What Does It Mean To Be Avoidant In Relationships?

Intimacy is the arena in which all of our deep seated emotional tendencies seem to play out — and that is true even if we seem to struggle with reaching intimacy in the first place. But having “avoidant” tendencies in relationships is not uncommon, when it comes down to it, and it’s also not a be-all-and-end-all life sentence if this is how you often function in love.

So, first things first, you might have heard people talk about their “attachment styles” in a relationship before. But where did it come from? Very generally, attachment theory refers to a psychological model about how our attachment to a primary caregiver impacted our personal development. It was applied into a framework about how people act in romantic relationships by Cindy Hazan and Phillip R. Shaver in the 80’s. Whether or not you are able to form secure attachments to people can, theoretically, inform all sorts of things about who you are, how you act, and how you perceive your place in the world. In particular, it informs how you tend to behave in regards to romantic love.

Having avoidant tendencies, on the simplest level, means that receiving love and affection makes you uncomfortable, therapist Rachel Bauder Cohen, MSW, LCSW of Seaside Counseling Center, tells Bustle.

“You (often unknowingly) steer clear of situations that will put you in direct line of affection because you can ‘handle things by yourself,'” Cohen says.

Avoidant tendencies might show up by you being extremely independent, so much so, that you may be uncomfortable with having to rely on someone, Cohen says. It might take you longer to trust and open up to others. It can also mean someone really needs to earn your trust, respect, and love because you don’t just show those to anyone.

You might also have many superficial relationships, but struggle with deeply attaching yourself to someone, Cohen says.

“Struggles associated with love avoidant tendencies [can be things like] feeling lonely, depressed, and not understood,” Cohen says. “You may be extra hard on your loved ones and find yourself constantly let down when you choose to trust someone.”

Having avoidant tendencies does not mean you are incapable of intimacy.

Shutterstock

If you have avoidant tendencies, as counselor David Bennett of Double Trust Dating tells Bustle, it also might mean that you may get into relationships, but the relationships tend to lack a strong emotional connection, or deep intimacy.

Having avoidant tendencies doesn’t mean you are unable to be intimate at all, but it might be challenging to connect at times, Bennett says. If someone has avoidant tendencies, they might keep relationships on a relatively surface level. There is hesitancy towards commitment and someone can often send mixed messages through their behavior and communication. There might be fear around things getting too serious or vulnerable. Avoidant tendencies can show up in different ways.

“They might like to do a lot of the fun things, but perhaps won’t be too available when you need someone to really talk to,” Bennett says. “They may focus more on casual sex, rather than seeing sex as a form of intimacy. They also may idealize past relationships, or even an imaginary ideal relationship. This can result in being very picky and a perfectionist, which allows them to avoid deeper relationships.”

And while someone who has avoidant attachment tendencies often gets the reputation of being a person who totally “avoids” love, Elizabeth Sabine, MEd, registered clinical counselor at Peak Resilience tells Bustle it’s not so black and white.

“We all want love, but the ways that our caregivers responded to (or didn’t) respond to us and our needs helps us to develop ways of coping, protecting ourselves from being hurt, and of going about getting our needs met,” Sabine says.

Clinical counselor Lauren Phelan, MA, of Peak Resilience says that for this reason, she finds it helpful to think about attachment styles as existing on a continuum rather than as rigid categories.

“Some of us may have more avoidant tendencies than others in intimate relationships, and these can be learned (adaptive) patterns that protected us in earlier relationship from being hurt or overwhelmed,” Phelan says. “Those of us who are more avoidant still want to feel connection and closeness, but it may feel less safe for us, so we do it from a distance.”

Cohen says to approach a shift in your tendencies, try things like journaling, as it’s important to open up and be honest with yourself, before you expect to be that way with someone else.

“Lean in to your positive, established relationships,” Cohen says. “If you already have someone in your life that has shown you that they are trustworthy, try opening up about something that is hard for you.”

Cohen also says that seeking help from a professional to dig deeper around relationship patterns is a really good idea. If you feel you have behaviors that get in the way of having the connections you want and deserve, guidance is out there.

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

My new book, Angel with a Broken Wing is now for sale on Amazon!

 

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Listen to the Phicklephilly podcast LIVE on Spotify!

Instagram: @phicklephilly    Facebook: phicklephilly    Twitter: @phicklephilly

Philadelphia, PA, USA

Author: phicklephilly

Copyright © 2016 by Phicklephilly All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. All stories and characters are based on real people and events. The names and images have been changed to protect their privacy. Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation!”

8 thoughts on “What Does It Mean To Be Avoidant In Relationships?”

  1. This post had got me thinking if I have the avoidant disorder. Because I have tried to run away from complex feelings when I realised the relationship has no future at all. Is this an avoidant phenomenon? I mean, I did it intentionally to save our friendship. Not to hurt anybody.

    1. I think that if one is having complex feelings in a relationship, and there is no future for said relationship, a wise choice may be to exit. To save a friendship would be paramount to that good decision.

      1. That happens. I have had to let certain people go because they are unable to evolve and move forward with their lives. Sadly I had to do this to someone recently. I give people a lot of chances and time, but after a certain number of years and no progress, I have to let them go. Don’t let anyone live rent free inside your head. It’s not worth it, and life is fleeting and fragile. 🙂

      2. Yes, really! I had this beef with my senior over a long dispute. I couldn’t take the injustice happened to me. I wrote an article from my prespective and then the people involved apologized to me! This is how I moved on!

  2. This post got me thinking if I have an avoidant disorder! Because I tried to run away from complex feelings because I realised the relay has no future at all.

Leave a Reply