Dating as a Fearful-Avoidant
I can feel my heart skip; every time that I slip…
I wanna run away
If you have this attachment style, you tend to focus most of your energy on romantic relationships: chasing, fixing, or avoiding them. This is a result of your past teaching you that meaningful relationships involve pain and intensity. As a result, your idea of romance tends more towards intense highs and lows: both emotional and physical.
Like all the insecure styles, the hope behind these highs and lows is to find a partner who really understands you in a way that no-one else can. When you have difficulty being vulnerable, it’s impossible to be fully authentic. Without being able to be authentic, you rely on searching for a partner who gets your needs without you communicating them. Of course, what you actually end up with is a partner similar to the caregivers who couldn’t meet your needs in the first place.
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Fearful-Avoidants are easily polarized by their partner’s attachment style into anxiety or avoidance. Each experience is a different type of wound, and FAs tend to cycle between insecure relationships. Being overwhelmed by an anxious partner will push them to look for an avoidant partner, while an unavailable partner will have them longing for the sense of surety that an anxious partner can provide.
At the furthest ends of avoidance, the FA may try to pour the same level of energy into non-romantic relationships with less risk of rejection: their friends, children, mentors, or even fictional/anime characters.
Regardless of what dominant style they get polarized into, in every relationship they will show both insecure traits. Anxious behavior happens when they’re unsure of their position in the relationship, while avoidance comes out when things seem secure enough to make commitment and vulnerability the next required step.
Each individual will have a different amount in each direction that they can tolerate, depending on their childhood attachment style and life experiences.
If you’re a FA who wants real relationships, there are two realizations that you need to accept.
The first barrier is accepting that your experience of passion is not the same as the love you truly want.
That overwhelming high, tinged with chaos and uncertainty? It’s just your attachment system getting activated. Real romantic love is about communication, understanding and support.1Johnson, S. (2013). Love sense: The revolutionary new science of romantic relationships. Little, Brown Spark.
The second is that when you do find that constant comfort and support, your instincts will try to tell you that it can’t be trusted. That this person, this moment is too good to be true. Your brain will throw out all kinds of reasons why you should pull away, because this level of vulnerability is terrifying and new.
And If you do pull away, you make your fears come true.
Dating A Fearful-Avoidant
(I) wanna believe that you don’t have a bad bone in your body,
but the bruises on your ego make you go wild…
If your partner is FA, be pretty sure you have a secure/earned-secure attachment or it will be extremely difficult. As is, be aware that if they are not consciously working on their issues, forming a romantic attachment with them is almost guaranteed to traumatize you. If they outright refuse to go to therapy or rationalize reasons that they don’t need it, give serious consideration to moving on before attachment makes it too difficult.
If you’re still willing to go ahead:
- Consistently give them a little more affection than they give you.
Too much will trigger their avoidance, but a little more will encourage them to learn how to express more.
- Give positive reinforcement when they initiate warmth, and communicate what it means to you.
A lack of communication about this will trigger their anxiety.
- Be very clear about expectations and boundaries regarding relationships & sex up front.
Boundaries are confusing for FAs, they have to consciously agree or they will recoil hard when they come up in the moment.
- Accept that they will suddenly switch between intimacy desires.
and that it’s an attachment trigger – not a problem with the relationship. FAs tend to not know what they want in the moment, only what they don’t want.
Of course, the biggest thing you can do for the relationship is encourage them to read about attachment theory and get therapy.
The level of trauma that results in FA is not something that gets fixed through a relationship alone.
However, a loving, boundaried, responsive and predictable relationship is the exact foundation they need to work on themselves.