Anxious avoidant attachment puts together in a relationship the two most antithetic of the attachment styles.
This post will provide you with deep knowledge and great understanding to get the best relationship you can. But it requires you first understand what are the attachment styles and, possibly, that you take the quiz if you’re still not sure about your attachment style.
With that cleared, let’s start.
- 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
- When Should You Break Up?
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 anxious partner reacts the opposite way. They get easily overloaded with too much intimacy and need to regain their space and autonomy. When their partner gets too close, or stay close for too long, they need to pull away.
3. Arguments Ensue
When the avoidant partner stays away, the anxious partner starts arguments to get the attention they are lacking.
Arguments are often fronts that don’t address the real issue: the lack of intimacy. The anxious is often afraid of asking for intimacy because they’re concerned their partner doesn’t feel the same way.
And the avoidant doesn’t want to solve the issue because they want their own space. And keeping the fight open means enjoying more time on their own.
Seen an 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 though the anxious regrets what they said and focus on the positives on their partner. Now they want to get mend things and get close again. But avoidants react differently: after an argument they turn off their attachment system and only remember the negatives.
Which makes a reconciliation not always straightforward.
Finally the reconciliation happens. But it usually doesn’t last long. And the cycle soon begins again.
Notice looking at the overall cycle that the unhappy moments fair outweigh the positive ones.
Why Anxious & Avoidant End Up Together
If the two 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. Number games
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.
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 2 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 anxious, but plenty of relationships where the role inverts.
Here’s an example:
#3. La Dolce Vita
And this is another typical fight-reconciliation loop of the anxious avoidant attachment.
When Should You Break Up?
If the anxious needs for intimacy are not too big and the avoidant need for independence are not extreme, the relationship can hum along. But that’s not always the case.
In some anxious avoidant relationships the avoidant partner will become perennially annoyed with the anxious partner. 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 spouse.
When that’s the case, it’s time to break up. Which is not always easy of course, and we’ll talk about it soon.
Also check: how to decide when it’s time to breakup.
The anxious avoidant attachment is a common relationship. And it’s what some mistake for “being in a relationship with an ass*ole”. But while sometimes the two can overlap, an avoidant isn’t necessarily an ass*ole.
If I had to pick a partner for an anxious woman, I’d actually pick an ass*ole for her over an avoidant.
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.