Why Does My Partner Keep Me at Arm's Length? Do They Have an Avoidant Attachment Style?
Updated: Nov 14, 2022
Avoidant Attachment Style
An avoidant attachment style is characterized by a person who has a negative view of others and a positive view of themselves. Typically, this style develops when people have had more absent caregivers and have not had their attachment needs to be met. Due to not being able to depend on others to get their needs met, they may have difficulty opening up and trusting others.
Understanding Attachment Styles Can Strengthen Relationships
Knowing your own attachment style and your partner/s is extremely valuable when learning how to communicate, how to resolve conflict, and how to have a healthier relationship. At Lone Wolf, our skilled team of therapists is here to help you understand and grow in your relationship by gaining a better understanding of your attachment styles.
So, you think you might be dating someone with an avoidant attachment style and don’t know what to do?
First, let’s figure out if you really are dating an avoidant attachment. In our society, we usually admire those who go out into the world ‘alone’. We value independence and freedom, yet that comes at a price when we are trying to be in a romantic relationship.
What does it look like when you are in a relationship with someone with an avoidant attachment style?
They value independence more than connection
Does your partner often talk about being independent and needing their space? Does your partner usually do things alone? Folks with an avoidant attachment have learned that at the end of the day the one person they can depend on is themselves.
Feelings help us understand our own needs and communicate them to others. From an early age, people with an avoidant attachment have learned that communicating their emotions to others doesn’t meet their needs. Think of a child who is sad and crying and is ignored by their caregiver. Due to this someone with an avoidant attachment may disconnect from their emotions. This may lead to being hyper-rational or shutting down during conflict. They may also see others who express their emotion as overly emotional.
They are less likely to seek support from their loved ones when they are in need
In the same way, they have learned to not show emotion they have also learned not to ask for help. Someone with an avoidant attachment will often try to deal with things on their own. Has your partner ever gone through a tough time, only for you to find out days, weeks, or even months later because they never told you? This happens because they have learned in the past that others aren’t reliable, so they don’t ask for help.
They complain instead of asking for direct support
Often, people with an avoidant attachment will complain as a way of asking for help. It’s often difficult for them to communicate in relationships, especially when it can come off as dependence. Avoidantly attached people often cringe at the thought that they “need” people. They may have learned they can complain or criticize and get a need met without the vulnerability of asking for a need.
They tend to shut down if some intimacy has been achieved
People with an avoidant attachment style are usually triggered by having close moments with their partners and will often shut down after it.
- A partner wanting deep intimacy (i.e. vulnerable conversations)
- Their partner expressing they need them
- Feeling as though the relationship is taking too much of their time
- Their partner asking for commitment
- Feeling like their partner has too many needs / is demanding their attention
Their brain says run!
If you see that your partner shuts down or keeps you at arm's length days after you had an intimate moment, ask yourself if this is a pattern you’ve noticed. For people that don’t have an avoidant attachment style, being close to their partner makes them feel secure. However, for avoidantly attached individuals this is the opposite. Their brain and body are telling them to run to another side before they get too dependent or lose themselves.
What can you do about it?
It can be frustrating wanting to be close to your partner and not receive the love and support back. It can feel like you are being sent mixed messages at times. Unfortunately, we can not change others and the person with the avoidant attachment style has to gain insight into their behaviors and decide to work on themselves.
Here are some things you can do to foster a safe environment for your avoidantly attached partner.
First: Be Patient
Be patient with your partner and try to understand that their need to be independent is not a personal attack on you.
Second: Recognize Their Needs
Recognizing their need for space is a need to feel safe not a rejection of your company. Respect their boundaries and give them space. Allow them to learn that a relationship with you can also feel safe. Pushing for closeness before they feel comfortable can have the opposite effect. Offer alone time and try not to interrupt their space.
Third: Recognize Your Own Needs
Recognize your own needs in the relationship and be able to set expectations on how as a couple you will navigate closeness and independence. For example, If you like to be in contact every day maybe that means a 10-minute phone call at the end of the day instead of texting throughout the day.
What if I’ve done all of these and am still not satisfied with my relationship?
Understanding your own attachment style and needs is crucial to having a healthy and gratifying relationship. Here are resources to learn more about your attachment style. Take this free Attachment Style quiz and read up on some attachment-style books. Some of our favorites are: Attached by Dr. Amir Levine and Rachel S.F. Heller and Wired for Dating by Stan Tatkin. If you are wanting more support navigating this with your partner schedule a free phone consultation for couple’s therapy.
Attachment-Based Therapy in Denver, Colorado
Even with the best of intentions, we can struggle to understand our own and our partner’s relationship triggers. This does not mean that you have a bad relationship or that the relationship should end. All couples should seek professional support at some point in their relationship to make sure their relationship is well taken care of! If you find yourself consistently forming unhealthy relationships, our skilled therapists at Lone Wolf Psychology can help you understand the behaviors behind those unhealthy choices. Follow the steps below to get started.
1. We encourage you to get to know a little bit about our therapists, their specializations, and their credentials. Get to know our therapists here.
2. If you think Couples Counseling is for you, reach out to us! You can use our convenient online therapy scheduling form found on our home page.
3. Begin the exciting journey of understanding your relationships to forge a lasting, healthy, and fulfilling relationship!
We hope to hear from you soon.
Other Counseling Services in Denver, CO
Not only does our therapy practice in Denver offer Attachment-Based Therapy, but we also offer a wide variety of services for every relationship stage. Each relationship is unique in its personal journey and we are here to provide, insightful and productive Relationship Counseling, Divorce and Break-up Recovery Counseling, Couples Counseling, LGBTQ+ Counseling, Kink and Poly Friendly Therapy, Trauma Therapy, and Premarital Counseling as well. We also offer Self-Help Resources to help supplement your therapy or to better prepare for upcoming therapy sessions!
Schedule a free consultation with a trained couple’s counselor to see if therapy is right for you.