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7 signs you have an avoidant attachment style - and what this means for your relationships.

So you're in a relationship. Fun! Exciting! What a time! However. There's one tiny, little, niggly thing in the back of your head - you kind of... miss being single? You know, having freedom. Doing your own thing. Do you really want this whole co-dependency situation? Cause your partner IS pretty needy. Come to think of it, do you even really LIKE your partner??

SO MANY QUESTIONS.

But don't worry - we get it. Relationships can be fickle. And if you're anything like us, you're often left wondering why you are the way you are when it comes to dating.

Watch: "I was the kid that came second" - Kyle Sandilands on relationships and kids. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia

But you know what? Everyone is different. However, figuring out your attachment style and finding out the difference between them can actually do a helluva lotta of good when it comes to how do we express and receive love. 

Because ICYMI, there's a thing called 'attachment theory' that suggests that we behave in three distinct ways when it comes to relationships; secure, avoidant or anxious.

While 60 per cent of us have a secure attachment, 20 per cent are anxious and 20 per cent are avoidant.

And from the sounds of things... you may slot into the latter end of things, friend - the dismissing or 'avoidant' style.

But don't take out word for it. We're not experts.

That's why we asked couples psychologist Lissy Abrahams for the most common signs you have an avoidant attachment style - and what this means for your relationships.

What is an avoidant attachment style?

According to Abrahams, adults with dismissing attachment styles would have had an insecure-avoidant attachment style as children. And this can have a profound effect on your future relationships. 

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Cool! So, what does that mean?

Well, if you grew up with a parent or caregiver who was either detached or emotionally unavailable, basically you're more likely to separate yourself emotionally from your partner - which isn't ideal.

"These children learnt through their many interactions with parents that when they were fearful, crying or distressed that they were on their own," said Abrahams.

"These parents were not able to comfort and soothe them, so the children learnt to deactivate their attempts to seek comfort and in doing so they’d appear highly self-reliant." 

Interesting!

"On the outside, these children appear ‘fine’, but they have internalised and hidden their anxiety and hyperarousal. Avoidance and deactivating reliance on their parents are their adaptive strategies for dealing with anxiety and distress."  

While it might sound kinda horrible, Abrahams stresses that it’s important not to confuse attachment styles with a parent’s love. "Parents can love their child very much yet be unable to meet their needs."

Common signs you have avoidant attachment style.

So, how do you know if this is you? What are some red flags?

Abrahams explains, "The avoidant infant attachment works like a template that is typically carried throughout life. In an adult, this is called dismissing adult attachment."

"These adults over-value independence and rejected, dismissed, or minimised the importance of needs and the relevance of past childhood experiences with parents."

"They are dismissing as they dismiss needs in themselves – the one’s they turned off as children – and they dismiss them with their partner."

It might sound confusing, but basically, it means you tend to separate the emotional needs of your partner - because yours were ignored as a child.

According to Abrahams, characteristics of those with dismissing attachment include: 

1. Communicating in an intellectual and controlled manner 

2. Being emotionally distant and rejecting others’ emotions 

3. Investing little emotion in social or romantic relationships 

4. Showing a narrow or limited emotional range

5. Being unable or unwilling to share thoughts and feelings with others 

6. Being unable to depend on others or unable to allow a partner to depend on them 

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7. Preferring independence and autonomy over-relying on others.

Sound familiar?

How an avoidant attachment style influences your relationships.

When it comes to relationships, someone who has an avoidant attachment style is usually more focused on being independent and autonomous when they're dating someone.

Abrahams said those with avoidant attachment styles might also commonly feel trapped when they're in a relationship and usually start pulling away when things are on the up. Eek.

"If a partner has a dismissive adult attachment style, when they feel fear, upset, anxiety, or distress they’re likely to disconnect from their partner and do their own thing, like working, going on the computer, cleaning, or exercising," she said. 

"Their calm exterior hides their real state just like in childhood when they looked highly self-reliant."

People with this attachment style are protective of their freedom and can commonly create a mental distance between themselves and their partner if they are feeling controlled.

"I visualise partners with a dismissive attachment style as retreating to a fortress built for one and quickly pulling up the drawbridge," explains Abrahams. 

"They detach from their partner and become solo. It’s not a peaceful state and sometimes they’re angry that they are so alone. Just because they retreat to the fortress and look ‘fine’, they’re not."

According to Abrahams, there are several common ways the avoidant attachment style manifests itself in relationships.

  • You may appear emotionally undemanding or 'held together' when people meet you.

  • You often find neediness in a partner unattractive and repellent.  

  • If your partner becomes needy of you, you tend to withdraw from them. 

  • You can look like you don’t care if your partner is upset.  

  • You often don’t raise issues when upset with your partner.  

  • You have a low tolerance for distress.  

  • You can become quickly angry.  

  • You may also often reject your partner’s attempts to reconnect after a fight, as you're not used to people doing this. It’s not in your relational template.  

  • You don’t know how to reconcile following an argument or how to repair the connection. 

  • You often don’t apologise. 

  • You often don’t know how to take ownership of their inappropriate words or behaviour with their partner. 

  • You are more likely to be dragged into couples therapy by a frustrated or distressed partner.  

  • You have no desire to reflect on childhood relationships and shun its relevance in the relationship difficulties or conflict. This is really excruciating for you as you had to turn off needs when young.  

Above all, Abrahams stresses how important it is to remember that it’s not your fault. "This was set by 12 to 18 months of age."

Whether it's you or your partner who have an avoidant attachment style, keep in mind that no one wants to relate like this in a relationship - however, some people don’t have another strategy to deal with their sadness, anxiety, or distress. 

Abrahams said those with a dismissing attachment style often take time to open up with people - so try to be empathetic.

If you're looking for more tips for improving couple communication, check out Lissy Abraham's e-book here

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Feature image: Getty