If you’ve ever wondered why you always go for the same kind of person and do the same things in relationships, it might have something to do with your attachment style.
Attachment styles are a psychological theory that describes how people feel and act in relationships. Originally developed to examine children’s relationships with their parents, its scope was extended to describe attachment patterns in romantic relationships.
There are four types of attachment. Secure attachment is capable of emotionally healthy relationships, while people with one of the three insecure styles experience issues.
We’ll focus on the dismissive attachment style and examine dismissive-avoidant traits and their effect on relationships.
What Are Dismissive-Avoidant Traits?
Avoidant individuals fear intimacy and deal with it in a way that can be summed up in one sentence: “I don’t need anyone.” In reality, they’re afraid of getting hurt.
They claim they consider emotions a weakness and value independence, but, in fact, it’s a coping mechanism developed as a response to their low self-worth.
There are a number of dismissive-avoidant traits that are all based on these beliefs.
They feel like they’re able to provide for their own needs, and, therefore, they don’t need anyone to take care of them. During hard times, they withdraw and deal with issues on their own. They’re unaware that they fear that their loved ones won’t care.
They prefer to act on their own without other people’s input and do what they choose. They focus on their own needs. Because of their fear of failure, they view being dependent as a weakness. They sabotage their relationships to maintain their independence.
• Intimacy issues.
They’re emotionally distant and don’t want to connect with others. They avoid showing vulnerability and don’t seek affection. They prefer casual relationships and don’t pay attention to their partner’s needs. They don’t know how to overcome their fear of intimacy, so they manage it by avoiding it.
They withdraw when others try to get close. If their partner shows them affection, they feel like the other person is needy. When someone gets close to them, and they feel like attachment is possible, they pull away as they still fear rejection.
• Avoiding emotions.
They sometimes experience very deep emotions, making them uncomfortable, so they tend to hide them. They prefer to mope alone than complain about their problems. Other people’s feelings make them uneasy.
• Indifference to relationships.
Avoidant individuals don’t look for close emotional relationships. They’re attracted to people who are unavailable in some way. They dislike it when romantic relationships are important in their lives and tend to prioritize anything else.
• Fear of commitment.
An avoidant person can seem like they don’t want to commit, but in reality, commitment presents such a big responsibility that they feel overwhelmed. They’re unaware of the emotional need for attachment, and when they feel it, they either deny it or interpret it as something else.
• Dislike of intimate relationships.
In a relationship, they don’t appreciate their partners because they don’t believe that a successful relationship is possible. They look for any flaws in their partner as an excuse to break up when they start getting close.
When they’re faced with a triggering issue, they find it almost impossible to talk about their feelings. They pull away or ignore unpleasant topics.
• Suppressing negative memories.
Avoidant individuals don’t like remembering the past because they’re afraid of what they’re going to find. They want to keep safe behind the wall of self-sufficiency they built to protect themselves.
What Is Attachment Theory?
Before we look in more detail into dismissive-avoidant traits, let’s see what attachment styles are about in the first place.
Attachment theory is a psychological theory regarding human relationships. It was developed by psychiatrist John Bowlby to examine the attachment of infants to their caregivers.
Young children who feel that adults who take care of them are available if they need them interact with others freely. Children who don’t feel like they can rely on their parents make every effort to get their attention.
Developmental psychologist Mary Ainsworth observed the behavior of young children when separated from their caregivers and classified it into different attachment patterns: secure, avoidant, and anxious attachment style, further categorized later on.
Currently, the following is the accepted classification of attachment patterns:
• SECURE ATTACHMENT. Children become securely attached if they develop a close relationship with a caregiver. They have confidence that they will meet their needs and respond to the attachment behaviors they exhibit.
• ANXIOUS-AMBIVALENT ATTACHMENT. This relational pattern develops when a child is uncertain whether their caregiver will respond to their needs. They react with either anger or passivity as a way to influence the interaction.
• ANXIOUS-AVOIDANT/DISMISSIVE-AVOIDANT ATTACHMENT. The child avoids or ignores their caregiver but is, in fact, disguising their distress. Dismissive attachment style develops when a child consistently experiences rejection, and their caregivers fail to meet their needs.
• DISORGANIZED/DISORIENTED ATTACHMENT. Parents who are simultaneously a source of fear and comfort confuse the child, and disorganized attachment develops. Children don’t show any specific attachment behavior but a combination of behaviors.
Adult Attachment Styles
Cindy Hazan and Phillip Shaver extended the research to adult romantic relationships and concluded that adults also have differences in relationships. The attachment to romantic partners is exhibited as one of the four adult attachment styles.
Adults who develop the secure type of attachment tend to have a healthier attitude towards relationships than those with one of the insecure attachment styles.
Attachment styles affect both a person’s choice of partner and their behavior when they’re in a relationship.
People with insecure attachment styles tend to pick partners whose attachment style fits their beliefs about relationships, and when in a relationship, they look for evidence that reinforces those beliefs.
Generally, it’s been observed that people who believe that romantic love is lasting are usually securely attached, while other styles seem to have doubts.
1. Secure attachment style
People with a secure attachment style deal with their feelings appropriately. They’re comfortable expressing them and easily form connections with partners. They’re able to express their needs and form healthy relationships.
Adults with anxious-preoccupied attachment style have low self-esteem and seek validation in relationships. They worry that they’re not good enough for their partners and experience fear of abandonment. They can become clingy and dependent.
A dismissive-avoidant attachment style in adults makes them appear emotionally self-sufficient. They mask low self-esteem with a positive view of themselves. They avoid emotional intimacy and closeness and don’t want to depend on others.
People with the fearful-avoidant attachment style are unstable in their relationships with others. They want intimacy but have trouble developing strong emotional attachments out of fear of getting hurt.
What Are The Roots Of The Dismissive-Avoidant Attachment Style?
On the surface, avoidant adults appear to be independent and have high self-esteem. They have difficulty forming close emotional relationships and are critical of their partners. Underneath, there is fear.
One of the underlying causes of dismissive-avoidant attachment style is having been raised by unreliable parents who taught them not to rely on anyone and not to show their feelings.
Attachment patterns developed in early childhood affect adult relationships, but before you blame it all on your parents, it’s important to note that there’s more to it.
Undependable caregivers are only one of the possible causes of dismissive-avoidant style. Other experiences besides the relationship with parents as a young child can have an influence on adult attachment styles.
For instance, a failed relationship early in life could be one of the reasons an avoidant person doesn’t have faith in relationships. They felt hurt and betrayed, which caused insecurity and low self-esteem.
Behind all dismissive-avoidant traits, at the core of this attachment style is low self-esteem. The avoidant feels undeserving of love to such a great degree that they believe it’s impossible for them.
To cope with those feelings, the avoidant develops a fear of intimacy and excessive need for independence. Even when they enter a relationship, they don’t get attached.
Intimacy makes them feel trapped, so at any sign of attachment, they distance themselves from their partner by deliberately doing things that might hurt and detach them. They sabotage the relationship to avoid emotional closeness.
They are unaware that their avoidance of meaningful relationships is caused by their fear of intimacy.
What Are The Dismissive Avoidant Attachment Signs?
Signs of dismissive-avoidant attachment style can be seen in many aspects of a person’s life, not only in romantic relationships. If you suspect you or a loved one might be an avoidant individual, the following list might help you make sure.
1. They do everything on their own
Their extreme independence means they don’t need help in most situations. Their refusal to accept is less about confidence in their own abilities and more about a lack of trust in people, especially when it comes to emotional support.
2. They insist on freedom
They like to be left alone to make their own decisions and care for themselves because they don’t believe that anyone else will actually do it, even if they offer. For this reason, they focus on themselves and prioritize freedom over relationships.
3. They don’t trust other people
They look down on people who show their emotions because they believe it’s a weakness. They don’t rely on other people and don’t allow anyone to rely on them. Because of their fear that closeness will lead to them getting hurt, they don’t trust another person not to do it.
4. They avoid talking about emotional matters
They prefer small talk to meaningful conversations because it’s safer. They fear the possibility of difficult questions or unsolicited advice. Even if they wanted to, they’re unable to find the language to talk about how they feel. For instance, if they miss someone, they won’t talk about that person.
5. They’re always busy
The reason they are always busy is because they make themselves busy. They don’t know how to deal with their feelings, so they invent situations they can use as excuses to avoid their partner. This is especially the case if they’re feeling particularly vulnerable and incapable of handling it.
6. They can’t take criticism
Because their inner critic is so loud, an avoidant individual is fragile when it comes to outside criticism. They get mad if they receive any kind of criticism and overreact because criticism is just confirmation of things they already believe deep down.
7. They don’t make friends easily
Someone who exhibits dismissive-avoidant traits has trouble forming all kinds of relationships, not only romantic ones. Friendship requires opening up and sharing yourself as well, and for them, this presents an equally great risk as connecting with a partner.
8. They don’t like physical proximity
In the same way they avoid emotional closeness, people with a dismissive-avoidant attachment style prefer not to be touched. It signifies closeness and makes them uncomfortable, so an avoidant person looks for any way to be separate from other people.
9. Their partner seems too attached
They consider their partner too clingy if they exhibit emotions or express their needs. Because they don’t allow themselves to do the same, they are judgmental and believe the smallest displays of emotions to be too much.
10. They’ve never been in love
Avoidant adults have a hard time trusting anyone because they fear being judged. They don’t show their feelings out of their fear of emotional commitment. Avoidance of vulnerability and connection and their lack of trust make falling in love almost impossible.
What Are The Differences Between A Dismissive Avoidant And A Narcissist?
While dismissive-avoidant attachment style is common in narcissists, they’re not the same thing.
Narcissism is a personality disorder marked by an exaggerated self-image and a lack of empathy. Narcissists tend to be arrogant, have a sense of grandiosity, and constantly seek admiration.
Someone with a dismissive-avoidant attachment style lives in fear of getting hurt. They avoid people to ultimately avoid rejection. Narcissists need admiration, and their fear is that they won’t get it.
Both have low self-esteem. Avoidant people feel inadequate, whereas narcissists are disappointed that they’re not the perfect person they imagine themselves to be.
How Can A Dismissive Avoidant Be Helped?
A person that exhibits dismissive-avoidant traits first of all needs to want help. The first step is therapy, and for it to work, the person who needs help has to be willing to go through it.
Therapy is hard even for people who are much more well-adjusted, and for someone who feels inadequate, avoids their feelings, and runs from talking about them, it can be very difficult. Nevertheless, an experienced therapist can help.
If there is a will to change and readiness to work on your mental health, it’s possible to consciously influence how you react when faced with your and other people’s feelings. You can learn to accept yourself as someone worthy of love.