Do Avoidant Partners Really Care About Your Feelings?
Have compassion, but don’t tolerate toxic behaviour.
“I like you, but that doesn’t mean I want anything serious.” My eyes watered as I read her text message.
I took a deep, shaky breath, trying to contain the waterworks about to erupt from my eyeballs.
Lusting after emotionally unavailable, or avoidantly attached, people was a common theme for me in the past. And every damn time, they’d snap my heart like a twig.
Maybe you’re used to being kept at arm’s length, ignored one day, showered with affection the next. And when you ask “what are we?” the other person begins distancing themselves from you.
Recently, a woman asked me if people with avoidant attachment feel remorse for pushing their partners away.
Having worked in the mental health field, and researching attachment theory heavily, I now know there’s more to people’s behaviours than meets the eye.
Let’s dive in.
Emotionally unavailable people aren’t heartless
If you said this to me 5 years ago, I would’ve disagreed with you. These days, I see people’s behaviour, and I put my mental health worker hat on and think:
“What happened to you?”
To understand people with avoidant attachment, you must first look at their past. Trauma (especially childhood trauma) can play a big part in how we connect with others.
As a child, when you’ve learned (usually from your parents or caregivers) that showing emotions is bad or wrong, you’ll stuff your feelings down. If you were told crying was weak, you’ll feel the same towards others.
Trauma expert Diane Poole Heller explains,
“We might grow up in an environment where relationships aren’t safe or nourishing, so we have trouble allowing ourself to become vulnerable with others. However, in no way does that mean we don’t want connection or closeness underneath.”
Avoidant behaviour is a trauma response
Avoidantly attached people are afraid to show vulnerability and may push people away when things get too ‘real.’ It’s often a trauma response, and they’re doing this to keep themselves feeling safe.
They also may feel turned off by overly emotional, or people who need constant validation from them. This causes frustration and impatience on their behalf. They might think “just get over it already!”
Does this make people with avoidant attachment evil and cold? Not exactly — they’re often operating from a place of trauma. Their brain is in constantly in survival mode.
It’s important to remember these reactions often have nothing to do with anybody else. It has everything to do with the avoidant person and what they’ve experienced in the past.
You don’t need to tolerate toxic behaviour
I’ve seen so many people romanticise saving their ‘wounded’ lover — I used to be this person too. The truth is, people won’t change because you want them to.
They’ll change when they’re ready (if ever.)
It’s nice to have compassion for someone, but this doesn’t mean you should tolerate toxic behaviour — especially when people refuse to own their baggage.
Sometimes you need to put yourself first and do what’s best for you.
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© Kathrine Meraki