Want to know how to deal with an avoidant partner?
If so, you’re right where you need to be.
Today, we’re going to dive right into the various attachment styles and what you can do to help if you have an avoidant partner in your life. If you do, don’t stress! We’ll also discuss what you can do to fix your relationship and build it back up.
Curious? Keep reading to find out more!
Want to know what your attachment style is? Take the quiz!
What are attachment styles?
Attachment styles are simply how humans attach themselves to one another. A study by psychologist Mary Ainsworth revealed that these styles start forming as early as infanthood and continue to affect our adult relationships.
These attachment styles are characterized by our first relationships with parents or caretakers. Once these styles are formed, they impact our relationships for life.
Most adults have either an avoidant attachment or an anxious attachment style. When an adult with an anxious attachment style and an adult with an avoidant attachment style enter into a relationship, this is an anxious-avoidant relationship.
Read on to find out what these styles are like and how an anxious-avoidant relationship can be a trap.
Avoidant attachment style
We all know someone who has an avoidant attachment style. Did you notice that your partner seemed to fall head over heels for you in a matter of weeks? They told you that they felt so connected with you, and you connected on an intimate level. However, when you think that your relationship is about to enter a new level, they start pulling away.
I call people with this attachment style Rolling Stones. Most people with this attachment style tend to pull back emotionally when the relationship becomes serious. They might start to feel bored, trapped, or smothered in their relationship.
There are two types of avoidant attachment: fearful-avoidant and dismissive-avoidant.
Fearful avoidant types, or Spice of Lifers, as I like to call them, do want connection! However, they are fearful of it and can be suspicious of other people’s emotions. They often distrust others and don’t think that they can sustain a healthy emotional relationship.
Dismissive avoidant types (Rolling Stones) are preoccupied with preserving their emotions. They find it very difficult to have and reciprocate deep and loving emotions towards their partners.
To explore these two types more fully, take a look at this video:
Anxious attachment style
I normally refer to individuals with anxious attachment styles as Open Hearts. Individuals with this attachment style want to be in relationships. They will generally invest a lot (and sacrifice a lot) in the name of their relationship.
These individuals often chase after elusive or unattainable partners. They feel that they are unworthy of love as they are, so they need to work for love in a relationship.
This Open-Hearted attachment usually stems from a root fear of abandonment and not being good enough. Individuals may display clingy behavior or insecurities. Since they are used to a lack of love in their relationships, they take on the majority of the blame if a relationship fails.
One of the biggest problems for the Rolling Stones type is falling into an anxious-avoidant relationship. They often attract partners with insecure or anxious attachment styles.
They’ll often find themselves in a partnership with someone who’s emotionally dependent on them. This works to prove their less than favorable outlook on love — that love typically comes at the cost of their own happiness.
Vice versa, Open Hearts often fall into relationships with Rolling Stones because they tend to equate love with emotional unavailability.
But how can you identify what an anxious-avoidant relationship looks like? Let’s find out.
Characteristics of anxious-avoidant relationships
Anxious-avoidant relationships are relationships between two people with insecure attachment styles. I refer to this as the “anxious-avoidant trap.”
This relationship will usually present itself in one of two ways:
- One partner is always “chasing” after the other partner, who always seems to be running away from the relationship.
- One partner will show chasing behavior towards the runner until the other partner starts to return their feelings, and then they turn into the runner.
The reason why this happens is that these types fall into a push-pull type of relationship. However, you can identify this trap early on in the relationship and work to fix it. I talk about how to do this in this video:
You might also notice that your partner:
- Acts secretively for no reason
- Ignores you for weeks and then messages you out of the blue
- Takes the things you in the relationship for granted
- Is interested in sex but not in defining your relationship
On the other hand, your partner could display behaviors like:
- Inquiring about your every move
- Constantly texting and calling you when you’re apart
- Disrespecting your boundaries or requests for space
- Getting upset when you don’t read their mind
If you realize that you date people with these qualities, you could be stuck in the roller-coaster of anxious-avoidant relationships. But before we discuss how you can fix your relationship, we need to dive deeper into what an avoidant partner looks like.
What is an avoidant partner?
We refer to avoidant partners as Rolling Stones. Avoidant partners generally withdraw from relationships emotionally. They’d rather keep you at bay than let you in.
At first, you probably felt like they dove headfirst into this relationship with you. But then, around the three-month mark, they’ve started to point out flaws in your relationship.
Signs of an avoidant partner
So how can you identify an avoidant partner? While there are many signs, we’re going to tackle six signs that point to your partner starting to distance themselves:
- They’re keeping you separate from the relational aspects of their life.
- You feel that small requests of reassurance will be received negatively
- They avoid talking about defining your relationship or even its progression
- They struggle with other forms of addiction, such as shopping addictions, gaming, hoarding, or drug and alcohol addiction
- You notice that they’ve kept ex-partners in their life and connected on social media platforms
- They’ll say things like “true love doesn’t exist” or “labels ruin the relationship.” After statements like this, they’ll look for proof that their view on love is correct and try to convince you to believe the same.
With signs like this, you’re probably wondering if avoidants can fall in love at all. Let’s answer that now.
Do avoidants fall in love?
So, can avoidant partners actually fall in love? The short answer — is yes, they can.
Avoidant individuals want and need love just like everyone else. They want to feel close to people and receive love from them.
Avoidants can have happy and rewarding relationships, but research shows a direct connection between high levels of happiness and secure attachment.
Unfortunately, these avoidant types tend to keep their partners at a distance with their avoidant behavior. This often creates an avoidant cycle that they get stuck in.
Since avoidant individuals often go for individuals who confirm their beliefs about love, they typically date individuals with anxious attachment. As a result, the more they withdraw, the more their anxious partner reaches out.
I talk more about avoidant behavior in this video:
Avoidants can fall in love. But how can you tell if your avoidant partner loves you?
How to tell if an avoidant partner loves you?
It’s great to know that your avoidant partner can actually fall in love. But what are the signs that your partner loves you? You feel that they do, but it’s a bit confusing when their actions and words don’t seem to line up.
If you’re wondering whether or not to dive into a relationship with your avoidant partner fully, here are six signs you can look for that can assure you of their love:
- They make exceptions to their rules: Your partner may have had strong rules or boundaries in the past. If they’re breaking these for you or making exceptions, this is a great sign.
- They want to take the relationship slow: If your partner asks you to take the relationship slow or to wait before getting intimate, this means they love you. Individuals with avoidant attachments tend to have hypersexual relationships, so taking it slow is good.
- You notice that they make plans for travel or other commitments with you: Avoidant partners struggle with commitment. If they make plans for travel or set up other future commitments, this is a clear sign that they love you.
- They introduce you to their family or kids: Avoidant individuals typically worry that the relationship won’t last long, or that they’ll scare you off by intertwining your lives. If your avoidant partner has introduced you to their kids or family, this shows that they love you.
- You receive various forms of their love languages: Receiving gifts, acts of service or physical touch from your avoidant partner is another sign of love.
- They give you access to their home or apartment and leave you alone: Remember Rolling Stones are all about boundaries and privacy. Giving you access to their personal space without them around is a huge sign of trust.
Once you’ve confirmed your partner’s love for you, it doesn’t end here. You need to know how to treat your avoidant partner too. Read on to find out how.
Want to know what your attachment style is? Take the quiz!
How to treat an avoidant partner
You can learn how to give an avoidant partner the security they need without sacrificing your own mental health. Loving someone with an avoidant attachment style isn’t easy, but these suggestions can help you treat your avoidant partner the right way.
- Spend time learning about their real character. Show your partner that you want to know who they really are, not just what they appear to be.
- Avoid constantly seeking validation and stand your ground. Avoidant partners can easily feel bored in the relationship if you indulge them.
- Make sure that you keep up with your own hobbies and interests. This helps you avoid chasing after your partner or relying on them too heavily.
- Communicate your needs to your partner clearly and frankly. Don’t be afraid to express yourself clearly. If not, you’ll probably get excuses from your partner.
- Don’t be afraid to give them space. Give them space when they need it to figure out their own feelings.
While applying these suggestions can help you improve the health of your relationship, this is only the beginning. Avoidant partners also have certain wants and needs in a partnership. Let’s discuss what those wants are.
What do avoidant partners want?
To figure out how to treat your partner, you first need to figure out what they want. Generally, avoidant partners tend to want more space in the relationship. This isn’t because they dislike you or are bored of you.
They want space because it helps them to keep their connections afloat. They also want to stay true to themselves in a relationship.
However, avoidant partners have a tendency to create conflict in their relationships. For them, it works as an unconscious defense mechanism. If the love they’ve received in their life was given through conflict, you’ll see this pop up in your relationship.
They might create conflict to “test” the relationship and see if it’s true love or see if it’s what they truly want.
Avoidant partners want to feel respected and to have their behavior acknowledged. They want to know that their need for space isn’t a deal-breaker and that you’ll be there when they’re ready.
Avoidant individuals will also want to be reassured that you’re not trying to control or change them in your relationship. In a conversation, this might look like sharing things you appreciate about them instead of criticizing their behavior.
Can you fix your relationship?
However, anxious-avoidant relationships often involve conflict. That’s why one question I get a lot from people is: Can I fix my relationship with my avoidant partner?
The answer is yes!
If you realize that you’re neck-deep in a relationship with an avoidant partner, there are things you can do to fix your relationship. It starts with you both developing secure attachments with each other.
I talk more about how you can learn to develop secure attachment quickly here:
You have to create an emotionally safe environment within your relationship with your avoidant partner. Avoid emotionally triggering statements and reassure them that you understand their need for space.
Instead of saying statements like:
“Keeping your friendships with your exes private means you’re hiding things from me”
“You wouldn’t say that if you really loved me.”
Statements like this will push your already distant partner even farther away. Instead, work to build your relationship with statements that foster trust and growth.
Don’t get defensive if they seem hesitant to share thoughts. Ask them to express themselves and what they need from the relationship clearly. Be respectful and acknowledge their behavior, whatever that may be.
If you notice that they need space, assure them that you’ll be there when they’re ready to talk. Make it clear that you have no intention of forcing them to change themselves for the relationship. Point out specific things about them and their personality that you love.
Work on connecting with your avoidant partner through activities that encourage the longevity of your relationship. For example, you might schedule a cozy date night where you answer intimate and thoughtful questions with each other.
The answers you give can make your avoidant feel less flighty, happier, and more secure in your relationship.
That said, changing your attachment style is a process and there’s no “easy fix” to making it happen. Both partners must be willing to change and as your attachment style is rooted in your identity (your genetics, brain, autonomic nervous system, and neurotransmitters), you need to make deep shifts.
The steps we take to make these shifts are cognitive reframing, body activation, and arts-based experientials.
However, if you notice that your partner isn’t willing to change, you might ask yourself, “when is it time to leave your avoidant partner?” Read on to find out.
Leaving an avoidant partner
You love your partner and want nothing more than for your relationship to work. Unfortunately, there comes a time when leaving your Rolling Stone is the best choice for you. Of course, leaving is much easier said than done. There could be years of history between the two of you, and you might wonder if you’re making the right decision.
Even though you’ve put the work into your relationship to improve your anxious-avoidant relationship, it might just be incompatible. If you’re not sure about the compatibility of your relationship, this video dives into incurably incompatible relationships.
If you feel that your avoidant partner isn’t recognizing your love or reciprocating your efforts, it’s time to leave. While you might feel emotions like sadness, anger, fear, or grief, this is all part of the healing process.
Allow yourself to feel the painful feelings of your breakup. Instead of rushing through them, locate where you feel the sadness or anger in your body, and take time to process these emotions.
Although letting go of these emotions may initially feel like a betrayal to your loved one, rest assured that it’s not. You may always carry a piece of your love for them with you, and sometimes that’s all you can do.
Over to you!
There you have it! Now that you know what an avoidant partner looks like, you can work to help your partner build a secure attachment.
Are you curious about what else you can do to help your avoidant partner? Let me know what questions you have down below in the comments!
Want to know what your attachment style is? Take the quiz down below.