This Could Be Why You Feel Lost After a Breakup

Who are you if you’re not in a relationship? This is the core question of the post-breakup identity crisis that can leave us feeling like we’re going off the rails. It can also be what causes us to try to rekindle romances that definitely should have stayed cold. While we may think that our sadness and feelings of loss following a breakup are happening because we miss an ex, we may partially be grieving our own loss of identity. The post-breakup identity crisis can be especially difficult for people with an anxious attachment style. You’ll definitely want to know more about this if you’re someone who always feels lost after breakups.

Why the End of a Relationship Can Feel Like the End of You

“Romantic relationship dissolution is often a painful experience that impacts individuals’ sense of self,” according to a study looking at how post-dissolution self-concept confusion predicts rekindling desire among anxiously attached individuals. According to the study’s findings, people who are high in attachment anxiety are more eager to rekindle relationships compared to people with non-anxious attachment styles. This information can feel like a real breakthrough if you have a habit of always going back to someone you know isn’t a good fit for you! While rekindling a relationship may temporarily dissolve the discomfort you’re experiencing, researchers have discovered that this pattern could have harmful long-term consequences that actually make a person more vulnerable to self-concept disruptions.

What Is an Anxious Attachment Style?

After hearing that an anxious attachment style makes you more likely to try to rekindle relationships after breakups, you might be curious to know what it actually means to have an anxious attachment style. Our attachment styles are created during our formative years based on how we relate to our primary caregivers. The four attachment styles are anxious, avoidant, disorganized, and secure.

A person with an anxious attachment style can feel deeply insecure in relationships. While they crave closeness, they struggle to feel connected to partners. Their need to be close with a partner is driven by deep fears of abandonment and rejection. They can also be very distrustful of partners. For the person with anxious attachment, pervasive low self-esteem causes constant fears that a partner will grow tired of them, betray them, and move on. While there are many factors that go into a person’s attachment style, you may be more likely to develop anxious attachment in your romantic relationships if you grew up in a scenario with trauma, neglect, early separation from parents, inconsistent parenting, a caregiver with depression, or a caregiver who was unprepared for parenthood.

The good news is that discovering that you have an anxious attachment style is the first step to developing a strong sense of self-identity outside of your romantic relationships. In addition, knowing that you are vulnerable to tying your identity up in relationships can help you develop tools for discerning when you really care for someone compared to when you want to get back together because you want to escape the discomfort of an identity crisis.

If you find that you struggle to know who you are outside of a relationship after each breakup, it may be time to explore your attachment style and self-identity in therapy. I also have a great free resource that I’ve put together to help people navigate post-breakup feelings with clarity instead of confusion. You can download my breakup blueprint called A Guide to Healing From Heartbreak right now.