When an Anxious Dates an Avoidant

Dating an individual with a person with a dismissive-avoidant attachment style is not impossible, but it is challenging-especially for an anxious-attacher (aka an individual with an anxious-preoccupied attachment style).  In this article, we’ll explore the dynamic between an anxious attachment and a dismissive avoidant attachment, so that you can make an informed decision on whether this is the right move for you to date someone with a dismissive-avoidant style.

A healthy relationship is possible when:

  • Both partners understand their attachment style going into the relationship
  • Are actively working on themselves and how they show up when triggered
  • Are practicing expressing and communicating their needs in healthy ways

A healthy relationship is not possible when:

  • Both persons don’t know their attachment style, aren’t conscious of how they are showing up in the relationship AND are stuck in the anxious-avoidant trap.

This is when the anxiously attached person wants more closeness and connection with their partner, while the avoidant is protective of their freedom and own world, that they will often pull away when the anxiously attached person is coming in. This is what causes the push and pull dynamic between these two attachment styles. This is a rollercoaster of emotions mixed with protest behaviours and insecurities from the anxious attacher and distancing and dismissing from the avoidant. One wants closeness and intimate connection, while the other may feel either overwhelmed by it, afraid of it, or simply they are protective of their time alone in their world.


The Fundamental Difference between an Anxious and an Avoidant: 

Anxious-attachers move quite quickly through the dating phase into the oxytocin-rich Honeymoon phase compared to someone with an avoidant attachment. 

Individuals with an avoidant attachment style need time to warm up to the person they’ve just met and to build their feelings of trust and connection with them over time.

They’re cautious of letting just anyone in; sometimes seeing it has a big loss when they’ve open up vulnerably to someone only to have them walk away. This is devasting for a dismissive-avoidant because it takes them so much courage to share such deep parts about themself when they’ve seldom done so in the past. This is because the avoidant attachment style is formed from growing up in an environment where important things, life-changing events, and feelings were rarely discussed or talked about. Affection and emotional intimacy between a child and parent weren’t really present. It was more intellectual than emotional.

Anxious attachers have this beautiful quality of being open and ready to connect. Avoidants can be outgoing and fun, however when it comes to building a deeper, more emotional relationship, it can be more challenging because this way of relating in relationships isn’t natural to them. This is because their home environment was not about closeness, affection, connection and intimacy. It’s not something they grew up with, and therefore aren’t normally comfortable becoming this connected, close, and vulnerable. This is why it can take more time to open up, be vulnerable and to share the deepest parts of themself with you. It’s often a skill they need to learn and practice as part of their healing work.

The Differences of Needs in the Dating Phase:

It’s not up to the anxious person to convince, persuade or push the avoidant into having bigger feelings faster or to commit to the relationship sooner than they are ready.

Even in the very early days of the dating phase, there’s a difference in how an anxious and an avoidant wish to connect and communicate. Where an anxious person would like to talk to and connect with their dating partner every day, if not throughout the day, the avoidant-attacher would be easily comfortable with every couple of days to few days- and the intensity of the connection doesn’t have to be grand either.

This can set alarm bells off for the anxious-attacher in the dating phase, making them think that this person is no longer into them, or that they’re seeing other people. Even though it may not be the case! 

This is when we begin to push them for more connection; expressing to them in subtle or overt ways that we feel the connection has changed, that they have changed and we demand to know and understand why.

Unfortunately, this reaction does the exact opposite of what we want– it pushes our partner away.

The more we push, the more they pull away. And so begins the cycle.


What is our role in an anxious-avoidant relationship if you find yourself in one?

First, ask yourself:

  • Does this person have the ability and will within them to work on themselves and their own fears of intimacy? (Later on… are their actions showing me that they are working on it, too?)

  • Can I express my need for closeness and connection in a way that still respects their need for space and time to warm up in the relationship (I’m referring to if you both are in the dating phase)?

     

  • Can I provide this space and patience that this person needs to warm up to the relationship and to build their feelings in their time (and not mine) while still taking care of my own needs? 

It’s very important here to be super clear with yourself on what your non-negotiable needs are in the beginning stages of a relationship, as well as what you are and what you are not willing to tolerate. You must first and foremost honour yourself.