The Avoidant Attachment Style Explained

It's natural for us to gravitate towards others to seek support, connection, and comfort. The need for loved ones is one of the inherent life truths that became the most apparent at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it continues to be a driving force for many of us. In ancient times, we needed others to stay alive. There was a promise of protection, procreation, and partnership if humans found another with whom they could share their life. Although we need each other, relationships are as messy and imperfect as the people who make them up, and much of this can be explained through our attachment styles.

In the 1950s, two psychoanalysts famously dove deep into the attachment styles of adults. According to Simple Psychology, John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth theorized that children are pre-disposed to forming attachments with others to increase the chances of their own survival, and problems with the attachment between children and their primary caregiver could lead to long-term issues, which manifest into specific attachment styles. The styles are divided into four groups: avoidant, anxious, fearful, and secure, per The Attachment Project. Perhaps the most complex attachment style is the avoidant attachment style, and unpacking it can be difficult.

What is avoidant attachment

While more than half of adults identify with the secure attachment style, which is considered healthy, about 25% of the population is living with avoidant attachment, per Sage House Therapy.  According to Mark Manson, people with this attachment style are very independent, self-directed, and quite uncomfortable with most intimacy. Since attachment styles are said to have started in childhood, a child with this type of attachment style will show no outward need for approval or love. However, inside they are anxious and wanting to be shown affection (via MedicalNewsToday). These children become adults who desire a healthy relationship, but struggle to show this desire to their partners.

The Attachment Project maintains that avoidant attachment types are not all full of conflict. Someone who has this style is often incredibly productive at work and responds quickly to issues that need to be solved. They identify problems and soften their impact. They are also less likely to need the approval of their peers, making them efficient and confident co-workers. However, if you are in a relationship with someone who has a dismissive or avoidant attachment style, it can be quite lonely. Psych Central recommends respecting the differences that come with your union and to practice patience as your partner works to feel more secure in the relationship. By doing this, a partner can release control and help their significant other work through behaviors that were anchored in childhood.

What to do if this is your attachment style

If you are the person experiencing an anxious-avoidant or dismissive-avoidant attachment style, there are things you can do to work through these challenges. Psych Alive recommends taking time to understand your childhood story. Understanding the roots of your attachment style, will help you move forward and work on the obstacles it has caused. Women's Health discusses the benefits of therapy. A professional therapist will be able to give you insight on the ways you can turn what you learned when you were very young into a benefit in your current relationship.

Attachment style quizzes, like the well-known test operated by The Attachment Project, may allow us to get to know ourselves and begin dealing with deeply ingrained habits. Some quiz-takers may be shocked by how spot-on the characteristics of each style are, while others find it hard to imagine how an online quiz can improve their current relationships. No matter what, avoidant attachment types are strong, independent individuals who bring great confidence and excellence to our world once they learn to navigate their own characteristics.