In a previous article I discussed love attachment styles and relationship mindsets such as ‘Love addiction’. Now I’ll talk about one of the Four Attachment Styles in Love which was initially studied in the 1960s and 1970s for children/caregivers and then in the 1980s extended to adult relationships. It has now become commonplace to dive deeper in this area for those within the psychology field.
The Four Attachment Styles:
There are so many working models and theories about how this unfolds, manifest, and influence in our relationships with ourselves and others.
The simplistic take is that these behaviors are mirrors of the ideas and beliefs we have formed about who we are and about our close relationships. I’ll talk about the style I am most familiar with, which is my own…
We all know that in terms of physical and character traits we differ. The same is true of the unique styles of our romantic and interpersonal relationships. There are two “avoidant” attachments styles: fearful-avoidant and dismissive-avoidant.
It is believed those with an avoidant style think about intimacy as “dangerous” and that other people are “unreliable” or that being intimate with them is “not important”. A person with a dismissive-avoidant attachment style has a mentality stating they do not need others. They believe they can survive by themselves, by being alone. Sometimes they even think they do not need to depend on others for happiness or to feel “completeness” as a person. This is viewed by them as a weakness in others.
Dismissive-avoidant individuals have completed a mental transformation that says: “I am good, I don’t need others, and they aren’t really important to me. I am fine as I am.
This style is not something we choose purposefully. It is ingrained in us from a young age by being trained that they could not rely on their caregivers. This style then develops as a means of coping with that reality by opting not to be overly intimate/emotional when it comes to relationships. Why should they trust others when they have been taught others are unreliable through actions and/or words? They are often described as ‘cold’ in their relationships. Here are some other noticeable traits of people with the dismissive-avoidant attachment style:
Aversion to attachments
Adults with this attachment style may harbor an unrealized fear of rejection and thus opt to not be involved in close relationships. Believe it or not, physical and emotional attachments, will cause them to shift away. There are genuine feelings of discomfort when it comes to actual physical contact and/or intimacy and even romantic gestures to their partners. They find it hard to truly show physical contact. Sometimes they seem like loners, impersonal and more objective than average. The more you try to ‘attach’ to them, the more ‘avoidant’ they act.
Instead of coping with conflicts, they repress their feelings. They deal with loss/separation in several ways. Their inability to be as vulnerable as others are, means that they aren’t as directly expressive. They may tend to complain and sulk to their partners and find it easier to express negative feelings than express positive ones. In some extreme cases, these types can even lack the capability to describe their feelings at all and express them simply in words.
This is a coping mechanism employed by dismissive-avoidants that entails hurting others rather than being hurt. They may be more focused on their own comfort, to the detriment of not being sensitive to the feelings of others. They (as do I) find it daunting to open up with their feelings to their partners. And when you really want to see the “dismissive” side of them just try to have a “normal” discussion or disagreement. I’ve been told I am ‘self-centered/focused/assured’ before I was aware I was just trying to cope.
Less memory recall
Does this possible dismissive-avoidant say they had an amazing childhood and loving parents? Yet can’t recall details to tie it all together? This is why they rarely talk about themselves and their previous relationships. It’s not that they don’t want to remember the details, they just aren’t there. Well they are, but they are hidden from the conscious mind of the dismissive-avoidant to avoid admitting that maybe, they were left to self-parent more than they recall.
This one might be hard for some to swallow. Dismissive-avoidant types refuse (avoid) detailed conversations. They avoid answering questions that could re-assure their partners. You may notice they:
- Tend to trigger jealousy in relationships by getting “close” to others when already in a relationship to self sabotage
- Think they are not “ready” for the next level of commitment even when relationships are going well
- Find faults on their partners habits such as eating, drinking, talking, or even how they dress
- Struggle to say loving words such as “I love you” or “I miss you” regardless of how much they imply they are interested in you (and we really are!)
- Sometimes gravitate toward a relationship with someone who can’t be fully emotionally available to them (i.e. married, or partnered)
Again it’s important to understand no one consciously chooses their attachment style. It has been formed over many, many years and a collection of personal experiences that we all go through as individuals. The dismissive-avoidant isn’t being this way on purpose or to hurt you. For them, this is just a subconscious pattern that has integrated itself into their minds and affected their deepest perspectives on relationships.
A dismissive-avoidant is usually being practical first and foremost without a second thought to other ways of thinking. I personally have been called ‘cold‘ and ‘emotionally distance‘ on several occasions by previous partners all because I thought I was choosing to listen to my brain over my emotions.
Love or leave em’
Not everyone can handle being partnered with an avoidant type and not everyone has to. But what if you feel like you can accept that in someone? What will you do if you are with one now? Do you feel like you may be trapped in a relationship with someone who may be a dismissive-avoidant? Are they unable to give you the caring connection you require?
Before you toss out what could be a way for you to bond with this being, realize some things. First, there are specific actions and words we can all take in order to break the bad patterns of our romantic past. Have a conversation about their attachment style. Many people don’t even know their own (do you know yours?) so ask them if you can take this attachment style test together (even if you’ve already taken it) to find out your styles.
Second, if they (or you!) do register on the avoidant scale there are ways to become more responsive and empathetic to your needs. Lastly, remember, all walls can be taken down, even if it’s one brick at a time but you (and them) have to be willing to do the work. Self-improvement and personal development are free tools to us all.
I must reiterate, these styles are usually picked up in childhood and then pushed along into adulthood. It’s the driving reason behind how differently all adults in relationships deal with conflicts.
Once you know your style and your partner knows theirs, you may find your relationship easier to navigate with the clarity of knowing how to deal with those we hold dearest…even if some us avoid saying it so plainly.