A relationship with an avoidant can work and can be rewarding on so many levels. It can work with an avoidant, but you need more than an understanding of the interaction between your attachment styles.
As discussed earlier, an in depth understanding of the interaction between attachment avoidance and attachment anxiety is the first step to a functional, lasting and rewarding relationship with an avoidant. But just understanding how your attachment styles interact is not enough.
I have worked with so many clients who learned so much about attachment styles. They’ve read books, website articles and watched YouTube videos. But they feel that a relationship with an avoidant is just too much work. They wonder if they should give up and find someone securely attached.
A relationship with an avoidant feels like too much work if you’re focused on, “this is my attachment style, and this is yours”. How do we get along?
This way of approaching a relationship with avoidant has its limitations. As long as both of you still have attachment related triggers; you will always have problems related to your attachment styles. You can manage these triggers better because you know what is happening; but it will not permanently end the anxious-avoidant dynamic.
The approach I use, and some of you may have noticed in my articles and YouTube videos is a little different. I focus more on “what we can be”.
The focus of my work is not just to help you make a relationship with an avoidant work, my goal is to change an anxious-avoidant dynamic to a secure dynamic.
When you are securely attached, you become the secure base from which an avoidant can learn to love and be loved without the need to distance. You change your relationship for the better, permanently.
A fearful avoidant is willing to risk rejection and abandonment if they feel that:
- You treat them like they matter, and their feelings matter
- They can trust you not to hurt them
- You understand that sometimes they need time and space from you
A dismissive avoidant is willing to put in the work to make a relationship work if they feel that:
- They can still maintain most of their independence and autonomy even in a relationship
- There is no pressure for them to be a certain way (the way you want them to be)
- You can and will meet most of your needs on your own.
It is hard to reassure a fearful or dismissive avoidant ex that you can do all of the above when your past actions have been opposite. Even when you understand and accept that this is what they need; communicating this to an avoidant in a way they’ll believe you is not easy when you have attachment anxiety. Even just thinking about having these sort of conversation is triggering.
This is from a study on Attachment and Emotion Regulation Strategies
Anxiously attached individuals are more inclined to use hyperactivating strategies, which include exaggeration of threats, over-dependence on the attachment figure, and hypervigilance to cues of danger and abandonment, when faced with stress-related situations (Mikulincer & Florian, 1995; Mikulincer & Shaver, 2007, 2008).
Focusing on potentially negative cues and emotions causes these individuals to link negative experiences together so that one negative thought leads to a string of others (Mikulincer & Shaver, 2008). The anxiously attached individual is therefore caught in a vicious cycle whereby his or her attention to negative information leads to negative thoughts and ruminations, which in turn intensifies their feelings of anxiety, and thus their focus on potentially negative cues.
This will change as you work on becoming more securely attached
Individuals with a secure attachment style use more assertive communications styles with their partners (Haggerty, Hilsenroth, & Vala-Stewart, 2009), which in turn, are associated with greater relationship satisfaction (Craddock, 2008).
There is increasing evidence that a partner’s attachment security plays an important role as a motivation to maintain and persist in a relationship. Attachment security is also a factor in an avoidant’s willingness to open themselves up to the risk of hurt and rejection.
Safety and security for an avoidant (and for yourself) is even more important if there was distancing and hostility following the break-up. With time, your ex will be able to trust that you want what is best for them. It reassures an avoidant that you will be there for them when they need closeness; and will give them the space they need when they need their own space and time.
Repeated experiences of felt security are a necessary condition for mitigating the negative effects of a partner’s attachment insecurity. Repeated experiences of felt security also provide the opportunity for both of you to grow closer together; and for attraction and love to grow.
You can’t directly change your ex’s attachment style; but you can show up in ways that encourage your ex to reciprocate.
I’m happy to answer any questions you may have about your ex’s attachment style and what you can do to successfully get back together; AND also answer any questions on how to become more secure.