How to Be with A Partner Who Is Avoidantly Attached

People with avoidant attachment ARE able to love and be in fulfilling relationships. They subconsciously use avoidance as a way to protect themselves. It is an adaptation developed from childhood as a response to a caregiver (often the mother) who was unavailable and disconnected from their needs. 

In response, they learned how to take care of themselves, ignore their feelings and needs, and dissociate from their bodies. As adults, the brain has been wired to protect oneself and expect little from intimate relationships. These people can seem cold and appear to give little to the relationship. In effect, they are avoiding vulnerability to stay safe. They are unintendedly recreating their childhood as adults.

Remembering this is why distance can be helpful when in a relationship with someone with this style. Avoidant partners will need more space than the anxious partner, who needs intimacy to feel safe. 

The avoidant partner often finds arguments overwhelming and will withdraw and shut down. Give them time to do this, but with a boundary about coming back to the discussion. 15 – 30 minutes might be a reasonable length of time to take a break.

Know that avoidants are used to time alone. They were left alone a lot as children. Try not to take this need to be alone personally. Take yourself off to do something fun while they have their ‘me’ time. 

Avoidants can be scared by too much emotion. They don’t know what to do or how to fix it. Let them know before discussing something important to you that they don’t have to fix it; you just want them to hear you.

Avoidantly attached people often have a well-developed ‘inner adult’. They are stable, secure and seem to have it all worked out. This can be very attractive for people who have a well developed ‘inner child’. They feel safe with this adult in their life; they can play while the other person takes on the serious role. And the avoidant is highly attracted to the playfulness in the other person they struggle to access in themselves. Sounds familiar? 

Be careful that this doesn’t become a fixed role, where the avoidant is all serious, and the other person just gets to play. The challenge for the avoidant is to access more of their playfulness and for the other person to be a grown-up when it is needed.