Staring out across the sea, she watched in wonder as seagulls soared and dove on hypnotic currents. Yet no matter how often she returned to the same shore, witnessing the same captivating display of freedom, she never seemed to feel connected. For so long she had yearned for companionship, only to retreat back into her shell when it presented itself - as if it wasn’t even real. For someone with a dismissive-avoidant attachment style, that fear can be real.
Dismissive-avoidant attachment styles are marked by a reluctance to engage in close relationships. This pattern is often established in early childhood, when a baby or child is left feeling disregarded, ignored, and unacknowledged. That experience isn’t easily forgotten and it manifests itself as a heightened sense of caution and reluctance to get close to others during adulthood. For example, romantic partners might find it difficult to “break through” an emotionally distant partner’s walls. They may sense a part of them that's aloof, or unaffectionate and unable to commit – and far from the responsive partner they need.
So how can a partner protect their heart, sanity and relationship when their partner has a dismissive-avoidant attachment style? The key is to start by focusing on oneself. Firstly, set realistic expectations. Be mindful not to assume your partner will meet all your emotional needs. Keeping this in mind can help you learn to find inner security and remain grounded within yourself and your relationship. Secondly, as much as possible, don’t take behavior personally and avoid clinging. Dismissive-avoidant people need space and being too clingy can overwhelm them causing them to withdraw even further.
If the relationship has been tumultuous, due to your partner's dismissive-avoidant nature, it’s important to talk openly about any needs and boundaries you have. This doesn’t necessarily mean starting a big argument or ultimatum; rather, use your words and body language to express your needs in a healthy way. Speak without judgment, listen without defensiveness, and come up with solutions that make sense for both of you. Declare your needs and refrain from pushing, nagging or shaming in order to encourage your partner to further open up to you.
In addition, aim to build a secure attachments style. Find ways to nurture feelings of connection between the two of you, and try to match the energetic tension with kindness and compassion. Show trust, engage in shared activities and explore a tradition of hearty togetherness. The goal is for you to foster an intimate connection and a meaningful connection with one another.
Meeting your partner’s love needs, like affection and safety, as well as your own, is very important. Resist taking actions that promulgate insecurity and loneliness because of the lack of reciprocity. If your partner begins to pull away, don’t take it personally or out of hurt and ego. Understand that they may feel overwhelmed by the closeness and need some space, which you should honor and provide.
Furthermore, in order to cope with a dismissive-avoidant partner, search and reflect upon the behavior patterns that impede your relationship. Analyzing these patterns may provide insight into what triggers abandonment fear and intimacy anxiety, so that you can learn to manage and overcome it. Once you have recovered such a sense, you won’t be attacking your partner anymore, while they can express their vulnerabilities without feeling rejected.
In order to cope with a dismissive-avoidant partner, work on building secure attachment skills in your own life. Self-care, self-acceptance and self-growth are integral components of this process too. Take care of your physical, mental and emotional health. Nurture in yourself strong, respectful and equal relationships, practice genuine self-expression and assertive communication. These actions create an environment where both you and your partner can begin to form a sense of closeness, security and resilience.
Having a dismissive-avoidant partner can be both an exciting and a daunting experience. While it isn’t easy, hold onto the hope that a secure attachment can be created and will empower both you and your partner to develop healthier relationships going forward.
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