Attachment theory has gained a lot of momentum in recent years. At its heart, attachment theory is a psychological premise that explains how people develop long-term bonds and emotional connections with others.
Ideally, we would all form secure attachments with each other and enjoy healthy relationships full of love, support, and understanding. Unfortunately, though, attachment occurs on a very complex spectrum, and many people fall under the umbrella of love addiction and love avoidance.
Things to know
- Love avoidance stems from an avoidant attachment style.
- People who are love avoidant think depending on others is a sign of weakness and will lead to getting hurt.
- Love avoidant people avoid physical intimacy and talking about their feelings as distancing techniques.
Chances are, you probably know someone who is love avoidant and don't even realize it. In fact, you may be in love with someone right now but feel like they are sending you mixed signals, and you don't understand why.
If all of this sounds far too familiar, then you'll want to explore the possibility that you're dealing with a love avoidant partner who may need your help to break the cycle of toxic relationships.
We'll be examining the following so you can truly understand what it's like in the mind of someone with an avoidant personality:
- What Is A Love Avoidant?
- Characteristics Of Avoidant Partners
- 7 Love Avoidant Distancing Techniques
- 5 Ways To Help A Love Avoidant Partner
- Love Avoidants Aren't Doomed
What Is A Love Avoidant?
According to attachment theory, there are a total of four attachment styles that people exhibit in their relationships with others. These attachment types include secure attachment, anxious attachment, dismissive (or fearful) attachment, and avoidant attachment.
Unfortunately, the secure attachment style is the only one that allows for healthy balanced relationships, while all of the others, including love avoidant, cause unhealthy and even toxic relationships to develop.
Love avoidant individuals keep all potential romantic partners at a distance. They try to avoid emotional intimacy at all costs. They even go so far as to do things that purposely push people away.
These individuals appear strong and fiercely independent. They do not want to rely on others, and they try not to do anything that would overly support other people as well. They try to keep their distance from everyone, even people they genuinely love. They don’t ask others for their support, and they sometimes act out as a way to show that they don’t need anyone’s approval.
Love avoidants also avoid anything that involves expressing feelings. They will go to great lengths to suppress their emotions and don’t let anyone see how they really feel.
Unfortunately, this causes them to rely on unhealthy outlets to release their emotions and many people with avoidant personality struggle with substance abuse or other compulsive behaviors.
Love avoidance is typically a trauma response caused by childhood abuse or neglect. Because they never experienced secure attachments or love within their childhood home, love avoidant people have learned that they cannot (and should not) trust other people. Instead, they try to be as self-reliant as possible and avoid heartache at all costs.
Characteristics Of Avoidant Partners
Typically, people whose attachment style is avoidant show the following characteristics:
- A deep desire to keep their thoughts and feelings private and not share them openly
- Inability to answer personal questions directly
- Lots of secrecy
- A tendency to make decisions without consulting others, even if the decisions impact them
- A lack of healthy boundaries with others
- Inability to establish an emotional connection with others
- A complete shutdown in communication when serious topics are presented
- Extreme love avoidance to the point that they run away from relationships when the other person gets "too close" to them
To people with a secure attachment style, these behaviors seem odd and even counterproductive. For a love avoidant person, though, these character traits are what keep them safe. In many cases, these personality traits are also what someone with an avoidant attachment style uses to distance themselves from others.
Curious to know whether an avoidant loves you? Check out our list of 13 signs of avoidant love to find out!
7 Love Avoidant Distancing Techniques
If you love someone with an avoidant personality, you've likely noticed that they do things to push you away. Although this seems counterproductive for someone who wants to develop an intimate relationship with you, it is actually something they learned for self-preservation.
Distancing techniques help love avoidants protect themselves. They know from the relational trauma of their childhood that getting close to people only ends in pain and emotional distress.
So, when they realize that they are developing an emotional connection to someone else, they rely on these seven distancing techniques to push the other person away so they can protect their heart:
1. They avoid any form of physical intimacy
When an avoidant person develops close relationships with other people, they typically avoid any form of physical intimacy. Usually, this fear of intimacy stems from their concern about being used, controlled, or manipulated.
Unfortunately, this lack of connection makes it hard to maintain a romantic relationship with anyone. But that's all part of their thought process — it keeps them from getting too close to anyone.
2. They avoid talking about their feelings
A love avoidant person doesn't just withhold physical intimacy from those they love. They also avoid emotional intimacy as well. They avoid any form of emotional closeness with others because it feels uncomfortable and problematic.
Unfortunately, this coping mechanism is usually developed during childhood. They probably heard that sharing their feelings with others was burdensome or problematic. So, they learned to be emotionally distant instead.
3. They flirt without developing emotional connections
Even emotionally avoidant people enjoy connecting with others. So, they will flirt and talk to people they find attractive. However, they try to remain mysterious and aloof so that they don't develop an emotional connection. This coping mechanism eventually pushes others away as they want emotional intimacy.
4. They refuse to work through conflicts
People with an avoidant attachment style don't just avoid emotional intimacy — they avoid conflict resolution as well. They think that if they work through a conflict, the other person will fight with them or abandon them. So, instead, they just avoid conflict altogether and hope the issue goes away.
Developing an intimate relationship with someone who has an avoidant personality can be especially difficult - it will require a great deal of patience and love.
5. They are verbally abusive
Many people with personality disorders can come across as verbally abusive in relationships. This is because most of them lived in abusive relationships during their childhood and never learned how to develop healthy relationships with others.
Furthermore, they learned that using harsh words keeps romantic partners at bay, which helps them protect their hearts.
6. They don’t put effort into relationships
When we put effort into our relationships, they flourish. However, this means that people get closer to us... and that's the exact opposite of what someone with love avoidance wants. So, people with avoidant attachments put minimal effort into their relationships and even appear selfish so that they never develop emotional closeness with others.
7. They blame you for any confusion or problems
Since people with an avoidant attachment style often experienced abuse or neglect as a child, they learned to rely solely on themselves. They don't usually see their own flaws but are very aware of everyone else's.
So, they often blame others for any problems they experience in relationships, not realizing that their avoidant personality is a big part of the issue as well.
Are you tired of experiencing these distancing techniques and other toxic relationship behaviors? You may want to read our explainer on how to get an avoidant to chase you instead of pushing you away.
5 Ways To Help A Love Avoidant Partner
Understanding a love avoidant partner is important. However, nothing will change if you aren't willing to help them turn over a new leaf.
So, how can you help a love avoidant person?
1. Be patient
First and foremost, dealing with a love avoidant partner requires a high level of patience and understanding. You need to realize that many of their behaviors are actually their nervous system's response to trauma, and it will take time to unlearn these coping mechanisms they relied on to keep them safe for so long.
You may have to accept that they will have a hard time connecting with you, and you may not get all of your emotional needs met for some time. They need to see that, no matter what, you're going to stick with them and continue to show them love.
2. See things from their point of view
If you can, try to understand things from their perspective. This can be hard, especially when they won't tell you what's going on inside their head, but it is such an important part of working through unhealthy attachments.
3. Don't try to control them
Similarly, never try to control their behaviors. Although you may see your gestures as helping, they don't see it that way at all. They see it as a threat. Over time, this will only push them away and cause them to revert back to their old behavior patterns. If you can, let them do things on their own.
4. Celebrate their successes
As your love avoidant partner works through their issues, reward them for the steps they take toward recovery. If they share their feelings with you or let you run an errand for them, be sure to thank them and acknowledge what a huge victory that small gesture is.
It may feel a bit silly to thank someone for telling you they feel angry, but this open dialogue will do a lot to show your partner that not everyone is going to abandon them or respond in anger if they express themselves. They need to see that they aren't a burden and that they can trust you.
5. Give them space
Sometimes, a love avoidant partner may also need space. They won't instantly want to go from being detached to completely bonded with you, and forcing things too fast will only push them away for good. You'll need to give them space and let them come to you, eventually an avoidant partner may even chase you.
Love Avoidants Aren't Doomed
The most important thing is that you're patient with your love avoidant person. Recovery and change take time. Nothing will happen overnight, and things won't magically get better all at once. Remember that baby steps are still steps in the right direction.
This isn't to say you have to settle for the status quo. It just means you need to remember that recovery isn't linear, and working through this will take time. By remaining patient and giving them time to heal, you are showing your partner that they don't need to avoid your love.
Adult relationships are hard for everyone. However, developing an intimate relationship with someone who has an avoidant personality can be especially difficult. It will require a great deal of patience and love, and it may even require professional help to get through. However, if you really love someone, then it's worth every bit of the fight.