In my earlier post, What’s my Attachment Style and Why Does it Matter?, I explained the three primary attachment styles (secure, anxious, and avoidant) and how understanding your attachment style can help you have happier and healthier adult romantic relationships.
Securely attached people tend to have happy, long lasting relationships built on trust. They feel comfortable expressing their feelings and needs. They can also reciprocate and meet their partner’s needs.
People with an anxious attachment style tend to feel insecure and need frequent reassurances of their partner’s love. This can feel overly needy and clingy to those with secure or avoidant attachment styles.
In contrast, people with an avoidant attachment style see themselves as independent and feel uncomfortable sharing their inner thoughts and vulnerabilities. Too much closeness feels suffocating to someone with an avoidant attachment.
People with an avoidant attachment style struggle with deep intimacy and trust. They’ll unconsciously create situations and reasons to leave or sabotage close relationships. They tend to connect and then pull away when the relationship feels too intense. Their relationships tend to be shallow, as a result.
They don’t talk about or notice their feelings very much. They keep their emotions under lock and key and often lack awareness of their own feelings, especially vulnerable feelings like weakness, embarrassment, or failure.
Someone with an avoidant attachment might think or feel:
- I don’t like talking about my feelings
- I pride myself on being independent and doing things on my own
- Things don’t really bother me
- People always let me down
- I don’t need help from anyone
- Relationships are a lot of work; I’m not sure it’s worth it
- Most of the people I date want too much closeness too fast
- Feelings are overrated
- I love you, but I don’t want to spend every night together
- I’m not ready to move in with you
- I don’t think I’m the marrying type
- I don’t need anything from anyone
- I need time to myself
- I’m not going to change for anyone
Avoiding intimacy is a coping strategy that developed in infancy. It’s a way to protect yourself from the vulnerability of being hurt or disappointed. All attachment styles are the result of our earliest relationships with our parents or caregivers and how they responded to our needs. An avoidant attachment style is formed when parents or caregivers are unavailable, preoccupied, or disinterested. Children with unresponsive or disinterested parents feel like they aren’t important and learn that their needs won’t be met. So, they bury their needs, rely solely on themselves or act as if they don’t have any needs.
When children feel like their parents have no desire to know them, they feel empty and lack a sense of themselves, especially their thoughts, feelings, and dreams.
People with an avoidant attachment don’t look to others for comfort; they don’t see others as trustworthy or soothing. And they find it hard to ask for help, so they try to do everything themselves. This looks strong, independent, in control, and resilient as they can seemingly “get over” things quickly. In reality they’re pushing away or aren’t aware of their feelings. It’s tempting to want to avoid difficult feelings, but it’s not effective or emotionally healthy. It holds us back from deep connection and self-understanding.
Do people with an avoidant attachment style form relationships and get married?
Although people with an avoidant attachment style are independent and most comfortable relying on themselves, most aren’t reclusive mountain men. They’re often kind, helpful, considerate, perfectly lovely people, but if you get too emotionally close they’ll become uncomfortable. Panic can ensue causing the avoidant person to flee (break-up, avoid, ghost, argue, or otherwise push you away). Deep fear of abandonment, when triggered will spark fierce independence and moving away from relationships. In comparison, when people with an anxious attachment are faced with fear of abandonment, they’ll try to move closer, frantically seeking reassurance and clingy more tightly to their partner.
People with an avoidant attachment style generally want to have relationships. They just don’t want to get too close or expose too much of their inner thoughts and feelings. They’re interested in dating and often get married. They have friends and other relationships, but don’t share very much of themselves with their friends, family or spouse.
What can you do about an avoidant attachment pattern?
If you’ve got an avoidant attachment style you can move toward a more secure attachment by slowly getting in touch with your feelings, being curious and interested in your partner’s feelings, sharing more of your thoughts and feelings, and asking for help. Here are some of the things that you can do in order to have more satisfying relationships.
- If you’re single, look for a partner with a secure attachment.
- Practice identifying your own feelings.
- In small pieces, try to share just a little bit more of your thoughts and feelings.
- Spend time getting to know yourself.
- Notice when you’re distancing yourself and try to stay in connection even when it feels uncomfortable.
- Practice communicating your feelings and needs directly.
- Try to ask for help and support. People aren’t meant to do everything on their own.
- Consider working with a therapist (individually and/or as a couple).
- Be patient with yourself and your partner. Change is hard work and it takes lots of practice.
- Give yourself love and compassion.
What is an Anxious Attachment Style and What Can I Do About It? by Sharon Martin
Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller
Wired for Love by Stan Tatkin
©2017 Sharon Martin, LCSW. All rights reserved.