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How to overcome avoidant attachment style’s impact on relationships

avoidant attachment
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

This post is third in a series on attachment and will focus on the avoidant style. To read the introduction and discover your attachment style, click here. For the anxious style, click here. For disorganized or fearful avoidant, click here.

Avoidant attachment is the inevitable result of a childhood in which closeness was dangerous because someone abandoned you or withdrew their love.

It’s not a matter of whether your family was rich or poor, or your mother worked outside the home. Even if the parent was present but did not allow the child to express her feelings fully, avoidant attachment can still form.

The more intense the emotions, the more disapproving the parent becomes. So, the child learns her emotions are not welcome and are not a source of bonding. In fact, they push people away.

The more intense the emotions, the more disapproving the parent becomes. So, the child learns her emotions are not welcome and are not a source of bonding. In fact, they push people away. Click To Tweet

So, she may grow up to avoid emotions, suppress them or detach from them. This is why emotionally neglected children often grow up to feel “unreal”.

Signs of an avoidant attachment style

  1. rejecting and emotionally distant in relationships
  2. avoids intimacy as this makes her feel a frightening loss of independence
  3. resents others depending on her and struggles to depend on others or ask for help
  4. avoids conflict then explodes later on
  5. calm, cool, and collected; avoids feeling or talking about emotions
  6. appears to have high self-esteem and self-sufficient

It’s easy to see how such discomfort with closeness and an intolerance of emotional expression will negatively impact relationships.

Avoidant people invest little emotion in their social and romantic relationships. For this reason, they experience little distress when relationships end.

Avoidant people invest little emotion in their social and romantic relationships. For this reason, they experience little distress when relationships end. Click To Tweet

They use excuses like work to avoid spending quality time with people and are likely to fantasize about others during sex. They are also more likely to engage in casual relationships and may prefer them to long-term ones.

Make no mistake, avoidants are not always loners. They can be the most sociable people with lots of friends and connections.

But try to talk about anything deep and they will shut you down so fast your head will spin. They may become contemptuous or critical and try to find ways to end the relationship.

The caregiver deficiencies discussed above have led these people to literally turn off their need for emotional attachment. They have been primed to believe it is dangerous to rely on or trust other people.

The saddest part is this is all subconscious. The avoidant does not know what she’s missing and is likely suffering, but has no idea how to get the closeness others enjoy.

How change an avoidant style

If you see yourself or someone you love in this description, there is good news. Attachment styles can change with some work.

Challenge your habit of being hyper-critical as a way of distancing yourself from others. Your opinion of people might change when you give them a chance to enter your emotional world.

Next, reciprocate when friends share their troubles with you. Take yourself out of the listener role and let yourself be vulnerable enough to share your feelings and struggles.

You may worry that opening up will result in rejection and contempt. But most people are understanding and ready to care for you if you let them.

If opening up feels life threatening, this goes back to childhood when abandonment would have been truly dangerous. It makes perfect sense to feel this way.

If opening up feels life threatening, this goes back to childhood when abandonment would have been truly dangerous. It makes perfect sense to feel this way. Click To Tweet

But you’re an adult now and capable of picking yourself up if you get hurt.

These changes can feel scary and won’t happen overnight. In fact, it could take years, but you will see progress in the meantime that will help you celebrate and keep going.

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