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Dismissive Avoidant Attachment Style: What You Need to Know

by | Feb 5, 2021 | ATTACHMENT, RELATIONSHIPS, TRAUMA

A couple navigates one partner's dismissive avoidant attachment style.

Once you find out about different attachment styles (secure, preoccupied, fearful avoidant, dismissive) it can feel like you’ve won the lottery. Finally, there’s an explanation for the different ‘vibes’ you’ve been getting, especially if those vibes have been confusing, as is often the case with a Dismissive Avoidant Attachment Style.

Instead of slogging through the dating world, trying to figure out what’s going on with a partner’s texts or calls, you have information that helps you.

As you form close relationships, this can be a huge help toward finding a healthy relationship.

If you’re struggling with someone, though, consider this. You might be interacting with someone who has a dismissive avoidant attachment style.

What Is A Dismissive Avoidant Attachment Style?

As we delve into romantic relationships as adults, we crave intimacy, structure, and positive feedback. That can seem harder to find than it should be, though!

To develop emotional closeness and form relationships, though, you need to understand them. That’s quite challenging if you’re encountering a person with a dismissive avoidant attachment.

When you learn about adult attachment, prioritizing your mental health is key. This can be hard if you have an avoidant attachment style. There are usually five commonly understood types of attachment.

These are secure and insecure (preoccupied, fearful avoidance, dismissive avoidant and disorganized). Both secure and insecure attachment styles result from how people were raised as young children. Attachment styles generally crystalize between ages 18-36 months. Early caregiving experiences set the stage for adult attachment.

Attachment theory suggests that displaying the following symptoms might peg you as a dismissive avoidant person.

For instance, avoidant individuals may come across as emotionally distant. They often go in phases. For a while, the relationship may blossom. Then, they pull away and it can feel like they were never close to you at all.

They may also shy away when you open up to them. Feeling close can feel like a danger zone to them, so they avoid it.

The only thing they tend to like less than others being vulnerable is being vulnerable themselves. It can make them feel exposed, which leads to a vicious cycle of sabotaging relationships.

Often, the person in question sees themselves as a lone ranger of sorts. They don’t need anyone. No one needs them. They can drift in and out of everyone’s lives without causing any sort of emotional havoc, and they like that lack of accountability or obligation.

It’s important to note that dismissive avoidant attachment styles can lead to difficulties in relationships. However, they do not automatically indicate the presence of a personality disorder. Often, introspection and some therapeutic work or self-development can change these patterns lead to secure functioning, healthy relationships.

What’s the end goal? An earned secure attachment style!

What Causes It?

Many factors define how we react to love and vulnerability as adults. For most of us, the answers stem from how we were raised as children.

An anxious attachment is formed from cues children take from their parents. These children can’t rely on their parents for emotional support or affection.

Often, these children are quite independent. They’ve learned that their parents can’t be trusted to fulfill their needs, so they turn inward.

Signs include parents discouraging crying, neglect, being emotionally unresponsive, and ignoring their child’s emotions. These behaviors can turn into a pattern of a child receiving negative feedback.

Since parents are the bedrock that a child starts to see the world from, these behaviors start to establish perceived truths about the safety of relationships.

This teaches the child what to accept as normal and what to treat as a red flag. The brain will establish a framework of what constitutes a threat.

As a child matures, this framework gives their brain a blueprint to navigate social situations.

What Does a Dismissive Avoidant Attachment Style Look Like?

Picture it this way. A child with emotional needs starts to cry. Ignored by their parent repeatedly, they learn to console themselves. After this happens repeatedly, the child ceases to cry because they know no one will respond.

This easily translates to dismissive avoidant adult behavior. You’ve just met a great partner, and can see yourself moving in with them. But you’re receiving positive feedback when you share emotions—if you do at all.

This behavior is foreign to you. So, your subconscious throws up red flags. This is dangerous territory. After all, the truth ingrained in your subconscious is that you can’t rely on anyone to support your emotional needs.

Independence is the only safe, reliable route. So you throw up your guard again and put on the brakes.

Your partner is understandably confused. Did they do something wrong? What happened? Why are you behaving in an erratic hot-cold pattern?

Often, the answer lies in the attachment style you developed as a child.

Another sign of a dismissive avoidant attachment style is a lack of ability to communicate. Your partner may feel frozen out of your emotional life. You internalize emotions without ever sharing them.

This can lead to issues like anger being bottled up inside. This can lead to the future detriment of your relationship.

Avoid Armchair Diagnosing

If all this is starting to ring true, or if it sounds familiar for a partner, it’s quite possible they have a dismissive avoidant attachment style.

Make sure that you approach it properly, however. If you have concerns about your attachment style or recurring patterns that cause problems in your love life, it’s time to seek professional help.

Going to therapy, or suggesting that your partner goes to couples’ therapy with you, is the best way to get a professional to weigh in. A couples therapist trained the PACT therapy model, can help both partners understand their attachment wounds and needs, and create a way to strengthen a secure functioning bond.

In most cases, your childhood programmed you with a certain attachment style. Your environment and relationship with your parents taught you what to expect. It trained your subconscious to identify normal, even if what you experienced wasn’t normal at all.

Just because your brain sets a certain blueprint doesn’t mean you are stuck for life, though! Like any other issue, you can put the work in and change those patterns.

Working to Heal Yourself

Putting in the work to reprogram your brain toward healthy patterns is hard. But it can help save your partnership. Or, if you’re currently single, it can help prevent vicious patterns from destroying future relationships.

Making sure that your past doesn’t impact your future is one of the greatest gifts you can give to yourself. How can you get started with gathering some information to present to your therapist?

Start with our attachment style quiz! It can help confirm some of your suspicions. Check it out here!

Modern Intimacy is a group therapy practice, founded by renowned Psychologist and Sex Therapist, Dr. Kate Balestrieri. This inclusive blog is designed to provide a wealth of information and resources for mental health, relationships, and sexuality. Subscribe today to get the latest information from our expert contributors from all around the world.

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Author Bio

Dr. Kate Balestrieri is a Licensed Psychologist, Certified Sex Therapist, Certified Sex Addiction Therapist, and PACT II trained Couples Therapist. She is the Founder of Modern Intimacy. Follow her on IG @drkatebalestrieri and @themodernintimacy.

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