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What is Avoidant Attachment Style and how it affects adult relationships?

Updated: May 15, 2023

Avoidant attachment style

We've all encountered (or heard about) the person who never texts back. Our minds begin to wander to the same old questions, whether we are alone or with a good friend, "Is it me? What did I do to scare him away?"

On the contrary, maybe you are that person who doesn't understand the need for too much intimacy, feeling smothered from all the texting throughout the day.

Either way, there is a simple answer to that, and it is no one's fault. This is just the avoidant attachment style in action.

An avoidant attachment style develops as a result of a person’s experiences with a parent or caregiver in early childhood. It is an insecure attachment style that affects the behavior patterns in intimate relationships as adults.

People with an avoidant attachment style tend to be distant, self-reliant, and relatively uninterested in intimacy. Oftentimes, they feel burdened by close relationships and refuse to reach out to others for support. Due to their closeness perception, they often pursue relationships that are not "too demanding" or intimate. With that being said, this attachment style, like any other, can become secure if worked on.

Avoidant attachment style according to the attachment theory

When infants have caregivers who are unavailable or unresponsive to their emotional needs, they learn that others cannot be trusted. These childhood experiences ultimately cause them to distrust other people when they begin to form friendships and romantic relationships. Children with an avoidant attachment may learn to handle life events emotionally by themselves. Resulted of becoming avoidant adults, this adult attachment style may prevent them from forming secure and healthy relationships.

People with this attachment style are distrustful of intimacy and often view themselves as self-sufficient. They often feel uncomfortable being too close to others because they don’t want to get too attached and lose their sense of autonomy.

On the contrary to that, individuals with a secure attachment style feel comfortable being close to others and don't worry about losing their sense of autonomy. They know that an interdependent relationship with someone would increase their ability to initiate and prosper in every aspect of their life.

Avoidantly attached adults are afraid of getting too close to others. They tend to keep their distance in relationships and keep their feelings hidden, rather than risk being rejected or having their trust broken again. Their unwillingness to rely on others might be perceived as independent and self-sufficient, but deep down they often feel insecure and unlovable. When someone gets too close, they may react by pushing them away or becoming withdrawn. This can be a way of protecting oneself from feeling overwhelmed or if someone is not ready to open up and reach a new level of intimacy.

Avoidant attachment style in adults relationships

People with an avoidant attachment style tend to choose relationships that reinforce their attachment pattern. They often get involved with someone who they can keep at a distance. Individuals with avoidant-dismissive attachment style frequently find themselves attracted to someone with an anxious attachment type. Although it could be managed toward a secure partnership, this relationship is unhealthy and referred to as the anxiety-avoidant trap. In this type of relationship, both of the insecurely attached partners constantly collide. The anxiously attached partner would continually seek closeness, while the dismissive attachment partner would regularly withdraw, seeking distance.

Someone with a dismissive-avoidant attachment would find it so appealing because their anxiously attached partner will try to make them as comfortable as possible, oftentimes at the cost of their own essential needs for closeness. Therefore, the avoidant partner feels in control of the relationship and feels comfortable disregarding the other partner's needs while maintaining his desired intimacy distance.

Additionally, they may choose to be alone and avoid serious relationships. Preferring casual flings over intimacy with a long-term partner.

An intimate relationship would often make the avoidant confront his attachment issues. When it ends, avoidantly attached individuals may feel relief rather than regret, as they no longer need to confront their innate attachment system pattern to secure attachment. Other times, avoidants would feel regret and sadness about the end of the relationship but would not act on it. Instead, they would idealize their ex-partner, using it as a withdrawn technique to create distance with new potential partners -"S/He would never be as good as my last partner". Despite avoidants' attachment systems being designed to secure attachment bonds, they often end up repeating the same pattern due to their main attachment style.

If you're in a relationship with an avoidantly attached person, you may feel lonely and unfulfilled or that they're never really there for you when you need them. It could be difficult to have a healthy relationship with an avoidantly attached person, especially if you are anxiously attached, but it is possible. If you're patient and understanding, you may be able to create a more intimate and fulfilling relationship. Understanding both of the partners' attachment styles is the first step. With effective communication and mutual commitment secure and safe relationships are truly achievable.

avoidant attachment style

Common indications of avoidant attachment

1. Mixed signals: Imagine having an amazing 6th date, you both laughed a lot, shared stories, and didn't want the night to end. Now imagine that for the next few days, there is zero communication between the two of you. No, no one got abducted. And no, it is not your fault as well, it is a behavioral pattern of the avoidantly attached individual. After a night of great closeness and intimacy, and due to their attachment style, they often feel the need to withdraw and create space. Usually, an unconscious need.

2. Withdrawing techniques: Avoidants often unceasingly associate closeness with a threat. Therefore, when intimacy raises in their relationship, they may use some techniques to distance themselves from their partner by being aware of it. They might become "cold" and stop communicating as much. At other times, they might become dismissive of their partner's ideas or thoughts to create the desired space.

3. Unsmooth social transition: Like other insecure attachments, avoidants could find the social transition, from being alone to being with others, quite overwhelming. As avoidants, we learned to deal with life on our own, so being alone could be our safe space. Being at social events might be a somewhat overwhelming transition from that safe space by ourselves.

4. Misconception of self-reliance: Due to their early childhood experiences, avoidantly attached individuals learned to face the world on their own. They find it hard to ask for help and rely on others. While they have been independent in many aspects of their lives, they have misinterpreted the concept of self-reliance and independence. Avoidants confuse self-reliance with interdependency. As humans, we are social creatures who are innately programmed to prosper in close relationships. When we are dismissive towards intimate connections with others why may excel in our career, but our core needs for closeness and intimacy would not be met, therefore limiting our ability to feel whole, happy, and secure in any other aspect of our life.

From insecure attachment to secure attachment; Breaking the cycle of dismissive avoidant attachment style

Overcoming an avoidant attachment style can be difficult. Unfortunately avoidants usually only change their attachment style after a major life event, but when they are ready it is possible with effort and patience. Avoidants have difficulty trusting intimacy in relationships. As a result, they may feel the need to keep their partner at a distance, or they may even avoid relationships altogether. Fortunately, this type of attachment can be overcome.

It begins with acknowledging that you have an avoidant attachment style. Once you do, you could start to make changes and shift towards a secure attachment style and nurturing relationships.

Breaking the cycle and building healthy connections is now possible, even if you do not seek therapy (which we strongly recommend):

  • Activities with distractions:

  • Gratitude list:

  • Notice avoidant reactions:

Bottom line

An avoidant attachment style is a type of insecure attachment. It develops as a result of a person’s experiences growing up and forming adult relationships. When people have caregivers who are unavailable or unresponsive to their needs, they learn that others cannot be trusted, which can cause them to later distrust other people when they begin developing friendships and romantic relationships. When people have caregivers who are unavailable or unresponsive to their needs, they learn that others cannot be trusted. This can cause them to later distrust other people when they begin forming friendships and romantic relationships. If you recognize that you have an avoidant attachment style, you can work on learning how to trust others so that you can develop a healthy, secure attachment style.

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