How to Fix an Anxious-Avoidant Relationship (And When to Leave)

anxious avoidant relationship

Are you struggling to fix an anxious-avoidant relationship? 

I hear you. Relationships with insecure  partners are difficult because of their unpredictability. I always get asked: “How can I fix my anxious-avoidant relationship?” and “When should I leave them?”

If you’re feeling like you’re always chasing a partner or being chased, you might be caught up in a toxic relationship pattern due to avoidant or anxious behaviors.

So, can anxious and avoidant relationships work? Here’s what you need to know. 

What is your attachment style is? Take the quiz! 

What is an anxious-avoidant relationship?

Let’s begin with the basics.

Anxious-avoidant relationships can be explained through attachment theory

This theory consists of four attachment styles (anxious, avoidant, disorganized, and secure). These unique styles are often formed as children and continue to affect us in our adult romantic relationships.

So they essentially become the blueprints for how we give and receive love. 

Attachment styles fall into the primary categories of secure or insecure. 

Those with insecure attachment styles are usually classified as anxious or avoidant — or both.

attachment styles

We can surmise that:

  • Anxious adults struggle with feelings of unworthiness and a desire for approval and stability.
  • Avoidant adults avoid commitment because they are afraid of being emotionally smothered or over-controlled, and have a desire for personal freedom and autonomy.

 

I like to call Anxious people “Open Hearts”, Avoidant types “Rolling Stones” and Disorganized, “fearful avoidant” individuals –“Spice of Lifers.” 

That’s because “anxious” and “avoidant” sound way too judgy and can be self-fulfilling. (And who needs judgment in their lives?)

 Additionally, these labels don’t adequately describe what they are labeling. If you are going to call a group of people “anxious” because they “reach for” connection when threatened, and hold it in opposition to a group of people you call “Avoidant” because they tend to “move away” when feeling threatened, you are suggesting anxious people never demonstrate avoidance, and avoidant people never demonstrate anxiety– but they do. 

Sometimes anxiously reaching for someone to fill up the void inside, is a way of avoiding a bigger inner emotional issue. And avoidant partners are avoidant because they are avoiding anxiety! They wouldn’t be avoidant if they didn’t have anxiety.  To specify…

Open Hearts are partners who try hard to impress their partners, and are capable of tremendous generosity, as well as big emotional highs and lows, but no matter what they do, it seems to push others away. 

Rolling Stones are dismissive-avoidant. They’re cut off from their emotions and it’s hard for them to reach deep, loving, and reciprocal emotions. They can also seem to be selfish, but they perceive it as self-preservation. 

Spice of Lifers, again, are fearful-avoidant. They’re suspicious and distrustful of other people’s emotions and their own ability to sustain a healthy romantic relationship. They also want connection, while at the same time are terrified of it. So they send a lot of mixed signals, and are typically very confused and doubting.

As you can see, It’s important to understand your attachment style and that of your partner. Why? Because understanding them is key to improving your relationships. 

Here are some signs that will tell you if you’re either an avoidant or anxious partner in a relationship. 

How do anxious and avoidant partners behave in relationships?

Have you ever thought:

If the answer is yes, you’re likely an anxious partner in a relationship. 

anxious in relationships

Or perhaps you ARE the avoidant partner. Do you feel things like:

Sound familiar? You’re probably an avoidant type in a relationship. 

avoidant in relationships

But how do avoidant and anxious partners attract each other? That’s what we’ll look at next.

Are avoidant and anxiously attached individuals attracted to each other?

In short, yes. We tend to pair with people who confirm our pre-existing beliefs about relationships. It’s called “confirmation bias.”

And confirmation bias can be bad for relationships.

This means that anxious types pair with avoidant individuals because avoidant people behave in a dismissive way. In the same sense, avoidant people attract anxious partners who make them feel smothered. This confirms their belief in what a relationship should look like. 

However, that doesn’t mean that this is a case of “opposites attract” (as most people think). Instead, it’s a case of “like-sees-like.” 

Let me explain.

Anxious people choose partners that won’t give them what they want. As a result, they cling to them which means they never have to surrender to the act of receiving (which requires a letting go of control and embracing the unknown). They also never have to confront the fear of being seen for who they truly are, and then being rejected for their unworthiness or not-good-enoughness. 

In other words, they choose partners that don’t look too closely. And so, they are kept safely spinning their wheels in a relationship pattern that they are familiar with: I call it “the validation trap.” 

The validation trap is a cyclical pattern of needing to prove yourself to someone else, in order to gain approval, and experience a validating affirmation of your worthiness, which you probably never received as a child. 

It’s hard to break out of this pattern, because if you do, you don’t know who you are, or how to defend your “right” to be who you are, need what you need, or want what you want. In other words, it requires an overhaul of your sense of self and identity. No easy task!

On the other hand, avoidant individuals truly are anxious. If they didn’t feel anxious, they wouldn’t be avoidant. 

But avoidant individuals have varying degrees of awareness surrounding their anxiety, what they think it is, and how they arrived at it. Usually, their anxiety stems from one of two experiences: emotional dismissal, and/or emotional confusion. 

If a Rolling Stone is dismissive avoidant, they usually were taught to systematically repress and cut themselves off from their emotions, and so they struggle with accessing them, which makes them unaware of them. 

So, these dismissive folks (Rolling Stones) tend to fear and avoid self reflection. They attribute most of their inner conflicts to physical ailments, and/or external circumstances. 

Fearfully avoidant individuals (Spice of Lifers) are typically aware of their inner conflict, but they experience a lot of confusion around their emotions, and struggle to control them. 

That is because they likely experienced trauma as a child, or experienced a lot of mixed signals around how to deal with emotions, growing up. So they swing from being emotionally explosive, to rigidly locking them down.

Ultimately, we are trying to get the relationship we didn’t get as children. Our wounded inner child is often aroused and stimulated in these types of relationships.

Well-known relationship expert, Harville Hendrix, explains this spark of attraction as meeting your “Imago” partner. An Imago partner is someone whom you instinctively know will replicate your past attachment relationships.

Subconsciously, you’re trying to “correct” what went wrong in your past. 

But instead of fixing anything, you’re continuing the cycle. Here’s what I mean by that. 

What is your attachment style is? Take the quiz! 

What does it feel like to date an anxious or avoidant partner?

Do you feel like you’re always dating the same type of person? Maybe you find yourself back in the same old patterns, with partners that:

  • Don’t appreciate you and take your generosity for granted
  • Show up with fireworks one day and then disappear without explanation the next
  • Treat you like an intimate partner, but don’t give you any physical intimacy
  • Only seem interested in sex, but exclude you from other aspects of their lives
  • Avoid labeling the relationship and make you feel neurotic for needing it
  • Behave in a needlessly secretive fashion
  • Ignore you for weeks then text “miss you” at 2am 

On the other hand, maybe your partner is:

  • Intrusive while monitoring every move you make
  • Extremely demanding and never gives you any space
  • Sensitive, taking everything personally and over-analyzing what you say
  • Negative and interprets most situations as such
  • Controlling and presses for too much too fast
  • Disrespectful of your boundaries or a need for space
  • Expecting you to read their mind and blows up when you don’t
  • Hot one minute and cold the next

If you date people who continuously show these qualities, you may be caught in an anxious-avoidant relationship cycle. It’s a roller coaster relationship fueled by insecure attachment styles. I call it “the anxious-avoidant trap.”

anxious-avoidant relationship trap

The anxious-avoidant trap is a situation in which we find ourselves caught in unhealthy, push-pull relationships. Fortunately, you can spot the anxious-avoidant trap and correct it. Like I discuss in this short video: 

 

Before we discuss how to fix this toxic relationship trap, let’s examine exactly what these types of relationships look like.

How anxious-avoidants fail to break the cycle

Katie and John’s relationship has the distinctively addictive push-pull of an anxious-avoidant relationship. 

It’s on-again and off-again with a “rollercoaster” quality to it.

That’s what my student Stacy felt, too, before she joined my program Healing Attachment Wounds. Her 17-year marriage had ended and she found herself in a complicated relationship: 

An anxious-avoidant relationship has intoxicating highs and intolerable lows fueled by an insecure attachment dynamic.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Both insecure attachment styles are trying to create a sense of security through controlling their external conditions. 

This extends to controlling the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of their partners. 

Let’s look at what this means in terms of anxious and avoidant partners’ behavior in relationships.

Anxious partners implement “protest behaviors” to try to establish or re-establish connection in an insecure relationship. Some signs of protest behaviors include:

  1. Excessive contact followed by punitive withdrawal
  2. Keeping score in the relationship
  3. Acting hostile
  4. Various forms of emotional manipulation

Avoidant partners, on the other hand, will exert a sense of control by practicing detachment and using deactivating strategies. These behaviors might include:

  1. Their words and their actions don’t match up. (For example, Verbally expressing an avoidance of commitment, but acting committed or vice versa.)
  2. Focusing on their partner’s flaws
  3. Pining for the “one that got away”, rather than being fully present in the current relationship.
  4. Avoiding emotional intimacy in a current relationship, by avoiding labeling the relationship, for example.
  5. Hyper or hyposexuality. For example, maybe they’re hot and heavy with you, but exclude you from the rest of their life. Or, maybe you’re stuck in the friendzone, but the chemistry is amazing.

However, these emotional defenses don’t work. Instead, they just feed the cycle. 

So, now you know what an anxious-avoidant relationship is and how it leads couples into a trap. 

But can an anxious-avoidant relationship work? That’s what we’ll look at next. 

Can an anxious-avoidant relationship work?

Time for the big question: 

Can an anxious and avoidant relationship succeed?

Yes, but it does require work. 

Take my student Amanda. She was hitting a rough patch in her 9-year marriage and knew things needed to change. After enrolling in my course Healing Attachment Wounds she understood the push-pull dynamic of her relationship.

By understanding her and her husband’s attachment styles she was able to step back and observe her own behavior, rather than act in the moment. 

You need to understand how to communicate your needs without triggering a partner’s emotional defenses, like the ones I listed above, to succeed in your relationships. 

But how? You’re not a love guru or expert therapist. In fact, you’re probably fed up trying to fix relationship after relationship.

Here are the steps to take to communicate better in your relationships. 

Communicate without triggering your partner

Knowing your partner’s attachment style can help you both communicate. 

It lets you understand what specific verbal statements to avoid in conversation.

When communications turn into arguments, it’s easy to rub against the rawest parts of one another. 

Inevitably, you get caught in an unavoidable downward spiral.

Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) pioneer Sue Johnson refers to this downward spiral as “Demon Dialogues.” 

The first step to avoiding these is recognizing that these dialogues are a broken bridge between the head and heart. Fix the bridge by connecting back in with your heart. The head will follow. 

How can you better communicate? It begins with recognizing their verbal triggers and learning how to actively avoid them.

How to treat avoidant partners

It might help to first take an inventory of what statements and actions trigger you or your partner the most.

I polled 200 members of my online community to find out more about how individuals struggling with insecure attachment experience feeling triggered. 

And I discovered that they really need to feel safe, in love. Also, depending on a person’s attachment style, certain phrases might be particularly annoying.

Let’s break it down by their attachment types.

How to treat Rolling Stones

For avoidant Rolling Stones, they might feel triggered by phrases like:

“I know you better than you know yourself.”

“You wouldn’t say/need/do that, if you really love me.”

“Nothing is wrong, I’m fine.”

“If I have to ask, then it doesn’t count.”

“Keeping [insert anything] private means you’re lying/cheating on me.”

“If you can’t figure that out, then you don’t know me at all.”

Rember, Rolling Stones want more space because it helps them preserve their connections. Help them feel the reassurances they are looking for with these tips.

Say: “We have talked about this, you have told me the ways that being in a relationship can be difficult for you. I understand that this is not about me. Do what you need to do. I’ll be here.”

Ask if they could express themselves and their needs more clearly, while staying in a loving mindset.

Help them feel reassurance that the relationship matters and is worth the effort.

Find common ground around whatever issue or situation is at hand.

Show respect and acknowledge their behavior.

Understand that they feel rejected or unloved in some way.

Show consistency by following up with them, but don’t chase them because too many messages can keep them frozen.

Be there for them in a more gentle and balanced way. Even if they need space, tell them you’re not going anywhere.

Prove you don’t want to change or control them by pointing out specific things that you love about them. 

How to treat Spice of Lifers

The other avoidant type, Spice of Lifers, can also feel annoyed by any or all of the above. The difference is that they also express frustration around statements that hint at taking away their control or questioning it. 

They might also detest statements that are intentionally ambiguous, because they can leave them questioning their own intuition and reality. (That said, they might utter those statements themselves).

Spice of Lifers might feel triggered when told phrases like:

“You’re way too intense. You’ve lost control of yourself.”

“You have no idea what you’re talking about, I know what’s going on here.”

“You’ll just mess it up, let me do it for you.”

“You love me, you just don’t know it yet.”

“Maybe one day we’ll be together for real. Right now, I just don’t know.”

“You’re so amazing, but I don’t think you’ll ever be satisfied.”

“You haven’t given us a real chance, you’re just responding to your past trauma.”

“I love you, but I could never truly be with you.”

Unfortunately, reassuring Spice of Lifers can be very difficult. Their attachment style is literally defined by an inability to self-soothe and an inability to receive soothing from others. This is often the result of trauma, which we will discuss more in a moment.

How to decrease avoidant attachment

People can change their attachment styles over time. That can mean a decrease in attachment avoidance.

One experiment studied couples who participated in a series of brief activities. Those that performed activities designed to increase closeness and intimacy showed a decrease in avoidant attachment. Those same people rated their relationships as higher-quality than before the experiment.

To benefit from this, connect with your avoidant partner through activities that appear to be long-lasting. 

For example, take turns answering intimate and thoughtful questions with your avoidant partner. Simply open up a bit and encourage them to do the same.

Unfortunately, this study did not have the same positive effect on anxious individuals. So how do you treat an anxious partner? That’s next.

How to treat an anxious partner

For anxious Open Hearts, they might be triggered or rattled when a partner says things like:

“Love is not enough, but I still love you.”

“I am sorry you feel that way.”

“I don’t know what you’re so upset about, it’s not that big of a deal.”

“I need some time alone to think about it.”

“I don’t know why I feel that way, the chemistry just must be off.”

*Silence*

Here are some reassurances that anxious types are looking for:

“It’s alright, we’ll get through this.”

Pull them close into a hug and tell them it will be okay.

Use a calming voice and listen to them, showing you’re not scared of their feelings.

Reaffirm that what they say and think is important to you. 

When they cry, just let them. Maybe hold them while they do it.

That’s how you communicate with both avoidant and anxious partners. But how do you finally end the anxious-avoidant dance? That’s next. 

Ending the anxious-avoidant dance

Ready to end the anxious-avoidant cycle?

Here’s the thing: 

You need to start by paying attention to how YOU show up.

Sure, it all doesn’t come down on you. Your partner also has to want to change.

You can start by setting clear boundaries. This will help you find a way out from all the mixed signals in insecure relationships. 

How? Here are four ways to establish boundaries and successfully stop the dance to fix your anxious-avoidant relationship.

1. Figure out what you want. If that’s too hard at first, figure out what you don’t want and look at the opposite. 

Ask yourself:

What doesn’t feel good to you in your relationship?

What feelings or behaviors do you wish would replace that condition?

Don’t just think about it. Write it down. Draw it out. Make these thoughts real in some way. Already, you have started to establish boundaries. 

2. Be the braver partner. Want to know where the relationship is going? Decide where YOU want it to go, first. Want to know what someone is feeling? Decide how YOU are feeling and create space for the other person’s feelings without judgment. 

In short, be the change you want to see. Your partner will either fall in line, or they will fall away. If that happens, the best thing you can do is let them go. It’s a hard truth, but it is in alignment with your highest good. More on that later.

3. Stop operating from a place of “perceived potential.” So often, we hold onto things (people, places, jobs, ideas, identities) that no longer serve us because we think there is “so much potential” in them. Of course there is, but you can’t chase a fantasy.

It’s easy to focus on the idea of a happy ending, but you’re constructing your own reality. The problem is that you cannot control your partner’s reality. Therein, lies the seeds of both your discontent. It’s a paradox of the potential of love and unconditional love.

Instead think, how effectively has that potential being realized? 

4. Stop avoiding your own problems by trying to solve someone else’s. This goes for individuals with all insecure attachment styles. We tend to project our own inner conflict outwards onto the people closest to us. Why? It is easier than confronting it within ourselves.

For example, Open Heart, anxious partners will ask countless friends to help them interpret a partner’s behavior before and after they ask their partner directly for an explanation. They think that whatever their partners say is inadequate.

What I mean is that the hole we are trying to fill is bottomless, so long as we keep looking for something outside of ourselves to fill it. If you work on yourself, you may find better success with your partner.

Now you know how to treat your anxious partner and finally break free from the anxious-avoidant relationship cycle. What’s next?

Want to know what your attachment style is? Take the quiz! 

Moving forward from the anxious-avoidant relationship cycle

Once you finally break free from the cycle, now what? People with secure attachment styles have more stable and long-lasting relationships. So, can you cultivate a more secure attachment style?

To put it briefly, yes. You can achieve a secure attachment style, even quickly. I talk more about it here: 

If you’re trying to find security fast, you have to shift your perceptions of what it means to be “secure.”

Being secure does not mean that the worry is not there. 

It means you have more spaciousness inside to buffer the effect of the worry. 

But say you’ve done it all. You’ve shown up. You’ve set boundaries. But nothing happens.

When is it time to leave your partner? Here’s what you need to know. 

When to leave an anxious-avoidant relationship

You love your partner and want the relationship to work, but how much is too much? How do you know when to break up with an anxious-avoidant person?

Really, you must choose what’s best for you. Sometimes, that means leaving them. It’s not healthy for anyone to stay in a toxic relationship.

It’s an effective strategy to treat your partner according to their attachment style, but sometimes it’s not enough. 

Unfortunately, some relationships are incurably incompatible.

How to know for sure if you’re not compatible

Anxious-avoidant relationships can work, but sometimes couples are simply incompatible.

Mismatched needs and values may not be deal breakers on their own, but they can be if you add attachment fears into the mix. 

Now you have damaging, defensive communication going on.

You must be emotionally honest with yourself – and your partner. It is the only way to expose true attachment insecurity and incurable incompatibility. 

Remember? Communication is key.

For a dive into this topic, this video explains it all.

Is the potential you see in your relationship valid?

You’re probably holding onto this relationship because you see the potential in it. You must accept whether the potential is actually being realized. 

You can control your reality, but not theirs.

This freewill might not be what you’re hoping for, but it’s the same freedom that lets us be who we are. If we cannot be who we are, we cannot truly love or accept love.

In other words, we have to let go of our own grand notion that we possess any control over others. Because, no one has that power over us either.

This concept is explained deeper in this short video: 

Stop thinking: What would they do without me? Would an avoidant even miss me?

Instead, ask yourself: How do YOU feel? And, how could you feel?

Analyze how YOU are feeling & listen to your body

Here’s an easy way to figure it out. Stop and ask yourself, truthfully:

  • Does this person contribute to your sense of purpose?
  • Do you see yourself as happy with this person in the future?
  • Do you feel safe speaking your mind?
  • Are they generous in spirit?
  • Do they have similar long-term goals?
  • Do you have similar values?
  • Can they communicate about sex with you?

If you’re answering these questions negatively, you have your answer. I believe the body knows when it’s time to let go. 

As a Reiki practitioner, I would also encourage you to decipher when to leave a toxic relationship by listening to your chakras. Here’s a video clip to help you with this.

In the end, if your partner has no willingness to change, they probably won’t. It’s not easy to make an avoidant partner recognize your love. If you are showing up for your partner, they must show up for you.

With these strategies, you can overcome your fears to walk away from a relationship that isn’t serving you. The motivation to save a relationship must ultimately come from both partners, not just you.

And if you want to learn more, find out what your attachment style is using this quiz: 

Over to you!

There you go. Now you know what an anxious-avoidant relationship is, how to fix the relationship, how to treat an avoidant or anxious partner, and how and when to walk away..

Anxious-avoidant relationships can work, they just need partners who understand what each other needs.

Now, I’d love to hear from you!

Let me know in the comments below: 

What did you learn today?

SHARE:

38 comments

  1. Hi, I really identify with this article. The triggering phrases of rolling stone and open heart are missing. How can I find out about that?

    1. Thank you for commenting. Those are included in the blog post above. You have to continue scrolling.

      For avoidant Rolling Stones, they might feel triggered by phrases like:

      “I know you better than you know yourself.”

      “You wouldn’t say/need/do that, if you really love me.”

      “Nothing is wrong, I’m fine.”

      “If I have to ask, then it doesn’t count.”

      “Keeping [insert anything] private means you’re lying/cheating on me.”

      “If you can’t figure that out, then you don’t know me at all.”

      Remember, Rolling Stones want more space because it helps them preserve their connections. Help them feel the reassurances they are looking for with these tips.

      For anxious Open Hearts, they might be triggered or rattled when a partner says things like:

      “Love is not enough, but I still love you.”

      “I am sorry you feel that way.”

      “I don’t know what you’re so upset about, it’s not that big of a deal.”

      “I need some time alone to think about it.”

      “I don’t know why I feel that way, the chemistry just must be off.”

      *Silence*

      I hope it helps!

    2. Absolutely brilliant Briana.
      Mum and I have always had this push-pull relationship, I have to change, I avoid her because she triggers me about everything, we havent talked for past month and twice before for a year at a time.
      I see where we both fit into Anxious – Avoidant, so too my past intimate relationships.
      The most magic thing I have learnt is ‘Ending the Dance”.
      Can u find yourself Anxious and Dismissive Avoidant? Childhood origin is Dismissive and to Reassure me lies in Anxious.
      Thank you once again for this amazing guidance tool.

      1. If you have both anxious and dismissive tendencies that is more likely to be a fearfully-avoidant or “disorganized” attachment style. Anxious people are avoidant sometimes, and avoidant people are anxious sometimes–but we are looking at a FREQUENCY of thought and behavior. For Fearfully avoidant or disorganized folks, it is a constant strain between two impulses happening at the same time. Usually this will eventually lead to a dissociative shut down and deactivating of the attachment system altogether–and their feelings kind of “flip” or turn off without trigger. I hope this helps.

  2. This was an amazing eye opener.
    I’ve learned my anxious attachments come from over giving to keep others happy to avoid conflict.
    It has been a very unhealthy lifestyle I’ve lived most of my life and I realize without reciprocation from my partner I have not failed the relationship but rather felt exhausted feeling i must turn flips giving them what they need to feel loved. The other side of this problem is exactly what you mentioned, resentment.
    I’m tired emotionally and feel asking for reciprocation ends in insults and blame that I am overreacting or to clingy.
    I’ve also felt by watching my parents you should stay and do what is right regardless of the efforts from the other partner. This never felt right with me and now I see the repeated pattern in my own relationships.
    Maybe you truly do have to kiss a million frogs to find that reciprocation but you have shown me love will never be just enough reason to stay where you feel your cup remains empty when both people aren’t pouring into one another.
    I have been searching to understand this for almost 20yrs because I feel I have failed every man who needed my love and support but couldn’t give it in return. Though it does hurt to see it end, I’m actually excited to feel what I always knew was true about recognizing true love and commitment. We are accountable for what we choose to settle for.
    Thank you.

  3. Thank you for this article, I’ve been struggling alot with the current relationship I’m in. My bf and I live together and he’s diagnosed with depression and anxiety, whenever we have a small argument he withdraws. I couldnt stand the silent treatment or the feeling of being ignored. I was always the type of wanting to talk about it and work things out but he gets upset and would just say he wants to be left alone. I was being stubborn and kept pushing is buttons, he got even more upset and broke up with me and blocked me on all social media. It’s been 2 weeks. He is also struggling with money right now because he doesn’t have a job but he’s actively looking for one. He has been stressed out on that too. We talked about our arguments, I told him I need him to leave the house if he doesn’t see having a future with me because I wouldnt be able to move on with my life with him being there and just be “friends” “roommates”. He said he feels like I’m walking all over him and that I dont listen whenever he tells me to stop. He says everytime he tells me to “Stop” or leave him alone it’s because to end the argument but I tend to over think and make it a big deal. He told me that even tho we broke up he still comes home everynight and that if he wanted to move out he would have left already and had other places to stay and see other ppl too. He says he doesn’t want to move out because it is his home and he doesn’t want to see other people and he wants to work things out with me eventually.

    I just dont have anyone to talk to about my problems because no one seems to understand the situation that I am in.
    As of right now, we still sleep on separate rooms and he doesn’t want me to be around him or bug him. I’m just confused on what I should do. Please help

    1. Thank you for commenting and sharing a bit of your experience. It sounds like you may have a more anxious attachment style which feels threatened when he needs space, so you push harder, and he responds by withdrawing even more because that’s the only way to get what he needs, in order to PRESERVE the relationship. I recommend watching my playlist on attachment basics on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLrMVDDz2c7DOrJ1J6MbBk9upOYj2P51g7), and the communication playlist (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLrMVDDz2c7DPNOMfwMvup2Ayo7AXSkAG2). Otherwise, I would recommend taking the quiz to find out what course would be best for you to work with your attachment style more conscientiously. Sending you love and light on your journey.

  4. Thank you for this. I’m an open heart and my husband is a rolling stone. So mich of this described our relationship. I’ve been going to counseling and it’s been helping. I want to change. The only difference with me is I’m not afraid that he will cheat. I’m afraid that he will die. That he will become sick. I live in that fear constantly. I give in way more than I should. This probably comes from alot of death in a short amount of time. We had 2 stillborn sons in a 5 year time span. One of our best friends was murdered. I watched my grandma die from pancreatic cancer. One of my friends has been killed. Do you have any insight on this?
    Daniellr

    1. Thank you for sharing your comment and a bit of your experience. It sounds like your past would lead to the experience of complicated grief, which can certainly impact the way you attach to loved ones, and the degree of anxiety around your relationships. We explore complicated grief in the first lesson of my online course, Healing Attachment Wounds. You can find that on the course sales page. Sending you love and light on your path.

  5. Wow, thank you so much for sharing this knowledge. I have been suffering for a while and kept thinking I could change my avoidant partner but that does not seem like a reasonable idea. I was wondering if you do individual sessions and or have other resources I can read? Please feel free to email me, I need support.

    1. Thank you for your comment, I am glad the content is helpful. I do not offer individual sessions at this time, but you can check out my youtube channel through the link on the contact page.

  6. I really appreciate this article and all the work you do Brianna, but would find it helpful if there weren’t obvious parts missing. Another person commented above and u filled in those missing parts (thank you) but there are others as well. I’ve read this article three times now and it seems wherever you listed examples of things, they are not present in the article.
    Would it be possible to receive the full version? If so please send to me at ashleefairchildjones@gmail.com.
    Thanks in advance!

  7. I relate with this article and I wish I knew this earlier. I’m undergoing psycotherapy, my counselor recommended this and I must admit this the answer I have been looking for all my life. I have anxious attachment style which makes me a people pleaser I carry the burden of fixing things yet I feel empty. I can’t be more grateful that I am starting a journey on self identity and make conscious decisions on what to setlle for , when to stay and when it it time to walk away

  8. I’ve been struggling my whole life and just found out a few hours ago that I have an anxious-avoidant attachment style. Everything…and I do mean everything…makes so much more sense as far as things that I do, how I feel, what I think, what triggers me…and him (seems to be disorganized avoidant). We split 6 months ago but have been trying to salvage our relationship while living apart and seeing each other one or two times a week (we also work at the same company which hasn’t helped anything – I know). I search and read, search and read, and finding out that I’m “less than secure” completely through no real fault of my own…after the tears and feelings of shame and guilt (for my relationship troubles) subsided for a few minutes, I searched how to correct these deep-seated things in myself. Super long story, short; Thank you. I found this at just the right time, I believe. I appreciate this so very much.

  9. These last 3 months I tried dating a girl I met on tinder with avoidant attachment. We really connected well thourhg text and had a pleasant date. But I did notice she had trouble to commit to more dating. It was hard for her to meet up under the label ‘date’ because it looks for her like there are too much expectations in that case. Anyway, when I asked, she did agree to it. I found it strange she had such difficulties with accepting this, but I saw it as a good sign. Furthermore, she didn’t like to call, but again on my request we did call sometimes and talked for 3 hours or so.
    The longer i talked with her and was patient, the more I noticed I got triggered. She didn’t put in enough effort. I always had to ask to call or meet up (although she did initiate texting) and the first free day she had for me to meet up a second time was 2 months later. After 2 weeks I told her I didn’t want to date someone who didn’t put in enough effort as I would’ve liked to see, that she was too much hot and cold and lukewarm for me. She promised to move up our date and wanted to match my energy and effort. Eventhough she made that promise, she got more distant in those next 2 weeks. She texted less, said she was very busy, etc. Something felt off and it was driving me mentally crazy. It felt too much like I had to chase her. The day of our second date she got sick and had to cancel me, she told me she was annoyed because of this.
    I told her I didn’t care anymore, I was done with feeling insecure and being patient. She didn’t really like me and I stopped contact.
    Yet, it felt like I was in the wrong, eventhough I respected a boundary of myself. So I started these last 3 weeks researching and came upon these theories about attachment styles. So I recognized she triggered anxiousness in me, that she was an avoidant person and things started to click and make sense. Now I understand that the steps she took (small in my eyes) were actually big steps for her. And I also realise where my imperfections are and having this knowledge want to work on myself. Normally I don’t react like this with girls, but with her I did.
    Now, I am wondering if I should reach out to her again, tell her I’m sorry about how I behaved. That I’d like to give it another chance of getting to know her better. I would like some advice upon this and some reflection.
    Thanks in advance!

    (I tried posting this story before earlier, but it didn’t seem to work on my computer. So if there’s a doublepost, you can delete this one)

  10. Hi there I think I am an anxious attachment type. When I become vulnerable with someone I start to have so much anxiety that they’re going to abandon me, that I can’t eat, it’s hard for me to focus at work, and I get so scared if they talk to anyone, look at anyone, don’t text me, I literally can’t sleep! I’m wondering if you have any suggestions on how to “self soothe” during these times of panic attacks of anxiety? I also feel like my anxiety gets so bad, that it turns to anger- and I literally want to hit the person who i’m dating because they aren’t giving me the reassurance that I need! I was hit when I was a child, but I always thought I had a really good upbringing so I’m still confused on where this comes from. But I find myself feeling so angry sometimes because I’m so anxious and I literally want to beat somebody up because they aren’t reassuring me or giving me attention and I feel like they’re going to abandon me. I’ve been in narcissistic relationships and I’m learning the red flags but I want to heal from this so bad.. I would really love to have a secure relationship! I’ve never had a long-term relationship. I love reading and learning about this topic-I feel like it’s one of my last goals that I’d like to achieve in life. I’m 43, physically healthy, creative, successful, pretty good in the other dynamics of my life, but relationships have just been the hardest struggle for me. When you described the open heart it sounded like my experience. Thank you! Marisa <3

  11. I really appreciated reading this.
    I am struggling to figure out to move from Anxious to Secure. I select often times partners who are avoidant. I have the awareness and have for a while but even in my last year relationship. I tried to bring up attachment styles because i figured out he was avoidant. He would be so non-present, cut me off, lacked attentiveness, seemed just so in his head. I never felt seen while dating him and even bringingn these strategies up it is as if they would last a bit then stop….

    He was doingn therapy sporadically as I was too.

    Ultimately we ended, and he resents me. He said I forced him into therapy, forced him to say nice things to me, forced him to take me on dates. Even though I was just being transparent with what I needed in a communicative way. It all backfired. He stopped therapy, started drinking and isolating again, and completely ignores me now.

    I am crushed.

  12. I am dating this guy who has avoidant attachment style and it’s just as you described – he’s hot/cold, doesn’t put in much efforts but somethings he does are big steps for him and I do appreciate it. Sometimes he will respect my boundaries and when we have an argument, he avoids it and disappears. I want to just sit down and talk with him but I am worried that he will get triggered and flee the scene by blowing up or doing something just to avoid the talk.
    I am usually very patient with people who have issues but not when they don’t put in effort, especially with a partner who also has issues.
    What should I do?

    1. Thank you for commenting and sharing a bit of your experience. I would have you consider what type of relationship you want IN GENERAL, and also consider how you want a long term partner to show up to conflictual situations. Then hold your partner to that standard. Because if you are with someone that cannot handle conflict at all, then they are not ready for a relationship that will require deepening intimacy – conflict is how we come to recognize and appreciate our differences, needs, values, priorities, and autonomous natures – without the ability to REPAIR conflict, it is a relationship that will not go anywhere. I recommend watching my playlist for communication for more detail. https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLrMVDDz2c7DPNOMfwMvup2Ayo7AXSkAG2

  13. Im an anxious attachment and im madly in love with a avoidant or a fearful attached guy, i cant quite figure him out. I feel like sometimes were so close and can share intimate feelings but then sometimes i feel like he shuts me out. Ive been the one doing the chasing. We have so much in common and we can both see how unique we are and good for each other we are. I ended the realtionship because of an issue that felt unresolvable. Its been 6 weeks and i miss him like crazy. I want to reach out but feel like im always making more effort. I get its cuz of our attachment styles but i dont know if its worth trying to make this relartionship work. He hates anything phychology related and feels threatened by it. Can this work if only one person is able to see theri weaknesses and try and change? I feel like he isnt able to see his own issues and likes to pretend everything is okay.. i dont know what to do.

    1. Thank you for commenting and sharing a bit of your experience. When we focus on granting ourselves compassion and acceptance, thereby aligning with the most authentic expression of our true self, we CAN sometimes inspire a partner to join us there, as they turn inwards to embark on their own journey. HOWEVER, it is more often the case that as you become increasingly aware of your patterns, your partner becomes decreasingly a good match for you, because you are wanting something else – something more, and they are not. Intimate partners cannot grow TOGETHER unless each one is willing to prioritize the other’s needs and values equally. Of course, the paradox is if you DO do this, sometimes the truth is revealed that you really are better off apart…and a lot of what brought you together was a soul assignment to recognize WHAT you authentically need, without all the attachment anxiety and boundary violations attached to it. It’s deep work. But well worth pursuing. Sending you best wishes on your journey.

  14. I’m in a 2.5 year on and off relationship with an avoidant. I’m the open heart in this dynamic and I’m still not sure if he is a spice or lifer or a rolling stone. This is the only relationship I’ve been an open heart in. When he deactivates, he can often deactivate hard like a rolling stone. But he has returned to me so many times after silence and space, even after break ups, that would indicate him being more of a spice of lifer. Regardless, it hurts when he deactivates and goes silent on me. I never know if it will last for days, weeks or even a few months. He’s disappeared for a few months twice in our connection. It’s sad because he is such a good, kind and gentle man. He speaks highly of me telling me he has love and admiration for me. He has never once raised his voice to me nor does he criticize me. He just goes silent when I believe he feels overwhelmed by closeness and emotion. I’ve worked hard on dealing with my triggers that activate within me when I feel him pulling away. But there is a level of me self abandoning by feeling I can’t always express how I feel when he hurts me and I feel one of his deactivations coming on. He’s currently deactivating and hasn’t answered most of my messages over the last week. And no, I haven’t sent a ton of messages. I’ve learned from doing that lol. So, I’ve gone silent myself now. It’s so hurtful. I know he isn’t permanently gone, the way I used to think in the past. But it just feels so disrespectful and insensitive for him to do this to me. I’m thankful for content like yours to help get me through these deactivations with him.

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience and for commenting with such sincerity. Withdrawals can be painful, and feel very isolating. But they are good opportunities to get clear about what you really want from partners and from relationships in GENERAL, and then allowing that to be a barometer for what you will and will not commit your time and energy towards, moving forward, in practical ways. Sending you well wishes on this leg of the journey.

  15. Hi Brianna,

    I just want to say that I appreciate your approach. I feel you are actively contributing to all our attempts to learn and live happier lives. I hope the good you are giving out comes back to you.

  16. Hi Brianna.
    I appreciate your information.
    I have studied attachment styles before and I am aware I have an anxious style. I’ve dated avoidant women before and almost seem to gravitate toward these type of women. Do I like the challenging part of that? I would say I’m in the anxious spectrum but not severely. I like alone time too. I don’t always attach to women easily.. In other words, I’m fine being single and reject more women than I get attached to when I date. My trouble comes when I do attach and bond with someone, then I can become very anxious when they start distancing or sending me mixed signals or want to break up. I’ve had two girlfriends in the last 4 years who were definitely avoidant and both decided they didn’t want to be in a relationship or weren’t ready for it. One struggled with mental illness as well and she is still single to this day. The more recent one seems to have traits of both dismissive avoidant and fearful avoidant attachment styles. (What a terrible combo), but she is one of the best and kindest women I’ve ever met, short of having these issues. She love bombed me in the first two months and asked me right out if I would be willing to be exclusive if we continued to date. She continues to send mixed messages, tells me she gets jealous if I talk to other women but won’t keep more than one date in a month. She will call me Hon and Babe and send kissy emoticons one week, then abruptly stop this, the next week or two later. She admits she has fears and is insecure, even though she has a successful career with a high status job in the community. I wish you did coaching. I consulted “Dating Guy” in the past and learned a great deal from him but he has moved on to other things.

    1. Thank you for your comment and for sharing a bit of your story and experience. I offer coaching through a monthly live Q&A for my online students. I also do a 6-month coaching program once a year called Hungry Love. To learn more I invite you to check out the online courses page of my website. You can also join the Facebook group to participate in more active discussions like this, through the contact page.

  17. I am a fearful avoidant with anxious tendencies and my partner of 5 years is a secure/avoidant and we do not live together or have children together. The last 3-4 months we each have had some big life changes that have caused a lot of hurt between each of us. We have struggled to find some common ground that wasn’t filled with my anxiety over our relationship being triggered which then would set off his avoidance tendencies. While we have made it through the worst of the issues intact, I am considering taking a break from him to help heal some of these wounds that seem to be easily triggered by talking to him or spending time with him. As a fearful avoidant with anxious tendencies (I can easily swap to avoidance tendencies as well), would taking a break be detrimental or helpful to our relationship?

  18. I appreciate this so much and makes perfect sense. I feel like I was more secure in my attachment style until I got pregnant unexpectedly with my boyfriend. It is clear that since then I have been more anxious and him increasingly avoidant. Our baby is now a little over one and the past two years of pregnancy and early parenthood have been an awful rollercoaster of axious-avoidant behaviour in our relationship. I want to be able to give him the space he needs but I don’t feel like it’s fair, or loving, or like he sees me, to leave me with our baby while he “takes as much time as he needs”. We’re kind of broken up as of recently but it doesn’t feel very real, or I guess I’m still feeling anxiously attached, and abandoned, and annoyed that I’m still ending up the one as the sole parent in the situation. Any advice?

  19. I am so glad I stumbled across this article, 90% of it perfectly desccribes me and my close friend, I am a typical example of anxious and he’s a typical avoidant. Very often we struggle with misunderstandings and have a lot of fights. From now on I am going to be more careful about what I say to him and try to be more understanding and not pushing on him whenever he needs some space. I really hope that this will help our relationship to be happier. I am only afriad that he might not be willing to change, that if I told him about what I’ve read here he’ll try to run away from this, that he’ll get scared …. For now I will focus on working on my own behaviour and attitude, hopefully my change will help my friend to open up and feel safe with me. Thank you very much for writing this article <3

  20. Wow!! Very eye opening for me.
    Thank you 🙏.
    I am needing to, wanting to and ready to learn more.
    Russ

Leave a Reply

Hi, I'm Briana.

And I love romance novels and campy science fiction shows (anyone else a die-hard Supernatural fan?). I also like being my own boss. Doing what I want to do, when I want to do it. And treating work like play. Through my education, professional experience, and personal life experiences, I have come to passionately serve insecurely attached adults, who want to experience soul-deep intimacy, in their romantic relationships.

Discover the #1 secret to a healthy love life!

Recent Posts

%d bloggers like this: