…. and avoided for his toxicity – no woman is safe around him. I also wonder how many women he has pushed to the mental and emotional brink throughout these years of narc behaviour – women who were beautiful, successful, high status – dumped for the next fabulous person and so on and so on. I am moving on now but it has taken 2 months to exorcise him out of my thoughts which cycled continually after he dropped me… my brain and soul attempting to work out what on earth had happened.

I can only say this has proven to be another life lesson. I doubt I will hear from him again but I am now on my guard as I start my new life. Please take heed.

    Jermena says November 6, 2019

    Thank you very much for sharing your experiences. it’s been very eye opening. It’s good to know that you now know him for what he is. About him contacting you again, it’s said that there’s nothing more, that narcissists enjoy like hoovering and proving to themselves that they can still find their pitiful sleazy selves back into your life. See how after all those years, he still managed to reach out to you, so anything can happen, just be on your guard and to not to fall for his dirty tricks again.
    God bless you.

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