My name is Kathy and I’m an Avoidant-Attachment.
Recently I was asked to write a poem on the theme: A Brief History Of Belonging.
I’m always up for a challenging prompt, but this one I particularly struggled with. Obviously, the prompt was open to interpretation and could have been steered in a myriad of different directions, except, I kept getting stuck on my own history of belonging — or more to the point, lack thereof.
Belonging, to me, is a warm word—one I associate with connection and bonding and nurturing and being grounded in love. It is a word I have grieved as long as I can recall—a word I have wanted to own for myself but one which I did not experience in an upbringing rooted in dysfunction.
As I thought more about the prompt, I considered the foundation of belonging, which led me to attachment theory — the theory that humans are born with a need to form a close emotional bond with a caregiver. How the caregiver responds to the infant’s need for emotional connection in their formative years will determine their attachment style later in life.
In other words, those of us who formed no emotional connection with a caregiver as children are going to have a f*cking hard time forming emotional connections in our relationships as adults.
According to psychology, there are four main categories of attachment styles: secure, anxious, fearful, and avoidant.
Secure attachments are more likely to have stable and harmonious relationships, anxious attachments are likely to be worried and preoccupied about their relationships, avoidant attachments are likely to need a lot of space and independence, while fearful attachments are a combination of anxious and avoidants — insecure in relationships but also able to distance themselves easily if they feel threatened or uncertain.
It makes sense that I’m an Avoidant-Attachment. Whatever close emotional bonds are supposed to happen in those early years of life did not happen for me. I learned quickly to not have needs, not have emotions, to not trust or depend on anyone but myself. And though a significant amount of un-learning of these things has occurred (thanks to an even more significant amount of therapy), I have come to accept I will likely always carry some characteristics of an Avoidant-Attachment.
As the attachment style cast in the most negative light, it’s not an easy one to own. We are the commitment phobes. The ice queens. The ones who play it cool. The treat-em-mean-and-keep-em-keen’ers. Yet most people don’t realise Avoidant-Attachments desire love, affection, and relationship as much as anybody. We actually make fantastic partners, if we have a partner who is willing to understand, honour, and respect our needs and meet us where we’re at.
If you are struggling in relationship with this attachment style, here’s a list of things that may help you better understand and love the Avoidant-Attachment in your life:
1. First and foremost, Avoidant-Attachments need copious amounts of space and time alone.
Give them the space you think they need, and then give them some more. They are highly sensitive to feeling smothered in relationships, and space and time to decompress is essential to their personal well-being and the well-being of your relationship. It isn’t that they don’t enjoy spending time in your company, it’s just that they’ll always need and prefer their own. The less personally you can take this, the better.
2. Go slow when pursuing an Avoidant-Attachment.
Grand gestures of love will send them running, as will any underlying pressure and expectation. They do not respond well to these things and are a flight risk in relationships that demand more from them than they are capable or ready to give. Allow them space to move at their own pace. Your willingness to be patient and without demand in the short-term will render success in the long-term.
3. Avoidant-Attachments may seem somewhat aloof and standoffish.
They will allow you to be around them, but not close to them—at least not until they feel safe enough to let you in. Even then, you may always find yourself kept at arm’s length, with trust being difficult for these attachment types. However, occasionally you will accomplish the rare feat of earning the trust of an Avoidant-Attachment in which case you may just wind up living happily ever after. Bless.
4. They are independent and self-sufficient, relying on nobody but themselves.
Nothing will change this about them.
If you are someone who needs to be needed, these attachment types aren’t for you. However, if you are someone who appreciates independence in a partner, there’s a high chance you’ll find your soul mate among these I-Can-Do-It-Myself’ers.
5. Conflict isn’t their strong point.
They prefer to remain quiet, internalising their thoughts and resolving things themselves, which can be an issue when open communication is needed. The best thing you can do when conflict arises is to not demand communication on the matter, but give your Avoidant-Attachment space to gather and make sense of their thoughts and feelings.
They will approach you when they feel ready. This may be difficult if you are someone who requires immediate resolution, but it’s imperative these attachment types feel safe enough to handle both yours and their own emotions before they can address any conflict.
6. They can be reserved when it comes to sharing their emotions or allowing themselves to feel vulnerable in any way.
Pushing them to share what they are thinking and feeling on your time will only shut them down further. Meet them where they’re at and hold space for them to just be and I promise in time they will find ways to open themselves to you in the safety of the space you offer.
7. Their emotional well-being was not nurtured as a child, and in turn they will struggle to know how to nurture yours.
While this may come across as them not caring, nothing could be further from the truth. They may not know the right thing to say or how to say it, but they will always be found looking for other ways to care for you; they’ll bring you coffee, cook your favourite meal, buy a thoughtful gift, surprise you with a flash mob, and so on. Words can be hard for them, but they compensate well with deed.
8. Be mindful of pushing too close into their uninvited space, as Avoidant-Attachments can be hypersensitive to their partners being needy, even though this may not be the case.
Don’t always be the first to message or call or turn up unannounced in the afternoon, even though you just spent the morning together. As Pink once said, if you give me some room, there will be room enough for two.
9. Avoidant-Attachments will shut down the second they feel pressured, threatened, or unsafe.
They have the ability to simply turn off the switch and walk away at any given moment and not look back. You need to understand they aren’t cold-hearted, but this extreme level of detachment is a survival skill they still carry from an upbringing where emotions were not deemed safe or trustworthy. Never back them into a corner. I assure you—you will lose every time.
10. It may appear as though Avoidant-Attachments are strong, confident and in control, but the truth is they are the children who were forced to learn to survive on their own.
They are the ones who detached from their caregivers because they learned from an early age that to need or depend on others for love, safety, and security was futile.
Their independence is little more than self-preservation—their guardedness a protective shield they long to surrender yet have carried so long they no longer know how to put it down. At their core, they are merely wounded and vulnerable children longing to be seen, loved, and understood. It pays well to remember this.
The key to being in a relationship with an Avoidant-Attachment is understanding their attachment style — remembering we all have different needs and priorities that are best viewed as neither good nor bad, but simply acknowledged and accepted as part of who we are.
We cannot expect our partner to be the same as us, or hope to change them in a way which we feel serves us better.
The best relationships we will ever have are the ones where we seek to understand, accept, and love our partner for who they are, knowing we are loved with nothing less in return.