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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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Last Updated on May 28, 2020

10 Success Principles for Living Your Dream Life

10 Success Principles for Living Your Dream Life

Are you stressed out and overwhelmed, wishing you had more time to do the things that really matter? Are you ready to do something better, something special in your life or your career?

You were born with a gift that no one else in the world can express like you. When you dance to your own music, you naturally develop your innate abilities and excel in work and life. You are a total rock star. But when you live someone else’s idea of who you should be, it throws off your groove.

Many people—maybe you—stopped following their dreams way too early in life because their talents were ignored, minimized, or shamed. They didn’t have the chops to win an American Idol competition or nab an Olympic gold medal, so they stopped expressing their inborn gifts altogether.

You don’t need to be an award winner to rock your life. Living your dream life is about discovering your superpowers and feeling vibrant and joyful when you use them. It’s about owning what makes you unique and finding like-minded people to support you.

Here are 10 success principles to help you live a rich and rewarding life on your terms that have worked with thousands of people in my workshops and will work for you, too.

1. Get a Hobby to Move Closer to Your Dreams

If you never became a professional dancer or a world-renowned author, it does NOT mean you should stop dancing or writing! These activities make you come alive, even if you “only” do them as favorite pastimes.

Engaging in a hobby is one of the most important success principles you can follow to move closer to your dreams.

When you try something creative for the first time or in a long while, you begin to see opportunities at work and in life that you were unaware of before. You also feel happier and more energized, according to a recent study from New Zealand.[1]

Some of my most burned-out executive clients reinvigorated their careers by discovering a creative outlet that refueled them after the workday ended. Research at San Francisco State University shows that having a hobby lowers stress and helps you succeed at work.[2]

So, give yourself permission to try new things and revisit old passions you gave up long ago. Setting aside just one hour a week for personal exploration can significantly change your life.

Who knows? Your creative outlet could transform into a thriving business or lead to a new profession down the road.

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2. Focus on Your Strengths, Not Your Weaknesses

Did you know that you are more likely to succeed when you develop your natural strengths rather than work on your weaknesses? The problem is that you probably don’t know where your true talents lie.

Here are a few options to help you discover your unique strengths. You can:

  • Take the VIA Character Strengths Survey[3]
  • Try Gallup’s CliftonStrengths Assessment[4]
  • Answer a few Superpower Questions

Once you understand what makes you tick, you can use these skills at work and your personal life to get more done in less time. If you boost your unique abilities through practice and study, you can accelerate your career and become a leader in a field that matters to you. It’s worth investing in yourself this way.

3. Jumping off a Cliff is NOT Required

Here’s the deal: most people are too afraid to change. When participants first come to my workshops, they tell me they have mouths to feed, bills to pay, and fear that if they follow their dreams, someone will get hurt.

The old saying “leap and the net shall appear” does not comfort them. Because they are hesitant to plunge into the unknown, they believe their only option is to stay put where they are in life. Can you relate?

You do not have to sacrifice the life you have now to start a new one. I was a psychology professor by day and singer by night for years before I transitioned into a full-time music career.

Just take a little time out each week to do what enlivens you through a hobby, volunteer work, etc. Get a feel for it.

Is it what you really want? If so, increase the time you spend doing it and make the transition when the time feels right.

4. Give Your Inner Critic Some Love

The main culprit that keeps you from stepping outside your comfort zone and getting the life of your dreams is KCRP or K-CRAP – the radio station that plays 24/7 in your head. The moment you try to do something interesting with your life it slaps you down with such chart-topping killer hooks as “Who do you think you are?” and “You’ll never be good enough!”.

Have you ever noticed that KCRP’s mean-spirited DJ sounds like your parents, teachers, bosses, and other authority figures who shut you down creatively? These folks don’t need to stifle you any longer (although they often still do) because your inner critic does it for them. That keeps you stuck in a rut.

To break free, try thinking of this DJ as a gruff old grandfather who gives you crap to keep you safe. Remember, this grumpy grandpa is woefully out of touch with the times. So, his stern opinions don’t really matter much, do they? Give him a pat on the back for his good intentions, and put your focus back on what makes you come alive.

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This success principle will give you the courage to venture into the unknown where you can dance to the beat of your own drummer.

5. Embrace Your Inner Weirdo

Many of us don’t go after our dreams because we’re afraid folks will find out how odd or strange we are. But our little eccentricities often turn out to be our greatest strengths. Yes, it’s good to be quirky.

Odds are, you lost track of your true passions and talents before you were even old enough to know you were getting off-track. You became slowly “adulterated” by learning to:

  • Take on family roles that don’t match who you really are.
  • Spit back what teachers taught you in school rather than risk getting bad grades for being original.
  • Hide parts of yourself that don’t seem acceptable to certain social groups.

The price for fitting in is that you may wind up leading a life that doesn’t fit you all that well. Your true calling becomes clear when you embrace what makes you different from others and allow yourself to stand out from the crowd, even if it feels awkward.

Often, the very qualities you view as your flaws are your greatest gifts.

6. See the Bigger Picture to Find Your True Calling

I cannot stress the importance of this success principle enough. Your true calling is right in front of you. But you may miss it because you’re looking for it in the wrong place.

To “see” it clearly, try widening your point of view.

Case in point: Maria felt she needed to retire early from being a police detective, so she could travel abroad. I encouraged Maria to think of ways that she could continue to serve as a law enforcer (a career she loved) and travel overseas at the same time.

A few months later, Maria landed a job with the United Nations in Bosnia training the local police force to understand and embrace human rights procedures.

Like Maria, you are an everyday rock star capable of accomplishing greater things than you can imagine. Is what you’re looking for right in front of you, too? Do you have an inkling of what it may be?

Look beyond your day-to-day activities, your current job, and even the town you live in. View your life from an eagle’s perspective and be open to new possibilities.

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7. Try a Little Wish-List Magic

Pretend I’m your fairy godmother and I give you permission right now to be your most magnificent self. What kind of life would be music to your ears? It doesn’t matter whether it seems unattainable or even downright crazy. Write it down on a wish list.

Get quiet. Be honest. Think big.

What would you like your career, your relationships, your health, your finances, and your spiritual life to be like? Jot down enough details so that your wishes seem tangible to you. Then, look at this list every morning before you start your day and every night before you go to sleep.

Sounds silly? It’s not. It works! Permitting yourself to daydream about a rich and fulfilling life is the first step to manifesting it.

8. Take Breaks to Get Clues About Your Ideal Future

Did you know that working straight through to a deadline leads to diminishing returns? Research shows that taking a break for 15 minutes every 75 to 90 minutes can help you recharge, refresh your focus, and get more done in less time.[5]

Wait, it gets better! A Stanford study shows that walking increases your creative output increases by 60 percent. Doing repetitive activities such as walking, running, riding your bike, swimming, and sweeping allow solutions to problems to pop into your mind out of nowhere.[6]

What does this success principle have to do with creating your dream life?

These mini-breaks allow you to get vital clues for what to do next to attain your ideal future. Plus, you won’t waste precious time and energy getting lost in other people’s agendas.

9. Take Action on Your Inspired Ideas

Once an inspired thought pops into your mind, take action.

This is one of the most powerful success principles for turning your dreams into reality; the sooner the better. Whatever it is—from calling an old friend to taking a new route home—be sure to do it!

Pay attention to your oddball hunches. You need to go after what you want, not just dream about it. As comedian Jim Carrey warns,

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“You can’t just visualize and go eat a sandwich.”

10. Count Your Rockstar Moments

Still not sure you have what it takes to get your dream life? This final success principle is guaranteed to help.

Make a list of everything you’ve ever accomplished. As you read back through it, put a star next to each item, and let it sink in.

You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how good you’ll feel about yourself afterward. You’ll also see how effective you’ve been in the past at getting what you want. You’ve succeeded before, you can succeed again.

You already rock. You just need to own it. Trust me, you’ve got this!

Final Thoughts

Eleanor Roosevelt said,

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

Following these success principles will help you find the time and energy to do the things that really matter and live with clear intention.

By spending just one hour a week doing something you love, focusing on your strengths and achievements, embracing what makes you different, and acting on inspired ideas, you can create a life that is a perfect fit for you, step-by-step.

If you don’t have a clue about what your dream life could look like yet, don’t worry. Your heart knows. It has been “talking” to you for a long time. It’s just being muffled by KCRP, buried under a lot of “shoulds” and fear.

This article can also help you figure out the life you truly want to live: How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up.

Stand still, get quiet, and listen. It’s constantly telling you what you need to do to realize your own rockstar potential. It may be just a whisper now, but the more you pay attention to it, the louder it will get, and the easier it will be to follow.

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Featured photo credit: Rahul Dey via unsplash.com

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