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For over a decade, David Tian, Ph.D. — a uniquely qualified therapist, life coach, and former university professor — has coached tens of thousands of people from over 87 countries to achieve happiness and success in their relationships, dating, psychology, and lifestyle.

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“The Man Up Show” Ep.212 – Can A Relationship Work If She Has Anxious Attachment Style?

Can A Relationship Work If She Has Anxious Attachment Style?

  • David Tian Ph.D. emphasizes the need to learn the basic knowledge of attachment styles.
  • David Tian Ph.D. reveals the question we should be asking ourselves instead.
  • In this Man Up episode, David Tian Ph.D explains how we can have a fulfilling long-term relationship.

Boom! Stop. I’m David Tian, PhD, and in this video, I answer the question: How do you make her want you more if she’s anxious? Welcome to Man Up Episode 212.

Masculinity for the Intelligent Man. I’m David Tian, PhD., and this is Man Up!

Hi, I’m David Tian, PhD., and for over the past 10 years, I have been helping hundreds of thousands of people in over 87 countries attain success, happiness and fulfillment in life and love, and we are in Vienna again. This is Schönbrunn Palace. A beautiful palace here, and we wanted to shoot more in Salzburg, we’re in the old city there, but we’re having too much fun and the schedule is packed.

We’re making it up with this shot here at the Palace. I got a question here from the Man Up private Facebook group, my voice is going now, and it’s coming from Allen. Allen in the Man Up private Facebook group asked this relatively short question, so I’m going to read most of it.

“Hi everyone, I’m currently in a sort-of relationship with a woman with whom I have been in love with for 28 years.” 28 years. “Somehow, we were never able to solidify a relationship. She did not speak English when I first met her. I did not speak any Spanish at that time. Somehow, we lost touch. She got married to someone else. I got married to someone else. We are both divorced now and going out. The problem is that she has extreme anxiety issues. She doesn’t want to feel obligated or pressured in any way. Instead of communicating, she sometimes just shuts down and turns cold, so I have to be very careful. She said she loves me and does not want to lose me, and it is an amazing time when we are together. Her ex-husband was very controlling and abusive, both mentally and physically.”

This is a common pattern, by the way. Something like almost half the guys in the group who ask questions about some girl that’s not yet – they’re not yet in a relationship with – that girl, that woman, was either married to or had a boyfriend who was a very bad guy. This is an important dynamic to understand. I’ll have to dive into that in a completely separate episode because that’s a much bigger issue. But just to highlight that, when that episode comes out, it will also be relevant to Allen’s question here. His questions are:

“How can I passively make her want more from the relationship, actually make it an official relationship?” Make it an official relationship… Dude, you guys have been in love for 28… Well, you’ve been in love with her for 28 years. I don’t know how old you are, but I hope you haven’t been in love with her before puberty. You’re at least 38, maybe you’re over in your 40s, and you’re like, “I want to make it an official relationship.”

Who cares if it’s official? Anyway, it’s so weird. “How do I activate her need for me? I would never hurt this woman, and after 28 years, I love her more than ever. I do not want to lose her again. Anyone who has had experience…” Okay. Let’s break this down. Let’s do some analysis on this.

At the beginning, I read the first part and then I skipped some of it because the first part is about language and cultural issues. It’s got nothing to do with anything important here, but he thinks it does. Something interesting to point out is the issues that guys who are struggling with women think are the important issues are generally not the important issues. That’s why they’re struggling with women. That’s why they’re struggling in that relationship.

Anyway, the important issue is – he’s pointing out a separate one – her extreme anxiety issues. I think every single guy needs to bone up on basic knowledge of attachment styles. This to me is just like – now it’s just basic. There’s a whole module on attachment styles in the Rock Solid Relationships course. The guys who’ve been through that course should know this material quite well. It started with John Bowlby, and that literature is quite extensive. Bone up on that. You’re going to be reading a lot about childhood attachment styles because that’s where the research started and that’s where most of the research still is.

Childhood attachment styles mimic what’ll happen in adulthood. It’s not necessarily the case that the attachment style you had or adopted as a child will carry through when you’re an adult, but the ways that they play out are the same. So, understanding what anxious attachment style is, understanding what avoidant attachment style is, understanding what anxious avoidant attachment style is, and understanding what secure attachment styles are.

Now, the research shows or says that 60% or more of people have a secure attachment style. That makes it sound like you must be weird if you’re anxious or avoidant. That’s not been my experience in life. Maybe because mine is skewed, because I’m working with a lot of people who need help with relationships, so they tend to be anxious or avoidant. But I would say this: People who think they’re secure, they’re secure if you keep the standard really low. If the threshold for being secure is really low, 60% of people can be deemed secure.

But given certain triggers, the secure person will quickly go to either anxious, or avoidant, or anxious-avoidant. It’s important to realize that every adult who want to succeed in a long-term relationship should understand his or her own attachment styles, as well as what attachment style you would naturally be attracted to. Unfortunately, for people who have anxious or avoidant attachment styles, you tend to attract the opposite because the abusive relationship that you end up in is what you’re used to.

What we’re used to is what we gravitate towards, even if in the long run it’s actually bad for our mental and emotional health. That’s an important thing to understand. So this woman, Allen, based on the four-five paragraphs you’ve written here, just based on that, not having met her, not having learned anything else about her, it’s just what you’ve written, what you’ve told us about her. She sounds like she’s both anxious and avoidant and she’s gone through both of those stages.

It sounds like you call them extreme anxiety issues. You say she doesn’t want to feel obligated or pressured in any way and doesn’t communicate and just shuts down and turns cold. That’s an avoidant attachment style. You have to understand why that’s happening in order to be able to handle that. There’s a lot of research on that. Go and learn it.

However, you also say that she was with an ex-husband who was very controlling and abusive. Probably she started out quite anxious, and then she might start out in a relationship quite anxious, and then become avoidant at the first sign of trouble or the first sign of discomfort on her side. Maybe it’s getting too serious now, or what she’ll do is, as an anxious person, she’ll be attracted to somebody who will abuse or who will trigger the anxiety, because that’s what she’s used to. So, she’s going to be with a guy who her ex-husband was very controlling and abusive, and that will trigger her anxiousness.

And then to deal with that, she goes the other extreme. It’s really hard for someone who is anxious or avoidant to find the middle ground. But it’s easy to swing from one end to the other. So then she’s like, “Well, fuck everything. Fuck you all. I don’t even want to touch it.” You might have met people who are very anxious like that, that they don’t even want to get into a relationship because they could get hurt really easily. A lot of the old Men Go Their Own Way movement, the old Red Pill movement, they are full of guys who used to be anxious. And because they got burned, now they swing over like, “Fuck all women. Screw them all. They’re just dirt. Just fuck them and dump them.” That’s another avoidant style.

In fact, the pick up artist’s journey is you generally taking a guy who is very needy, in other words, anxious attachment style, and then he takes on the demeanor, behavior, and words, patterns of behavior, patterns of speech, that an avoidant player would. You’re just swinging from one end to the other. You can see that she’s done that based on the paragraphs that you’ve given us, that she started off with extreme anxiousness and then moved to avoidance as a result of – well, it could be as a result of the ex-husband, but it could’ve also been just something that she already discovered as a child and was triggered in her relationships.

What’s more interesting to me is you, Allen. You haven’t asked yourself any questions about yourself. It’s good to understand the other party, the woman, but you shouldn’t be in the position of trying to change her. Don’t be her therapist. That’s usually a losing mission, and it’s a lost cause, and it will actually detract from attraction. It’ll actually turn her off in the long run. So, don’t get in that position where you’re doing all of this work for her in the relationship, that she’s not reciprocating and putting in equal, at least equal, amount of work. Definitely, she should see a therapist. She should get long-term counseling and get knowledge about her own attachment styles, as should you.

If you want to be in a relationship with her and you see these different behaviors start, you know that, “Okay, she’s going into this style because of this trigger.” And then you can start to therapize that or manage it, massage that. But more importantly, always, whenever you’re talking about relationship issues with the woman, always turn that mirror around at yourself. Look in the mirror because that is where your solutions lie. The solution will never be in changing the other party. That’s almost always a lost cause, but you can change yourself. You have control over that. Let’s do that.

This is more interesting, Allen, what you’re doing here. You asked the first question: “How can I, passively, make her want more from the relationship, actually make it an official relationship?” It’s interesting that you put comma, passively comma. You’re really emphasizing the word passively. So basically, you don’t want it to be obvious that you’re doing anything out of the ordinary I think is what’s happening here. So you want it to be passive. Maybe you’re aware of the investment principles so you don’t want to invest too much.

So, cool. What’s an interesting here is you’re trying to control and manipulate this relationship. Your second question is, “How do I activate her need for me?” These are really creepy questions. These are the sort of PUA-type questions. And if you keep going at this type of question train, you’re going to end up in a manipulative, Machiavellian pick up artist approaches to relationships, which are always going to fail in the long run. So, don’t do that. Instead, understand, Allen, the fact that you’re wording the questions in this way makes it already seem like…

I can feel your anxiety about her anxiety. Your anxiety is getting triggered by her avoidance strategies. She’s avoidant, it seems like from much of this relationship, and you’re chasing. You’re chasing even further by coming in the group and writing these two questions, asking, “How do I get her back?” Because you’re really anxious about it. “I want her to need me as much as I need her. How do I passively get her to need me more?” These are all anxious questions. Your attachment style, Allen, is going to be anxious just based on what you’ve written here in your question and in the comment thread. You’re an anxious guy and you’re going to be attracted to an avoidant person.

The avoidant person will also be attracted to an anxious person. The avoidant-anxious person, which is this woman, it sounds like, will just be messed up on all counts. That’s where that dynamic is coming, that chemistry is coming because your anxiety is getting triggered by her avoidance. Her avoidance is getting triggered by your anxiety. And so, you guys are having some drama. That’s great. For people who are messed up, drama tells them they’re alive. All of their romantic relationships are going to be marked by this type of drama.

If you don’t want this drama and if you actually want to have a fulfilling long-term relationship, you’re going to have to learn how to become more secure. That is something that can be done. If you’re anxious, you can manage it. If you’re extremely anxious and anxious only, you can manage it with some pharmacology. But I don’t recommend that, because that doesn’t actually fix the root problem.

What it is about is your needs as a child were not fully met, and you’re now acting out how you used to get those needs fulfilled as an adult now. Unless you go back to your childhood in your mind and re-experience those times when you didn’t get your needs met, and you can reprocess those, and grieve and reprocess for those, and then you can grow up from there and mature, until you do that, you’re always going to get stuck, whether it’s this girl, the next girl, the next girl after that. You’re getting to get stuck in these attachment style problems where you’re the anxious one and she becomes the avoidant one. Or you might be anxious and she gets anxious, but you’re anxious in different ways, which then triggers… But generally, that’s not going to be very attractive to you. So, you’ll probably be attracted to the avoidant ones as an anxious person. It’s really important that you understand that. Get educated on the attachment styles. Just start with Googling Bowlby and attachment styles, and then just start to read in the literature on that.

I’ll leave you with that, attachment styles. That’s a very important thing to understand. I think that’s more important to understand than the five love languages. I still see that Gary Chapman book recommended so many fucking times. I think that’s like level zero. Maybe it’s a little bit better than zero, 0.5. So all of you guys reading all of these basic things, there’s so much more for you to learn. That’s baby stuff, man.

Get in the group. Get educated. Bone up, man. Also, if you come in the group and you don’t get your basic education. Get in there. Get in the group. Tap the pinned post. If you’re on mobile, all it says is ‘pinned post’. It’s kind of hard to find. In which case, tap the cover image. So then you hit the cover image or the pinned post, and then the text description there will have the description of how to get your free courses. Just tap the link, get your free courses, and bone up on that knowledge.

All the guys in there who are contributing regularly already have this basic store of knowledge, so there’s some pretty good advice in there. Not always amazing, so I’ll come in there and chime in when necessary, but a lot of it is pretty good. Join the private Man Up Facebook group. We’re over 17,000 coming up to 18,000 strong now, and I’ll see you inside that group. Until then, David Tian, signing out. Man Up!