Avoidant Attachment
in Relationships

THE COMPLETE GUIDE

Avoidant attachment in relationships can be tough to understand. But awareness of how this attachment style develops and plays out in relationships can help those with it (and their partners) reach more secure and fulfilling partnerships.

Avoidant Attachment
in Relationships

THE COMPLETE GUIDE

Avoidant attachment in relationships can be tough to understand. But awareness of how this attachment style develops and plays out in relationships can help those with it (and their partners) reach more secure and fulfilling partnerships.

For someone with an avoidant-dismissive attachment style, their early years didn’t equip them to be able to handle emotional closeness comfortably.

As a result of their caregiver(s) lack of sensitive responses to their needs, people with this attachment style typically attempt to avoid intimacy as much as possible and try to hide their feelings when confronted by an emotional situation.

Yet, from the outside looking in, someone with an avoidant attachment style may seem outgoing and social – but this doesn’t mean that they are comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings with others.

Avoidant attachers are fiercely independent, but in order to form meaningful and fulfilling connections, we have to allow ourselves to open up to the people in our lives. For these reasons, it can be difficult to manage the avoidant attachment style in relationships.

How Is the Avoidant Attachment Style Formed?

According to Attachment Theory, children who grow up in a safe environment with caregivers who are attuned and responsive to their needs typically form a secure attachment style. Such children know and trust that their caregivers will be there for them when needed.

However, an avoidant attachment style develops when a child perceives that their caregivers repeatedly reject their need for closeness and affection.

These caregivers may have acted emotionally distant from their child, and discouraged any outward expression of emotions. The caregivers of a child with an avoidant attachment style may not have necessarily neglected the child, but they were nevertheless emotionally reserved and rejecting of the child’s emotional needs.

Such caregivers may:

  • Have an avoidant attachment style of their own
  • Lack understanding of how to support their child
  • Struggle with empathy
  • Feel overwhelmed by the demands of taking care of their child
  • Be preoccupied with a demanding lifestyle or occupation


At first, the child persists in expressing their need for emotional closeness to their caregivers. But they perceive that their requests are repeatedly rejected. In actuality, the more that an avoidantly attached child strives for intimacy, the more distant their caregivers become as they feel overwhelmed by their child’s needs.

In response to the constant rejection of their attempts to bond with their caregiver, the child learns to survive without the attention and affection that they naturally crave. They shut down their attachment system and suppress their desire for comfort and emotional closeness.

What Is Avoidant Attachment in Relationships?

Coping with an avoidant attachment style in relationships can be tough.

As adults, individuals with an avoidant attachment style are typically independent, self-directed, and uncomfortable with emotional closeness and intimacy. Generally speaking, they seem confident, self-assured, and in control of their lives.

Avoidant attachers are often highly successful, as they put a lot of their energy into their careers rather than their relationships.

Someone with an avoidant attachment style may even have many friends or acquaintances, as they can be a lot of fun to be around. Yet, even though they are far from lonely, their connections tend to be surface-level only and they never require emotional support from others.


Being in a relationship with an avoidant partner is not simple, although an avoidant attacher will engage in relationships, they don’t really allow the other person “in.” They tend to erect personal walls or boundaries to avoid intimacy and emotional closeness with others – which prevents the development of fulfilling and deep relationships.

Furthermore, once a romantic relationship starts to evolve into a more meaningful connection, someone with an avoidant partner typically closes themselves off and pulls back from the other person. Such individuals may even look for petty reasons to end a relationship – such as a partner’s inconsequential actions, appearance, or slightly annoying habits.

Signs of Avoidant Attachment – How to Tell if Someone Has Avoidant Attachment in Relationships?

There are a number of tell-tale signs that someone might have an avoidant attachment style in relationships:

  • They are uncomfortable with emotional closeness
  • Dislike opening up to others and expressing thoughts and feelings
  • Find it difficult to trust and rely on others
  • Prefer to maintain boundaries in relationships
  • May pull away if someone tries to get emotionally close
  • Prefer to resolve conflict in the relationship by themselves
  • Often seem distant, aloof, or even cold
  • See themselves as independent and self-sufficient
  • May act disdainfully toward a partner expressing emotions


Why Do Avoidant Partners Behave the Way They Do?

Remember – an avoidant attacher’s actions are directly influenced by their childhood. They learned at a young age that the people closest to them cannot be depended on for emotional support and affection.

So, as adults, such people feel like they don’t need intimacy or affection from others – they have turned off their attachment system.


How Do You Overcome Avoidant Attachment in
Relationships?

Even though someone with avoidant attachment in relationships may avoid expressions of intimacy and affection, and pull back from romantic connections once they start to become too serious, this doesn’t mean that they don’t love their partner.

It’s just that as a child, they were discouraged from showing their emotions. As an adult, they still regard emotional closeness as a negative, so they retreat from displays of affection and vulnerability and possibly even end a relationship. The good news is that research has shown that attachment styles are not fixed – they can be changed through understanding and behavioral strategies.

When attempting to overcome avoidant attachment in relationships, it’s important to recognize the avoidant attachment triggers that usually activate this attachment style. Doing so allows the individual to understand how certain events or actions influence their thoughts and behaviors.

The following are typical triggers for someone with an avoidant attachment style:

  • A partner pushing for closeness or intimacy
  • A partner wanting them to open up emotionally
  • Feeling like they’re required to be dependent on others
  • Thinking that a relationship is taking up too much of their time
  • Their partner demanding their attention
  • Feeling vulnerable and open to criticism
  • Losing their independence
  • Unpredictability or loss of control over a situation

Any of these triggers could result in someone with an avoidant attachment style either withdrawing from a relationship, or even breaking up with their partner.

However, once someone with this attachment style starts to recognize their triggers and how they react to them, they can regulate their responses in more healthy ways.

The following tips may help someone overcome their avoidant attachment in relationships:

I.Taking personal space

Someone with an avoidant attachment in a relationship will likely always need to maintain certain boundaries – even in the healthiest relationships. Whenever they feel like they’re over-compromising their need for space, or a conflict is starting to escalate, it can ground them and help them to feel more secure in the relationship to take some personal time.

II. Recognizing that trust is relative to the individual

Before someone with an avoidant attachment style can feel free enough to open up in a relationship, they may need to recognize that not everyone is worthy of confidence – some people can be trusted, some can’t. Whether someone is trustworthy or not can be tested by sharing inconsequential details with them. If the individual reacts respectfully and doesn’t divulge your private information to others, then it’s likely that you may be able to trust them with more important details about your life.

III. Exploring communication skills

The ability to openly and honestly discuss our thoughts and feelings is key to successful and fulfilling relationships. However, avoidant attachers have a deep-rooted fear of expressing their emotions as they might believe that they will be criticized or rejected for doing so. To help combat this fear, the avoidant partners should attempt to open up about their feelings in a way that feels safe and within their control. They should also pay attention to their body as they do so – what physical sensations and accompanying thoughts happen when they express themselves? In time, the avoidant attacher will learn that discussing their feelings is a much healthier approach than repressing or denying them.

IV. Therapy

Therapy is an excellent way for someone with an avoidant attachment style to explore expressing their thoughts and feelings in a safe and secure environment without fear of rejection. They can also work in tandem with a therapist in figuring out their attachment triggers and ways of dealing with their emotions to overcome their avoidant attachment in relationships and find more secure methods of managing their emotions.

How to Support and Love Your Avoidant Partner

Someone with an avoidant attachment in relationships may attempt to create distance, establish boundaries, and withdraw from emotional conversations in a romantic relationship.
For these reasons, it can be difficult to know how to make an avoidant feel safe in a relationship, but also not compromise your need for intimacy and affection, or leave you feeling confused or frustrated.

The following tips may help you give a dismissive-avoidant love in a way that satisfies both your and your partner’s needs within a romantic relationship:

 I. Understand your own attachment style

Each attachment style is associated with unique traits, and these traits can affect how compatible partners within a relationship can be. For example, two avoidants in a relationship may operate quite harmoniously as they both respect the other’s need for space and discomfort with expressing emotions.

However, someone with an anxious attachment style in relationships may struggle to understand an avoidant partner’s actions and push for closeness.

Still, this isn’t to suggest that two people with different attachment styles won’t have a successful relationship – they may just need to understand how the other person functions.

II. Don’t take the avoidant attacher’s need for space personally

Even with all the support in the world, someone with an avoidant attachment style will still need personal space from time to time. This is because avoidant attachers are driven towards independent experiences, but this doesn’t mean that they don’t equally value their time with their partners. So the best way to manage an avoidant attacher’s need for distance is to not take it personally.

how to support avoidant partner

III. Don’t force an avoidant partner to open up

Pushing or chasing a partner who needs space and emotional boundaries to open up will likely cause them to resist even more. Although it may be difficult to allow a partner with an avoidant attachment style to withdraw when they need to, they will likely come back quicker if they’re allowed their space.

When love and intimacy are tailored to an avoidant’s unique needs, they feel more secure in the relationship. So try to express how you feel about them in non-invasive ways such as making their favorite meal or watching something they enjoy.

IV. Understand that you can’t “save” your avoidant partner

People often enter a relationship with the belief that they can fix or “save” their partner from their difficult past and help them become a different person within the relationship.

However, someone with an avoidant attachment style needs to learn how to manage their attachment triggers and traits in effective ways. They cannot just be magically cured. Gently encouraging them, helping them to feel safe, and giving them their space, will facilitate feelings of security in the relationship.

V. Engage in self-care

Loving someone with avoidant attachment can be tough at times. There may be times that the other person within the relationship will feel lonely, discouraged, and frustrated.

In situations such as this, it’s important to give yourself the self-care and love that you need by engaging in activities that you enjoy, seeing friends, and taking care of your mental health needs by practicing mindfulness, meditation, or exercise.

How to Tell if an Avoidant Loves You

Loving someone with an avoidant attachment can be difficult. It’s hard to provide the necessary support and devotion to a partner when very little is given in return. People even often wonder, “do dismissive avoidants feel love?” – and what’s the point in expressing their affection to them if they don’t.

The truth of the matter is, that of course people with an avoidant attachment style feel love – it’s just that they may express it differently from people with attachment styles. There are a number of clues to watch out for if you’re wondering how to tell whether an avoidant loves you:

Six Signs an Avoidant Partner Loves You

I. Indirect signs of affection

Due to their difficulties expressing emotions and affection, someone with an avoidant attachment style in relationships is more likely to show their love to partners in nonverbal manners. So keep an eye out for warm smiles, affectionate touches and extended eye contact.

II. Looser boundaries

They may start to lower their boundaries little by little as they start to feel more secure in the relationship. Don’t feel discouraged if this doesn’t happen quickly, or if your avoidant partner regresses by reestablishing some parameters – a relationship is a journey and will have its ups and downs.

III. Displays of vulnerability

They allow themselves to be vulnerable around you. Exposing inner thoughts and needs can be highly uncomfortable for an avoidant partner. So if they start to tentatively discuss their emotions, it’s a sign that they feel secure enough in your company to do so.

IV. Attention to your needs

They listen to your wants and needs. Although they may not be immediately responsive, the fact that they’re sensitive to your desires means that they are interested in making you happy. When they do something you like, make sure to reinforce their actions by praising them.

V. Sharing activities

They involve you in their interests. Someone with an avoidant attachment style is fiercely independent, so if they choose to include you in an activity that they typically enjoy by themselves, then it’s a sure indicator that they are developing meaningful feelings for you.

VI. Considering psychological guidance

They’re open to the idea of therapy. Avoidant attachers dislike discussing their feelings and emotions, so if your partner is open to attending therapy in order to process their issues either individually or as a couple, then they definitely feel a strong connection.

Final Thoughts on Avoidant Attachment in Relationships:

With knowledge, understanding, and the right skill-set, it is possible for someone with an avoidant attachment style in relationships  to foster more secure behavioral traits within a relationship.

Developing “learned” secure attachment may not mean that someone with an avoidant attachment style will completely overcome their need for space and discomfort around expressing emotions, but it can help them to recognize their personal triggers and form more healthy responses to them.

For some people, the best way of forging learned security is through a therapist. Others may feel more equipped to handle their issues with their partner, a trusted friend, or through a workbook. However, regardless of how they choose to do so, if someone with an avoidant attachment style wants to achieve change, consistency and effort are key.

Curious to learn more about your attachment style?

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Bowlby, J.(1982). Attachment and Loss: Volume 1 Attachment. 2nd ed. New York: Basic Books.

Chopik, W. J., Edelstein, R. S., & Grimm, K. J. (2019). Longitudinal changes in attachment orientation over a 59-year period. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 116(4), 598–611.

Mikulincer, M., Shaver, P.R. (2007). Attachment in Adulthood: Structure, Dynamics, and Change. Guilford Press.

Hagemeyer, B., Schönbrodt, F. D., Neyer, F. J., Neberich, W., & Asendorpf, J. B. (2015). When “together” means “too close”: Agency motives and relationship functioning in coresident and living-apart-together couples. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 109(5), 813–835.

Schrage, K. M., Maxwell, J. A., Impett, E. A., Keltner, D., & MacDonald, G. (2020). Effects of verbal and nonverbal communication of affection on avoidantly attached partners’ emotions and message receptiveness. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 46(11), 1567-1580.

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