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Beginnings

How to Date Someone Who Has an Avoidant Attachment Style

Have you ever started dating someone, and after a romantic weekend together, POOF he disappears?

Avatar Written by Amy Chan · 5 min read >

Have you ever started dating someone, and after a romantic weekend together, POOF he disappears?

Or perhaps you meet someone, and it starts off hot and heavy. You’re texting daily and can’t wait to see each other again. But suddenly, the communication starts to fade, and you find yourself chasing, yearning and waiting for their attention?

If these scenarios sound familiar to you, this might be an indication that you dated or are dating someone with an avoidant attachment style.

Our attachment system is a mechanism in our brain responsible for tracking and monitoring the safety and availability of our attachment figures. Many attachment theorists believe that by the age of five, we develop a primary attachment style that will more or less define the way we emotionally bond and attach to others in our adult lives. There are three primary attachment styles: secure, avoidant and anxious.

People with an avoidant attachment style have a deep-rooted fear of losing their autonomy and freedom in a relationship.

People with an avoidant attachment style have a deep-rooted fear of losing their autonomy and freedom in a relationship. Subconsciously, they equate intimacy with a loss of independence and when someone gets too close, they turn to deactivating strategies – tactics used to squelch intimacy. Deactivating strategies include:  pulling away when things are going well, focusing on small imperfections in their partner as a way out, forming relationships with an impossible future, and/or waiting for the perfect unicorn – the “one” that exists only exists in fantasy, not reality.

Avoidants have built a defensive stance and subconsciously suppress their attachment system. While they can get into relationships, they have a tendency to keep an emotional distance with their partner.

Our attachment style is on a spectrum, and can change over time and shift based on the person you are dating. Some people can bring out the anxious or avoidant in you, swaying you further on one side of the spectrum.

If you are dating someone with an avoidant attachment style, relationship bliss isn’t necessarily doomed. You just have to understand that their wiring is different from yours, and that they require lower levels of intimacy and closeness than people with secure/anxious attachment styles. If you’re more anxious, you likely need consistent, constant communication, however, someone with an avoidant attachment style is comfortable with minimal communication. Their minimal needs for constant connection doesn’t necessarily reflect a lack of interest, it indicates that their needs are just different.

Avoidants make up approximately 25 percent of the population, so the chances of finding and dating one is high. If both partners have the determination to work together to become more secure, it can be an extremely enriching, loving relationship—though it will take a little bit more work upfront. You can learn what your avoidant partner’s triggers are, and how to best respond to make them feel loved without feeling suffocated.

Here are some tips on how to date, and love an avoidant type:

Communicate with words, not tantrums

Maybe it drives you nuts when he doesn’t contact you for an entire day. The tension may build up for you as you’re counting down the minutes until he responds, causing you to blow up his phone (triple dip text anyone?) or send a passive aggressive message. When you’re in this anxious, resentful state – do not engage!

Get yourself into a calm state by meditating, or exercising to shake off the angst and stress chemicals. Whatever you do, don’t keep messaging while you’re in an anxious, low-vibe state. This energy is felt, you’re not fooling anyone with a happy face emoticon. When you self-soothe and get yourself in a positive state, find time to communicate your needs and preferences to your partner. Communicating in a healthy, adult way means not making demands, trying to control or enforce behavior with ultimatums (that’s a sure way to get an avoidant to run the opposite direction).

When you express your need for connection and communication without attacking, you can both come up with action items that will meet your needs for connection, and his needs for space and freedom. For example, the next time he feels an inclination to “go poof” into his mancave, he can give you a heads up that he’s taking some space and will reply the next day. Because you’ve negotiated this ahead of time, you’ll know that it’s nothing personal, or a threat to the relationship. Of course, he won’t be able to change his behavior to accommodate all your emotional triggers if you sway more anxious. But the more secure you are in your attachment, the less you’ll take it personally when he’s taking space.

Practice patience when he pushes you away.

Avoidants feel safe when their autonomy or independence is not threatened, so when he withdraws, know that it’s not necessarily a sign of rejection. For a while, he may go through cycles of getting close and then stepping back. A pursue-withdraw dynamic is when one person pursues the other’s feelings and the other withdraws out of fear that they will only make the situation worse. If this dynamic continues for an extended amount of time, it can be very toxic for a relationship. But this dynamic can be fixed by identifying one another’s underlying needs in conflict situations. If your avoidant partner is not ready to talk about his or her feelings and needs personal space, be patient and give it to them, as pushing or pressuring them will only make them more likely to withdraw.

Look at his intentions.

Especially if you are an anxious type, you may feel hyper-vigilant, intensely monitoring the emotions of your partner and extremely sensitive to cues that your partner may be pulling away. But quickly jumping to conclusions causes you to misinterpret each other’s emotional state, which can cause conflict and strife for no reason. Before you react, take a moment to look at your partner’s intentions. Then, gather more information and evidence before making a judgment. You’ll be surprised by how much easier it will be to accurately understand the situation when you delay your initial fear-based reaction. Learn how to separate your interpretations and assumptions from the facts of the situation. Perhaps he’s focused on work and in that zone he’s not thinking of communication. This doesn’t mean the relationship is in jeopardy. Looking at the facts and his intentions can help provide perspective so your assumptions don’t pull you into an emotional spiral.

Pick activities as dates.

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. This way, he’s present and in the moment while you bond and connect—and he’ll be more likely to relax and show you affection. The more you bond, the more oxytocin and vasopressin is developed – the bonding chemicals that create trust and rapport.

Support, Not Fix

One of the greatest struggles avoidants have is a difficulty recognizing their own emotions, let alone talking about them. However, significant research shows that simply naming our feelings is key in diffusing and managing them. Psychologist Dan Siegel refers to this practice as “name it to tame it.” He says, “Emotions are just a form of energy, forever seeking expression.” And finding the right words is the first step in expressing them. Encourage your partner to journal, which will help him get in touch with emotions, rather than disassociating from them. However, be careful to not want your partner’s growth more than he does. If he’s not invested in growing, and working together to move forward, you will either need to accept him as is, or move on. If his avoidant attachment style is causing you too much pain, you’ll need to decide if a more secure partner is a better fit for you in the long run.

Avoidants need and want love, just as much as you do

A significant amount of research suggests that an avoidant attachment is the outcome of parents who were overly controlling, smothering or mis-attuned to their child’s needs. Do not judge or shame someone with an avoidant attachment style – their early childhood experiences wired their relationship to intimacy in a way that often causes them great loneliness. They subconsciously suppress their attachment system – this is often something they’re unaware that they’re doing.

While it may sound challenging to date someone with an avoidant attachment style, the good news is, through support from their partner and their own self-work, they can move from avoidant to secure. Once they realize that they are safe and intimacy will not control or cause them the same pain they experienced as a child, a healthier narrative becomes reaffirmed through time and experience, and they gradually rewire their baseline.

Want to create healthy relationship patterns? Join my live workshop on April 25th. Learn how to be less anxious and more secure, rewire your brain, and ditch the unhealthy relationship patterns that no longer serve you. Save your seat here.

Check out my book, Breakup Bootcamp: The Science of Rewiring Your Heart

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24 Replies to “How to Date Someone Who Has an Avoidant Attachment Style”

  1. you refer to the avoidant party in the “male” context in your examples (he, him, his, man cave etc), its spoils an otherwise good article, by being patronising.

      1. Agreed. The information is clear, regardless of gender. Love this article! You did an excellent job.

  2. I agree with Anthony. I am a woman with avoidant attachment and it is really annoying to feel like I’m wrong as a woman with this issue, like it would be more appropriate if I were anxious attachment. It’s just as easy to us “they” as it is to gender male or female.

    1. Hi I’m in love w an avoidant female and messed up. She started to get close and backed off all of a sudden. I thought she wanted me to figure out why she’s mad and of course made things worst. Please help if any suggestions. Much appreciated. Rich

    2. Hi Andrea it’s just as easy to replace the word while you’re reading. Most often entitlement come from fear or a feeling you need to control something maybe bc you’ve been wronged. It has nothing to do with the words/ time and thought Amy put into this article. Thank you for posting this Amy. Please disregard the negative and misdirected comments. Can’t please everyone. I appreciate you for trying to help. Just wanted to have your back as I would want someone to have mine. Please keep posting articles. 🙂

  3. Omg, reading and rereading this article helped keep me sane in the early weeks of dating my avoidant girlfriend! What’s weird is I have a history of being avoidant, but being with her brought out an anxious side I didn’t know I had.

    It took a while for us both to adjust, for her to get comfortable with intimacy and me to understand her patterns. Using your evidence-based reasoning, learning to give her space when she needed it, and the tip about activities as dates really helped!

  4. I believe my ex had avoidant attachment. I got anxious and things got diffucult between us. He ended up saying he needed to be for himself (he was sad in a depressed state).
    I have now learned about this behaviour and also how my own behaviour might triggered him.
    How to I contact him and let him know what I now know. I do believe we could build something amazing together if we learned to cope with eachothers attachment styles.

    1. Hi Marcie,

      I’m in love w an avoidant female and messed up. She started to get close and backed off all of a sudden. I thought she wanted me to figure out why she’s mad and of course I made things worst. Please help if any suggestions. Much appreciated. Rich

  5. Your article makes it sound like the avoidant person needs to be accommodated at every turn with no give. I think the article could use some balance with how the avoidant person can accommodate their date as well…

  6. Hi Rich,
    Avoidant female here.
    The only advice I have for you, although it can be hard: Give her as much space as you can.
    If she really is an avoidant type, your attempts to get close will probably trigger her more.
    What is your attachment style? If you’re anxious, try to work against your patterns. Don’t give in to the need for reassurance, but allow your insecurities to be there without acting them out.
    It’s hard to date an avoidant but I believe with a lot of awareness, ideally on both parts, it can be done.

    1. Thank you U.

      I am a recovering Anxious. lol. I’m working on being secure type.
      learned a lot since my last post thanks to articles like this and replied comments 🙂

      The other think I trying to understand is adding that fact that she has Psychical touch as her love language. I feel it’s hard to connect with her without touch.

  7. Avoidants can start to see their partner as the enemy. Innately they understand love to be dangerous, so they can slightly hate themselves for desiring it, but once they fully receive it they also start to have conflicting feelings for and hate elements of the person providing that love – because it starts to make them feel dependent themselves, and this is a dangerous feeling.
     They resent people for being important to them. They then need to punish both themselves and the source for this feeling. Ultimately avoidants do crave more intimacy, but they will still punish and push away someone who provides it. Deactivating strategies will not operate so much if avoidants are not attached, or if someone is not providing visible love 
    – they push away the people who are most important to them. 

  8. I really found this article interesting. Just one notable mention though. I felt the article leaned ever so slightly towards a too sympathetic approach to the anxious avoidant person.
    I wonder how lonely life can be for the person on the receiving end of an avoidant’s behaviour. I wonder if an anxious avoidant individual is ever really capable of being there for their loved one. Imagine going through life and not being able to “count” on them or feeling like you’ve no support and this is how it’s just going to be.
    I think in the end, we all have choices in how we behave and treat others.

    1. agreed! nothing more to say…(but i will, lol)
      i recently met a guy who was this way and he would be all in-tuned when we were together but the second we parted ways he was MIA. well, i am an anxious-avoidant and this is just not gonna work for me. i felt a good morning/good afternoon and good night txt was not too much but he thought it was. but the double-standard comes in when THEY wanna reach out and u r not available then the “non-appropriateness” is very obvious. he is very intellectually stimulating and is simply mostly together but this DISTANT shit is not for me. he reassures me that it isnt disinterest but ultimately if it hurts me then my responsibility is 2 DISTANCE MYSELF FROM IT! and, this is just what i did. i listen 2 a recording of a convo we had often time and im so proud i was grounded and not overly-emotional; but it was/is just a blatant reality-check that we are not yolked. it hurt 2 leave him but i need my sanity more than someone it took me 40 years to find/ cross paths with. lol! oh, the irony!!! remember 2 do what serves YOU as they r clearly making sure 2 do what serves THEM!!!

  9. This article is so helpful and I have been using the advice and will continue to. I feel he is worth the extra work, and I know that I can be happy within myself…I don’t need anyone else to make me happy.

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