Two people meet. One person shows interest in pursuing a relationship. The other person gets scared and runs for the hills. You’ve heard that story, right? It’s the classic cat and mouse game of the anxious-avoidant attachment styles of relationships? But of the primary attachment styles science has confirmed, Anxious, Avoidant, Fearful and Secure, why are polar opposites seemingly the most attracted to each other? And can these relationships actually work?
To understand the attraction, you must first understand a little bit about the theory of attachment and attachment systems. While there are a host of opinions, the primary concept of Attachment theory sets out to explain how our interactions with people affects our relationships over time & how we respond to intimacy. Most people are familiar with attachment styles, however, most people are unaware of the workings of attachment systems.
Attachment systems are responsible for measuring the safety and availability of our relationships and relational partners. People with anxious attachment styles are more prone to perceive threats to their relationship, even if they’re unsubstantiated. Avoidants, on the other hand, are less likely to be triggered by these events or thoughts.
When it comes to Avoidant attachment styles, many display characteristics of The Dark Triad personality. Much like narcissistic personalities, Avoidants have a tendency to be extremely charming, charismatic and physically attractive. It is also worth mentioning that avoidant attachment styles place high value on their self-reliance. Whereas anxious attachment styles crave emotional and physical intimacy, avoidants prefer to minimize emotional closeness and prefers sexual intimacy. To some degree, their desire for independence stifles their ability to be in a partnership.
Because of their (unhealthy) ability to fulfill one another’s immediate needs, they are drawn together.
Think of it this way: The Anxious is a people pleaser who puts other ahead of themselves. The Avoidant, much like the narcissist, loves feeling desired by others. The Avoidant may ask questions to the Anxious, causing them to monopolize the conversation, to the delight of the Anxious, who would rather not disclose personal information, thus, leading the Anxious partner to believe the Avoidant is really interested in them. Avoidant partners, who crave physical touch and sex, will slather on the compliments in hopes of reaching their end goal. As the Anxious arrives at the conclusion they’re on the same page, they are oblivious to emotional effort (or lack thereof) on the half of the Avoidant. It is usually after one or more sexual encounters that the Anxious starts to notice this imbalance. By this time, the Avoidant has deemed their partner as needy and may continue to disengage. But this is not always the case. In fact, some Anxious-Avoidant relationships can actually work.
Truth be told, anxious people are only as needy as they unmet needs. Once they needs are met or their feelings are reconfirmed, their preoccupant tendencies dissipate.
So What Can You Do?
For the Anxious – Become aware of your attraction to people Avoidant and Fearful attachment styles. Instead, seek out partners who display characteristics of Secure attachment styles, such as healthy ideas of relationships, conflict & communication styles and a willingness to put equal efforts into getting to know you.
For the Avoidant – Discover your triggers for disengaging in relationships. Seek guidance from family, friends or professional counseling on how to navigate through fears in order to foster healthy partnerships, while maintaining your independence.
Loving someone with an avoidant attachment style is not impossible, but for many people, it proves to be an uphill battle of being “in a relationship” but still feeling alone.
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WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS? –> WHAT ATTACHMENT STYLE ARE YOU? ARE YOU ATTRACTED TO THE OPPOSITE STYLE? CAN ANXIOUS AND AVOIDANT RELATIONSHIPS WORK?