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Published on August 15, 2018

What Avoidant Attachment Can Do to Your Relationships

What Avoidant Attachment Can Do to Your Relationships

Most of us want to have great relationships.

Relationships are such a huge part of our lives. There’s the relationship with our spouse or our long term partners. Or it could be a romantic relationship that’s just starting out. We have the interaction of a relationship with our parents and maybe our kids. We have work relationships and friend relationships. The list goes on and on unless you happen to be a hermit.

Relationships are not always easy and the best ones take a lot of work, just ask anyone who’s been married longer than 10 years.

There’s so many dynamics between us humans that sometimes it’s a wonder we get along at all. Then there’re different traits we learn as children that can sometimes help us in our adult relationship and other times hinder us.

Having an avoidant attachment style is one of those things we develop when we are young that can have a negative impact on our relationships in life.

We will take a look at what avoidant attachment is,how it impacts our relationships and how do deal with having an avoidant attachment style in those relationships that are a big part of our adult lives.

What is an attachment style?

To be able to get the most from this article, it’s probably best to first talk about what avoidant attachment is. The type of attachment behavior everyone develops is really formed when we are very young.

As babies, we need things because we can’t do much of anything for ourselves. We need to be fed when we are hungry, comforted when we are scared, attended to when we are hurt, etc. The relationship between the primary caretaker, usually the parent or parents, and the baby creates one of 4 different attachment styles: secure, anxious, disorganized and avoidant.

When a parent or caregiver is naturally “tuned in” and attentive to a baby’s needs, a secure attachment type is typically formed. When the baby and later child feels secure that his or her parent/caregiver will be there when they need something like food or comfort, it makes sense that they feel comfortable relying on the parent. Therefore they feel more comfortable exploring their environment and many other positive benefits that will last them a lifetime in their other relationships.

On the other hand, if the parent is not as attentive or are more distant with the baby’s needs and wants, this will create greater stress on the baby and later as a child. The way children adapt to this environment of less attentiveness and support is by building defense mechanisms (attachment styles) that help them feel safer and to alleviate some of the stress they feel from not having someone there that looks after them as much.

With this situation of the parent being less attentive and more distant, normally an insecure attachment styles is formed – avoidant, ambivalent/anxious, and disorganized. For purposes of this article, we are focusing on avoidant attachment.

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How avoidant attachment is developed

It is estimated that approximately 30% of the general population has characteristics of avoidant attachment. The parents of kids with avoidant attachment are less available to their children.

For whatever reason, they are less responsive, emotionally and sometimes physically unavailable to their kid. They don’t pay much attention to their child’s needs and many times promote early independence, even when the kid is clearly not ready. Many times, they heavily discourage a baby’s or kid’s crying and tend to be even less available when the child is sick or hurting.

As a result of their parent’s unavailability to help them in times of need, the child will learn to not seek help when needed. They will push down or suppress the innate desire to seek out a caregiver or parent in a time of need.

Many times, the kids learn to ignore their bodily needs or at least block it out. They become those kids that everyone thinks are very independent and can basically take care of themselves from a very young age.

Because the avoidant attachment kid gets taught to not rely on their parent for comfort, they learn to not seek it from anyone. They have been taught that when they reach out for support from their caregiver, it’s not there.

Many times, they are straight up told not to cry or to go take care of it themselves. As such the kid becomes a self-contained unit that learns to rely on themselves almost exclusively.

They are taught early in life a key defense mechanism for dealing with others. Never show to the outside world that you need or want things like closeness, affection, or intimacy. They are taught that when they show any of these types of  emotions or needs that people close to them won’t provide it. The people closest won’t even just not provide it, they will actively turn away in many instances.

They learn to not show a need to be close to anyone because it doesn’t produce any benefits to them. They don’t get comforted or have their needs taken care of by others.

In short, this provides a blue print that lasts into their adult lives. They don’t need or want closeness or warmth from others.

Avoidant attachment translating into adulthood

When someone has formed an avoidant attachment to their parents when they are growing up, this translates into what is called a dismissive attachment as an adult. Technically, there are two dismissive attachment styles, fearful-avoidant and dismissive-avoidant. They both operate fairly similarly.

People with the dismissive attachment style have been taught that people are unreliable so they act accordingly as adults. They tend to shy away from intimate relationships and feel they don’t really need anyone to rely on.

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They cope with their relationships as adults by being cold and not clingy or getting too attached or close to anyone. They can come across as loners and in many respects they are. They feel they can can take care of things by themselves because they’ve been shown growing up they have to.

They can and do enjoy being with a partner but get uncomfortable when the relationship gets too close. Many times, they perceive their partner as too clingy or wanting too much, especially when the partner wants to feel closer. Avoidant attachment types tend to be more focused on themselves and don’t pay a lot of attention to the needs and feelings of others.

When arguing with an avoidant, many times they wall themselves off and become cold and aloof. It can be extremely frustrating for their partners because they don’t seem willing to engage in conversations regarding feelings.

Many times the avoidant attachment person has a high opinion of themselves. On the flip side, they can tend to see others in a cynical and/or negative light.

In a lot of instances, this high level of self-regard is actually covering up and protecting a fragile self-ego. In reality, they can have a critical inner voice and don’t think very highly of themselves, they simply appear that way externally to others.

Negative effects of avoidant attachment in relationships

As you might imagine, people with avoidant attachments struggle to achieve close, meaningful relationships. This isn’t a big issue for the avoidant type, it can be a much bigger deal for their partner. Some of the negative effects in these relationships include:

Keeping a distance

Since they have learned to fear rejection, their built-in defense mechanism to not be rejected is to keep people at a distance. They don’t open up a lot about how they feel and keep feelings close to the vest so to speak. Trying to have a conversation about how they feel can prove frustrating.

Repressing and negativity

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. Their feelings will come out in the form of complaints, stony silence or negativity. They simply can’t express positive feelings and can only show their feelings in a negative way.

Sabotage

As getting close in a relationship becomes uncomfortable, what tends to happen is avoidants find ways to mess up relationships. They do this so things don’t get too close.

They may invent problems that don’t exist or come up with reasons why the relationship shouldn’t continue. Does “I just don’t think I’m ready for a long term relationship” sound familiar? This could be an avoidant attachment type.

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Mixed signals

Avoidants are prone to sending mixed signals to their partners. Since they don’t want things to get too close, they are good at sending you alternately “things are going great” signals along with “things aren’t going well” type signals. This can make their partners head spin and make them feel like they don’t really know what’s going on.

Fault finding

When in a relationship with an avoidant, be ready for them to find fault after fault with you. It could be the way you eat, the way you fold laundry, how you load the dishwasher, etc.

It really doesn’t matter, they are masters at finding fault in everything you do. Unless you are great at not taking anything personally, this can wear you down.

How to deal with avoidant attachment in relationships

If you find yourself in a relationship with an avoidant attachment type, there are some ways you can deal with it.

Probably the most important trait someone can have in a relationship with an avoidant is to be self-confident in themselves. Having a good sense of self will allow you to keep things in perspective. Some other ways to deal with avoidant attachments in an adult relationship are:

1. Don’t take it personally

This is good advice for life in general and especially important here.

Know that the way the avoidant deals with your relationship has nothing to do with you. It is based upon their childhood experiences. This will help keep things in a manageable light.

2. Be reliable

Since the avoidant had an unreliable parent or caregiver growing up, showing them that you are dependable can go a long way in developing trust in the relationship.

Being that steady presence gives them something they aren’t used to – in a good way.

3. Don’t push too hard

Bear in mind they aren’t used to nor do they like sharing their feelings. When you push to have them share feelings, all that’s going to happen is the door is going to stay shut.

As you stay steady and reliable, the trust will build and when the time is right, they will share how they feel.

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4. Give them space

As you would think avoidants are used to and typically enjoy being on their own. In any healthy relationships, a couple should enjoy doing things together but also on their own.

Respect his or her need for “me time” and allow them to have it. Don’t try to do everything together, it won’t work.

5. Stand your ground

Having a solid sense of who you are and what’s important to you is always a good thing. In a relationship with an avoidant clearly, communicate what’s important to you.

If they never want to go out on a date but that’s important to you, let them know. And stick to it.

Things might not work out if you are too far apart on what’s important to you but that’s true of any relationship. Don’t lose yourself and stay true to you.

The bottom line

Most people I know want to have great relationships, it’s a huge part of a well-rounded and happy life. We are all different in our own ways and have had a variety of different upbringings that affect us later in life.

As we’ve discussed, the attachment style we develop when we are young get carried over into our adult lives. This is true of everyone. We’ve looked at what avoidant attachment can do to your relationships and how to deal with it.

Close to 1/3 of the population has tendencies to one degree or another of an avoidant attachment style as an adult. If you have this attachment style, the best thing you can do is be aware of it, and be mindful when in a relationship. If you have a partner who shows signs of avoidant attachment style, there are ways to deal with it but you should also remember to stand your ground all the time.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Mat Apodaca

On a mission to share about how communication in the workplace and personal relationships plays a large role in your happiness

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Last Updated on July 16, 2019

7 Ways to Get Rid of Negative Energy and Become Positive

7 Ways to Get Rid of Negative Energy and Become Positive

Negativity affects ourselves and everyone around us. It limits our potential to become something great and live a fulfilling, purposeful life. Negativity has a tangible effect on our health, too. Research has shown that people who cultivate negative energy experience more stress, more sickness, and less opportunity over the course of their lives than those who choose to live positively.

When we make a decision to become positive, and follow that decision up with action, we will begin to encounter situations and people that are also positive. The negative energy gets edged out by all positive experiences. It’s a snowball effect.

Although negative and positive thoughts will always exist, the key to becoming positive is to limit the amount of negativity that we experience by filling ourselves up with more positivity.

Here are some ways to get rid of negativity and become more positive.

1. Become Grateful for Everything

When life is all about us, it’s easy to believe that we deserve what we have. An attitude of entitlement puts us at the center of the universe and sets up the unrealistic expectation that others should cater to us, our needs, and our wants. This vain state of existence is a surefire way to set yourself up for an unfulfilled life of negativity.

People living in this sort of entitlement are “energy suckers”–they are always searching for what they can get out of a situation. People that don’t appreciate the nuances of their lives live in a constant state of lacking. And it’s really difficult to live a positive life this way.

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When we begin to be grateful and appreciate everything in our lives–from the small struggles that make us better, to the car that gets us from A to B every day–we shift our attitude from one of selfishness, to one of appreciation. This appreciation gets noticed by others, and a positive harmony begins to form in our relationships.

We begin to receive more of that which we are grateful for, because we’ve opened ourselves up to the idea of receiving, instead of taking. This will make your life more fulfilling, and more positive.

2. Laugh More, Especially at Yourself

Life gets busy, our schedules fill up, we get into relationships, and work can feel task oriented and routine-driven at times. Being human can feel more like being a robot. But having this work-driven, serious attitude often results in negative and performance oriented thinking.

Becoming positive means taking life less seriously and letting yourself off the hook. This is the only life that you get to live, why not lighten up your mood?

Laughter helps us become positive by lightening our mood and reminding us not to take life so seriously. Are you sensitive to light sarcasm? Do you have trouble laughing at jokes? Usually, people who are stressed out and overly serious get most offended by sarcasm because their life is all work and no play.

If we can learn to laugh at ourselves and our mistakes, life will become more of an experiment in finding out what makes us happy. And finding happiness means finding positivity.

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3. Help Others

Negativity goes hand in hand with selfishness. People that live only for themselves have no higher purpose in their lives. If the whole point of this world is only to take care of yourself and no one else, the road to a long-term fulfillment and purpose is going to be a long one.

Positivity accompanies purpose. The most basic way to create purpose and positivity in your life is to begin doing things for others. Start small; open the door for the person in front of you at Starbucks or ask someone how their day was before telling them about yours.

Helping others will give you an intangible sense of value that will translate into positivity. And people might just appreciate you in the process.

4. Change Your Thinking

We can either be our best coach or our best enemy. Change starts from within. If you want to become more positive, change the wording of your thoughts. We are the hardest on ourselves, and a stream of negative self talk is corrosive to a positive life.

The next time you have a negative thought, write it down and rephrase it with a positive spin. For example, change a thought like, “I can’t believe I did so horribly on the test–I suck.” to “I didn’t do as well as I hoped to on this test. But I know I’m capable and I’ll do better next time.”

Changing our self-talk is powerful.

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5. Surround Yourself with Positive People

We become most like the people that we surround ourselves with. If our friend group is full of negative energy-suckers and drama queens, we will emulate that behavior and become like them. It is very difficult to become more positive when the people around us don’t support or demonstrate positive behavior.

As you become more positive, you’ll find that your existing friends will either appreciate the new you or they will become resistant to your positive changes. This is a natural response.

Change is scary; but cutting out the negative people in your life is a huge step to becoming more positive. Positive people reflect and bounce their perspectives onto one another. Positivity is a step-by-step process when you do it solo, but a positive group of friends can be an escalator.

6. Get into Action

Negative thoughts can be overwhelming and challenging to navigate. Negativity is usually accompanied by a “freak-out” response, especially when tied to relationships, people and to worrying about the future. This is debilitating to becoming positive and usually snowballs into more worry, more stress and more freak-outs.

Turn the negative stress into positive action. The next time you’re in one of these situations, walk away and take a break. With your eyes closed, take a few deep breaths. Once you’re calm, approach the situation or problem with a pen and pad of paper. Write out four or five actions or solutions to begin solving the problem.

Taking yourself out of the emotionally charged negative by moving into the action-oriented positive will help you solve more problems rationally and live in positivity

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7. Take Full Responsibility, Stop Being the Victim

You are responsible for your thoughts.

People that consistently believe that things happen to them handicap themselves to a victim mentality. This is a subtle and deceptive negative thought pattern. Phrases like “I have to work” or “I can’t believe he did that to me” are indicators of a victim mentality. Blaming circumstances and blaming others only handicaps our decision to change something negative into something positive.

Taking full responsibility for your life, your thoughts and your actions is one of the biggest steps in creating a more positive life. We have unlimited potential within to create our own reality, change our life, and change our thoughts. When we begin to really internalize this, we discover that no one can make us feel or do anything. We choose our emotional and behavioral response to people and circumstances.

Make positive choices in favor of yourself.

“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habit. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny” ― Lao Tzu

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Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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