There’s a lot to learn about someone when you meet them for a first date. You’re trying to make a good impression, but you’re also looking for context clues about who this person really is. What would they actually be like as a partner? It’s important to keep an eye out for red flags, including signs of avoidant attachment. You’re better off spotting these early on before you become super invested in the relationship.
“Avoidant attachment” is a term in psychology used to describe the behavior of people who are emotionally unavailable. This pattern can begin in childhood, and it goes on to affect people’s relationships throughout their lives. A person with avoidant attachment might act aloof or cryptic toward their partner, showing resistance to being vulnerable or developing close bonds. “Avoidant attachment basically means an individual believes or operates as though they cannot rely on others,” says Nicole Richardson, licensed marriage and family therapist. “They often come off as loners. They can be outgoing and dynamic, but they really want to do their own thing.”
As you can probably imagine, people with avoidant attachment can be pretty difficult to be in a relationship with. “If you are in a relationship with an avoidant, you can expect that they want to draw inward when they are having a difficult time, and they may not come to you when they are struggling,” Richardson explains. “It may also mean they are not interested or equipped to meet many of your emotional needs. They often like companionship but struggle with closeness and intimacy.”
You can sometimes spot early warning signs of avoidant attachment on a first date. Here’s what Richardson says to look out for.
1. They tell you they’re constantly in and out of relationships.
If the person mentions that they’ve never had a long-term relationship, or they give clues that they tend to have “casual” flings only, they might have trouble opening up and committing to someone. “If a person moves from one relationship to another, it could be a sign that they don’t like to be alone but cannot tolerate true closeness,” Richardson says. They may be super charismatic and flirty, but when it really gets down to the tough stuff in a relationship, they’d rather bail than work through it.
2. They’re super invested in you, almost too quickly.
This might sound counterintuitive, but Richardson says it’s actually a red flag when someone is 100% all in on a first date (or even before). “Beware of the ‘too much, too soon’ person, the one who is talking about what a perfect match you are before you even meet in person,” she says. They’ve decided who you are before they truly know you at all. Richardson explains that while this person may draw you in super quickly, they’ll eventually pull back just as fast.
3. They’re cagey about sharing their feelings.
On a great first date, the conversation should flow easily and naturally. If you feel like they’re hiding things from you, that doesn’t lay the groundwork for a successful relationship down the road. “Pay attention to how you feel,” Richardson advises. “If during the date you feel like you are having to vie for their attention and it is not freely given, that could be a warning sign.” They should be fully present in the conversation, asking you thoughtful questions and sharing things about themself.
4. They talk a lot about wanting space and freedom.
It’s totally fine to want to be your own person in a relationship. Healthy boundaries are a good thing for your mental health. But if this person talks about how they don’t want a partner who is “needy,” or how they really like to “do their own thing,” this might signal resistance to commitment. “Of course you should both want to be able to do your own thing, but what you are looking for is someone who wants to make a life with you,” Richardson says. It’s all about being a team.
One thing you shouldn’t worry too much about is whether the person is shy at first. “An introvert may not be avoidant, but they may not be able or willing to open up quickly on a first date,” Richardson says. “They may seem like they are avoidant when in reality, they just take a little time to warm up.” Give them some time to feel more comfortable around you, and then they might start sharing more.
Sometimes, you won’t be able to spot avoidant attachments on a first date. But as soon as you begin noticing that this person is resistant to a commitment with you, you’ll need to make a decision about whether you want to move forward or move on. You’re better off investing your love into someone who can fully reciprocate it.
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