Have you ever felt like you’re chasing emotional intimacy in your relationship but keep hitting a wall? Dating and avoidant attachment can be challenging.
Maybe you’ve experienced…
- Your partner pulling away when you express deep emotions
- Avoidance or dismissive behavior when you talk about future plans
- A shutdown or retreat during conflicts that seem important to address
As a result, you might find yourself wondering why it feels like your partner is holding back, even when things seem to be going well.
And really wanting to know how to create emotional closeness without pushing them away.
Loving someone with an avoidant attachment, is not always easy, but showing up as a more secure partner that creates a safe space for the both of you to grow together, can be rewarding, and you’re not alone in this.
In my online Facebook group of over 25k members, individuals frequently share posts and comments that echo these challenges.
For example, recently a member posted the question… “Can someone with an avoidant attachment style have a successful relationship?”
If you can relate to this, you’re in the right place!
In this post, I’ll explain what Avoidant Attachment is, the common signs that your partner might be avoidant, the impact it has on your relationship, and seven triggers you should be aware of, and how to mitigate them.
So, you don’t want to miss this!
What is Avoidant Attachment Style?
Avoidant Attachment is a behavioral style where individuals maintain emotional distance to preserve their independence. At its core, this pattern is a coping mechanism born out of a fundamental fear of emotional dependency or manipulation, and a high value placed on self-reliance. Psychologically speaking, people with Avoidant Attachment styles often equate closeness with a loss of autonomy, steering clear of situations that could trigger their deeply ingrained fears.
Signs of Avoidant Attachment Style
Typical signs of Avoidant Attachment include emotional distance, hesitancy in committing to future plans, or keeping conversations surface-level. It’s not that they’re unemotional or uncaring; they’re just careful about letting anyone too close to their emotional core. Other signs might include dodging conflict or minimizing emotional conversations, as both situations could disrupt their carefully balanced sense of self, which is typically held together by rigid, but fragile boundaries. They are usually particularly sensitive and take on other people’s emotional energy, without realizing it, which is why they as for space from emotionally intense people and situations.
To learn more about avoidant attachment, including the strengths of avoidant partners, check out this video on my youtube channel…”Avoidant Partners, 4 Strengths.”
How Does Avoidant Attachment Affect Relationships?
The impact of avoidant attachment on relationships can be profound, often leading to a cycle known as the anxious-avoidant trap, where the push-pull dynamics between partners can create a turbulent emotional landscape.
In this anxious-avoidant trap, both partners often struggle to understand and accommodate each other’s attachment needs, leading to a cycle of conflict and distress. The impact is significant—without awareness and intervention, the relationship may suffer from chronic dissatisfaction, emotional exhaustion, and ultimately, it could lead to its dissolution.
Case Example: The Anxious-Avoidant Trap
Imagine Sarah, who has an anxious attachment style, and Alex, who has an avoidant attachment style. Sarah craves closeness and reassurance, which Alex finds smothering. The more Sarah pushes for intimacy, the more Alex withdraws, fearing the loss of independence. This triggers Sarah’s anxiety further, leading to a heightened demand for connection, which in turn amplifies Alex’s avoidance—a classic anxious-avoidant trap.
Signs of The Anxious Avoidant Trap
The relationship is a rollercoaster of highs and lows, with Sarah feeling loved during moments of connection, only to feel deserted when Alex pulls away.
Pursuit and Distancing
Sarah’s pursuit for closeness is met with Alex’s distancing behavior, creating a cycle of chase and retreat.
There are periods where communication flows, but it’s often disrupted by Alex’s tendency to go silent, leaving Sarah anxious and uncertain.
The couple experiences intense moments of intimacy, followed by Alex’s cold withdrawals, which confuses and hurts Sarah.
Reactivation of Insecurities
Sarah’s neediness is intensified by Alex’s aloofness, while Alex’s avoidance is deepened by Sarah’s clinginess.
The relationship is repeatedly sabotaged by patterns of conflict and reconciliation, with each partner’s attachment system being continuously triggered.
To learn more about how the anxious-avoidant trap plays out, check out one of my most popular videos… “Anxious-Avoidant Relationships: How To Escape The Trap.”
7 Triggers For Avoidant Attachment Style Dating
Having unpacked the nuances of avoidant attachment and highlighted the telltale signs, we’ve also explored the profound impact this style can have on relationships, particularly through the lens of the anxious-avoidant trap.
Now, let’s pivot our focus to a critical aspect: the seven triggers that can send avoidant partners into retreat and the strategies to soften their effects.
Are you hearing “I love you” but not feeling the love? Saying “I love you” can be a minefield when you’re with an avoidant partner. They might struggle to believe you for several reasons.
A) They may think you’re in love with the idea of love, making those words feel cliché to them.
B) It could also be that they feel it’s too soon for such a deep expression, which then pressures them to reciprocate.
C) Or they may feel overly responsible for your emotional state, and that’s a level of influence they don’t want as it encroaches on their sense of freedom.
How to Mitigate Emotional Intensity while Dating with Avoidant Attachment
The first thing is to help them understand that vulnerability isn’t synonymous with losing control. Opening up emotionally isn’t laying down a mandate; it’s an invitation. Make it clear that when you express feelings, you’re not accusing them of failing you. Instead, you’re providing a bridge to connect on a more intimate level. Additionally, emphasize that by sharing your feelings, you’re assuming responsibility for them—it’s not a burden you’re tossing onto them to resolve. You can even say something like, “When I tell you how I feel, it’s not to make you responsible for fixing it. I’m sharing a part of myself to grow closer to you.”
#2. Future Talking
Ever been promised a whirlwind weekend getaway that mysteriously never happens? Avoidant partners can be masters of “future faking.” They’ll paint an idyllic picture of romantic getaways or spur-of-the-moment adventures, yet when you try to turn that talk into reality, they may suddenly become elusive. The excitement turns into anxiety; they may even go radio silent for days. It’s not that they didn’t mean it when they said it; it’s just that the commitment to action feels suffocating for them.
How to Mitigate Future Talking when Dating with Avoidant Attachment
Try framing these conversations as “explorations” rather than commitments. Instead of asking them to confirm plans, share your intentions clearly. For example, “I really love the idea of that weekend trip we talked about. I’m thinking of booking it. Interested in joining?” This approach leaves the door open for them to participate without feeling obligated. They retain their sense of freedom and can opt in or out as they please. Essentially, you’re providing an “opt-in” model for commitment, which can feel less claustrophobic to them.
Do fights with your partner leave you feeling like you’re navigating an emotional minefield? Conflict can trigger a complicated array of emotions in an avoidant partner, often stemming from how conflict was dealt with during their upbringing. It could have been volatile, swept under the rug, or filled with manipulation and passive-aggression. In any case, conflict was a signal of danger for them, so they missed out on learning that conflict can actually be a way to deepen understanding and intimacy in a relationship. In essence, people usually fight because they’re feeling disconnected and are struggling to regain a sense of unity.
How to Mitigate Conflict when Dating Avoidant Attachment
Here’s how you can make conflict less intimidating if you are dating with avoidant attachment:
A) Stay Present: Avoid dredging up past grievances or casting blame. Instead, engage with open-ended questions aimed at their current state of mind.
B) Observe Without Analyzing: Noticing your partner’s body language without overtly scrutinizing it can offer you valuable clues.
C) Speak Their Language: An avoidant individual often feels safer discussing thoughts rather than feelings.
For example, replace a loaded statement like, “You seem upset, probably due to your childhood. Let’s talk about it,” with a more inviting and immediate one: “I noticed you just crossed your arms and looked away. What’s on your mind? Maybe I can help.”
By focusing on the here and now, you allow your avoidant partner to engage without feeling overwhelmed or intruded upon. You’re making it about connection, not about solving a puzzle or fixing a problem.
Do you find that every time you talk about taking the next step in your relationship, your partner puts on invisible running shoes? Here’s why.Commitment for many is a joyous milestone, but for an avoidant partner, it can feel like an encroachment on their independence. The idea of planning a future together doesn’t just signify a deepening of emotional ties but can also instigate fears of losing oneself. Their apprehension is often rooted in the concern that commitment equals loss of freedom, or worse, that it sets them up for future failure or disappointment.
Commitment-phobia doesn’t mean they don’t care about you; quite the contrary. They may very well visualize a future with you but are paralyzed by the ‘what-ifs.’ What if they can’t meet your expectations? What if they disappoint you, or themselves? They can be terrified that by committing, they’ll either lose you because they can’t deliver on the promises or they’ll lose themselves in the process.
How to Mitigate A Fear of Commitment if Dating with Avoidant Attachment
A) Frame Commitment Differently: Instead of talking about commitment as a binding contract, discuss it as a partnership for mutual growth. It’s not about locking them in; it’s about both of you rising together.
B) Step-by-Step: Don’t go from casual dating to discussing lifelong plans in one leap. Introduce the idea of commitment gradually, perhaps beginning with smaller things like planning a trip together several months down the line. Even if they try to initiate those conversations because they are swept up in the moment, stay steady and take your time. That creates more space for them to move towards you, instead of you wasting your energy chasing them down.
C)Independence Within Unity: Remind them that a committed relationship doesn’t require sacrificing individuality. It’s entirely possible to be a ‘we’ and still be a ‘me.’
For instance, instead of saying, “Where do you see us in five years?”, try asking, “What’s one adventure you’d love for us to experience together in the coming year?” This makes the idea of commitment less overwhelming and more immediate.
#5. Boundary Violations
Boundaries are invisible lines that keep us safe. But what happens when those lines get crossed? Navigating boundaries with an avoidant partner can sometimes feel like walking on eggshells. While all of us have our comfort zones, avoidants are particularly sensitive when their personal boundaries are breached. It’s not about you; it’s about them maintaining a sense of autonomy and control. When that space is invaded, whether it’s going through their personal items or making decisions for them, it sends a signal that their personal agency is not being respected, and that’s a big deal for them.
Example of Triggered Boundaries Spiraling Out of Control in Dating Avoidant Attachment
Imagine you pick up their phone to check the time, and you notice them tense up. It might seem trivial to you, but for them, it could be a significant breach of their personal space, and maybe they assume that you’re trying to invade their space and control them. You, in turn, feel triggered, assuming they must have something to hide if they flinch like that. This sparks an argument over inaccurate assumptions and accusations, after which everyone feels angry, rejected, distrustful and down about the relationship.
How to Mitigate Crossed Boundaries When Dating With Avoidant Attachment
A) Explicit Permission: Before you cross into their personal boundaries, whether that’s reading their messages or planning a surprise getaway, ask for explicit permission. And be okay if they say ‘no.’
B) Dialogue Over Assumption: Never assume you know what’s okay for them. Even in a committed relationship, it’s essential to check in and recalibrate boundaries periodically.
For instance, instead of saying, “I can tell you’re angry, you’d feel better if you’d just talk about it,” try, “Your jaw is clenched and your body looks tense. Penny for your thoughts?” This respects their agency and extends an invitation to connect over thoughts, rather than feelings, which is usually more appealing to them. Also, you are not assuming how they feel, you are very concretely communicating that you see them, and you sense distress, but you aren’t labeling it something or telling them how they feel.
It’s important to realize that Understanding that an avoidant partner’s need for well-defined boundaries isn’t a rejection of you but a form of self-protection can help you navigate the relationship more compassionately. It’s not about walking on eggshells; it’s about walking together, each respecting the other’s pace and personal space.
To learn more about how healthy boundaries, check out my video, “Healthy Vs Unhealthy Boundaries: How to Tell The Difference”…
#6. Demanding Behavior
Ever wondered why asking for a little emotional support suddenly turns into a game of hide and seek? Why is it that a simple request might set off alarm bells for avoidant partners? Let’s unpack this.
We all have needs and desires in a relationship, but the way we communicate them can greatly impact an avoidant partner. Why? Because to them, a demand, even if it’s for emotional support, can feel like a potential loss of their personal freedom and space. It’s not that they’re not interested in your well-being; they are. But the delivery makes all the difference. And the more intense your emotional energy is when you make a request, the more they will feel overwhelmed and overstimulated by it.
Language Matters With Dating and Avoidant Attachment
The words you use to express your feelings can play a crucial role. Evaluative language like “I feel abandoned by you” implies a judgment and creates an invisible demand for a specific type of behavior. This may cause them to withdraw.
Instead, try expressing yourself with genuine feeling words without a hidden “should” or “must” attached.
For example, saying, “I feel lonely and lost, and it would warm me to feel connected to you again” brings the focus back to your own emotional experience without demanding a specific action from them. This approach respects their autonomy and invites them to meet your needs, rather than commanding them to do so.
You notice your partner becoming distant after you text them, “Why haven’t you called? I feel like you’re ignoring me.” A more effective approach might be, “I’ve missed hearing your voice; it always brightens my day.”
How to Mitigate Making Requests When Dating with Avoidant Attachment
A) Express, Don’t Demand: Frame your needs as requests rather than demands. Emphasize their freedom to choose and respect their decision, even if it’s a ‘no.’
B) Check Your Language: Be mindful of evaluative language that implies blame or obligation. Stick to true feeling words.
C) Independence is Key: Remind them that meeting your emotional needs doesn’t mean they’re losing their independence. It’s about creating a balanced emotional landscape where both partners can flourish.
The key here is to navigate this delicate balance without losing sight of your own needs. Your needs are valid; it’s just about presenting them in a way that respects your avoidant partner’s sensitivities and allows them to step forward willingly.
To learn more about “6 Effective Communication Tips With Avoidant Partners”, check out this video here…
Criticism in and of itself is a terrible way to communicate with anyone, but especially with avoidant partners, because it ignites an avoidant partner’s deepest fears of inadequacy, of rejection, and of loss of autonomy. There is a difference between criticism and constructive feedback, but because avoidant partners are so sensitive to this, they can’t really tell the difference. They may have a big reaction when you say you didn’t like something, and you’ll suddenly feel like you detonated an emotional landmine. Why, because they may perceive this as emotional manipulation, and misinterpret that as an attempt to control them.
Use Soft Strategies in Communication when Dating Avoidant Attachment
To avoid sounding critical, try using soft strategies in communication. Soft strategies are not about muting your voice; they’re about amplifying understanding. Soft Strategies respect your partner’s autonomy while conveying respect and appreciation. They include:
A) Disarming Honesty: Be transparent about your intentions. Make it clear your feedback is rooted in care, not control.
B) Objective Language: Use descriptions of observable behaviors rather than attributing intent or personality flaws. This acknowledges their autonomy by not pigeonholing their actions.
C) Temporal Specificity: Be specific about the time or event you’re referring to. This narrows down the focus and makes the criticism more digestible.
D) Soliciting Feedback: Open the door for them to share their perspective. This not only fosters mutual respect but also underscores that you value their autonomy.
Instead of: “You never listen to me, and it makes me feel like you don’t care. What’s your problem?”
Try this: “During our discussion about holiday plans, you seemed preoccupied with your phone. I felt a bit lost and frustrated, and my mind started spinning assumptions about how much you care about me and our plans. Could we talk about the best way to make our conversations more engaging for both of us?”
How to Mitigate The Use Of Criticism in Communication
A) Use Soft Strategies to communicate your thoughts and feelings while honoring their autonomy.
B) Avoid terms that they might interpret as attacking their character.
C) Keep your voice calm and neutral. This creates a safe emotional space for both of you.
So those are the seven major triggers for avoidant partners, and tips on how to mitigate them in relationships.
If you’d like to learn more about using soft and safe strategies in communication. Check out my course on Decode Mixed Signals in Relationships.
Let me know in the comments, have you witnessed these triggers in your relationships? What methods have you found that work well in establishing harmony in your relationships? I’d love to read your feedback.
Can someone with an avoidant attachment style have a successful relationship?
Embarking on the journey toward a fulfilling relationship can be challenging, especially for those navigating the waters of dating avoidant attachment. Yet, the potential for a successful and deeply satisfying partnership is not only possible but likely, with the right guidance and self-awareness. Irena’s story is a beacon of hope for anyone who’s been caught in the analytical labyrinth of self-help. Despite her extensive knowledge and understanding, it was the heart-centered approach of “Avoidant Attachment 101” that shifted her perspective from a place of intellectual observation to emotional engagement.
Like Irena, who found a way to connect with her emotions after years of struggle, others too can learn to peel away the layers of avoidance and step into a more emotionally present and fulfilling relationship. The change she experienced in mere months speaks volumes to the transformative power of embracing one’s emotional world. This course is more than just a collection of information; it’s a portal to a new way of feeling, relating, and thriving in love.
Watch Irena’s full video testimonial to see her remarkable transformation and discover how you, too, can cultivate the emotional intimacy that paves the way for a truly successful relationship. Check out my online courses page to experience results like Irena!
Navigating the complex terrain of avoidant attachment can often feel like trying to decipher an intricate dance—one misstep and you may find yourself out of sync. Yet, understanding and harmonizing with an avoidant partner’s sensitivities can transform your relationship into a beautifully choreographed waltz of intimacy and trust. If you’re ready to deepen your connection and turn potential pitfalls into stepping stones for a stronger bond, then it’s time to consider an invaluable resource.
I invite you to explore my comprehensive attachment courses designed specifically for those entangled in the delicate nuances of insecure attachment. These courses aren’t just an investment in your relationship—it’s an investment in your personal growth and in laying the groundwork for lasting love. With tailored strategies, compassionate insights, and actionable steps, you’ll learn how to create a shared rhythm that respects autonomy while fostering closeness. Visit the page for my attachment online courses to determine the best course for you to start.
Don’t let misunderstanding and miscommunication dictate the tempo of your relationship. Take the lead in cultivating a secure and harmonious partnership that can withstand the ebb and flow of life’s intricate dance. A loving relationship is out there for you, and it’s worth it!