Does dreaming about someone telling you that they love you make you wake up in a cold sweat? If so, you might have an avoidant attachment style. If commitment, intimacy, and closeness aren’t your thing — even when you really do like someone — this may be a result of your attachment style, not a reflection on how much you care.
So what is an avoidant attachment style? And what can you do about it? We’re here to give you everything you need to know.
What is an avoidant attachment style?
The avoidant attachment style is a member of the insecure attachment category. Attachment style describes the ways that people connect with one other in both platonic and romantic relationships. Those who have an avoidant attachment style want to steer clear of emotional pain and they do so by closing themselves off to connection with others. They find it difficult to become emotionally intimate with others. They’re often seen as highly independent, to the point where they cannot incorporate others into their lifestyle.
What causes avoidant attachment?
While there are many causes of avoidant attachment styles in adults, most of them trace back to childhood. As hypothesized in attachment theory, young children learn how to relate to others from their caregivers. As babies and young children develop their understanding of the world, they internalize the relationships they experience and see around them.
When parents aren’t particularly engaged in their child’s life, this may lead to an avoidant attachment style in adulthood. Parents may discourage their children from expressing their needs through crying, talking, or reaching out for things — they may even do this through punishment, perhaps a punishment that doesn’t make sense to the child. This teaches children that relationships aren’t trustworthy or that they often result in rejection, pain, or punishment.
What are the signs of avoidant attachment?
Because of each person’s individualities and situations, not all avoidant behavior looks the same. However, here are some of the more common signs of avoidant attachment:
- They like to be alone and in their own routines. Having an avoidant attachment style doesn’t mean that they don’t ever want to be around others — many people with avoidant attachment styles are extroverts and enjoy social gatherings. However, they don’t mind being by themselves. If they aren’t in a relationship, they aren’t upset. That means that they can do their own thing without interference.
- They have a hard time talking about or expressing their emotions. When they are in relationships, sometimes it’s difficult for them to share how they feel. Even if they really like their partner or partners, they might not be able to put it into words. Intimacy is built off of vulnerability, which is something foreign for them.
- They withdraw from connection without explanation. Sometimes, people with avoidant attachment styles will end a relationship without a reason why. They might be protecting themselves from an assumed rejection, even if that’s an incorrect perception. In their minds, becoming close with someone leads to pain or discomfort, which are not feelings they want to experience.
- They have a negative view of others. While people with avoidant attachment styles have high self-confidence (thanks largely to their independent streaks!), they might not think highly of other people. You’ll find them complaining about other people or judging them unreasonably.
These behaviors are often done unconsciously — attachment styles are automatic and occur without thought or decision, rather they’re a way of living instead of a choice. People with avoidant attachment styles aren’t bad or self-centered people, instead they’ve learned to adapt their lives around their emotional worlds. They might even be as confused as you are about some of their behaviors!
How do you stop avoidant attachment?
There are ways to change your attachment style, making it lean more towards a trusting, secure style. To stop your avoidant attachment style, here are a few things to try:
- Practice expressing your feelings. One of the hardest things to do when you have an avoidant attachment style is to tell someone else how you feel. Whether you know how you feel you just don’t know how to talk about it (or you don’t want to talk about it!), or you aren’t sure exactly what you’re feeling, find a way to explore your thoughts. This could be through journaling, painting, talking with an old friend — anything that gets you the practice of looking inward and sharing what you find.
- Take a journey back in time. Spend some time thinking about your upbringing and the way that you were raised. You might learn something from your memories, such as why you prefer to connect with people the way you do.
- Go outside your comfort zone. If your comfort zone doesn’t include other people, challenge yourself to leave this comfort zone. Get to know one or two people on a deeper level. Even when you start to feel like you would rather be alone, see if you can continue to engage with them. While doing this, pay attention to how you feel and ask yourself why you feel that way.
- Learn more about other people. We know that you’re self-sufficient, but what do you know about other people? Getting to really know someone else is a great practice in empathy. Where did they grow up? What kind of music do they listen to and why? Who do they admire? By learning more about other people, you might find that they are trustworthy.
- Get the support of a therapist. It might not sound like the most fun thing, opening up to a stranger, but working with a therapist to better understand your relationship tendencies may help you develop a more secure approach in the future.
Therapists are a great resource for people who want to learn more about themselves. Many therapists bring attachment theory into their sessions with clients, asking them to reflect on their past relationships and the lessons they’ve learned along the way. If this sounds like a worthwhile endeavor for you, Zencare will help you find a great therapist near you that specializes in building strong, healthy relationships.