Dismissive avoidants have a reputation for acting like they don’t care about you, and only care about themselves. They’re not verbally or physically affectionate, don’t talk about their feelings, pull away from the relationship so often, have strict boundaries about their space and time, and control how close you can get to them. They always seem too busy for a relationship, don’t have the time to invest in a relationship or don’t think they love you enough to want to commit.
Feeling like you’re not good enough for a dismissive avoidant to love you back
Many people who love a dismissive avoidant get the feeling that they’re constantly being pushed away, and are never sure if a dismissive avoidant loves them or even cares about them. They become incredibly insecure, needy and clingy, with a majority developing low self esteem because they can’t understand why they’re not good enough for a dismissive avoidant to love them back.
While some people feeling pushed away by a dismissive avoidant try harder, put in more effort to get a dismissive avoidant to love them back and give more to the relationship, others become resentful and angry with a dismissive avoidant for constantly pushing them away and keeping them at a distance. And they have every right to feel resentful and angry.
Someone with an anxious attachment or even a fearful avoidant attachment would find someone investing all their time and energy loving them validating and reassuring, but for many dismissive avoidant, it makes them ask “What’s wrong with you?” Why can’t you see that I don’t want your love?”
Why dismissive avoidants think something is “wrong” with you
To understand why dismissive avoidants push away people who get close, show too much emotion or affection, one has to go back to a dismissive avoidant’s childhood and how they experienced being loved and cared for.
As children, dismissive avoidants either didn’t receive love and care, or weren’t shown affection by their primary caregivers. As human beings, we intuitively know that love feels comforting, nurturing, validating and reassuring, but because the love and care dismissive avoidants were shown was none of those things, they developed the belief that the problem must be with the person giving or showing love.
While some dismissive avoidants interpreted a caregiver’s lack of display of emotion and affection as a flaw, others both resented it and idealized it. They resented it because it meant they had to hide their own needs, emotions and vulnerability, but they romanticized it because in their child’s mind, it came to represent authority, respect, self-control, calm and composure – something they wanted for themselves.
As adults, dismissive avoidants have a low assessment or poor image of individuals who seem to lack self-control, self-respect, calm and composure. They also have a low assessment of their romantic relationship partners who they see as a needing relationship to feel comforted, nurtured, validated and reassured. They see themselves as better than their romantic partners (and generally all people who need relationships) because unlike them, they (dismissive avoidants) do not need comforting, nurturing, validation and reassurance, and are independent and self-directed enough to reject or walk away from a relationship that doesn’t feel good or safe.
It’s a mindset of “you can’t lose what you don’t want or miss what you never wanted” that I stepped into when my commitment gamophobia pushed me to lean heavily dismissive avoidant. Believing one doesn’t need or want relationships because relationships are fundamentally flawed and people who crave, seek and need closeness are defective is not just isolating, it’s also frightening because it makes detaching from others so easy.
Why can’t you see that I don’t want your love?
When you try to show love and affection to someone who thinks they don’t want it and will never miss it, you can’t help but feel rejected and/or not good enough. And it’s worse that many dismissive avoidants don’t just push you away or allow you to love or care about them, they also pick you apart – constantly harping on your flaws, failings, inadequacies, weaknesses, mistakes, faults etc.
When someone criticizes, invalidates and doesn’t seem to value you, it’s natural to assume they don’t love you or care about you. But is it really true that a dismissive avoidant doesn’t want your love or do they really care but don’t want to show they care?
Sometimes it’s a little bit of both. Many dismissive avoidants even when they act like they don’t need love, affection and care need it. Just like everyone they want love, connection and even closeness, but most dismissive avoidants are afraid to show that they need love and care, and are not good at showing others that they care. Some dismissive avoidants have buried their own need for love, care and connection do deep down inside that they often don’t recognize when they love someone.
Others, are so accustomed to rejecting love and care that they instinctively and indiscriminately reject people and relationships without even to really getting to know someone or giving the relationship a chance to develop. It’s like someone swiping left without even looking at their phone. Next, next, next…
But once in a while, someone catches a dismissive avoidant’s attention in a strong way.
If a dismissive avoidant is prioritizing the relationship, they care about you
One of the strongest signs that a dismissive avoidant cares about you, is developing feelings for you, or falling in love with you is how they share their most cherished and valued resources – time and space – with you.
If you’ve ever wondered if a dismissive avoidant cares and even loves you, look at how much time they spend with you or away from you. When a dismissive avoidant spends more time with you than away from you, it’s their way of saying I care about you enough to prioritize spending time with you over my need for space. This is a big deal because dismissive avoidants value their independence and space more than relationships.
And unlike fearful avoidant’s feelings that fluctuate between hot and cold almost on a day-to-day (even hour-to-hour) basis, a dismissive avoidant’s feelings are relatively stable which means that you can use “how much time they spend with you vs. away from you” to track how a dismissive avoidant is feeling about you.
As times goes on or when you start to get too close, a dismissive avoidant will start to spend less time with you and more time away from you. When this happens, they’re pulling away. It doesn’t mean they stopped caring about you, it means they just need time-out from “being loved”. And sometimes it means that for some reason being loved isn’t feeling good or safe anymore and a dismissive avoidant needs to recalculate the cost of staying in the relationship vs. walking away.
There are several things that can trigger this feeling in a dismissive avoidant, some of them are personal to a dismissive avoidant and have nothing to do with you, and some of them have everything to do with how you are loving a dismissive avoidant and showing that you care.
One of a dismissive avoidant’s greatest fears is not being able to love you back
Many dismissive avoidants even those who are not self-aware of their attachment style know that something is not right in the way they approach and deal with relationships. They see couples showing love and being affectionate and intimate spontaneously and effortlessly and yet they struggle showing love, being affectionate or with intimacy, and sustaining a relationship. Some dismissive avoidants will even tell you on the first date that relationships is not their strongest suit, they’re afraid they’ll end up hurting you or that they always end relationships as soon as things get serious.
I remember going out on a first date with a guy who ticked every box and met every criteria, but thinking to myself, “He so into me, I don’t want to break his heart. He deserves someone who can love him better.” He called me that night to say he had a lovely time and wanted to see me again, I didn’t respond. He called a few more times over a couple of weeks, and as bad as I felt, I still didn’t respond. Two months later, he called again and this time I was angry that he hadn’t forgotten about me already. “It was just one date, for God’s sake!”
My point is, even when you are safe and secure, a dismissive avoidant may still reject your love because they don’t think they can love you back the way you love them. In fact, not being able to love someone back is one of a dismissive avoidant’s greatest fears. Because they struggle with showing love and being affectionate or sustaining a relationship, most dismissive avoidants expect someone to leave for this reason, and sure enough, it happens over and over again that people leave because they don’ feel loved enough.
Sometimes it’s about how you love and show a dismissive avoidant that you care
But sometimes the reason dismissive avoidants don’t allow you to love them is because of how you love them and show you care about them.
The biggest mistake many individuals with an anxious attachment and even fearful avoidants make when a dismissive avoidant needs “timeout” from “being loved”, is become needy and clingy. They start giving even more care and attention, “I want them to know I’ll never abandon them?” or “I want to make them feel safe”, and try harder to get a dismissive avoidant to love them back. Then they get angry that all their efforts aren’t working and their love is being rejected, and go contact. Weeks or months later, they reach out and begin the whole frantic “too much everything” that individuals with an anxious attachment do (including mind games), prompting a dismissive avoidant to think, “What’s wrong with you?” Why can’t you see that I don’t want your love?”
First of all, according to attachment theory, individuals with an anxious attachment and fearful avoidants are afraid of being abandoned, dismissive avoidants are more afraid of being overwhelmed, drained, manipulated and controlled by the emotional needs of others than being abandoned. Second of all, if a dismissive avoidant is pushing you away because your love doesn’t feel good or safe, what makes you think giving them more of the same is going to make a dismissive avoidant feel safe?
It doesn’t matter how much you love them or show them you care about them, if your love feels doesn’t feel good or feels unsafe, a dismissive avoidant will not want to be “to be loved” by you. They fear that someone who invests too much time and energy loving them and sacrifices too much to be with them will also expect a lot from them, and they don’t think they can deliver – or even want to. And if you complain or get angry because a dismissive avoidant doesn’t appreciate how much you love them (and all the things you’re doing for them), they’ll tell you to walk away because that’s what they’d do.
Dismissive avoidants want your love but only if it makes them feel safe
If you want a dismissive avoidant to stop rejecting your love and stop pushing you away, stop pushing on them love, care and attention that doesn’t feel good or safe.
When most anxious people hear ‘make a dismissive avoidant feel safe” they think that it’s just about giving an avoidant space. Giving an avoidant space is an important part of making them feel safe, but it’s not the only thing.
Just like there are many things that dismissive avoidants do that is second nature to them but frustrate, hurt and drive individuals with an anxious attachment away, there are also many things that you as someone with an anxious attachment say and do that is second nature to you but make a dismissive avoidant feel that your love doesn’t feel good and is unsafe.
1) Holding onto your feelings and acting like you’re happy and everything is great, then when a dismissive avoidant pulls away or wants to break-up, unloading all your feelings and how much you love them on a dismissive avoidant with the hope that it will stop them from pulling away or breaking up. This anxious attachment behaviour is not just overwhelming to a dismissive avoidant, it also makes them feel manipulated.
2) Not expressing your needs or asking for what you want, then acting passive aggressive or complaining instead of asking or waiting until there’s an argument, conflict or break-up, then expressing your unmet needs. Passive aggressiveness and complaining is emotionally draining regardless of attachment style, but it’s particularly triggering for a dismissive avoidant because of their fear of being overwhelmed by the emotional needs of others. And when unmet needs are a part of an argument or conflict, it makes dismissive avoidants who are already conflict avoidant pull away more and hard.
3) Investing all your time and energy meeting a dismissive avoidant’s needs while neglecting your own needs, feelings, goals, interests etc., and sacrificing far above what is healthy in a relationship makes most dismissive avoidant feel manipulated and controlled because they can’t return the sacrifice without sacrificing they’re own independence and sense of self-directedness. Nobody, and especially a dismissive avoidant feels good about owing another person for something they didn’t ask for or even want.
Most dismissive avoidant will push you away just for these 3 anxious attachment type behaviours alone. And if you go no contact, it doesn’t bother them or change how they feel because to them “you can’t lose what you don’t want or miss what you never wanted”.
Too much neediness, too many expectations, too uncomfortable, too unsafe
Most people with an anxious attachment will stay in a relationship if they think someone loves them even if the relationship doesn’t feel good or isn’t safe. Dismissive avoidants will leave no matter how much you love them or how hard you try to show them that they’re the center of your world. In fact, acting like a dismissive avoidant is the center of your world makes them push you away faster and harder. Too much neediness, too many expectations, too uncomfortable.
Even a dismissive avoidant ex who still loves you and cares about you will push you away or choose to stay distant if the way you love them and show you care makes them feel uncomfortable and unsafe.