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Avoidant Attachment Style: Love at Arm's Length

Couple holding hands
Avoidant Attachment: Keeping Love at Arms Length

Avoidantly attached people can have a dismissive attitude towards intimacy.

If you have an Avoidant Attachment Style, you can be uncomfortable with closeness and may seem emotionally distant. You may also have difficulty trusting others and be hesitant to get too close.

People with this attachment style tend to be independent and self-sufficient - which is great in the workplace - but are often uncomfortable with depending on others and showing signs of their vulnerability, which impacts romantic relationships.

According to Hazan and Shaver’s seminal work in the 1980s, in which they analysed 620 self-reported questionnaires, avoidant attachers make up 25% of the population - and we estimate that number could now be even higher.

Interestingly, our REDDI community is made up of mostly of people who identify as having a 'Secure' attachment type. This is good news for those of us who are avoidant, as the two can be very successful - a secure partner will be able to tolerate the periodic withdrawal that feels necessary for an Avoidant person, giving them the space that they feel they need.

What Causes Avoidant Attachment Styles?

When a person’s needs are consistently unmet, mistrust develops, and they learn to avoid relying on others. Avoidant individuals often had relationships with attachment figures who were not responsive to their needs​.

In childhood, a child develops distrust in others’ intentions and compulsive self-reliance when their attachment figure is consistently unavailable. A mother’s depression or a father’s absence might contribute to this. Insecure avoidant attachment in children is an adaptive response to the lack of care.

In adulthood, a person may perceive that the social world around them is threatening or unhelpful. Therefore, they do not rely on support from others to cope with life’s challenges. Their avoidant behavior is in fact a defense mechanism.

Common Signs of an Avoidant Attachment Style in Adults

Of course, no two individual people have had the same experiences, but generally speaking, Avoidant adults may behave the following way when in a relationship:

  • Keeping their distance

This can be both physical and emotional, appearing to be 'a closed book' or having 'suppressed emotions'. Can appear to be distant or cold.

  • Being evasive

Pushing others away when they start to ask questions, or show a desire for closeness

  • Fears of physical intimacy

Impacting sexual relations and causing paranoia in partners

  • Trust issues

Difficulty trusting others and opening up within conversations - likely to try to change the subject or go off on a tangent if topics become too probing

  • Won't reach out

Highly unlikely to seek help in stressful situations

  • Isolation

Prefer self-reliance and being able to problem-solve alone, but to the point that it can border on isolation

  • Suppression

Especially the outward displays of emotions, which can lead to internal frustrations

Avoidant Attachment Styles are not a relationship death sentence

Often, those who are avoidantly attached can be interpreted as stoic or having our lives together, when in reality, they often have deep relational fears (usually of becoming enmeshed with our partners and losing their autonomy) and are in need of care.

But the struggle to feel safe enough to share their emotional worlds leaves their partners stumped by their behavior and not knowing how to care for them.

While this may sound obvious, it’s actually very difficult for an avoidant person to admit to their own vulnerabilities because they have been denying the effects of their own past - often for many years. Therefore, it is imperative to acknowledge the influence your attachment style has on your relationships, if you believe they have been hindered and want to improve them moving forwards.

To be clear, those of us who are avoidantly attached have just as much responsibility as anyone else to understand our relational patterns - in all of their glory and their harm - and to work toward learning new skills to show up more safely.

It's self-awareness that is key to navigating successful relationships, and mindful dating places us in the best possible position for happiness and longevity.

We will be delving deeper into the compatibility of the different Attachment Styles soon. Please follow our REDDI Blog to be the first to know.

Reference: 'Attached: Identify your attachment style and find your perfect match' - a book by Dr Amir Levine and Rachel Heller

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