Are you experiencing an axious-avoidant attachment trap in your relationship?
Or are you afraid you might be heading into one?
Well, you are taking the best possible step in researching more information.
The anxious avoidant trap indeed puts together the most antithetic of the attachment styles and is one of the most common forms of dysfunctional relationships.
This article will explain exactly what are the dynamics of an anxious-avoidant relationship and what you can do about it.
- The Anxious Avoidant Attachment Trap
- Why Anxious & Avoidant End Up Together
- 4 Signs of Anxious Avoidant Relationship
- The Anxious Type Loses
- Anxious Avoidant Attachment Examples
- Overcoming The Anxious Avoidant Trap
- Don’t Confuse The Avoidant for An as*hole
Why You Should Care
When you know where you stand, you also know what to avoid.
Indeed, if you’re an anxious type, I would strongly recommend you do not date an avoidant.
This post will provide you with deep knowledge and a greater understanding of the anxious-avoidant relationship: one of the most common -and destructive- of relationship issues.
However, it requires you first understand what are the different attachment styles. And if you are still not sure which one it’s you, take this quiz here.
With that cleared, let’s start.
The Anxious Avoidant Attachment Trap
The anxious avoidant attachment doesn’t make for a good relationship because, at the core, the two have opposing approaches to intimacy.
The anxious moves towards intimacy, and the avoidant moves away to keep independence and regain space.
Here’s the typical dynamics of the anxious avoidant trap:
1. Anxious Moves Towards
The anxious type needs and craves lots of intimacy. And when he doesn’t get it his attachment systems activates. In very simple terms, that basically means he needs to get closer to his partner, both physically and emotionally.
2. Avoidant Moves Away
The problem is that the avoidant partner reacts the opposite way. Avoidants get easily overloaded with too much intimacy and need to regain their space and autonomy by moving away.
When their partner gets too close, or stay close for too long, avoidants start to pull away.
3. Arguments Ensue
When the avoidant partner moves away, the anxious partner starts arguments to get the attention they are lacking.
Arguments are often a front that doesn’t address the real issue: the lack of intimacy. Indeed anxious types are often afraid of asking for intimacy because they’re concerned their partner doesn’t feel the same way.
The avoidant doesn’t address the issues because, well… Yhe avoidant doesn’t want to solve the issue! Solving the issue would mean giving up space their physical and emotional buffer. Indeed sometimes the avoidant doesn’t really mind the fights. The fight are a good excuse to enjoy more time on his own.
This video is dubbed, but it’s an awesome example of an axious avoidant argument.
Argument Don’t Get Solved Easily
During fights anxious tend to get flooded (basically, “overwhelmed”, read more on flooding) and to focus on the negatives. They overreact and say things they regret (read cruelty and criticism).
After the argument the opposite happens: the anxious regrets what they said and focus on the positives on their partner. Now the anxious wants to mend things and get close again. But avoidants react differently: after an argument they turn off their attachment system and only remember the negatives. Now they want to stay away.. For a while.
Which makes a reconciliation not always straightforward.
When the reconciliation finally happens, it usually doesn’t last long.
It’s called “anxious-avoidant trap”, but it should be called “anxious-avoidant cycle” instead. Because it is indeed a repeated pattern, on a loop.
Notice that look at the overall cycle it’s apparent that the unhappy moments far outweigh the positive ones.
Funny enough, that tweet above is exactly what an ex girlfriend of mine once told me.
“I’m too much for you and you’re not enough for me”. That still rings in my ear. Back then I didn’t know about attachment styles, and yet I felt that with one single sentence she had fully summarized all our issues.
Do you wanna take guess who was the anxious and who was the avoidant in that relationship?
Why Anxious & Avoidant End Up Together
If the anxious and avoidants are not compatible, why do they end up together so often?
Here are the main reasons:
1. Anxious types think it’s love
Some sources say that the anxious type confuse the up and downs of their activated attachment system for “real love”. When they meet a secure partner, who’s honest and emotionally present, they find it more boring and don’t get the “spark” they get with the avoidant.
Exactly, it’s a bit like for the ass*ole / nice guy thing.
Avoidants are not the same as ass*oles, but they overlap sometimes and many often equate the two.
2. Emotional codependency
Avoidants often get their sense of self esteem when they compare their independence and “power” to how much their partner need them.
This means that avoidants only feel strong and independent with a partner who needs and pleads for them. And this is one of the reasons why avoidants do not date each other.
3. A question of Numbers
Only 25% of the population is avoidant. Yet you will meet avoidant attachment types much more often than the raw numbers would suggest.
It’s because they are more often on the single market, they are more likely to “look around” when in relationships and they don’t date other avoidants.
And they often end up with, guess whom? Anxious.
Gender of Anxious & Avoidants?
Studies show there are more women who are an anxious and more men who are avoidants. Which means, the chances for the woman being anxious and the man being avoidant are much higher.
This is not to say though there are no anxious men and no avoidant women. There are, and below there’s such a video example.
4 Signs of Anxious Avoidant Relationship
By now you probably know if you are or if you’ve ever been in an anxious avoidant attachment.
Here are a few more signs for you:
- Roller-Coaster Effect
There’s a constant alternation of great time followed by bad ones. Like in the circle above, and that’s why the anxious avoidant attachment is also called the anxious avoidant trap.
- Constant feeling of instability
Anxious avoidant relationships often last as long as secure ones. But there’s always an element of uncertainty which leads to dissatisfaction in both partners.
- Bad treatment
It’s crazy for the anxious attachment type that the avoidant partner treats them more poorly than people who are not as close. But that’s how it is for the anxious type: the closest person can be the biggest threat for them.
- You feel trapped
Deep down you know that this partner and this relationship is not right for you. Yet it’s hard for you to leave. All the up and downs are actually addictive.
The Anxious Type Loses
Since anxious avoidant relationship often can last long, it’s normal to ask: who wins? Does the avoidant gets the distance he wants or does the anxious get the intimacy they need?
Well, in a way neither wins.
Anxious avoidant attachments indeed tend to be less satisfactory to both partners. But in the general less than stellar satisfaction, it’s the anxious who loses the most.
Indeed after every fight it’s the anxious that has to make concessions to the avoidant to reconcile and re-establish a minimum of intimacy. And the anxious has to settle for the little that the avoidant will dish out.
This is really not an ideal situation. For the anxious the relationship is a constant, never ending suffering dotted with small islands of reconciliation.
And if you’re an anxious, you can do better than that.
Anxious Avoidant Attachment Examples
Now, we spoke a lot about theory. Wouldn’t it be cool to have a few examples of Anxious Avoidant relationships in real life?
Well, I’m glad you asked.
Here I break down three famous movies with my own annotation so you can see exactly what we’re talking about.
#1. Five Easy Pieces
He is the avoidant type, she is the anxious type.
#2. 500 Days of Summer
As we’ve said, the anxious avoidant attachment is more typical with him as the avoidant, but there are plenty of relationships where the roles invert.
Here’s an example:
#3. La Dolce Vita
And this is another typical fight-reconciliation loop of the anxious avoidant attachment:
Overcoming The Anxious Avoidant Trap
What should you do when you are in an anxious avoidant trap?
It’s difficult to say because in a relationships there aren’t just attachment styles variables, but may more.
Here are some truths that can help you decide on the best course of action:
The Anxious Avoidant Trap Can Last
If the anxious needs for intimacy are not too big and the avoidant need for independence are not extreme, the relationship can hum along.
Indeed, as perverse as that might sound, anxious and avoidant tend to be long lasting relationships.
However, that is NOT to say that it will improve or that things will get better. As we saw earlier, the anxious partner tends to lose out.
When It Doesn’t Last
In some anxious avoidant relationships the avoidant partner will become perennially annoyed with the anxious partner.
We have seen that example in the video above with Jack Nicholoson (look at it again, it’s really good to explain that dynamic).
It’s also possible the avoidant partner will start seeing the anxious partner as an enemy. They will keep secrets, stop confiding and actively avoid their spouses.
When that’s the case, you should reassess the feasibility of your relationship and I recommend you break up.
Assess your options
Don’t threaten to break up, but make the assessment on your own first.
Here are a couple of helpful articles:
Don’t Take the Blame!
Many anxious cannot understand why their avoidants partner are moving away. They feel rejected, they take blame and their self esteem tanks (read how low self esteem can open the doors to abuse).
Don’t fall for that trap: it’s not you. And it’s not your partner either, in a way. It’s simply that you are wired in a way that makes you two uncompatible.
And sure, brain wiring does change and you can change it… But that’s not to say that it’s easy or even likely.
Don’t Confuse The Avoidant for An as*hole
Last but not least.
The anxious avoidant attachment is a common relationship. And it’s what some people mistake for “being in a relationship with an ass*ole”.
But while the two sometimes can overlap, such as you can have an avoidant who is also an as*hole, an avoidant is not necessaraily and as*hole (and vice versa).
Read more here:
If I had to pick a partner for an anxious woman, I’d actually pick an ass*ole for her over an avoidant.
This article showed you how a relationship between an avoidant and an anxious look like.
As a recovering avoidant myself, I know this dynamic all too well and I can guarantee you it’s not a very good relationship for the anxious partner.