Ending the Anxious-Avoidant Dance, Part 2: A Built-In Path to Healing

A couple looking at each other lovingly in white blankets in bed touches palms. smiling at each otherEditor’s note: This article is the second in a two-part series. See Part 1: Opposing Attachment Styles.

The conflict is both a fight for and a protection against intimacy.

If we can hold others only as much as we have held ourselves, then we will tend to connect with others who have a comparable capacity for internal discomfort—those at a similar distance from secure attachment. Clinging and avoiding represent methods of maintaining a comfortable distance from intimacy. While we may hate a partner’s method, we also depend on it. We are drawn to it.

The Never-Ending Conflict

The abandoned side says: “If they would just stay and assure me, I would be calm in a minute.”

The oppressed side says: “If they would just calm down and stop attacking, I would be able to stay present with them.”

As conflict approaches, we switch states.

Dependence and conflict are the primary ingredients required for attachment reenactment. After a certain level of intimacy is reached in the relationship—once we begin relying emotionally on a partner—the relationship begins to take on a new shape. This new shape looks very much like our relationship with one or more primary attachment figures. The anxious side feels an urgent, physically activating preparation for abandonment in the moment, and the avoidant side feels oppressed, trapped, unable to move, unable to choose their own life—both yearning and resigned.

Extremes polarize. If either side relaxes, comes closer to the middle, the other does as well. Either person has an opportunity to end this dance. And in the middle of biological survival reactions, that awareness disappears. Without access to present-moment resources, living in child states, we react not to our partners but to our parents, to the embodied memories of our caregivers.

The Self-Perpetuating Loop

Sometimes it feels like a role in which we’re trapped. Each character plays out a set of cued reactions so rehearsed and precise they may as well have been written in a script.

The avoidant side is well-aware of self but less practiced at communicating internal events (thoughts, sensations, emotions) to other. The anxious side is better at communicating but less aware of internal events, less able to meet them and talk about them objectively without becoming caught up in the physical activation of the emotions.

Conflicts in this relational pattern tend be more drawn out and feel less productive. One side becomes the pursuer, amplifying to draw positive attention, the other the distancer, disengaging to avoid negative attention—together playing out an endlessly retraumatizing dance.

In therapy, the gift is this: coming to a place where either the breakup or continuation feels healthy for both, where each side believes at a physical level they are okay, that the story makes sense, that closure has been found and each person knows how to move forward in gentle compassion for both self and other.

The avoidant side demands less fight, says they cannot remain present in conflict, uses abandonment as a tool, a weapon (“the silent treatment”)—the only thing their partner can hear. The anxious side says they feel like they’re walking on eggshells, unable to expect their partner to remain present with emotional expressions (anger, volume). Each side feels unseen, invalidated, unacceptable (often perceived as a confirmation of the same feelings experienced in childhood).

Fighting styles stay true to attachment styles and survival strategies.

Those on the anxious side tend to amplify, land fully in emotion, demand support, and may be more likely to fight physically, even “small” physical contacts like pinching or blocking a path of escape. Over time, these “small” assaults can escalate.

Those on the avoidant side may be more likely to diminish, freeze, land as far as possible from the emotion, even dissociate. They may remain rigid, stoic, and resentful, wishing their partner might “get it” and end the attack, release the freeze. (“Can’t they see I’m trapped and helpless?”) They tend to fight in ways that are less visible—ways which often feel manipulative, invalidating, and “crazy”-making to the more-direct anxious side. They may placate, deflect, and even gaslight their partners in order to find freedom and self, to regulate their bodies once again as they get away from seemingly endless and fruitless conflict.

Grieving the Fantasy of the Perfect Union

Both sides in this dance carry fantasy and fear, wanting their partner to meet them in a selfless way—to meet their emotions with perfect attunement and empathy and to help them calm their body.

The wished-for scenario is available only in the domain of one-sided attachment (i.e., parent-child relationship). While a version of it can happen in therapy, it is not romantic, nor committed long-term outside of the therapy room. Healthy romantic relationship requires internal connection and acceptance so partners are no longer expected or wished to act as parents—to fulfill a long-unmet need.

Romantic relationships present an inherently bidirectional dependence. In an adult romantic relationship, each side shares control, and each is responsible for their own growth, for communicating their needs, for making choices about the relationship, for finding purpose and support outside of the relationship as well as within it. If either partner stops growing on their own, the relationship stagnates. If either side becomes overly dependent on the other, resentment may build and the relationship may become burdened and tumultuous.

Healing Approaches

In relationship, some of the healing can take place in the way we meet our partners:

  • For the avoidant side: Be aware of your partner’s anxious assumptions. Know their need for response … and respond. This is the common commerce of relationship: bid and respond. Ask for attention and receive attention. While it sounds simple, it is far from easy. Without it, the relationship cannot survive over time. Focus on consistent connection, because this is where their wounding happened. And this may trigger you.
  • For the anxious side: Be aware of your partner’s avoidant perceptions and strategies. They are as valid as your panic. Tatkin suggests: “If your partner needs time to switch to people mode, ask lovingly for that switch within the next 10 minutes or hour, and put yourself in a place where they can come to you versus you approaching them (which feels like threat and gets equated with control).” In other words, focus on their sense of agency and freedom, acknowledging their wholeness and their right to choose their own life (even when those choices seem insignificant in the grand scheme), because this is where their wounding happened. If you can show them that you respect their valid, separate needs, and that you are not burdened or harmed by them, they may feel honored at a core level, and they may feel safe to love you.

Individually, much of the healing comes down to awareness and ownership, learning to be and stay with each internal emotion, to meet it with a gentle compassion, with the same warm eyes you would use to meet a child or a loved pet. In those moments where you look back through the generations of your family and see these relational/emotional patterns playing out, stay with that. Feel it in your body. Honor the real and present experience of a racer who has been passed a generational baton and has nowhere to run.

  • If you are on the anxious side, be aware your experience has taught you to focus more outwardly while sometimes ignoring what is happening internally. This is what creates loneliness and panic. If you can be both with and separate from the internal sadness, you may no longer feel alone. (This takes practice and sometimes the support of a therapist. Even a yoga or mindfulness practice can help.) Remain curious about your internal experience as well as your partner’s. Scan your body before beginning a conversation. Practice holding attention on yourself and your partner simultaneously. If you feel no resources outside of your relationship, focus on developing new hobbies, new social connections—anything to alleviate the belief this relationship is “everything.” Notice how easy it is for you to take the blame your partner deflects toward you. Question that.
  • If you are on the avoidant side, be aware your experience has taught you to keep things to yourself and to give up when resources feel too stretched. Practice doing the opposite. Move physically when feeling stuck, and share about your day—even the parts you assume will bore or burden your partner. And, sometimes, ask for help. Experiment. See what happens when you allow yourself to lean into your partner, remaining vulnerable at every level. Know panic lies beneath dissociation. Find safe space (gardening, nature, your partner, a pet, whatever your favorite resource might be) to feel and process that panic.

Break Up or Continue On?

This relationship can work, if both sides:

  • Take ownership for their own attachment needs and strategies.
  • Take responsibility for the ongoing work of both self-growth and relationship growth.
  • Remain willing to experiment repeatedly with ways to meet both self and other.
  • Find ways to access an internal home base and witness internal pain.

And, in the end, rather than staying in the relationship out of fear; because a partner completes a missing skill set; by default to maintain status quo and conserve energy; because the intimacy in approaching the moment of breaking up is too high; or because the pain of rejecting your partner (sometimes pain in you that you project onto them) feels unbearable (sometimes forcing dissociation at the thought of breakup), understand this relationship does not have to work. By the time each partner has processed childhood pains and come to see this dance for what it is, the end of this pattern may really feel okay. In fact, if either person has changed, they may lose that intoxicating draw to this pattern. It will just no longer feel attractive, “passionate,” or necessary.

Once we grieve what was missing—once we stop fighting against the reality of it and the seemingly unbearable emotion of it—we are no longer attracted to the same cycle. Some people find the attachment trauma was in fact the only thing they had in common, that they needed to come together to heal each other, that they feel at peace with the idea of parting ways and sending love. Some view it as a lesson they needed to learn or a new version of self that they had to “hurt into.”

From a natural-growth perspective, the parts of us that seek out this pattern do so for a reason. If we have been unable to “be with” our pain—if we have inherited or developed “adult” identities that abandon or attack the parts of self that hurt—then the continual reenactment of relational patterns forces us back into opportunities to meet the pain, to meet the child in us, to finally witness it with different eyes, and to understand what that difference really means. It’s as if the child in us is saying, “This! Right here! This feeling right here—the emotions, the sensations in your body, the instinct to panic or disappear: THIS IS WHAT I FELT! For years! This was real. This happened. Nobody noticed. See me. Be with me. Meet me the way I’ve wanted to be met.”

In therapy, the gift is this: coming to a place where either the breakup or continuation feels healthy for both, where each side believes at a physical level they are okay, that the story makes sense, that closure has been found and each person knows how to move forward in gentle compassion for both self and other. If you’re not sure how to get there, contact a licensed therapist for guidance.


  1. Caldwell, J. G., & Shaver, P. R. (2014). Promoting attachment-related mindfulness and compassion: A wait-list-controlled study of women who were mistreated during childhood. Mindfulness, 6(3), 624-636. doi:10.1007/s12671-014-0298-y
  2. Dekel, S., & Farber, B.A. (2012). Models of Intimacy of Securely and Avoidantly Attached Young Adults. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 200(2): 156 doi:10.1097/NMD.0b013e3182439702
  3. Simpson, et al. (2009). Attachment working models twist memories of relationship events. Psychological Science; doi:10.1177/0956797609357175
  4. Tatkin, S. (2009). Addiction to “alone time”: avoidant attachment, narcissism, and a one‐person psychology within a two‐person psychological system. The Therapist, 57(January‐February). Retrieved from http://stantatkin.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Addiction-to-Alone-Time.pdf
  5. Tatkin, S. (2009). The plight of the avoidantly attached partner in couples therapy. New Therapist 62, 10-16. Retrieved from http://stantatkin.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/I-want-you-in-the-house.pdf
  6. Tatkin, S. (2011). Allergic to hope: Angry resistant attachment and a one-person psychology within a two-person psychological system. Psychotherapy in Australia, 18(1), 66-73. Retrieved from http://stantatkin.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Allergic-to-Hope_Tatkin.pdf

© Copyright 2017 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Jeremy McAllister, MA, LPC, GoodTherapy.org Topic Expert

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Dane

    May 20th, 2017 at 5:45 AM

    I think that the avoidance comes so naturally to me now just because I have been hurt before so many times that I have in the end put up these walls of defense and it feels better to be alone than to get hurt. Which I know isn’t really the truth but I have known pain and I only want to let my guard down the next time when I know that this isn’t going to be someone to chew me up and spit me out. But I guess it can be hard in the beginning to know who that person will be.

  • Jeremy McAllister

    May 28th, 2018 at 1:22 PM

    Hi Dane. From my experience, I would agree that avoidance acts as a protection against being hurt again – even as a protective layer over anxious attachment. “It feels better to be alone than to get hurt.” That really says it all.
    It can be very hard to find a person outside of our normal (often subconscious) pattern. And just your use of language suggests you do hold some hope of doing so. Best wishes to you…

  • S.B

    September 19th, 2018 at 2:14 AM

    Hi there. sorry for an essay, but I really would like some help, if possible., and i’m finding it impossible to find solutions! I’m definitely on the anxious side of the scale and dealing with an avoidant person – we aren’t even in a relationship but might as well be. we used to date, and inevitably when things got too emotional for him he broke up with me, but our dynamics and relationship still continues after break up. weirdly i think this person has made me more anxious because of his avoidant and ambivalent behaviours. he definately falls under ‘fearful avoidant’ – is always contacting me to ask for support an reassurance but is also keeping me at arm’s length. he will also find any excuse to take out his anger onto me when things get too emotional for him; i think anger is the only emotion he knows how to express. it’s no surprise that he had abuse growing up. after over 2 years, I’ve had enough, and instead of being supportive and dropping everything to comfort him, I’m starting to put down boundaries. I’m working super hard to change my own innate reactions of anxiety and fear of being left. but He hasn’t reacted well to this at all! but I haven’t been cruel, or mean, just firmly saying ‘i will not speak to you until you meet me in person / talk to me politely.” basically offering support but only if he is able to step up and meet me half way. in response, he blocked me and told me he will talk to me when he is ready. I get the impression he is hoping for me to be upset, but I’m going to give him the space he is asking for. Was this a bad idea to be firm and give him choices? have i pushed it too far for him and just encouraged a narrative in which I’ve abandoned him? He’s a difficult one, because he both wants intimacy but also will do anything to avoid it, or just have it as long as it’s on his terms. I just have no idea how to help someone like this- but i’m pretty aware now that what i have been doing (comforting him when he wants it) is obviously not going to work as long as he continues to push me away- it seems to me this way he will never be satisfied with intimacy and it will be draining for me. how can i actually begin to help him at the core of his trust issues? why hasn’t consistency worked for him? I’m aware that i’m out of my depth and he clearly needs a therapist but obviously he refuses to do that. it’s very tough and frustrating for me to see someone i care for so much destroy himself. any help would be appreciated, if you have the time..thank you. xxxx

  • Struggling

    September 20th, 2018 at 2:10 PM

    Hi All,

    First, I wanted to respond to S.B. I am the guy you are talking about. Perhaps I could give you a glimpse into what your boyfriend is dealing with. I’d also like to address this comment to Jeremy. Hoping you might be able to provide some insight.

    I have a wonderful partner. She’s supportive, sometimes to her own detriment, loving in the most breathtaking way, and the epitome of a ride-or-die partner. Why, then, was I unable to give myself to her completely? It was very clear, initially from my own assessments and then by reading about attachment styles, that we were in an anxious-avoidant relationship. She was the anxious one and I was the avoidant. We tussled with this for a very long time, often breaking up and then getting back together again when we realised that the space didn’t fix anything. But I’ve only recently started considering that the rekindling of the romance is purely to do with our sensing the slipping away of normalcy. I don’t particularly like this idea because I want there to be some divine connection between us that makes it impossible for us to be separated. This divine connection, however, must be fostered and is not inherently present in some mystical way. Perhaps this is just my experience of it. I know that I must work religiously on my mind and my behaviours but I often become afraid that there will be no way for me to eliminate the avoidant behaviours that give rise to our situation. When I am feeling at the mercy of my avoidant behaviours, I lose my connection to my partner. She is there next to me but I do not feel her presence. When I hug her, my body does not feel hers against me. When I kiss her, it feels without meaning (I’ve even become aware of my eye movements behind my closed eyes). The sense of connection is terminated in these avoidant states and they serve to solidify fears surrounding this very thing, which only serves to perpetuate the cycle. The worst is that our sex life has begun to really feel the effects. I have lost sensation during intimacy on many occasions, my mind fixates on the most arbitrary notions (though never on other women), and these just make me feel like perhaps we’re not compatible. But I dislike this idea too because each of the manifestations of my avoidant behaviour are layered in such a way that they have become composite. I look at our relationship and immediately think that each of the ‘signs’ that we are not meant to be together should be agreed with and implemented, if purely for the sake of self-preservation. I struggle to find the will power to believe that I can break through my avoidant behaviours and become more secure for her. But I would only be interested in becoming more secure for her. These layers of avoidant behaviours have sufficiently masked my initial attraction to her and any subsequent attraction that could develop, which makes it even harder to find a reason to stay other than my love for her. It might seem strange that I speak of love when I’ve just identified features of my behaviour that don’t align with the idea but I cannot stress enough how much I love her. This is why this thing is so frustrating! To love someone but to feel uncertain about it is entirely unnatural. To want to commit fully to one person and being able to, emphatically, on one day and then to feel absolutely no attraction the next is frightening. It makes me feel like something is wrong with me.

    Is it possible to overcome this burden? Do the feelings ever stop fluctuating? Will I ever become settled and stop acting avoidant? What do I have to do to make this happen?

  • Corrin

    June 10th, 2019 at 11:09 PM

    Hi Jeremy,
    Your articles are profoundly helpful, I have laughed, sobbed and been in pure disbelief reading them, a salvation for what at times feels like madness, so thank you for giving us an opportunity to understand ourselves. It should be no surprise to you I am Anxiously Attached (like everyone else here writing in to talk about feelings) :)
    I have done therapy before and been reminded to avoid relationships with those who have avoidant tendencies, since then I’ve had 2 avoidant partners and both relationships ended with complete abandonment, my avoidant partner(s) were unwilling to work on themselves or reconcile things. My question is: In the beginning when the Avoidant Partner presents as secure and offers consistent attention how can you determine whether they will be avoidant until they start to withdraw? and if you can’t does a secure person just leave and know they deserve better (ideal)?

  • Penny

    May 22nd, 2017 at 9:43 AM

    Yep I always seem to attract those who have the same exact emotions and reactions as I do, and usually that is not the greatest kind of balance that you would wish to have in a relationship.

  • Jeremy McAllister

    May 28th, 2018 at 1:15 PM

    Hi Penny. I would agree with you. When two on the anxious end pair up, it can become enmeshed and emotional. When two on the avoidant end pair up, it can feel safe and eventually a bit dull, like two roommates passing one another throughout the day. While I don’t know what it is, I’m suspecting some part of you seeks that kind of relationship for a good reason.

  • Gale

    October 23rd, 2017 at 8:14 PM

    My partner and I are in our mid-twenties and stuck in an anxious-avoidant trap, we have been going to couples counseling and it is helping bring us to the middle but sometimes it’s still really challenging when we find ourselves triggered. As the anxious one in the relationship, the physical manifestation of emotion, fear, and rejection I feel is so real it can make me feel sick to my stomach in the moment and lethargic and afraid for days. Even as it gets better, sometimes it’s hard not to feel rejected by my partner and see things from his perspective and validate him — to meet him where he needs to be met. He seems triggered and unhappy more often than me in our relationship, and I ask myself whether I should be the one to end our relationship and just set him free. I love my partner, I think he is a brilliant, kind, smart man, our devotion to eachother is surprising considering how hard our relationship has been at times, I sincerely hope we can heal from our previous hurts and embrace love in all the forms it comes in.

  • Jeremy McAllister

    May 28th, 2018 at 1:12 PM

    Hi Gale. I just want to take a moment to validate how tough those trigger moments really are. They are real. They take over. It feels so automatic, and you may feel completely powerless when it happens. And it’s so hard to be there for one another when we are stuck in the middle of our own reactions, especially when it seems like there is no witness present to validate and honor our experience.
    I’m also hearing the question of whether or not to set him free. Unfortunately, many on the avoidant side will find ending the relationship unbearable, not for their sake but for fear of hurting someone or fear of ‘endless’ or ‘fruitless’ conflict. Change is definitely possible. Whatever form that change takes, it begins with speaking up — either him or you. What would happen if he read what you wrote here?

  • Olivia

    May 26th, 2018 at 9:06 AM

    This article is a masterpiece of both psychological explication and writing skill and it help me tremendously. Thank you.

  • Jeremy McAllister

    May 28th, 2018 at 1:01 PM

    Thank you, Olivia, for the kind words. I’m glad it helped. Best wishes…

  • RCR

    July 5th, 2018 at 6:22 AM

    Thanks for the extremely well written article that captures the nuanced dance.
    I am an anxious-preoccupied and find myself, again, in a relationship with an avoidant. I thought I was different because avoidant is more capable of providing compared to my marriage. However, after comfort has set in after a year together, the dance has become more intense between us.
    I’ve been in therapy for a decade and have gone from full denial blaming everything else to, I believe, a better understanding of myself. Yet I still ended up in the dance.
    In particular, I find it hard to see the inner child as other. I know the reasons, I can intellectualize it, I’ve done mindfulness for a while and yoga, but I cannot crack that access much less develop the internal witness.
    Until today.
    I’ve read this article before when starting this current relationship but for some reason, after multiple conflicts, reading it today hit me. I cried and cried cause I felt it but that’s as far as I’ve gotten.
    My partner is amazing in many ways and not a match at all in others, which confuses me as far as identifying whether it’s fantasy. She is also an Adult Child of Alcoholic Parents with Domestic Violence who can be described by nearly every point in the Other Laundry List.
    i have lots of patience and understanding, most likely to keep close and avoid the anxiety of perceived abandonment, until my partner’s avoidant, distance from intimacy, or tough skin kicks in and my cycle starts up again.
    Like I said, she comes back after those moments and we have grown from our conflicts but she is completely against therapy so I don’t know how far it can get and if I should go along for the ride.
    I’m struggling to see if I have enough to live with in this relationship that I won’t be caught back in a cycle of preocuppied abandonment and drive both of us crazy. Separating the preoccupation with realistic explanations is hard.
    There is an article on ACOA’s that suggests accepting them for who they are. I see that when I empathize because I do love her sincerely but struggle with not receiving my needs though it’s hard to distinguish current and old, inner-child needs. I feel I’m noticing I’m in a bad pattern instead, trying to change her through manipulation, etc. to provide closeness and intimacy. This is hard. I wish there were more suggestions on how to engage your inner child, which I hope helps sort through this situation for me.

  • Jeremy McAllister

    July 18th, 2018 at 1:26 PM

    RCR, thank you for your comment. You’ve brought up an important point: Distancing from emotion is harder on the anxious side. Also, attempts to move the avoidant side feel so much harder, because avoidance and stuckness so often go hand-in-hand. It’s frozen. There’s inertia.
    You have so much awareness already. You know part of your patience is actually fear. And I would imagine that at some level she knows she has the upper hand because of that. Therefore, she has no reason to change, to attend therapy, to rock the boat or break up the status-quo on which so many avoidantly-organized people depend. There is this fine balance between accepting partners as-is and asking for change when needed. So there’s the acceptance/support balance and the self/other balance. You, too, are important. If she is unwilling to attend therapy, how do you feel about going yourself?

  • RCR

    July 27th, 2018 at 3:56 PM

    Thanks Jeremy for breaking it down so directly. Agreed, there is a balanced required but it continues to be hard to envision what asking for change when needed is without going overboard into pre-occupation. Any insight there for those of us who are so pre-occuppied and unaware of our needs or unable to assert them even when we do see them.
    I have been and continue in therapy for the last decade. While sometimes it seems like a very long time, it has helped me through each phase of my self-awareness, from complete denial to working through marriage, ultimately ending it peacefully, then moving on to other relationships. This last relationship I am referring to is hard because so much was available in the relationship but the stressful moments turned into full anxious-avoidant trap. I even caught myself creating ‘discussions’ on issues that really didn’t need it. In a sense, her unwillingness to dive into emotions forced me to deal with my insistence. Yet, in the end, I still need some emotion/affection to my and trying to break through the wall of avoidance led to our decision to not continue the battle.
    I struggle to not want to fix, to provide advice, to calm her inner conflict (she said it was amazing how she could feel so at ease and calm with me) even after the relationship was over.
    But instead, I’ve focused on how to identify avoidant traits and assert myself in order to force a more balanced outcome. Yet emotionally, I’m terrified to think of doing that. Conflict avoidance kept me in a roommate-like marriage and I am prone to stay that way if I don’t learn to be more assertive.
    Thank you! I hope this helps others too.

  • Daniela

    August 25th, 2018 at 1:36 PM

    I have read articles about (avoidant) attachment styles, but… OMG… your article – especially the first part – describes the behaviors of the two parts so well, I had so many aha moments, and I had to comment! Thank you for writing and sharing this, Jeremy!
    I’ve been in a relationship/marriage with a dismissive-avoidant man, while I’m the anxiously attached partner, for almost a decade now….
    I would love to send this article to my soon-to-be-ex-husband, but I know by now that he is not/has not been willing to take a look at himself and his behaviors, so I have given up on that. From the start of our relationship I have said to him “You don’t let me in!” (making room for me in his life, emotionally and otherwise) without really “knowing” what this was about, it was just the feeling I had.
    I had been in an 18 year relationship/marriage before him, and I had been much closer with my first husband, but figured it was because we had met while we were younger, had a more similar background, etc. It was a pretty good relationship with a secure attachment, both of us feeling ‘safe’. We’re actually still friends. However, we kind of went in different directions. I knew I needed to become more independent and grow (and he even said to me a little while ago that I have grown), thus the separation in 2008.
    Fast forward to today, I’ve been through a pretty rough decade: financial issues, health issues, infertility, two miscarriages, depression, therapy, job loss, visa loss, unemployment, passing of my mother, being suicidal, just to name the ‘highlights’. Throughout all of this not much emotional support from my current husband (at least in my mind). The depression lead to anger issues over feeling not being heard. We went to a few couples therapy sessions and made the mistake to see my therapist, which made me feel betrayed when she and him ‘ganged up’ on me and made me go to anger management. I went for a few sessions, but then stopped because I understood that my behavior had been wrong. I have not had any issues since. However, me refusing to continue to go made my husband think that I’m not taking it seriously enough…
    My therapist had mentioned to me that I might have borderline personality disorder features, and then went behind my back to recommend a book about it to my husband. When I found out I was shocked, but believed that I actually have it, along with may other issues I thought were wrong with me and that I tried to ‘fix’.
    Today I do not believe that anymore. I also do not believe that I really had anger issues. Well, I had, but they were based on being ignored by my partner, getting depressed and ultimately angry. What I’m trying to say is that I have had issues, but I have worked on them.
    I have also always tried to understand and figure out why our relationship doesn’t work and why my husband is how he is. Having read your article, and knowing his family, it makes a lot of sense because I know emotions are not being talked about there. I’m not sure about too many other aspects of his childhood – because – just like the typical avoidant person he is – he’s never talked much about anything and has always been pretty secretive.
    On my side, honestly, I’m not sure where my anxious attachment style comes from. My parents did not abandon me. Could it be because my mother was a very anxious person and my parents’ relationship wasn’t very good, but they stayed together?
    I know that I have made mistakes in this relationship, many mistakes. One of them being that, when my husband did open up, I didn’t recognize it, or tried to hurt him when he was vulnerable, just like he had hurt me so many times before and I wanted him to feel some of that pain that I have felt. Not a pretty feature, I know.
    But I think he always felt he and his behaviors are ok the way they are, and always looked at me like I’m the one with the issues and who needs to be ‘fixed’. Ultimately I think we did a lot of damage to each other….
    What boggles my mind is that, even though rationally I understand that we are not a good match (not only because of the attachment differences, also because of goals in life, lifestyle, etc. – all so correctly described in the first part of your article!), and why he eventually told me he wants a divorce because he was fed up with me ‘complaining’, wanting to ‘start fights’ (in his words), and accusing him of having no feelings, no empathy (he told me about the divorce three months after my mother died), and called him a ‘monster’ (another not-proud moment), I still cannot let go of him emotionally.
    I so would like to have a partner to share my life with, and a healthy relationship. But as soon as I think about that, or maybe see another man I am a bit attracted to, automatically my next thought goes to my ex and wanting to tell him: “See, we could have been so good together.” Sometimes I want to hug him and somehow infuse that love into him that he so desperately refuses
    Why is that? Am I that insecure? Do I still love him? Or is this like an addiction, wanting to keep this electrifying toxicity that you describe?
    I could go on… but, I guess what I want to say is: I want to work through this, I want to be able to let go (even though deep down there is still hope that he will change, work on himself and come back… but that is probably that addiction speaking again) and ultimately find happiness with a healthy partner in a good relationship! I would like to work with a therapist like you! Do you happen to be able to recommend anyone in the Southern California area? Thank you so much for your work and for reading this!

  • The GoodTherapy.org Team

    August 27th, 2018 at 8:27 AM

    Hi, Daniela. Thanks for your comment. If you would like to consult with a mental health professional, please feel free to return to our homepage, http://www.goodtherapy.org/, and enter your zip code into the search field to find therapists in your area. If you’re looking for a counselor that practices a specific type of therapy, or who deals with specific concerns, you can make an advanced search by clicking here: http://www.goodtherapy.org/advanced-search.html

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  • Jeremy McAllister

    September 5th, 2018 at 6:00 PM

    Daniela, you’ve come through quite a journey.
    It’s not uncommon for those on opposite ends of the attachment spectrum to pathologize one another. And the ‘fixing’ can be just one more reminder that many times we, as imperfect humans, just do not know how to meet one another.
    Many people want to know where their attachment strategies began. Sometimes there’s an easy and obvious stories. Other times, it’s not quite as clear. There’s actually a lot of literature on the ‘transmission gap’, attempting to explain the inconsistent transmission of attachment styles between generations — as in, a parent with anxious attachment is likely to have a child with anxious or avoidant attachment. Same for a parent with avoidant attachment… A generally accepted current theory: Anxious comes from inconsistent connection. Avoidant from consistent disconnection. What is fairly clear is that parents with extreme attachment styles often have children with extreme attachment styles.
    Yes, it does often feel like an addiction — like a trail of unnecessary and automatic reactions that just play themselves out over and over.
    Letting go of him means coming back to you, and that’s the relationship that really matters most. That’s the relationship in which you live day in and day out. When that one feels loving, supportive, dependable – when you feel capable of regulating your own nervous system and remaining present for yourself, no matter who else is around – that’s when relationships on the outside begin to make more sense and have less power over you. Best wishes…

  • Daniela

    September 10th, 2018 at 1:24 PM

    Hello Jeremy, Thank you so much for your detailed reply, I really appreciate it! I will look into the information you shared, and will continue to work on the relationship with myself :)

  • Vanessa

    September 20th, 2018 at 1:22 AM

    Hi, I’m an avoidant and am married to a an anxious. It’s been a difficult relationship with all of his outbursts but just recently I’ve been studying our attachment styles and it’s all making sense. Most of what I’ve been reading has been addressed to those on the anxious side, are there any books you would recommend for people like myself who are working on being less avoidant and are trying to make healthier attachments?
    Thanks in advance.

  • Jeremy McAllister

    September 24th, 2018 at 2:39 PM

    Hi Vanessa. I’ve been noticing that disparity myself. And I’m often on the lookout for more books from this perspective. So far, Stan Tatkin has presented the most unbiased perspectives on the topic. His work is available in books, articles, and videos online. Best wishes…

  • SB

    September 22nd, 2018 at 2:27 PM

    Thank you for responding ‘struggling’, i think this was helpful just in giving a personal point of view for your emotional process. I also think it’s great of you to recognise your behaviours and try your best to change them. although i do not have problems disassociating with emotions it’s still very hard to change my patterns and i feel i have so much work to be done. I’m no expert, but i imagine that finding a safe space where you can consciously try to access emotions you are distancing yourself from might be helpful! as in, away from your partner and someplace else where you can feel less pressure and figure out your emotions in your own time. reading your comment and other peoples on this article has been helpful for me to realise where i am not helping my avoidant friend and where my behaviours have been anxiously attached to him and why we are always drawn to each other.. even if it isn’t healthy. I realise now how giving him the choice to either meet me and talk about everything or nothing was maybe too harsh, and just forcing intimacy and control onto him. But in a way i think ultimately it has done good. to update we talked briefly and he tells me he’s going away from me to learn how to not be angry anymore. whatever his reasons for cutting contact, although i feel pretty heartbroken right now i feel and hope it’s for the best for us right now. I hope that cutting contact with me will break the cycle he has in coming back for more intimacy when he really needs to look for that in himself. and I hope for me, it will mean learning better to cope with this feeling of ‘abandonment’. although i’m pretty worried that he really won’t ever come back, i also feel like i shouldn’t give in to those fears and learn from them instead; and be okay with the idea that he may or may not return. it’s out of my control ! I think both anxious and avoidant people have a big thing about control, and just approach it differently. thank you again for these artcles, they are genuinely really helpful and i will read them anytime i feel bad.

  • Jeremy McAllister

    September 24th, 2018 at 3:04 PM

    Hi SB. Unfortunately, both extremes of attachment tend to stay in this dance longer than necessary, and a lot of our growth comes in the process of stepping into and out of relationship with a mindful, observant presence, as each mode has something different to teach us, and the transition from one to the other can be full of useful information. I think you’re on to something with the idea of control at both extremes, as neither side felt control in relationship with attachment figures. Thank you for your representation of anxious attachment.
    In your first post, you were asking if you’ve pushed too far or asked for too much. This is such a common predicament – stuck with decreased boundaries for fear of being left alone. While difficult, it sounds like you’ve been challenging and changing yourself, verbalizing your needs, and at least sometimes (which is the best any of us can do) sitting with the lonely part of you. Best wishes…

  • Jeremy McAllister

    September 28th, 2018 at 7:25 PM

    Struggling, thank you for your response to SB and for representing the confusion and ambivalence in avoidant attachment, in the yearning for ‘divine connection’ that seems forever unreachable, and in the dissociative moments where you have little access to emotion for your partner. These moments of feeling emotionally dead can actually serve as signals that we have not had sufficient time/space to process internally, and as many of us on the avoidant side tend to people please, avoid conflict, and caretake, we often put aside our own needs, even to the point of dissociating from them and from everything. Powerlessness in relationships (sometimes perceived as fear of conflict or fear of hurting others) keeps us from speaking our needs, from setting boundaries, from basic connections that feel empathically (or through projection) like disconnections – such as asking for space when we feel numb. Many on the avoidant end will avoid asking or setting boundaries and then resent partners for not picking up on needs. It sounds like, in your case, you simply dissociate, perhaps even from the resentment — or it becomes framed as ‘signs’ or evidence that the relationship is not meant to be versus an emotional connection to your own hurt and anger. (Feel free to correct any of these assumptions I’m making.) Best wishes…

  • Struggling

    September 30th, 2018 at 1:30 PM

    Thank you so much for your response Jeremy. Everything that you said was so spot on. I wish I had found this website when my avoidant behaviour first started showing itself. I have gone through such heartache because of it. Even worse is the heartache that I have put the woman I love through. And even as I find these amazing sources of information about my condition, which makes it something objective and gives it a history beyond my experience of it, I am still left wondering if it is something I will ever be rid of. I know what love is meant to feel like and it is nothing like what it has felt like over the last 5 years. How does anyone build a future on a foundation that is wobbly, even in the absence of a stimulus? Never once in the relationship did my partner give me any legitimate reason to feel like I needed to get away from her but the fear was there. She couldn’t even predict when it would present itself and neither could I. I would just begin to feel a slight discomfort in my chest, which I began to recognise as the beginnings of an anxiety attack, and then it would build over a few hours. Eventually, I would be in the throes of an anxiety attack whilst fighting to keep it suppressed so that she didn’t pick up on it. This inner conflict was enough to make me feel doomed. Enough of this (often there would be no respite – weeks of unending anxiety) and I would get to the point where I needed to get away. I needed to protect myself from the constant guilt and anxiety. So I would end the relationship and never be able to give her a reason that she could understand because I couldn’t bring myself to admit to the thoughts I was having (that there might be someone better out there for me, that I might want to be intimate with other people, etc.). These thoughts, however, became a narrative that repeated itself the deeper into my anxiety I sunk. In those rare moments where I was free of anxiety and I was completely able to be with her and to lavish in our connection, the thoughts of being with someone else were the furthest thing from my mind. Sitting with this strange contradiction eventually led me to believe that there was an intense imbalance, perhaps hormonally, that allowed for very real feelings of love and acceptance at one moment to be transmogrified into intense fear and self-preservation the next. The last thing I want is to be with someone else but that doesn’t mean anything when my anxiety peaks through and my mind returns to the fear narrative of incompatibility.

    Anyway. One last question. Is it possible for an avoidant to become a secure? I swear I wasn’t always avoidant. I yearn for love! I yearn for connection! I yearn to share my body with a woman I love and care for. These things don’t mix well with avoidant personality, so why am I avoidant? Once again, is it possible to become a secure? Thanks!

  • Jeremy McAllister

    October 15th, 2018 at 10:45 AM

    Struggling, the answer is yes — with a caveat that it may take time and may require some discomfort along the way. Growth happens outside of our comfort zone, so that is a good place to head, with patience and balance. The first step and the catalyst for growth has already happened. You already have awareness of your own patterns in relationship. A lot of the shifting actually depends on the way your partner (or anyone) responds when you do take risks and remain present and verbal in moments of distress. Trauma heals when we experience an unexpected response – one that counters all the responses that activated our nervous system so many years ago. In that way, we really do rely on others for healing, and it’s incredibly vulnerable. We have this instilled idea of relationship. We live in worlds of judgment and rejection, so we do our best to hide. When we risk stepping into another world, we need someone to meet us in ways we were not met. Once that happens, things actually shift fairly quickly. It does require risk on your side and awareness on her side. An attachment focused couples counselor can provide accurate reflections and tangible guidance in the nuances of communication in moments of distress. Best wishes…

  • Trying

    October 10th, 2018 at 10:47 AM

    These 2 articles are so simple, and yet so thorough….my mind was kind of blown. It explains the Anxious/Avoidant situation in a way that both me and my husband can really connect with…using words and phrases that we have often used ourselves. So thank you for writing this!
    On another note, I am really curious how to go about handling abuse with an avoidant. I am trying super hard to understand the avoidant side (mostly to stay secure and present, and not let the anxious side of me take over). And although reading more about the Anxious mindset (especially during conflict) helps me…I feel like nothing really talks about how to cope with the abuse. How much of the abusive tendencies with avoidants are optional (meaning they can be turned off at will) vs how many of them are automatic? Is it not possible for someone to be anxious and not abusive?
    One of my biggest struggles is that it doesn’t feel like I’m allowed to be secure. Not only are small and very random things “triggering” his avoidance….(yes, a deactiviating strategy)….but he uses my past vulnerability and secure actions against me until I become Anxious. The more secure I am, the longer the avoidance and abuse last. It’s not until I finally break and go into full Anxious mode…crying, begging, and losing all dignity, followed by him vomiting all my faults, that he finally decides to start calming down, and then we agree to a solution….and he never actually tries the solution because “I trigger him” with some other random action/statement. He knows he is avoidant and has read these 2 articles. We are supposed to be working on becoming secure together. I’m fine working with him, and being patient, and understanding some of the responses are not directed at me, and he needs to work through a lot. I do see positive changes from time to time. I can handle the avoidance to some degree….but I can’t handle the abuse…it’s too much. Is it unrealistic to ask that this part stop? And if so…how would one go about asking for the abuse to stop??

  • Jeremy McAllister

    October 22nd, 2018 at 3:01 PM

    Hi Trying. Thank you for reading and for the kind words. Sometimes the most direct and effective way of handling reactions of a partner triggered into avoidant strategies is to reflect those strategies, give permission to take time and be out of the spotlight, and just let them know you care while at the same time saying this is not okay. For example: “I see you’re triggered. I’m feeling [blamed, gaslighted, whatever], and it feels like a deflection. I was not intending to attack you, and I see why you might feel attacked. [And if you did attack, adding an apology here…] I’m going to let you have some space to process. Can we have a do-over in a few minutes?” That being said, mindful communication in any relationship is incredibly difficult, time-consuming, and inefficient. Nobody does it perfectly, and it just takes a lot of practice and willingness on both sides as well as self-soothing abilities on both sides. And you may be right about not being allowed to be secure. Opposite styles do tend to train one another to increase their attachment strategies. We use the strategies because they work – temporarily. So they get reinforced and naturally increase over time. It’s not too much to ask for abuse to stop. The challenge is that any boundary requires follow-through, dependence often negates boundaries, and independence requires long-term life changes and rearranging social patterns and internal processes. The hard and most important work on the anxious side is learning to meet internal panic without outsourcing the process to others. Secondary to that is learning to reflect when partners are using disengagement strategies, to meet those moments with patient calmness and firm boundaries that you trust yourself to follow through on. Best wishes to you…

  • Sad

    November 12th, 2018 at 1:14 PM

    In September my ex broke up with me after being together for 10 months. We knew each other a little over a year. I never thought about attachment styles but I now believe he is avoidant and I am def. anxious when triggered.
    Not to get into too much detail, I accused/or questioned him via text of our relationship being a convenience when he couldn’t see me on the holiday because he had his daughter. Until then we had seen each other regularly and he was always in communication. Never disappeared on me. Always did what I asked, but wasn’t much of a planner. I was just having a tough month as I had a minor surgery and was feeling insecure. He does have a young daughter that he has partial custody of, and I know she comes first.
    Anyway, after I blew up on him, he didn’t even want to entertain my fight. The next day I saw him (I volunteer where he works) he said that we fought too much and he is selfish and things would probably only get worse as he gets older, then it would be harder to break up . He said hes not good at relationships and shouldn’t be in one. I tried to argue this but he didn’t want to talk. I don’t feel that way at all, and never imagined my comment would make him break up with me. I was in in shock and very upset. I texted him a few days later. He responded then and the next few times, but each time I panicked and begged for him to give us another chance. This happened a few times. And he would then ignore me when I would add in about the relationship. I know in my heart he was happy with me, and I was happy with him. Though we both clearly have some communication issues. I decided to do no contact for a month, which I wish I would have done from the start instead of going after him more. And I texted him a week and half ago something lite. Now he is not answering.
    It’s only after reading a bunch of stuff online that I realize he might have avoidant tendencies. He comes from a childhood where his mom was a drug addict and he went through 2 foster families throughout his childhood.
    I’m just not 100 percent if this is the case or does he just not want a relationship with me? Where do you differentiate avoidance, scared, emotionally unavailable, or just not into you anymore. Im really confused. And of course anxious. I wanted to reach out to him one more time in way that explains my actions and what I have learned about myself. I know I hold things in and then it comes out so cruel and he chose to shut me out. And I know I cant blame myself for everything, and people say don’t make excused for him. But I just really want another chance. He is a really good guy who always tried to do the right thing by me. All these relationship guys tell you to do no contact, blah blah. Make him miss you to realize what he’s lost. I’m not trying to play games. I am 47 and he is 41. But I don’t want to scare him away more either. But there’s a fine line between fighting for someone and being pathetic. Not sure what to do.

  • Jeremy McAllister

    February 27th, 2019 at 12:51 PM

    Hello Sad. I realize you wrote this months ago, and I’m sorry I missed it. This is a common (even default) anxious response that happens when triggered by anything resembling abandonment. We fall into the child state. It feels real and present and takes over everything. And all the childhood strategies begin to play out automatically, even compulsively. And that is a clue. When things feel compulsive, that is a strong indication of immersion versus distance. And distancing remains the challenge on the anxious side of attachment. There are many modality-specific approaches to distancing, and in the beginning (until internalized) it is usually easiest with an external witness present — one that knows how to meet emotion and model that for you. This might be a therapist, and it might just be someone that remains present and is not at all threatened or burdened by the emotions that feel overwhelming internally. Best wishes…

  • laura

    February 6th, 2019 at 12:00 PM

    Thank you so much for these two articles! I’m avoidant and my girlfriend is anxious. We love each other very much but sometimes the fear and the anxiety seem so real, and seem to be telling us both to leave in order to avoid a big hurt. We’ve been seeing a couples’ therapist which is helping a lot, and i believe that we are healing and can heal! Your articles helped me feel that these intense desires to run aren’t actually about her as an individual, but pain from my past that I’m healing from, which offers more comfort and confidence than I can say.

  • Jeremy McAllister

    February 27th, 2019 at 12:54 PM

    Laura, thank you for your comment. I’m glad you’re coming to a place of comfort an confidence in the process of differentiating her from your own attachment reactions. It sounds like you’ve been doing a lot of difficult and rewarding work. Best wishes…

  • Emma

    February 26th, 2019 at 4:39 PM

    Thank you for this series of articles. These attachment styles are developed in childhood. Do you know if confrontation/therapy with a neglectful or oppressive parent (years after the fact) can have any benefit to either partner in such a relationship? Or is it unlikely that litigating the past 30 years later will have a positive effect?

  • Jeremy McAllister

    February 27th, 2019 at 12:43 PM

    Hi Emma. Thank you for your comment. Yes, these styles develop in childhood. And that does not necessarily mean that the only path to healing involves going back to ‘the source’ (as many attempt to do, subconsciously, by dating partners similar to parents). It can be potentially healing, and it also has potential to simply retraumatize by creating the same outcome all over again. We cannot undo the past. We can change beliefs about Self and Other that formed in the past. It can be very useful to eventually articulate those beliefs for ourselves. And even that is not necessary. Much of the work is just getting a consistently different outcome while in a triggered state – when experiencing the world through the eyes of an inner child (or a neural network that formed in childhood). If this happens once with full attention and mindful presence to the experience, a lot can change. Even better, if this happens consistently we can internalize the process and learn to meet ourselves the way we wish others would have met us. This is most easily done in therapy, a support group, or with an aware and secure friend or partner. Best wishes…

  • DCH

    June 6th, 2019 at 2:24 PM

    This was such a wonderful and illuminating article. I tend to be more anxious/preoccupied while my partner is dismissing-avoidant. I shared with him a few articles on the subject, and he laughed at how accurate the description was for him. At the same time, I’d like for us to both take the other person’s attachment style into consideration and take responsibility for our actions/patterns that contribute to r’ship challenges. Right now, he deflects a lot. Just like you said, I feel like I’m always catching the blame (sometimes even with things I consider to be unfair – like me not being able to improve his financial situation or career). If I try to bring something up that hurts my feelings or that I’d like to address, he either shuts down real quick or deflects, naming all the ways that I haven’t lived up to his standards. I find this very frustrating because 1) I’m working on my own patterns and growth already, 2) I feel like he’s not taking ownership of his own issues, 3) it threatens the power dynamic if I’m the only one taking on the burdens of our r’ship which feeds into the original attachment trap, and 4) it makes me feel like he doesn’t care. However, I know him, love him, think he’s an amazing man. And he seems to want to work it through (at least, that’s what he says), even if at times his actions (or lack thereof) don’t match. I’d like to create a safe space, where the intention isn’t to win or be right but to honestly improve our r’ship. Do you have any suggestions for how to approach my desire for this in a way that doesn’t shut him down? So that there’s a benefit for the both of us? And how can I bring his awareness to the fact that he deflects and that it doesn’t help either of us?

  • Jeremy McAllister

    June 6th, 2019 at 3:50 PM

    Hi DCH. Thank you for your response. You sound quite aware of yourself and the dynamic that keeps playing out. The trick in much of this is learning to distance from the situation, which allows us to recognize the automatic and compulsive nature of reactions so that we do not take them personally – which would move us into reactivity ourselves. Practicing creation of this safe space is so much easier with a third party, like a therapist, to guide and model all the basics of communication, to reflect our reactions and blind spots with curiosity versus judgment, to help us take turns and speak for the parts of self that we would otherwise attempt to contain or amplify. And just the experience of hearing and feeling heard gives us a reference to build on. Outside of therapy, any time we can respond versus reacting, we honor Self and Other and increase chances of meeting needs and getting needs met. When in this non-reactive space it becomes easier to reflect with love those moments that he is deflecting, creating safety versus feeding into his belief that he is being judged and rejected. There may be much under the surface for him that if revealed would feel incredibly vulnerable, that he fears will be used against him. This is also something to uncover in therapy, because that vulnerability lies at the heart of intimacy. Best wishes to you both.

  • DCH

    June 6th, 2019 at 4:56 PM

    Wow, thanks so much! That was very helpful – I’ve started looking for a therapist. Best of wishes to you, too.

  • Mira I.

    June 9th, 2019 at 3:19 AM

    Thank you so much for the article! I would love to ask a question.. me (anxious) and my boyfriend/ex boyfriend (avoidant) We kind of broke up without saying it, after having a discussion about our feelings and stuff and haven’t heard anything from him for about a week. It was him that wanted to end (not surprisingly I am anxious…) He went away for 3 weeks for work, so I am not gonna see him for a while. I have some stuff, I would love to tell him in order to move on (or make the situation more clear), and I don’t know either I should wait until we eventually meet each other or text him now. I don’t necessary want to cut him completely off my life, I might in time want to see him, maybe as a friend, so I don’t want to sound like a goodbye forever. What should I do?
    Thank you! mira

  • Jeremy McAllister

    June 10th, 2019 at 7:02 PM

    Hi Mira. The breakups can definitely feel excruciating and confusing, and it’s important to find support during the process. It’s also really common to want to reach out and reconnect and/or to seek closure – to find a story that makes sense that also helps us feel like we’ve learned something that will prevent this pain from happening again. It is important to be aware of your own motive for reaching out. Is it a desire to rekindle, to get reassurance – or is there something that you need to say or hear in order to create a closure story? If you’re the one in pursuit, the same dance goes on. If you’re genuinely seeking closure, be clear and direct in pursuit of that versus pursuit of him. It is often difficult on the avoidant side to provide closure. There may be guilt, empathy (which means if I hurt you, I have to feel it), fear of conflict or intense emotion in general, and fear of being found out (and getting in trouble) for hiding so much for so long, for orchestrating a breakup without ever talking about it. And if he feels a hint of dependence in the attempt to contact, he may feel trapped (and therefore resentful) as usual and not respond at all. Yes, a lot to navigate, as you’ve already experienced… Aside from waiting on him to fully disappear or potentially pursue, the best route may be direct, clear, precise, without expectation of response. Best wishes to you…

  • Mira

    June 13th, 2019 at 5:02 AM

    Thank you so much Jeremy! I decided not to reach out to him, let go, and start a new journey of discovering myself, and loving myself.

  • Jeremy McAllister

    June 11th, 2019 at 3:29 PM

    Corrin, thank you for your question (hidden somewhere up above) about how to recognize someone’s avoidant strategies early in the relationship when the attachment defenses have not been fully triggered. It does take 6 months to a year to see those fully kick in for most people. Once dependence shows up either way, then the avoidant triggers start firing. Before that point, there are definitely signals that reveal attachment style – ranging from ones expression of emotion, whether they prefer calling or texting, how they spend their free time, how they interact with friends and family, if their friends see them as open and vulnerable and someone that pursues relationship or must be pulled/prodded into going out or revealing internal experience in verbal form, etc. Some people will actually just tell you they are avoidant. And to the second part of the question, yes – someone that experienced more security in developmental years will more likely end a relationship when it feels like it is not best for either party. It is more often we on the insecure side (anxious, avoidant, or mixed) that tend to remain in relationships out of fear or insecurity, some belief that we have to settle for what we have, because what if this is as good as it gets? Or what if nobody else will put up with us? When our internal reality says we are already loved and supported, no matter which partner we choose, that feeling is often experienced as a constant. It’s our template. Without that template (which actually can form later in life), these choices around relationship feel legitimately more confusing and stuck. Best wishes to you.

  • Stefanie

    June 14th, 2019 at 3:35 PM

    Hi Jeremy –
    Thank you so much for this two part series. It is the most articulate and nuanced explanation of the anxious-avoidant dance that I have come across. And the first article I have read that did not negatively pathologize the avoidant attachment style. Which I happen to be. It felt like being struck by lightning and looking in a mirror (I already knew I was avoidant, but I had no idea what it ‘meant’ beyond distance) . All the behaviors and puzzle pieces in my anxious-avoidant relationship slammed into place. All the weird feelings I had of being controlled or shutting down and feeling nothing (or of feeling rage and anger when my boundaries felt violated). Of feeling smothered and crazy. The struggle to self-regulate (need to escape or complete shutdown, sometimes to the point of feeling as if I was losing my mind momentarily) when my partner is reaching/grasping or blocking me from escaping a conflict.

    As the avoidant partner, I would love to know better how to help my anxious partner as well. Just bid-response? And going to my own therapy to work on myself (we already do couples and I have gone myself in the past, and he is seeing one himself now).

    I’m scared but also hopeful for what the future might hold for us. I’ve always had some flavor of avoidant-avoidant before meeting him (all relationships that left me sad and feeling unfulfilled and empty) and maybe a secure one – but this is my first anxious – which has held the mirror up to my own behaviors (especially after reading this article) – and I’ve definitely got some work to do. I want to love and be loved and feel like a human (disassociating is not enjoyable and I’ve forever wondered what was wrong with me).

    Thanks again,

  • Jeremy McAllister

    June 26th, 2019 at 7:20 PM

    Hi Stefanie. Thank you for representing the avoidant side. Yes, it is possible to help an anxious partner. While we cannot change our partner’s attachment, we can intentionally begin using more secure strategies that benefit every relationship. It helps to identify which avoidant strategies we use so we can devote time to each. In the big picture, little things matter. Basic communication, like letting our partner know we’ll be back in a few minutes if we leave the room – just knowing and paying attention to the fact that something that does not matter in our world does matter in theirs – and vice versa. If you knew a child that felt afraid of abandonment, how would you act? Someone that identifies as anxious will often report a need for more communication, reassurance, consistency, vulnerability on the part of their partner. And eventually, we on the avoidant side must risk conflict. Intimacy and conflict go hand in hand. If we avoid one, we avoid both. Best wishes.

  • Heather

    July 9th, 2019 at 12:36 PM

    I have found to understand and heal at a deeper level I have had to do Internal Families Systems therapy. I have insecure attachment and it’s really improved. My experience of avoidant partners is that they are generally not interested in therapy workat this level perhaps because their wound is so deep and their coping strategies are to suppress their feelings and leave, even if you are calm with them. They have tended to be quite secretive about their process and follow their attachment patterns.I have found its best to leave these relationships leave these relationships as they just cause a deepening of the attachment trauma.

  • Jeremy McAllister

    July 9th, 2019 at 2:47 PM

    Hi Heather. Thank you for sharing your experience with IFS. I too have found that some version of parts work (Hakomi, IFS, etc) serves to help the anxious side distance and meet their needs internally, and that once this is experienced, the self is seen as a trustworthy ally and the urge to externalize support and validation diminishes. This same approach actually works quite well on both sides of attachment, for different reasons. Though, as you point out, there must first be a willingness and motivation to take ownership and invest time/effort. Best wishes to you…

  • Indecisive and drained

    July 29th, 2019 at 10:37 PM

    Thank you for this incredible article- it was as if you knew me (avoidant) and my boyfriend (anxious). We are aware of our attachment styles and are in couples and individual counseling but we are still suffering in these horrific, exhausting, up/down loops, and I as the avoidant feel so incredibly threatened, tired, controlled, and I’m not taking care of myself and I dissociate constantly. Sometimes I feel unsafe with him because when he is triggered he literally won’t leave me alone, like I cannot get him to leave my house despite asking over and over again. When is it time to make the decision to end things? We love each other, and part of me wants us to each continue to do the work to heal, but another (very big) part of me thinks we are just too mismatched in the first place, can’t meet each other’s needs, and that we should just stop. I can’t tell if that is the avoidant part of me thinking that or if it’s all truly just a bad idea. Thank you.

  • Jeremy McAllister

    July 30th, 2019 at 5:31 PM

    Hi Indecisive and drained – a name that aptly describes so many people caught in this dance. And this is the common question: how do we know when enough is enough? When do we throw in the towel? We love each other, but this isn’t functional or sustainable. Here is the catch: if neither side feels capable of heading toward the pain, the relationship cannot work. And in this dynamic, neither side knows how to deal with big emotions. One outsources while the other avoids, so the emotion that needs attention remains unmet and naturally returns. It’s not about willing ourselves into it or thinking ourselves out of it. It’s a physical process. It’s trauma reactions. Fight/flight/freeze. Finding safety in this scenario usually involves a third party mediator, remaining untriggered and present, reflecting and naming the experience as it happens, removing the stigma, the mystery, the power of the pattern. This is experiential. To find lasting change, we must first experience an unexpected outcome while in a triggered state. A third-party (therapist) can guide each side through providing something the other side needs. It requires regulation first, on each side. We cannot be saying what our partner needs to hear while simultaneously posturing our body and facial expressions in ways that trigger them. For those of us on the avoidant side, we struggle to calm and relax our bodies enough to emote the empathy needed to deliver the words our partner needs. We could repeat the words 100 times while partners remain triggered and unable to take them in. Unfortunately, there is no fast and easy rule around when to throw in the towel. Many couples simply want to know that they tried every option, and therapy remains one of the most important and powerful options. Some people are indeed ready and able to change. Others are pretending to be in the relationship while hoping their partner will leave them. Others are in it just for fear of not being in it. For those that do know they love one another, that this is a two-way relationship, change is possible. It’s counterintuitive, and it requires the avoidant side heading toward their anxious partner, speaking up, naming what is happening as it happens, giving reassurance and even reassurance of reassurance. (“I’m not going anywhere. I want to be with you. And if you need to hear it again, I’ll just keep saying it. I’m okay with that.”) It requires the anxious side heading toward the panic in self, hopefully with a therapist/guide in the beginning. It’s hard work, and it may not be worth the time and effort if you, as the avoidant, already know you want out. In that case, the truth will set you free (though it often feels unbearable to deliver that truth). Best wishes…

  • Rainbow

    August 8th, 2019 at 9:19 AM

    Hey Jeremy
    I’ve found your article after a few days of researching and figuring out wth just happened to me and an amazing gentleman at the weekend. Needless to say it starts the very same way as many of the others commenting – we met, got together in a very intense and passionate relationship, 9 weeks into “bliss” I had a 3-week holiday out of town – comms were good for the first week, sporadic in the second, and non-existent in the third. I returned, texted my lovely “boyfriend” with the anxiety-filled “I guess we’re not okay – should we meet for a coffee” message. We met the following day and he said “I just don’t feel like we’re progressing the way I thought we would”, “I don’t think I have romantic feelings anymore”… and we ended.
    As we’re mature, thoughtful and respectful adults we agreed it had been a wonderful 9 weeks, and ended.
    He requested we stay friends – I politely declined – and he handed me a housewarming gift (I’d literally just moved into my apt) – which I politely rejected.
    I could not believe in any way that we had gone from such an amazing start of a relationship to zero. It’s crazy… however, I look back and see a tonne of red flags and wonder if he is, as I suspect, an avoider.
    He has had bouts of depression in the past – and I think/feel he is in one now, suffers from insomnia (and had given up his sleeping tablets 10 days prior to us “chatting” and was living on 1-hr bouts of sleep), told me that he was feeling completely overwhelmed over the prior 2-weeks (with life), and was stressed at work.
    From everything I could glean from our conversation – and from what he looked like (exhausted, drained) – and from snippets he’d told me in the past – he’s always the one to end r/ships; he can’t get past 4 years of a relationship; abandoned by parents at a young age to just “fend for himself”; father died – I just felt so, so sorry for him.
    He didn’t want to give us any further time – citing that it would be like leading me on and so we’re done.
    I can accept this – and also move forward – but I honestly have never met someone that I clicked with and connected with so easily. We dated mainly in his circle – apartment, friends, and were sober the whole time (we didn’t go out for crazy nights)… we did netflix, great sex, dinners, and generally just had an amazing time. We saw each other only at weekends.

    I am so curious as to whether he is an avoider and I’m potentially displaying anxiety… and if that is why this all collapsed.

    I would love to be there for him – but I don’t even know if that is the right thing. Does avoider, with depression and insomnia, want support?

    Would love any insight you may have. Brilliant articles – they made so much sense. Thanks.

  • Jeremy McAllister

    November 12th, 2019 at 10:08 AM

    Rainbow, thank you for the questions. I realize this response comes late, and it’s more for others that come with the same questions. Attachment trauma often feels like such a tragedy because of the hyper-protective reactions that seem to linger for a lifetime. When you say it was a really good relationship with a lot of potential, I believe that. It often is in the beginning. Two outcomes are common, and if one does not end it the other will. Either the avoidant strategies are so focused on pleasing and avoiding conflict that boundaries never get verbalized and one side gets burnt out, or the relationship just feels too good and the thought of letting guard down is too unbearable. And, yes, the majority of people in the world – no matter what their attachment history – want support. The question that remains is whether or not they can accept it without feeling guilty, obligated, or afraid of eventual rejection for not ‘earning’ their love.

  • Steve

    November 3rd, 2019 at 2:46 PM

    Hi Jeremy,
    I came across you and your article as most people do, because I’m trying to understand and figure out why my girlfriend of 4 years (actually 14 years) with some 10 years in between our dating 14 years ago and now and I continue to break up as she runs away and as I chase?

    I’m 53 and Stacy is 47 and we met each other 14 years ago when our girls were playing softball together on the same team.
    We immediately were attracted to each other and started dating quite quickly. We were both separated from our spouses so we weren’t cheating on our spouses, but about 4 months into our dating, I decided to go home for my girls sake and because I was a pretty well known community leader in my town and people would “frown” upon an elected community leader being single, so I broke it off with Stacy and she said it took her over a year to get over that.

    In the 2 years following, she got into a long term (8 years) non emotional relationship with a fireman and I finally divorced my spouse ( we get along quite well and always have and our girls I believe have been as well adjusted as they could be because we didn’t fight).
    Every time we would see each other in the community over the years, we really couldn’t be around each other because of the massive connection and attraction. It’s always been there and it always will be there.

    Finally about 5 years ago, I started to talk with her and she was responding which made me know she was still very interested in me as I was with her. She was getting out of the fireman relationship and we started up right where we left off…So much passion, connection etc… And for me, I let her know how much I regretted devastating her 14 years ago and how hard I would work to make it up to her.
    We’ve broken up over these past 4 years 3 times. The relationship lasts about a year before I start to “smother her”, “cling to her” not support her career etc. She is a self admitted workaholic Real Estate Agent. She sells about 50 houses a year and puts that above all of her relationships.. Her girls needs aren’t being met, her mom although she has a good relationship with her barely talks to her because she just “so busy” and to be honest she is quite busy, I believe to hide from having to deal with feelings, emotions and connections with me, her mom her kids or even her friends. We never get invited to do anything with friends because we never ends up going.

    She has a “relationship” with her dad. He left the family when she was 2 years old and to this day when he sends her a birthday, he still to this day spells her name wrong. Stacey instead of her real spelling of Stacy. She says it doesn’t bother but I know it does.
    Also, she was sexually abused from the age of 6 til about 12 by a family friend and his son (yes the two of them would do such horrible things to her at the same time).

    Jeremy, I know all of this and I know so much more about her than she even admits to. I have been showing her since we’ve been back together how much she’s loved. I listen to her needs and try so hard to accommodate them, even if it’s to the detriment of my own needs which is so very difficult for her to meet for me. I tell her I love her. I show her by getting her coffee every morning exactly the way she likes it. I make her a lunch if I know she will be showing houses all day. I sit next to her at her desk in the home office until 2am giving her feet and back rubs while she works on stuff. I can go on and on but I think you get the picture. I would do anything for her and I love her more than I’ve loved anyone. She tells me the same. It’s always been her for me and she tells me that it’s always been me for her. There is so much love between us but it never takes root because as soon as it gets too close, she starts to back away, back off, get distant, and if there was any form of needs being met by her for me, it stops. And within 2 or 3 months it gets so bad that she breaks it off with me. But here’s the thing… I always back away and give her all the space she needs because I know what I mean to her and how much she loves me and EVERY SINGLE TIME she calls me about 12 weeks after the break up. So this time when it happened again just 3 weeks ago ( a few days from getting back from Maui no less) I just shook my head. The difference this time is I really wanted to get a better understanding of why this continues to fricken happen and how to stop it!!!
    I’ve asked her so many times for us to go to counseling together. Either to her counselor or to mine (yes we both go to counselors regularly) and she absolutely refuses to go.

    As you can probably tell by now she tends to lean quite heavily towards Dismissive Avoidant and I lean toward the anxious attachment. I have become so sensitive to any slight shift in the relationship that I can see why she thinks I can be clingy or needy because I would ask if everything was ok and if she wouldn’t mind from time to time just send me a quick text to let me know she’s thinking about me or to just call me Honey once in a while. I think I wasn’t asking for too much but for her, it was quite a big request since she never ever shows her feelings unless she has a couple glasses of wine…

    So here we are again, broken up for the 3rd time in 4 years after all of this attraction, connection, passion but absolutely no effective communication between us. Every time I would bring up my feelings or needs she gets defensive and throws up so many walls that I just stopped asking and communicating them which in turn of course made me feel resentment towards her work and towards the way she never shows her feelings.
    I am a full blooded Italian (2nd generation). She is half greek but doesn’t have a lot of heritage towards it. I grew up in a very love filled do anything for anyone atmosphere. I think being codependent is part of our heritage and in our Italian genes to please people!!! :)
    After reading so much about Avoidant and Anxious relationship styles, I understand that our two styles tend to attract each other and I also understand my part in the doomed failure of our relationship because of my people pleasing way, But here are my questions:

    I guess I’m asking this Jeremy, with the deep connection we both have for each other and the overwhelming attraction we have, is there ANY chance of us coming together and working on this as we work on ourselves individually if she’s not willing to even look at herself and become aware of her style?

    I get so tired of being accused of being needy, clingy, smothering, manipulative, narcissistic but I know now more than ever and understand more than ever why it’s happening from both her side of the tennis court as well as mine, but how do I go about letting her know about what I’ve finally learned about why this continues to happen between us without her getting defensive and calling me all those names listed above? Because I believe she’s worth fighting for and I believe we’re worth fighting for if we can become aware of the reasons it keeps happening.

    And lastly, does it get, or should it get easier as we get older to be able to recognize what’s going on with our different styles or does it just make it harder as we grow older?

    Thank you Jeremy for reading this and hopefully being able to respond with your thoughts.

  • Jeremy McAllister

    November 12th, 2019 at 10:31 AM

    Steve, thank you for posting. It sounds like you’ve remained attentive, present, sacrificing, and either it’s never enough or it’s too much (or both). As you’ve noted, she has a lot of protections around revealing emotions, which is what intimacy ultimately requires. You’re also aware that you have ‘become so sensitive’, which is part of the common pattern as these two attachment styles polarize one another. You ask questions that are normal. Can this relationship survive and improve? It is possible, yes. And it may require change on both sides. The challenge for you comes in the fact that you cannot control her side. People usually change when they need to in order to get needs met. While there may be huge empathy for abandonment and connection to your own abandonment, the avoidant side often relies on the anxious side to maintain the pursuit, to continue ‘fighting for’, no matter what. Only when that ends is it possible to feel the the full intensity of being alone in the world. As long as that feeling is avoided or dissociated, the pattern will likely maintain itself. The anxious side often maintains for the avoidant side a continuous buffer from that reality.
    As far as becoming able to recognize with age, a qualified yes: if we have enough loving community to gently reflect us to ourselves and routinely hold space as we process life.

  • Anisha

    December 10th, 2019 at 4:33 AM

    Hi, thank you for illuminating on the dynamics of an anxious-avoidant relationship. I am curious to know what happens if the avoidant partner has a big ego – will that come in the way if he/she in the end starts to miss the secure/anxious partner? I have been seeing a man for about six months. He never seems to open up and tends to pull away often. He ‘blocked’my number recently. I am guessing its his way of going into the ‘freeze mode’or shutting down. Do avoidant partners always come back to their partner and resume the ‘avoidant-anxious dance’? or sometimes their ego comes in or maybe they realise that they have disappointed their partner and may not attempt to return for the fear of rejection?

  • Jeremy

    January 2nd, 2020 at 12:56 PM

    Anisha, thank you for the question. Unfortunately, there’s no standard. Whether or not a partner returns depends on many variables. Many times, they are simply done and glad to be out of it, feeling free. Other times, they do come back and repeat the patterns. Sometimes they avoid returning for fear of rejection. In the meantime, in the space of the unknown, that challenge on the anxious side lies in learning to be and remain present for Self in the absence of Other, to gradually and intentionally build an underlying self-trust at all levels of self-care – physical, emotional, financial, etc. Best wishes on your journey…

  • Hope

    December 30th, 2019 at 8:55 PM

    Hi Jeremy,
    Thank you so much for this series of articles! You helped me finally recognize myself as avoidant person and admit to both my husband who is anxious and myself that I am the main issue in our relationship this whole time. We are together for 13 years now and currently on the brink of separation due to our issues (I know, it took too much time to admit and makes you think how we even lasted this long). He’s trying to deal with his anxiety and high depression currently so after pealing of all the layers of issues we both been through it became clear my avoidance has made things so much more difficult. My main issue is that I don’t know how to show emotions so I either look completely distant or I burst into crying and previously often anger as I don’t know how to deal with emotions. Also, my body language is avoidant so when emotionally challenged I usually look like animal caught in the headlights, my eyes are wondering around and so on. Needless to say, the whole time I’m convinced that all is good and I’m showing emotions but that was self deception. I am bent on fixing as much as I can but am aware it will take time. We are trying to work on our issues and he’s trying to trust that I do love him and will make effort to open up more but it’s very tricky and we fall into arguments often. I guess after all this time it’s hard to believe anything major can change. Not to mention the guilt I feel for not paying attention more, potentially could’ve avoid all this mess.
    He’s doing his part with counselling, group therapy, medication and so on. I’m starting counselling in next days and am looking for other options as well. Recently I discovered Laughter Yoga and realized it can help me with exposing myself which is so scary for me, would be interested to hear what you think about this. I’ll also try to suggest couple counselling though he’s not interested in that at the moment and I can’t say I blame him. With all this said, at the moment none of us has any idea will we be able to stay together as a couple but I really don’t want to lose him as a friend as we are, for better or worse, best friends.
    That said, thank you again for all these great articles, it helped me name and define so much about myself in just few readings! Now that I can name the ‘enemy’ I can start fighting it.

  • Jeremy McAllister

    January 2nd, 2020 at 1:03 PM

    Hope, thank you for this. It is rare to receive revelations from those of us on the avoidant side, so I’m sure it’s beneficial for many to understand the struggle around emotions, to understand that when two people of opposite attachment come together in a blend of conflict and dependence, both sides fall into child states, neither knowing what to do with the intense emotion in the room. On the avoidant side, your defenses are creating rigid holding patterns in your body that make it difficult to present empathy/emotion to a partner that needs to see these physically in order to be able to take them in. So there’s this standstill where one side cannot convey and the other cannot receive because both are trapped in their defense reactions. Congratulations on finding yoga and on the awareness that exposing Self and becoming vulnerable feels so unbearable (based on childhood experience). I wish the best for you and your partner.

  • CuriousCat

    January 28th, 2020 at 4:50 PM

    Hi Jeremy,
    Thank you for a very insightful article! I am “anxious” (26), whereas my partner is “dismissive” (33). After 2 years, he moved abroad for school. In the beginning, everything was fine. However, things took a turn a few months ago when I began complaining about how the lack of communication was making me unhappy, and he pulled away more. I was the only one calling/texting and sometimes he wouldn’t get back to me for days, and he often ignored my calls. We began fighting constantly (the anxious/avoidant dance). I would accuse him of seeing others and not caring about me, which would anger him and create distance. These triggered panic attacks for me, and I began to obsessively contact him to resolve things, which would only drive him further away. He does not respond/read my apology texts, and sometimes he goes so far as to blocking me for a few days.
    We didn’t talk for over a week recently, and I texted him asking to talk that day — which he didn’t read/reply for hours. So, I called him and he said “I’m busy” — then, I asked him to call me later, and he kept repeating “I’m busy why can’t you respect that? Why are you still talking…like why are you still talking right now?” That hurt me, so I hung up and texted him that I am done with this relationship, he ignored. However, he sent a text in the following morning which included a photo of us together. A couple of days after, he sent a blank staring emoji. I haven’t replied, but I am very confused.
    If the dismissive-avoidant partner seems to have lost interest and continuously pulls away, then why would they initiate contact after (although there have been no calls, texts from them)? I am beginning to assume that perhaps he understands my anxious attachment, and after treating me disrespectfully, sending me a few meaningless texts could help me in reaffirming my decision in breaking up. Would such an action help the anxious partner with moving on?
    What is the best approach to move from here?

  • Savannah

    February 5th, 2020 at 5:42 PM

    Dear Jeremy,
    Thank you very much for all of your enlightening words and advice, I am one of many others who have resonated and found knowledge and understanding in your articles! Even after reading many articles on the dysfunctionality Anxious-Avoidant pattern, I still refuse to be hopeless and see it as an inescapable fall towards doom! Therefore, my question for you focuses on the hope, progress, growth and improvements that we can make when we are a part of this pattern. I am currently in a relatively content (yet less than a year long, perhaps not all things have come to surface yet) relationship with a dismissive-avoidant man. I observe typically anxious-preoccupied reactions in myself such as panic at his silence, fear of abandonment, discomfort with distance etc. However, none of the issues typical for these relationships play out for us. I believe that over the years, I have learned not to “act out” on my anxieties. I feel inner panic yet I have learned to act calmly, take things slowly, not overreact, and gradually suppress the anxiety. In a similar way, I believe that my avoidant partner has learned to outwardly “please” others around him and “play along” with their needs. Though I know he doesn’t feel the need to himself, he consistently reaches out to me, responds and acts reassuringly. I know that he does this more for my needs than his. As time goes by, I am somehow (paradoxically?) feeling more secure. His silences teach me that they do not necessarily mean abandonment or lack of love, his liking of time on his own teaches me to also be more self-reliable and find my own hobbies etc. In a similar way, I feel that my mild pushes towards emotionality are making him slowly more opened up and sharing, with some brief moments of him revealing his vulnerabilities or preoccupations and an increasing amount of physical intimacy. My question is – do you believe that I might be deluding myself about our beneficial impact on each other? Am I simply anxiously (and subconsciously) trying to find positives to keep the unhealthy pattern going, and feeding my worldview of partners being unresponsive and ambivalent? I feel like we are both slowly improving, like our polar opposites are meeting in the middle. He doesn’t fear what I fear, which makes me feel more safe. He probably feels safe around my warmth and emotionality. Can we both keep growing and improving? Can we, one day after many years, perhaps meet in the middle and become both (more) secure? I have such high hopes, but I know that love can be blind, and what I can see as hope can be a dysfunctional pattern. Please advise me and others who are hopeful! :) With best wishes for your professional and personal life! Thank you!!!

  • Nandini

    April 9th, 2020 at 6:12 AM

    Hi, thanks for putting out so much of content. It has really helped me understand my myself and reflect on my past relationship patters.

    I have observed from the comments that its quite common that an avoidant ex blocks the partner – and it’s usually to avoid conflict that arise is a relationship. Relationships, however, progress only if you address issues that crop up and DAs don’t let the relationship move past the conflict as it involves emotions.
    In my relationship, I was sort of secure with some anxious traits, and I never behaved ‘needy’ – always let him initiate things, and I ended the relationship when I felt that my DA partner would withdraw for a few days. It seemed disrespectful to me until I learned about his attachment style. We were earlier in a long distance relationship, and after 8 months of the breakup and him blocking me – I am moving close to his city for work and I really would like to connect with him.
    Would it be ok for a partner to reach out to the DA after a few months or a year- when things have cooled off, the anxious has learned of their pattern, past mistakes? Or would it be violating the DAs boundaries by trying to reach out when they have blocked you.

  • Sandra

    June 15th, 2020 at 8:45 AM

    How can discern between whether I am:
    – being the “avoidant” in an avoidant/anxious patterned relationship — one which I have the power to influence by changing *my* behavior towards my anxiously attached and angry spouse
    – being in a continually re-traumatizing, verbally abusive relationship — where I’d be deluding myself to think it’s within my power, as much as his, to step out of the pattern
    And what if it’s a little of each, and he’s nice most of the time, but quite blaming/shaming/insistent/imposing when the going gets rough?

  • Nikki

    September 16th, 2020 at 12:18 PM

    How I wish I’d found this a few months ago. My ex and I, (me anxious, him avoidant) had been locked in this dance for awhile. This latest relationship was a second attempt at making it work. I just assumed he was EU and had no idea of DA. Now, I’m working on myself as an anxious attachment style. It’s hard when I’m triggered but the thought of changing is better than the thought of remaining the same. I’d love to reconnect with my ex but I’m now aware that if there’s no change, it’ll end the same. Thanks for this article.

  • Chase

    December 8th, 2020 at 8:48 AM

    I read through all of the comments. This one from Jeremery stands out the most for me:

    “While there may be huge empathy for abandonment and connection to your own abandonment, the avoidant side often relies on the anxious side to maintain the pursuit, to continue ‘fighting for’, no matter what. Only when that ends is it possible to feel the the full intensity of being alone in the world. As long as that feeling is avoided or dissociated, the pattern will likely maintain itself. The anxious side often maintains for the avoidant side a continuous buffer from that reality.”

  • Miranda

    February 21st, 2021 at 6:58 AM

    Hi Jeremy,
    I just wanted to say thank you for this article, as well as part 1. I’ve read them both through several times now. They describe what went sideways in my relationship with my recent ex-boyfriend perfectly. Neither of us were aware that we had this pattern before it was too late and I hurt him deeply when I lashed out like a child. He now is finding it difficult to be able to forgive me. It’s been six weeks. He broke up with me but has told me that he needs time – that he is trying to convince his heart that my lashing out was not rejection, but a mistake and he’s having difficulty doing that. My instinct is to reach out to him and keep trying to fix it, find connection, mend. I understand now that I can’t follow that instinct right now because it causes him to feel more pressure and withdraw more. Reading this has made me understand his side much more. What I see as abandonment is actually him trying to conserve resources and find internal balance again. He has described himself to me as a wounded animal. It makes sense now that a wounded animal would withdraw. Of course I want to be the one to take him in and care for him. I want to tell him that there’s not a safer place in the world. But I guess I had shown him that I am not safe with my childish actions. But my actions had nothing to do with him not being enough or me wanting to truly abandon him. I was reacting based off of my own insecurities. I know better now. I hope I get the chance to repair this but it is out of my hands now. I’ve shared this information with him as well as a long email detailing what my true feelings are. I can’t do anything more. I have found the advice you have shared for anxious types to get in touch with what’s going on internally. I am working on that now, as well as balancing my thoughts in terms of taking all of the blame for what happened, because this could not have happened if either one of us were 100% secure in our attachment to each other. But again, thank you so much for your work on this. It is life changing.

  • Miranda

    February 21st, 2021 at 7:07 AM

    So well said. As the anxious partner, this has been incredibly hard for me. He broke up with me six weeks ago and has said that he needs time to heal himself, that he’s a “wounded animal” and has asked for my patience. It is taking me all of my will power every day not to contact him. I want to mend this relationship. He and I had something worth fighting for and fixing. But I can’t make him want to try and my constant contact only serves to cause him to feel more pressure. I just hope that he isn’t using this time alone to convince himself that I didn’t really love him, or worse, to convince himself that he is better off without me. But it’s out of my hands now.

  • Vivi

    April 4th, 2021 at 6:32 AM

    Hi Jeremy, thanks for the excellent blog. I too am involved in an intense relationship with an avoidant. It starts with a business partnership and we found ourselves become exclusive and incredibly close. Conversations were a mixture of business and personal lasting often 3 hrs and more on almost daily basis. We discussed very deep issues and felt very compatible in our values and goals in life. However this relationship is complicated by our life situation, both being in separation and divorce. He went through a really bad breakup and still recovering from it and also pained by the fact he’s no access to his only child. I had been in a marriage with another avoidant who’s got mental health issues and unable to access his feelings. Both my children and I have been emotionally abused and manipulated by him for too long yet I was too weak to leave him. The entering of my business partner somehow gave me the strength and courage to make the separation possible.
    Now 10 mth since we met and 6 mth since my separation, we still don’t know where we stand with each other. He never told me how he felt about me though I can tell from his actions he has feelings for me. He bombarded me with consistent and intense contacts for the first few month and then tails off a bit but still consistent. But he controls the content of our conversation and decides how much business or personal topics we are to cover each time. But he did show a lot of care when I was down or struggling to cope with events like my ex-partner was hospitalized with a mental breakdown. He’d spend hours to comfort me and support me. He also chooses when he speaks to me as he initiated most calls. Recently he’s not responding to my texts in the evenings till the next day as he said he turned off notifications so he can work without interruption. He also started to write me emails about his perceived offenses in my remarks to him during our conversation, which prompted a big argument last week.. we’re still working together as I want to give him a chance but
    the main problem has been that I kept wondering whether the fact he never revealed his heart was because of the difficult life situation we are both in or his avoidant behaviors.

  • SweetC

    July 26th, 2021 at 3:37 PM

    Hello Jeramy,
    First I want to say thank you for the largely enlighting article, wow it was an ah ha moment for me. I am normally very secure and independent however I have been with a very Avoidant partner for about a year. I identify with one of your earlier coments in a response, that AV dont show that side until about 6 months in..when you are already convinced they are secure and healthy attached, or at least have done some work. I have been in therapy my whole life as it keeps me balanced, and self aware. My partner and I broke up once and I was force to move forward. ..later he came back..I begun to recognize a pattern I was not comfortable with, also his avoidant behaviour begun to trigger me and I started having anxiety and panic attacks that I have not experienced in many years. That being said, and trying to be true to us both, I tried to end it, he said he didnt want too. I said ok Ill give it one more try if you agree we should both get therapy he agreed, We reunited for a month, and from what I seen the avoidant behaviour only worsened, not improved and it was becoming abusive and hurtful for me. I had to take a hard decision, I love him very much but I know that trying to talk will only trigger him and ineffective. I felt the need to break this dynamic of push and pull. So I silently went no contact, I am working on myself because now struggle with constant anxiety even though I have removed myelf from this relationship. Its been 2 months. He has not said a word, neither have I. He communicates only via text which I hate, and his last test was good morning beautuful to which I simply didnt reply and slipped out of the picture. I dont have any clear intension of reuniting as I dont see him self aware of his behaviour that pushed everyone away. So I know that reuniting will only cause worsened pain for both. I have told him I love him, he has never verbally expressed his feeling for me but just that he needs to see me, and wants to be with me. Deep inside I know he loves me, just cannot express it as he fears closeness, vulnerability, intimacy.
    I am now working to return to being more secure as before I met him, and I have no problem being alone, Im actually at peace alone.
    My question is to you or other avoidants who could help answer…..
    I have been feeling guilt and shame overy ending it as I have, because I love him and my intention is never to hurt him but I didnt see any way of moving forward in a healthy manner together. And it seemed impossible for us to break apart, ..have I damaged him further ??? Does anyone have experience being the anxious one who actually leaves thier avoidant when the relationship appears to be getting abusive? Is there even correct way to leave, if the avoidant doesnt want to break up? Did I do this correctly? I am still in No Contact its been 75 days. I have no intention of contacting him, but I sure am feeling like a horrible person for abandoning him as I did. Thank you for any coments or insight you can provide me, Sincerely

  • Smellz

    November 13th, 2021 at 5:12 PM

    My mind is blown right now. Because you have just described the love of my life! I have spent a couple years trying to understand the way his mind works. I’m smitten with him. Would it be received well if I shared this article with him? Does reading something like this help? If so, how? I used to be anxious… and as I’ve healed and started loving myself… I fit more in the secure category.

  • Harper

    May 9th, 2022 at 3:06 PM

    Gosh. We ended our FA SA relationship of five years a little over three years ago and attempted friendship. This has proved somewhat successful, helped enormously by separation due to the pandemic when contact was very low level. Upon restarting our friendship in a deeper way ten months ago I slowly started to fall in love with him again. All avoidant tendencies disappeared during initial friendship (no threat of romance or obligation to show up for a relationship) suited him to the ground and he described it as his perfect relationship. I must end this arrangement due to my lingering feelings and I have conveyed this to him, knowing I am somewhat a secure attachment he has responded with silence which is difficult as we have a child to consider whom I know he is devoted to. I expressed a desire to reunite or go forward with limited contact child based only. He does not want to reunite and has agreed our child is the priority here. However, good communication will be needed and very clear boundaries. It has been three months and contact is very one sided on my part to attempt to establish a routine for our child. He replies only to confirm the arrangements I have suggested and never initiates any contact of wellbeing concerns for us.

  • Sambi

    January 11th, 2024 at 7:28 PM

    Thanks so much for writing this articles and taking the time to answer the comments too . Your words have really helped me calm down after being emotionally unregulated for weeks after me and my partner of 3 years broke up . I have gone through feelings of anger , depression and longing to go back with him while at the same time resenting him for abandoning me without much communication in regards to his feelings . I feel betrayed by him but because I am so anxiously attached I feel the tendency to seek him and engage in conversation but I am trying to resist that urge which is killing m too. But as you said “ Letting go of him means coming back to you, and that’s the relationship that really matters most “ . This is what I need to focus on but it’s so hard cause I would really like to repair our relationship.

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