We are still trying to figure out the attraction theory, what are the components that bring persons together in an intimate relationship. Ever fall for someone and you cannot figure out the reasons? Sometimes the situation is just not ideal, he/she is married and you still cannot flush the person out of your mind. What if the person you are dating is avoidant, dismissive, anxious, do you run or do you stay?
So you find yourself in a relationship and there are actually some things you are confronted with, are you experiencing the following:
An avoidant relationship is one plagued by a subconscious fear of intimacy and attachment. It has an inherent defensive shield of protection held up by the avoidant and thereby, your partner will be vacillating between the troughs and crests of attachment.
Oftentimes, an intrinsic distrust of their partner is noted, which is rooted in a fear of being left alone if they show their vulnerability.
There are two avoidant types – the dismissive-avoidant and the fearful-avoidant. Whilst both share their subconscious fear of intimacy, the difference between the two is that the former tends to value self-sufficiency and independence to an inflated degree. The dismissive-avoidant thinks of ‘needing others’ as a sign of weakness and dismisses any feelings of attachment as a signal of being tied down.
Boundaries in an Avoidant Relationship
Their fear of intimacy fuels their inflated sense of esteem and they have rejected/denied themselves every possibility of participating in an emotionally wholesome, close relationship.
A dismissive usually has an incomplete story of an idealized love which was lost/never realized and as such, they hold that standard as a defensive weapon against anybody who tries to inch closer. The painful memory of their idealized previous relationship that never quite saw its rightful ending makes them tire of a real relationship fairly quickly and they refuse to give it the emotional involvement it demands. This distancing trick enables them to keep ‘real intimacy’ at bay and they are happy, in deluding themselves with the belief that nothing can measure up to ‘the one’ that never became.
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On the other hand, the latter type of avoidant, the fearful-avoidant hasn’t quite given up. A fearful-avoidant is equally fearful of intimacy and shares the inherent distrust of caregivers if you are in a relationship with such a person you are seen as a caregiver.
As such, the fearful-Avoidants tend to be more open and susceptible to attachment in response to their need and want for intimacy, but are prone to spells of detachment owing to a resurfacing of their fears. This is called an approach-avoidance conflict that results in an intimacy-withdrawal cycle leading to a circling pattern. This pattern is very common in fearful-Avoidants and as such, one finds them engaging in short-lived relationships. The series of short relationships stem from their inherent need for intimacy but is ended equally quickly as the fearful-avoidant deems their partner more and more threatening when they get closer. Boundaries in an avoidant relationship are very critical if the relationship is going to succeed.
- Avoiding interpersonal communication/engagement: If fear of rejection, criticism or even inadequacy is causing one to distance self from one and all, it is causing enough to worry.
- Unwillingness for social participation: Most Avoidants tend to avoid any activities that call for too much proximity to ‘people.’ Unless they are definitely sure about approval or being liked, they tend to avoid social events/activities and steer clear of them.
- Preoccupation with rejection, loss or ridicule: This preoccupation can become an obsession. It is important to differentiate social anxiety from avoidant traits. While there are many similarities, the presence of other ‘red flags’ in conjunction with these can help decipher the boundary. Clinicians can help discover the underlying patterns and assess the situation.
- Inhibited or fearful involvement/attachment: Pulling away, distancing, stonewalling, withdrawal, isolation or even plain attempts to introduce negative elements (like insecurity) into the relationship are behaviours that stem from a fear of emotional attachment/vulnerability/intimacy.
As we continue to explore the behaviour and boundaries in an avoidant relationship we think the caregiver if cognizant of the behaviour can make the necessary adjustments in accommodating this behaviour. When you truly love someone instead of running when things are difficult you could stay and nurture, believe and persevere, there is something very beautiful when love survives.