Avoidant Attachment - 13 Causes, Signs & How It Affects Relationships (2022)

| Attachment Theory | Attachment styles | The two-dimensional model | What is avoidant attachment style | Causes | Signs | How to heal avoidant attachment in yourself | How to cope with an avoidantly attached spouse |

Often, people who have spouses with avoidant attachment styles feel as though they are the only ones invested in the relationship. While they love their partners, they can’t help but feel that their relationship is one-sided. They are the only ones putting in any effort.

In order to better understand avoidant attachment style, let’s take a closer look at the attachment theory.

Attachment Theory

The attachment theory explains how emotional attachment between infants and their primary caregivers affects the child’s development, behavior, and relationships. This theory was originally proposed by psychoanalyst John Bowlby and has been expanded upon by other theorists since then.

According to Bowlby, infants have an inborn need to be with their caregivers to survive.

The type of attachment behavior exhibited by babies during distress depends on the quality of their care, and this pattern of behavior is referred to as attachment style.

When a child receives consistent warm and responsive care, they are more likely to develop a secure attachment. The child feels safe and secure and can rely on their caregiver for support.

A child’s internal working model, which represents the self and others, is formed from this relationship. It influences how they view themselves and others, affects their behavior, and shapes their development.

Avoidant Attachment - 13 Causes, Signs & How It Affects Relationships (1)

Attachment styles

Early emotional experiences shape children’s beliefs about trustworthiness and responsiveness. If they are treated consistently and responsively, they develop the expectation of being supported and available when they need it​1​.

If, however, the caregivers do not respond consistently to the children’s needs, they will not expect support when needed and develop insecure attachment styles.

There are four types of attachment styles in children. Only one of them is a secure attachment type, while the rest are insecure.

  • Secure attachment style
  • Avoidant attachment style
  • Ambivalent attachment style
  • Disorganized attachment style (Disoriented attachment style)

Scientists have found that attachment theory can also be applied to adults.

As with child attachment, adult attachment styles play a significant role in interpersonal functioning, emotion regulation, and well-being. Adult attachment styles affect how people feel, think, and behave in intimate relationships.

The four adult attachment styles are:

  • Secure attachment style
  • Avoidant attachment style
  • Anxious attachment style
  • Fearful attachment style

The two-dimensional model

A two-dimensional model is used in conceptualizing adult attachment.

One dimension of this model is attachment-related avoidance. It indicates the extent to which people organize their attachment-related thoughts, feelings, and behaviors around defensive goals.

People who are high on avoidance are uncomfortable relying on others or allowing others to rely on them. People who are low on this dimension are comfortable using others as a safe haven and a secure base.

The other dimension, attachment-related anxiety, represents the extent to which individuals are concerned about rejection and abandonment.

(Video) How to Spot the 7 Traits of Avoidant Personality Disorder

There are two distinct types of avoidant attachment – dismissive avoidant, who are low in anxiety, and fearful avoidant, who are high in anxiety.

Dismissive avoidants disregard the importance of relationships, whereas fearful avoidants avoid closeness out of fear of rejection.

When it comes to relating to others, people with avoidant dismissive attachment styles are often angry and dismissive, while fearful-avoidants are withdrawn​2​.

In general, avoidant attachment refers to the dismissive avoidant attachment style.

What is avoidant attachment style

Avoidant attachment style is an insecure attachment style. Avoidantly attached people generally have a dismissive attitude towards close relationships. They are often uncomfortable with intimacy and may seem emotionally distant. They may also have difficulty trusting others and may be hesitant to get too close. People with this attachment style tend to be independent and self-sufficient. They are often uncomfortable with depending on others and may have difficulty showing vulnerability.

What causes avoidant attachment

When a person’s needs are consistently unmet, mistrust develops, and they learn to avoid relying on others. Avoidant individuals often had relationships with attachment figures who were not responsive to their needs​3​.

In childhood, a child develops distrust in others’ intentions and compulsive self-reliance when their attachment figure is consistently unavailable. A mother’s depression or a father’s absence might contribute to this. Avoidant attachment in children is an adaptive response to the lack of care.

In adulthood, a person may perceive that the social world around them is threatening or unhelpful. Therefore, they do not rely on support from others to cope with life’s challenges. Their avoidant behavior is a defense mechanism.

Attachment in adulthood is primarily influenced by the following four categories.

– Childhood attachment experiences with parental care, sensitivity, and other factors that may affect the quality of the environment (e.g., maternal depression, father absence).

– The development of an individual’s social competence.

– An individual’s peer relationships​4​.

– An association with certain genetic polymorphisms​5​

Adult attachment is strongly influenced by one’s interpersonal experiences.

Childhood experiences with primary caretakers can directly affect one’s attachment, but it can also indirectly influence it through the development of worse social competence and lower quality friendships.

As important as early caregiving experiences are, other relationships throughout life are also important​6​.

Throughout life, adult relationship experiences with parents, close friends, and romantic partners can strongly influence adult attachment​7​.

Some studies have found a connection between childhood difficult temperament and adult avoidant attachment​8​.

(Video) Why Avoidant and Anxious Partners Find It Hard to Split Up

Parental hostility, criticism, avoidance, coercive discipline, and a lack of playfulness may result from the child’s fussiness, irritability, and distress proneness​9​ although the results are not conclusive due to the small sample sizes.

Signs of avoidant attachment style in adults

Avoidant adults may demonstrate the following characteristics​10–12​:

  1. keeping distance from others
  2. push others away when they get close or show a desire for closeness
  3. lack of emotional closeness in relationships
  4. fears of intimacy
  5. difficulty trusting others and opening up
  6. unlikely to seek help in stressful situations
  7. trouble expressing their emotions
  8. seem distant or unloving
  9. self-reliance bordering on isolation
  10. confident in their ability to deal with problems themselves
  11. dismiss threatening events or needs for emotional support
  12. minimize the impact of positive emotions in social interactions
  13. suppress outward displays of emotions

How to heal avoidant attachment in yourself

Acknowledgement

Healing begins with admitting and accepting your avoidant attachment style.

While this may sound obvious, it’s actually very difficult for an avoidant person to admit to their own vulnerabilities because they have been denying the effects of their own past all these years.

Therefore, it is imperative to acknowledge the influence your attachment style has on your relationship if you want to improve it.

Commitment

In order to change it, you must be committed to doing so. No one can change you. Only you can.

Even when things get tough, stick to your commitment and don’t give up.

Therapy

Avoidant attachment affects one’s ability to form close and healthy relationships.

It takes relationships to heal relationships, which is why therapy can be helpful. Psychotherapy provides the space and opportunity to form safe relationships with someone trustworthy.

Even if you wish to work on your own, getting professional help is still the best way to address attachment issues.

Couple therapy

Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is a highly documented method of repairing romantic relationships. EFT is based on an attachment perspective of adult intimacy. It has been found to be effective when used in couple therapy​13​.

How to cope with an avoidantly attached spouse

It can be frustrating if your partner has an avoidant attachment style. They may deny having a problem or refuse to seek treatment.

Encourage them to seek therapy and to commit to it. It is impossible for a person to change unless they are willing to do so.

Counseling can help them explore ways to create a closer relationship and rebuild a secure attachment bond with others.

Also See: Fearful Avoidant Attachment

References

  1. 1.

    Ainsworth MDS, Blehar MC, Waters E, Wall SN. Patterns of Attachment. Psychology Press; 2015. doi:10.4324/9780203758045

    (Video) 8 Signs of an Avoidant Attachment Style

  2. 2.

    Bifulco A, Moran PM, Ball C, Bernazzani O. Adult attachment style. I: Its relationship to clinical depression. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. Published online February 1, 2002:50-59. doi:10.1007/s127-002-8215-0

  3. 3.

    Shaver P, Hazan C. Being lonely, falling in love: Perspectives from attachment theory. Journal of Social Behavior & Personality. 1987;2(2):105–124.

  4. 4.

    Fraley RC, Roisman GI, Booth-LaForce C, Owen MT, Holland AS. Interpersonal and genetic origins of adult attachment styles: A longitudinal study from infancy to early adulthood. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Published online 2013:817-838. doi:10.1037/a0031435

  5. 5.

    Chen FS, Johnson SC. An Oxytocin Receptor Gene Variant Predicts Attachment Anxiety in Females and Autism-Spectrum Traits in Males. Social Psychological and Personality Science. Published online May 26, 2011:93-99. doi:10.1177/1948550611410325

  6. 6.

    Lewis M, Feiring C, Rosenthal S. Attachment over Time. Child Development. Published online May 2000:707-720. doi:10.1111/1467-8624.00180

  7. 7.

    Pierce T, Lydon JE. Global and specific relational models in the experience of social interactions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Published online 2001:613-631. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.80.4.613

    (Video) How Insecure Attachment Affect Your Relationships

  8. 8.

    Lee CL, Bates JE. Mother-Child Interaction at Age Two Years and Perceived Difficult Temperament. Child Development. Published online October 1985:1314. doi:10.2307/1130246

  9. 9.

    Grossmann K, Grossmann KE, Spangler G, Suess G, Unzner L. Maternal Sensitivity and Newborns’ Orientation Responses as Related to Quality of Attachment in Northern Germany. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development. Published online 1985:233. doi:10.2307/3333836

  10. 10.

    Mikulincer M, Shaver PR. Boosting Attachment Security to Promote Mental Health, Prosocial Values, and Inter-Group Tolerance. Psychological Inquiry. Published online August 13, 2007:139-156. doi:10.1080/10478400701512646

  11. 11.

    Florian V, Mikulincer M, Bucholtz I. Effects of Adult Attachment Style on the Perception and Search for Social Support. The Journal of Psychology. Published online November 1995:665-676. doi:10.1080/00223980.1995.9914937

  12. 12.

    Vrtička P, Sander D, Vuilleumier P. Influence of adult attachment style on the perception of social and non-social emotional scenes. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. Published online May 24, 2012:530-544. doi:10.1177/0265407512443451

  13. 13.

    Johnson SM, Whiffen VE. Made to measure: Adapting emotionally focused couple therapy to partners’ attachment styles. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice. Published online 1999:366-381. doi:10.1093/clipsy.6.4.366

    (Video) 5 Signs of an Anxious-Avoidant Relationship

FAQs

How does avoidant attachment affect relationships? ›

As someone with an avoidant-dismissive attachment style, you tend to find it difficult to tolerate emotional intimacy. You value your independence and freedom to the point where you can feel uncomfortable with, even stifled by, intimacy and closeness in a romantic relationship.

What causes avoidant attachment in relationships? ›

Avoidant attachment develops when an infant or young child has a parent or caregiver who is consistently emotionally unavailable or unresponsive to their needs. Infants with an avoidant attachment style may also have faced repeated discouragement from crying or expressing outward emotion.

What are signs of avoidant attachment? ›

Common signs of dismissive-avoidant attachment:
  • A history of short flings. ...
  • Affection blows hot and cold. ...
  • Nitpicking the relationship. ...
  • Low tolerance for conflict. ...
  • Strong sense of self. ...
  • Views vulnerability as a weakness. ...
  • Suppression of emotional experiences. ...
  • Minimizes romantic connections.
Jul 11, 2022

What are avoidant attachments afraid of? ›

Since they are afraid of trusting and getting close to someone, a person with a fearful avoidant attachment is happier remaining casual with romantic partners. They may find themselves staying in the dating stage of the relationship for a prolonged period as this feels more comfortable for them.

What are Avoidants attracted to? ›

Characteristics of The Love Avoidant:

Love Addicts are attracted to people with certain identifiable and fairly predictable characteristics, and people with these characteristics are attracted to Love Addicts in return.

How does an avoidant show love? ›

Avoidant individuals are known for hiding behind a wall of intimacy, which is why they act stoic and devoid of emotion. They think that if you take a peek into their lives, you'll crush them in the end. If an avoidant loves you, he'll let a layer or two drops so that you can get a glimpse of his true self.

What triggers an avoidant? ›

Unpredictable situations or feeling out-of-control. Having to be dependent on others. Feeling like the relationship is taking up too much of their time. Being criticized by their loved ones.

What to do when an avoidant pushes you away? ›

If you're being pushed away
  1. Ask how you can support them. Maybe they need a little more communication, or a little more physical reassurance (like a kiss, embrace, or casual touch) to feel more secure with you. ...
  2. Avoid over-reassurance. ...
  3. Cultivate patience.

Why do Avoidants move on so quickly? ›

They left because of survival instinct. The fearful avoidant will typically appear to move on from you quickly. The fearful avoidant will still think you're available for them even after a breakup. Don't expect the fearful avoidant to initiate contact.

How do you tell if an avoidant loves you? ›

12 Signs to check if an avoidant loves you
  1. They are ready to become vulnerable.
  2. They love your nonverbal PDAs.
  3. They display nonverbal communication.
  4. They encourage you to get personal space.
  5. They make an effort to connect with you.
  6. They listen to you.
  7. They make the first move in a relationship.
  8. They want to get intimate.
Apr 19, 2022

Do Avoidants buy gifts? ›

They prefer gifts that are prestigious, functional, and fun. In return, they expect romantic partners to express gratitude. On the other hand, avoidant individuals do not manifest these behaviors, and they don't volunteer to give gifts.

How do you act around an avoidant? ›

We spoke with relationship experts to learn about ways you can increase your connection with an avoidant partner.
  1. Be patient. ...
  2. Create an atmosphere of safety. ...
  3. Respect cultural differences. ...
  4. Try to understand how they view 'needs' ...
  5. Avoid controlling their behaviors. ...
  6. If possible, offer alone time. ...
  7. Try not to interrupt their space.

Do Avoidants have emotions? ›

Yep, emotions are the key to healthy relationships and a life fully lived. When Avoidants actually feel their feelings instead of shoving them down, they are able to better connect with themselves and others.

What makes a fearful avoidant fall in love? ›

Anxious-Avoidant Attachment

You don't show your emotions easily. You don't come to people too readily. But it doesn't mean inside you don't yearn for a happy relationship. You will fall in love when it's been proven to you that your partner is someone who's accepting, forgiving and non-judgmental.

How do you make an avoidant love you? ›

10 ways to make an avoidant individual chase you
  1. Don't chase the avoidant. The very first thing you have to do when it comes to learning about how to get an avoidant to chase you is to stop chasing that avoidant person. ...
  2. Stay mysterious. ...
  3. The waiting game works. ...
  4. Give them space. ...
  5. Patience is crucial. ...
  6. Don't rush them.
Feb 2, 2022

Do Avoidants always come back? ›

We have found that on average a fearful avoidant will not initiate a reconnection with you. However, there is a window of time where they do consider it and if you time it right you can get them to come back if that's what you want.

Does no contact work with an avoidant? ›

Remember that both avoidant and anxious people can be included in the no-contact rule. It works no matter the attachment style. There is nothing that proves otherwise.

Why do Avoidants disappear? ›

Avoidant-attachment style personalities aren't emotionally mature enough to tell their partner the truth about how they feel, so they disappear when they become threatened with feeling vulnerable or close to someone.

Do Avoidants lack empathy? ›

Avoidants don't necessarily lack empathy, though their behavior sometimes makes it seem like they do.

Do Avoidants miss you? ›

At this point, you may be wondering: will an avoidant miss you? The thing is, when you're patient enough to give them a lot of time and space, they will initially get back to their everyday life. They will neither miss you nor demand time or attention from you.

Are Avoidants manipulative? ›

It's easy to see that how an anxious-avoidant or disorganized attachment style is likely to result in habitually manipulative, Machiavellian behavior. What might not be so obvious is that anxious-ambivalent types may also be abnormally prone to manipulative behavior.

Are Avoidants cruel? ›

Terrified of abandonment, they still choose partners who will realize their deepest fear. The love avoidant, however, seeks to control and manipulate others by withholding affection, attention, and sex. He or she is not inherently cruel; rather, the love avoidant is terrified of intimacy and cannot tolerate it.

Why do Avoidants go hot and cold? ›

Why Avoidants Act Hot And Cold - YouTube

How do you win an avoidant back? ›

How To Get Your Avoidant Ex Back - YouTube

Do Avoidants overthink? ›

Avoidants have the tendency to get lost in their head and overthink things. So opt for quality time while doing activities—such as a hike or run, or even trying out a new sport together (bocce ball, anyone?).

Do Avoidants feel heartbreak? ›

Initiate the breakup & suppress negative emotions

This response isn't to suggest that avoidant attachers don't feel the pain of a breakup – they do. They're just prone to pushing down their heartbreak and attempting to carry on with life as normal.

Do Avoidants ever regret? ›

We already know that regret for a fearful avoidant doesn't come until they feel safe to feel regret. Usually that means “you've moved on to someone else” or you haven't talked to them in a long time. The problem we see with most of our clients is their inability to control their anxious behaviors.

Does an avoidant ever change? ›

People with an avoidant attachment style usually are not capable of changing on their own. Some manage to change after years of talk therapy and/or cognitive-behavioral therapy. But most with this attachment style don't even know that they are acting out of fear.

Are Avoidants jealous? ›

Specifically, having an anxious-preoccupied or fearful-avoidant style makes a person more likely to induce jealousy. Anxious-preoccupied people use more aggressive communication while fearful-avoidant people tend to be passive-aggressive.

Why do Avoidants ignore you? ›

If your boyfriend ignores you or gives you the silent treatment and has an avoidant or anxious-avoidant attachment style, he's likely pulling away because he feels himself getting closer to you and is afraid of that commitment.

Are Avoidants happy? ›

Symptoms of avoidant attachment style in adults

Adults with the dismissive / avoidant attachment style seem to be pretty happy about who they are and where they are. They might be very social, easy-going, and fun to be around. In addition, these individuals might have a lot of friends and/or sexual partners.

How do I talk to an avoidant ex? ›

Communicating With an Avoidant Post Breakup

Become securely attached and determine if you still want them back. Learn tactical empathy. Let them feel what they want to feel. Don't be afraid to talk about your own flaws and mistakes.

Do dismissive Avoidants come back? ›

In my opinion, dismissive avoidants usually won't come back to you unless they are given enough time to begin “longing” for you and even then they tend to like fawning after you from afar. So, most people don't ever think their dismissive avoidant ex wants them back because there are no “big” signs.

How do you love a dismissive avoidant? ›

10+ Proven Ways to Deal with a Dismissive Avoidant Partner
  1. 1 Learn to understand your partner.
  2. 2 Acknowledge your own feelings.
  3. 3 Give your significant other space.
  4. 4 Focus on yourself.
  5. 5 Be open about what you want and need.
  6. 6 Be a supportive person for your partner.
  7. 7 Show your partner they can depend on you.

Will an avoidant ever commit? ›

They have an "avoidant" attachment style.

Usually, this kind of defense mechanism comes from a childhood trauma of abandonment and it means that relationships are unpredictable and temporary. An avoidant partner won't be able to commit in the long run because they simply can't maintain relationships for that long.

Do avoidant attachments feel love? ›

A person with an avoidant attachment style is going to crave the feeling of being loved and supported, just like anyone else. The key difference is that they'll also feel a compulsion to distance themselves from those they're getting close to.

Are Avoidants toxic? ›

We've seen that anxious-avoidant relationships result in unavoidable conflict. In the worst-case scenario, the chronic clashes between anxious and avoidant partners escalate to the point that the relationship is toxic and destructive. This typically takes the form of verbal and emotional abuse.

Do Avoidants love their partners? ›

Those that grow up with an avoidant attachment style are fearful and suspicious of people and relationships. Romantic relationships in particular, make avoidants feel stifled and they are often described as cold and distant towards their partners, withholding love and affection.

Do Avoidants hide their feelings? ›

Avoidants repress many, if not most, of their feelings. They do this to hide their vulnerability and tend to deal with their feelings on their own. Since they become accustomed to this, they don't develop the skill to express what they need.

How do fearful Avoidants deal with breakups? ›

Because of this, fearful-avoidant people have a mixed reaction to breakups: Initially, they do attempt to not feel their feelings and instead numb them in other ways, pretending they're absolutely fine.

Why do fearful Avoidants break up? ›

Typically, a Fearful-Avoidant partner may react in one of two ways when relationship issues arise: they may ignore or avoid the problems which often causes them more pain and drama, or they may cause a breakup by violating relationship boundaries or doing things to hurt their partner.

Can Avoidants have successful relationships? ›

Though avoidant partners might not seem as emotionally available or connected as others, their emotions and need for connection are often the same as anyone else. With some understanding and support, it's possible for avoidant partners to open up and create greater emotional intimacy.

How do you have a relationship with an avoidant personality? ›

You should encourage them to speak openly and honestly about their feelings and experiences. Let them know you are ready and willing to be their safe harbor, so they know they can reveal their deepest fears and biggest disappointments to you without fear of being judged or rejected.

What to do when an avoidant pushes you away? ›

If you're being pushed away
  1. Ask how you can support them. Maybe they need a little more communication, or a little more physical reassurance (like a kiss, embrace, or casual touch) to feel more secure with you. ...
  2. Avoid over-reassurance. ...
  3. Cultivate patience.

How does attachment issues affect relationships? ›

Those who experience attachment insecurity tend to report less relationship satisfaction. Those high on attachment anxiety tend to engage in conflict and do so in a destructive way that includes the use of criticism, blame, and trying to make the other feel guilty.

Videos

1. Attachment Styles in relationships - Why do anxious attachment and avoidance attachment attract?
(Private Therapy Clinic)
2. 10 Signs of a Husband with Avoidant Personality Traits
(Dr. Todd Grande)
3. 4 Ways Childhood Impacts Your Love Style | MedCircle MasterClass
(MedCircle)
4. How Your Attachment Styles Affect Your Relationships
(Psych2Go)
5. What Is Your Attachment Style?
(The School of Life)
6. What Your Attachment Style Says About Your Personality
(Psych2Go)

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