You might notice that your partner has habits that create space between you. Maybe it is playing video games, checking their phone, or overworking in the evenings. Transitioning from isolation to connection can be difficult for them as well, so you may find a request for connection while they are engaged in their inner world to be met in a cold response.
For more information, I highly recommend checking out The Power of Attachment: How to Create Deep and Lasting Intimate Relationships by Diane Poole Heller, Ph.D. Her book dives deeper into all of the attachment styles and provides exercises to help all of us move to a more secure style of attachment.
Their early experiences can lead to them viewing others as overly dependent. If they have managed to become self-sufficient, why aren’t we? When avoiding their childhood pain allows them to identify with values of independence and autonomy, why change? This way of being may make it difficult for someone with an avoidant attachment style to express empathy or understand that other peoples’ needs are not a sign of weakness but rather a sign of being human.
Shortly after losing my son, I discovered a national organization dedicated to bereaved parents and siblings called The Compassionate Friends and started attended meetings. I had found a place of like-minded individuals who needed to bring purpose to the seemingly senseless deaths of their children. After two years, I had become the editor of the chapter newsletter and a small group facilitator.
These folks tend to be logical and factual and this can become glaringly clear if you ever get into a conflict with someone with this attachment style. I often tell my partner that getting into an argument with him feels a lot like an interaction that may take place in the courtroom between me and an effective lawyer. You may feel like, especially during conflict, your feelings don’t matter and instead, your words are being picked apart. In the same breath, you may notice they are gifted when it comes to problem-solving and thinking objectively which can come in handy for navigating many of life’s challenges.
This one may be less obvious unless you are someone who needs and enjoys eye contact while communicating. If you are someone who wants more eye contact, remember that demanding eye contact can be distressing for someone with an avoidant attachment style in a way that the rest of us may not understand.
Growing up, eye contact with caregivers may not have been a pleasant experience for someone with an avoidant attachment style. Meeting their gaze could mean being met with hostility, anger, rejection, or critique and in order to protect themselves, they learned early to avoid eye contact. They may also have learned strategies that make it appear they are making eye contact, such as gazing at your chin or nose, which can be more difficult to notice.
Being in a relationship with someone who has an avoidant attachment style can be triggering for many of us, particularly those of us with an anxious attachment style. It can leave us questioning whether or not this person loves and cares about us. The most heartbreaking thing is that even though they are experts at keeping people out, the desire for love and connection is still there.
If this person is committed to healing, though, they can also be our greatest teacher. If they are committed to healing and desire a secure relationship, the path to love can be challenging and difficult for them, and they will require a great deal of love and patience.
Whereas those with an anxious attachment style have an abundance of right-brain activity, those with an avoidant attachment style have an overactivity in their left brain. To make things simple — the left brain is the “thinky,” analytical, or methodical, side of our brain, and the right brain is “feely,” intuitive, and responsible for helping us connect with others.
When they do talk about their childhood, the left brain orientation may mean they have an easier time recalling facts than they do their emotional experiences. They may even let you know that they had a “really nice childhood,” especially if they have not started the process of healing their attachment wound.
Right before the chapter’s annual butterfly picnic in the Spring, I asked my husband to drop off some items for their raffle since, due to a sudden bout of malaise, I was unable to attend. When he returned home, he asked me to sit as he began telling me about a person who had come to the picnic wanting to speak to me. I knew who it was before the name left his lips.
I’ve learned that if I interrupt my partner while he is absorbed in his inner world, it can feel to him like I am being intrusive and actually be quite triggering. It is not that he doesn’t want to connect, he just needs more time to transition from isolation to connection because it is a lot of work for him to do so. Giving these individuals a heads up that you’d like to connect or asking them to come to you when they are ready, can be a strategy that allows them the space and time they need.
If your partner has an avoidant attachment style, you may find that they either avoid talking about their childhood or are vague and dismissive when these types of conversations arise. You may also notice that they may feel more comfortable talking about the future. It can be difficult for them to acknowledge that their early needs were not met and this can lead to them having a hard time expressing their needs in the present.
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