Would you tell someone your attachment style during dating?
Yes, it's wise to do that. When you are getting to explore whether you'd be a good long term fit, it's better that your potential partner knows so you can see whether they are willing to work with you, to help you feel safe. The way they respond will reveal something about their attachment style too even if it isn't stated or verbally explored. You are likely to come out of the conversation with a clearer idea of if you could envision a thriving relationship!
What can avoidants do to be more open to closeness and making friends?
It might be useful to explore why you are afraid of closeness - e.g. are you afraid of being exposed, engulfed, manipulated controlled? Journalling where those fears might have come from (who did you feel controlled by before? E.g. a parent or an unhealthy relationship). Write down reminders of how you can approach the fear e.g. fear of being controlled eases when we are practiced at expressing our boundaries.
Fear of being exposed eases when we realise that we all experience vulnerability and that we don't have to be perfect to be loved. You deserve to feel seen, respected, supported, celebrated! Our parents'/ others' inability to support us wasn't about our worth - it was just a reflection of their emotional skills at that time. Discomfort eases over time as we experience safe connections - where verbal intimacy is positive rather than something that others shame us for. We can build our self esteem and remind ourselves that even if our body feels emotions like shame when we open up, that it doesn't mean there is anything wrong with us. Validate that making friends can bring up all kinds of feelings and that's so understandable, but it's worth it! After talking to a certain amount of people you will have a wonderful gift of people who can be there to support you and share joy with you! It's going to feel really great when you have connected with those people that get you, that love and accept the real you.
Learning the green flags of secure attachment can really help you to know who to practice trusting with. You can always take baby steps! You might want to start your friendship journeys in a more light-hearted way, with topics that dont feel as scary. Maybe you could talk about hobbies, favourite music, films etc or do an activity together? Finding a third party focus can help you to bond without bringing up difficult feelings.
It can be helpful to write down some templates in your phone drafts for what to say for relational challenges you've had before. E.g. if you know you have felt stressed and wanted to close down when you felt pressured to open up emotionally, you could save a template that says 'I can struggle to open up sometimes - it feels really vulnerable for me. I think I've reached my limit for now. I really appreciate that you want to know me better! I'll let you know when I'm ready to share a little more. Thank you for understanding.'
Then you can use these templates to help you communicate consciously when you are de/activated.
Getting intimate (emotionally) with yourself is also really helpful. Dismissive avoidants especially tend to not tune into their emotional world so they may experience negative emotions and not know why. When you get more used to examining your emotions, finding the wisdom within them and accepting yourself, it becomes easier to share your inner world with others. Journalling your emotions daily to help to get to understand yourself better can be really helpful, as well as having a therapeutic relationship (coach/healer/ therapist) that helps to reflect back how you are feeling. Creating a self love list - a list of your positive qualities can also be a great pick me up. (Make the qualities be about you on the inside, not just your achievements!)
Pain can block us from wanting to let others in, but you can reframe friendship as something positive and fun! You could create a list of ways you have appreciated friendships in the past - the value they have added to your life, happy memories or even the ways you can see that friendship in general is positive or has been for others.
Know that with more experience with safe people, your body will start to react differently to closeness and find it easier to relax!
Why is it difficult to find information on fearful avoidance?
Ooh I feel you! I think it's because fearful avoidant (disorganized) attachment is misunderstood. It's perceived to be a rare type (statistics usually say somewhere between 1-5 percent) but in my own experience I've found a lot of people have FA tendencies even when it's not their 'main attachment style'. Often (as would make sense statistically) it seems to be people who have not been fearfully avoidantly attached who are creating attachment resources - I've seen some descriptions of FA that felt very 'off' to me (as someone who has worked through fearful avoidance myself). Unless the person has been fearfully avoidantly attached or really got to know and understand someone with that style, they might underestimate the value of having specific resources rather than 'read both the anxious and avoidant sections' - there are certain unique traits that aren't covered by either anxious or dismissive avoidant resources. That's one reason I started sharing this information because there was so little about fearful avoidance out there that it delayed me understanding how deeply my attachment style impacted my experiences and I was piecing how to heal together for myself and my friends! (FAs often magnetise to each other platonically, it's like we can feel the shared outlooks and experience intuitively). Thank you for re-inspiring me to share more FA specific info!
What to do when an anxiously attached partner acts dismissive and it triggers my avoidance?
When an anxious partner acts dismissive there is some pain there going on for them that creates the protest behaviour, which is an indirect way of them asking to feel supported in some way. Inviting them to share the core issue can help, as well as expressing your needs for the kind of conversation you want to have (a conscious one).
"I've noticed that you seem bothered by something. Would you like to talk about it? I really want you to feel safe to talk to me. Honesty is really important to me and it can be difficult for me when you aren't able to share how you're feeling directly. When you (neutral description of their action) I felt ____ (emotion or sensation word e.g. I felt sad, I felt a tight feeling in my chest, I felt guilty - don't use thoughts disguised as feelings such as 'I felt you were being selfish') - it really helps me out when I'm able to understand what's going on for you so I can be there for you. Is there anything that I can do in order to help you feel safe and loved?"
Be gentle with the wording in any describing of your partner's actions and try to keep it neutral in description e.g. 'when you walked away from me' rather than 'when you were rude to me'. It's probably best not to use words such as 'dismissive' to the person in the height of their trigger as it can come across as criticism and trigger defensiveness. Put the focus on wanting to be there to love and support your partner ♥️ When they are not in the trigger, either another time or after they've expressed themselves fully and feel heard and loved, you can have a conversation about your own needs and feelings more effectively. If they are not able to hold a conscious conversation you can set a boundary e.g. 'It's really hard for me to be present right now - I'm feeling really vulnerable / overwhelmed - let's continue the conversation when we've both cooled down. I'm going to take a time out...'(say what kind e.g. walk around the block or going to bed and replying the next day). ' Notice using words to describe your own emotional experience - 'I' rather than using 'you' statements. Using 'we' statements about ways you would like the conversation to go e.g. 'I want us to be able to understand each other' rather than 'I want you to understand me' etc.).
Also understanding why your avoidance is being triggered is helpful. Identify the core fears e.g. fear of being controlled. It might be helpful to get to the core of where this fear came from - maybe a parent? You could journal around the theme and explore what memories come up and explore those. How can you create a coherent narrative of what happened then and rewrite any beliefs you might be carrying into adulthood? You might find the way your body is reacting was an appropriate reaction to then but you are actually safe not to need the same thoughts and coping mechanism now.Acceptance/ forgiveness for the person who created the original wound can shift the emotional pattern out of our body so we stop feeling the same level of reaction on the bodily level.
Talking to your partner when they are calm about what triggers your avoidance and how they can help you feel safe is also really helpful.
I reacted to a trigger. How do I apologise and explain to a person I'm newly dating?
Firstly, I hope you are being kind to yourself! You are always worthy and treating yourself with compassion can really affect the way your words are expressed. Taking accountability, acknowledging the impact it may have had on them, expressing you value the relationship and expressing that you are taking steps so it won't happen again, and expressing a desire to find solutions to the original conflict are helpful starting points.
We might also be able to offer an explanation for our actions to help them not take it personally - be mindful of how these are worded as we don't want to make excuses - make it clear that the intention is so they can understand and know you are self reflecting to ensure it doesn't happen again.
If it was me I might say "Hey (person) - just wanted to drop by and sincerely apologise for (what happened). I'm ever so sorry that I did that - it must have been really painful for you to receive. I'm so sorry if it brought up any insecurities you were already feeling. If it did, please let me know so I can remind you how amazing I think you are. I am working really hard to ensure that this never happens again - I know that promises are just words but I'll show you through actions. It's been a real wake-up call for me - I've been going inwards and looking at why that happened. I've realised that the fear that was coming up for me was that I was afraid of ___(e.g. being abandoned, rejected, controlled) and I didn't have the self awareness in that moment to express that or know how to react. I've realised that it had a deeper cause which is why it overwhelmed me so much - my mum used to... (Explain root cause e.g. childhood wound) and it's like my brain was reliving that pain and pasting it into the situation again - all of those old feelings came up so strongly. I'm not making any excuses whatsoever - I take full responsibility for what I did, I just want you to know to reassure you that it wasn't personal - it was and is my stuff to deal with and never your fault. Maybe we can troubleshoot what we could do if a similar situation comes up again - how we can best support each other and create a win win solution so that we both feel safe?"
How do I get out of a relationship that feels like I'm going to die if I leave?
I'm so sorry to hear that choosing to leave has felt so painful angel. I hope you are being ever so gentle with yourself in this journey.
As a sensitive soul I can really relate to this feeling.
The grief can feel like too much to bear.
How can I possibly recover?
How will I ever feel good again?
There's no bypassing the grief process, no words that can ease the journey we have to take and save us from the waves of emotion.
If I was to rush in and only think about 'fixing' this experience you are having and replacing it with 'happiness', that would be spiritually bypassing. (And it would be temporary pleasure, distracting or suppressing your true feelings which is storing trauma in the body which would only have to be faced at a later date).
It's so beautiful that you are allowing yourself to honestly witness how you are feeling and let yourself feel - many people don't have the courage to allow their heart to crack open that wide.
You're going to be with this sadness and loss for as long as you need to be.
The healing comes with making peace with the pain for as long as it needs to stay.
But we are not powerless when we are in pain - there are ways that we can stop resisting, stop judging ourselves, and stop projecting stories into the future - and that makes the weight a little lighter.
It might feel validating to recognise that a part of you IS dying. An old attachment to a belief, an aspect of yourself. See if you can notice what is dying - is it something that is actually asking to be let go of? Or is it something you can reconnect with differently?
For example I once sent a message which was very difficult for me and it brought up so much pain and in that process I realised that the part of me that was dying was the need for validation from that person. My ego was clinging onto wanting to feel safe, not wanting to risk being invalidated - but it was a a beautiful process because I got to set myself free from needing anything from that person, and practicing validating myself from within. Other times the part of us that feels like it's dying is still going to be there, and we will just get to experience or express it in another form or we are being asked to develop a trait within.
For example maybe we loved being around a partner who helped us feel more confident - and we can find that inner confidence and bring that with us without needing the relationship. Or maybe we shared a certain hobby/interest together and there will be ways to enjoy that hobby alone or with a friend.
When there are parts of me that feel like dying I like to go into nature and have a little ceremony with myself, e.g. writing a letter to the person to burn or bury, or talking aloud to myself as if they were there or speaking to my inner child. It can be really powerful to use words in some way to release those powerful emotions.
It might be really helpful to explore why it feels so painful to leave the relationship. What are you really afraid of? Is it a fear of being alone, afraid you won't find love again, afraid you don't deserve love, afraid of what the other person thinks of you because you are judging yourself? You can explore writing down these fears and working through where they originally came from in childhood and writing new beliefs and speaking compassionately to your inner child. You may find that having professional guidance to do this shadow work is really valuable too.
It sounds like you have a good reason to leave this relationship, that you are choosing that way in spite of the pain. That's really brave and beautiful. Making a list of why you chose to leave to remind yourself if you feel wobbly can help, and letting a few trusted loved ones know beforehand so you have a support system to turn to (especially immediately after the breakup) is something else you can do for you.
Practicing mindfulness can also be so helpful if we find ourselves overwhelmed by painful emotions - observing what is in front of us with the five senses without attaching thoughts to our experience. I remember once I was going through a breakup and had been crying all day. I got in the shower and was watching the droplets of water fall and suddenly my mind stopped and I was just enjoying the feeling of the warm water and the breath in my lungs and I realised... Oh. Right now, I don't have a problem. I'm just standing in my shower and I'm safe. That's what's actually true. Not all the thoughts that I've been having. All of these stories in my head like what he might be thinking or what the future holds are just my imagination. The only thing hurting me is my own mind. The weight I had been feeling on my chest lifted. That being in the moment is what meditation is really about.
If you find yourself having repeating negative thoughts it can help to note them down in a notebook and examine are they really true? Or if they are true, do I need something different in order to be happy?The emotions are going to come up, and you can let yourself sit with them, let yourself cry or feel lost or angry, and know it's all valid. You can practice surrender - this is a state where we simply accept what has happened and don't try to resist it. (Surrender isn't giving up or taking no action, it's about relaxing into your body and choosing peace for yourself, accepting what can't be changed). When we surrender we are gentle with ourselves and work with what we can change.
What makes the grief more painful is when we get stuck in our thinking - if you catch yourself in a negative loop, you can tune into your body and notice the sensations. For example noticing your heart feels tight or you feel an anxious churning in your stomach. If negative thoughts come up like self judgement or fears about the future, you can bring yourself back to noticing with your five senses. Sometimes people have a preference for what they like to notice, maybe feeling their feet or listening to the sounds around. Focusing on breathing and breathing deeply, and breathwork techniques can also be very soothing.
If the pain feels overwhelming we might find it really challenging to stay in the moment using those techniques and that's okay too! I like to say grief is like a dam - you have to let the water flow at a pace you can take.Having something else to occupy your senses and take your mind off things like your favourite music or a feel good film is another way you can soothe yourself. I have a self soothing story highlight where you can find a list of different self care activities that you can use to take care of you.
Remembering that grief, and every emotional state is temporary can be really comforting. Whatever you feel, there will be a bright moments again.
How to reconnect with a dismissive avoidant partner who has distanced themselves?
This can be such a painful position to find ourselves in when our beloved pulls away and we find ourselves unsure of what to do, and when fears and wounds like abandonment and rejection can rise to the surface.
There is a balance to be found where we can express consciously what our wants and non negotiable standards are in a relationship and really own our feelings rather than walking on eggshells for fear the other person will reject us...
And also to honour the inner world of the avoidant and empathise with how difficult intimacy and vulnerability can feel to someone who experienced consistent emotional neglect throughout their childhood, where it wasn't safe to be seen.
The DA does feel a lot which isn't expressed so be soft with them! And yet calm and steady like a rock - show them that you take responsibility for your own wellbeing and that you're here to make life easier for them as it can feel difficult to carry the weight of taking care of others' emotions when they feel they can't trust others to support them. The weight of their own pain can leave little space for being able to be there for others - and it's not personal. It's something for them to work through and at the same time, can you hold compassion for their predicament?
And yet your own feelings and desires for closeness and clarity are so, so valid. You deserve to feel loved and treasured. You deserve consistency. Can you be your own best friend for now and self soothe, and/or call upon additional support from securely attached friendships or professional guidance for example?
Coming to a centred place before you express any hurt feelings can be so helpful.
Finding the middle ground with an avoidant, particularly if you're anxiously attached is sometimes not possible if they aren't ready to work on their healing or isn't the best the path of healing for you - if you experience a lot of relational anxiety you may not be able to find a feeling of safety in a relationship with an avoidant and might thrive dating only secure partners or taking a break from romance. You don't have to choose the relationship. You deserve someone who is ready to lean in with you.
If you want to try to bridge the gap, this is how you can increase your chances of the relationship healing if they are ready:
Approach gently, expressing you respect their boundaries and without pressuring. DAs can be very sensitive to criticism underneath their hard shell! Ease any fears you know they tend to have e.g. fear of being controlled, manipulated, shamed. It can help as an anxious partner to realise that like you, avoidants are just afraid and like reassurance - only you are reassuring them about different core fears. Communicate in a calm tone (emotionally expressive messages can lead to overwhelm). Don't repeatedly message them if they don't reply and don't try to resolve the core issue over message - DAs often misread tone, become defensive or afraid of the prospect of a daunting conversation + shut down more. Extend an olive branch, address the challenge in person or at least phone.
"Hey darling - I've noticed you've distanced yourself of late and just wanted to check in and see if you're okay. Nooo pressure, I know your space is important to you and tend to process things alone - if you do need more time I understand. I have been feeling a little anxious as I find myself not knowing when you pull away whether it's something I could have done or if you're just needing space in general - if there's something bothering you in any way I'm always here to listen. I'm here when you're ready".
It can be really distressing when a partner pulls away (sending so much love) and we might jump to worst case scenarios, however it's best to self soothe and turn to others for support for now as communicating from an anxious place and seeking comfort from a DA when they are already deactivated tends to lead to more distancing. When you communicate from a centred energy it's much easier for them to feel safe to reconnect. To be able to have a productive conscious conversation when the DA is ready, having a really solid support system and self soothing skills is so helpful. Remember we might need to create a space of safety for the DA, to listen without interruption and then ease their fears and show understanding before they are ready to understand us, to take onboard our feelings and wants.
How should I respond when a partner uses my attachment style to manipulate me? (Trauma survivor reconnecting to intuition, gut says relationship wasn't healthy, noticed possessiveness)
Well done angel, I'm so proud of you for listening to your intuition! That's an amazing step to reconnect back to your inner voice and really learn to trust yourself. And your gut can be trusted! In a healthy relationship we wouldn't spot red flags of possessiveness - at the very least if we noticed this once and raised a concern our partner would own up to their core insecurities + change their actions. A healthy partner is not going to point a finger - they might approach it with curiosity and owning their own triggers e.g. "I noticed you seem a little distant lately, would we be able to talk about it? I've found my anxiety and fear of abandonment have come up and what would really help me out is if you are able to... it would also really help to understand how you've been feeling, have any fears come up for you and how can I support you?"
In a healthy relationship you are not likely to get these gut feelings. FAs might be triggered in a healthy relationship but it's far more likely to mostly be fears such as unworthiness, feeling afraid of being responsible for a partner's wellbeing and feeling guilty that you don't feel able to show up perfectly, fear of abandonment etc. If the FA felt 'trapped' they would probably also feel guilty or curious as to why because they recognised their partner was not trying to control them but they were experiencing this feeling anyway.
If anyone tries to manipulate you, you can stand firm and say 'I know what is true for me'. You may benefit from setting a boundary, walking away from the conversation or as you did, walking away from the relationship.