It may not be that your partner is an asshole.. Avoidant Attachment
"Whenever you start to doubt yourself, stop."-Unknown
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“He’s a fucking heartless asshole.” my client declared of her current partner—a colorful description of someone with avoidant attachment. ‘Cold-hearted’ and ‘void of emotion’ are other ways. It can be easy to feel hatred burning in your heart when you’ve been with an avoidant person. This doesn’t mean you should condone people’s shitty behavior. But having worked in the mental health field, I’ve learned that attachment issues and trauma does things to people. It changes their brain, makes them act a certain way. And when you have a fling or relationships with someone who has avoidant attachment, their actions can feel personal.
Usually, they’re not.
How avoidant attachment often emerges Self-sufficient, independent, and fearful of emotional closeness are the usual descriptions thrown around. Avoidants are not exactly open books and tend to repress rather than express their emotions. While there are many ways avoidant attachment can occur, it usually emerges from your earliest relationship — the one with your parents. If it wasn’t safe to cry or express your emotions, you’d likely learn to hold a stiff upper lip. If nobody is going to comfort you, you learn to depend on yourself. And this doesn’t mean that all parents are bad or evil — it might be that their upbringing was the same. And when these little children grow up and become adults, they think showing their feelings equals weakness, or they feel ashamed. This can affect the way they connect with others.
Avoidant behaviors in adulthood, what it looks like:
Running away from emotionally charged situations
Independence is a high priority
Avoiding committing to a partner
Preferring relationships that are surface level
Avoiding intimacy or go to the other extreme of only having one-night stands
Have an issue with the relationship being public, blaming past negative relationships as the reason
They might nitpick at a partner’s qualities after a while
Understanding the avoidant adult Dating someone with avoidant attachment can feel challenging at times — but it’s essential to understand their behaviors often stem from subconscious trauma. (Again, this doesn’t mean tolerating shitty behavior). In my experience working in mental health, I’ve found trauma often drives us to try and replicate our childhood. We’re subconsciously caught in a merry-go-round where we gravitate towards the familiarity of the past. We do as we have been done by. We subconsciously long for our needs to be met, but we struggle to do it in a healthy way. It’s hard to ask when you’ve been rejected, abused, humiliated, emasculated, or taught expressing yourself is weak. Some avoidant people may be so disconnected from their emotions; they don’t place importance on connecting with others on a deeper level. And why would you if you learned early on that relationships or emotional connections were a source of pain?
Yes, avoidant people feel emotions.
Avoidant attachment doesn’t equal a heartless person. They’re functioning in survival mode, trying to protect themselves from experiencing the pain of the past. Most people with this attachment style want love, but they’re afraid of being vulnerable. When they get too close, they bow down to the whim of their subconscious wounds. Their reactions often have nothing to do with you, and everything to do with them and their past experiences. Our relationships are our most direct access to our wounding and they all hold a mirror up to the unhealed aspects within ourselves. The issue is when people don’t recognize they’re projecting their baggage onto their partners. Or they become aware but do nothing to change their patterns and instead blame the other person. If you don’t take responsibility for your actions in relationships, you’ll repeat the same patterns over and over again until you learn.
The next step for avoidant partners If you’re with an avoidant partner and they’re open to seeking help, give them the space they need, whilst letting them know you’re there for them. For any folks with avoidant attachment—speaking to a mental health professional can help increase your awareness around your patterns. Another way is through inner child work. People may be quick to dismiss inner child work, but often this is where the pain and fear stem from when it comes to relationships — the neglected child within us. This inner child is still craving attention and love, and we pine for these experiences subconsciously when we don’t tend to this part of ourselves. Here are two things I recommend for anyone wanting to go within: Self-love timeline healing meditation Last week I tried this inner child meditation on YouTube by Master Sri Akarshana. At just 12 minutes long I highly recommend it if you’re strapped for time. It was a gentle process in which you’re guided to visualize yourself going back to when you were a child. For some, it may be an emotional experience — I definitely shed a tear!
Journaling after the meditation After the meditation, journal about your experience. What came up for you? How did it feel hugging your inner child and telling them you love them? What were your thoughts when you were doing the meditation? After I did the meditation and put my thoughts on paper, it felt like a weight was taken off my chest. That’s when you know you’ve released something. When we start tuning into ourselves, you can feel a shift in the way you connect with others and express ourselves. You should not go back to your old self who was afraid of vulnerability and love. I hope everyone with attachment issues can experience relationships to their fullest, deepest potential
— we all deserve it.