Step 1.) Understanding attachment styles
In all, there are four attachment styles: secure, fearful, anxious/preoccupied (love addict), and dismissive (love avoidant). Let’s focus on the second two.
On the surface, the “love avoidant” seems to be afraid of intimacy and the “love addict” afraid of abandonment.
But deep down, the avoidant is actually afraid of abandonment and the addict is actually afraid of intimacy.
THE LOVE AVOIDANT’S GOAL
Is the same as the love addict’s: to get our needs met.
THE LOVE AVOIDANT’S NEEDS
Are the same as the love addict’s: for things to be okay.
The only difference between them is how we go about them. While the love addict desperately seeks this validation from their partners, the love avoidant has learned its best to depend only on themselves.
“INTIMACY” vs. “INDEPENDENCE”
Are both only cover-up demands; the way our needs manifest by way of explanation on the surface.
Nobody actually needs intimacy or independence — they are both just tools to get our real needs met; comfort zones where we feel most reassured that things are okay.
So it’s not that the love avoidant values “space” and “independence” in and of itself, though we may, but more likely that we’ve learned to lean on ourselves, and space allows us the domain in which to do that.
So the goal isn’t to strip away our space and independence. (It’s also not to push intimacy on us.) The goal is to build out a moat of meeting our actual needs so that we no longer crave independence and instead trust intimacy (both of which continue to be byproducts.)
OUR “FEAR” OF INTIMACY
Is not real.
Our aversion to “intimacy” is not an aversion to closeness — we want connection as much as the next guy. It’s actually an aversion to:
1. Being drained — which is a very real, not imagined, risk
What happens is that because the love addict does not have enough self-love, they instead demand it from others and become an energy suck on those around them.
2. Being left high and dry
Because when we let you in, we’re trusting you. And our greatest (learned) fear is that when we rely on others, they let us down.
As a love avoidant, my primary fear isn’t intimacy — it’s being fucked over. I may have a very low tolerance for clinginess, but my real deal is with “bullshit.”
Because while I may consider clinginess to be a dealbreaker, dodging it is simply a “deactivation” strategy — doing so is emotionless, with little negative impact on me beyond irritation.
What really hurts me, however, is when I make myself vulnerable and my partner drops the ball: letting me down, being toxic, dragging me through the mud, or bullshitting (including exaggerating their own feelings, especially to themselves.) That’s an actual aversion (with a lot of potential emotion), so I have far less chill for “fuckery” than I have for “neediness.”
We don’t need to know that we’re okay. We already know that. We need to be reassured that you’re okay — without always being the one to reassure you.
A WORD ON “SEFLISHNESS”
The love avoidant gets the bad rep for selfishness, but the reality is that the love addict is just as guilty of it. It’s just that “intimacy” is a more socially-acceptable demand.
But both of them encroach on or violate the comfort zone of their partner to prioritize their own interests.
Don’t just try to get your needs met, or project and pretend a love avoidant should want the same thing. You may crave intimacy, but this doesn’t mean the avoidant ever will. They may learn to appreciate or enjoy it, but they will never need it like a love addict believes they do. Again, intimacy (and independence) are merely manifestations and channels; personal preferences — and prerogatives.
Step 2.) How to behave
How to ask a love avoidant to open up
Don’t. Remember: the goal isn’t to get us to open up. The real goal is to feel okay. You want us to reassure you; we want to not feel drained.
You want love? Love isn’t focusing on your wants — it’s focusing on your partner’s.
All a love avoidant wants from you is to know that you’re “safe” to let into their space. (And this is their idea of “safe;” not yours.) Show them that by giving (demonstrating sanity, consistency, composure, and reliability) — not by taking or making demands — and they will.
Don’t demand communication. (This includes everything from “daily texts” to “tell me what you’re thinking” and “don’t you love me?”) Don’t push intimacy on us (again, that’s your thing and not ours.)
What you want is reassurance that we’re thinking about you and care — that everything’s okay. But all you get when you make demands is obligation and resentment. If you want genuine love, let it happen organically.
Don’t just allow us independence and All Of The Space — because again, that’s just our excuse on the surface. Focus on and satisfy our (real) needs and we’ll oblige you on yours.
How to respond when we do open up
Rule #1: Don’t grab more than what’s offered (see above)
Don’t make sudden claim to an area of our life just because we shared.
To you this feels nice; to us it feels pushy. Imagine a situation where someone made you feel uncomfortable, realize that unwelcomed advances always read as “oblivious” at best (and “selfish” at worst), and avoid it or reap the fallout of our subsequent avoidance.
Also, do things without plea bargains or strings attached, such as pleading for excessive gratitude or tit-for-tat repayment beyond a simple “thank you.”
Rule #2: when we finally open up, take care of it and do not drop the ball. (Never, ever violate this if you want us to continue doing so.)
We may start with low-risk things. Even small, seemingly “un-intimate” things — letting you help with everyday errands and other acts of service — can feel vulnerable to us, so take care with them. If we allow you to help us, always follow through. Lighten our load rather than piling more shit on.
When we start sharing bigger stuff: Listen, be calm, don’t drain, demand more than we’re giving, or add more to our plate. Don’t interrupt when we’re sharing. Don’t tell us we feel something different than we say. Don’t express more emotion than we do. Don’t demand reassurance on our shit. Don’t use our shit against us in a fight. Don’t make our shit your insecurity. Don’t share our shit with your friends. Don’t pile more on to our shit. Be calm.
Create a positive experience: when we give you what you want (talking, texting, opening up), you have to give us what WE want in response. Create space rather than crowd; respond lightly or not at all. When you do, we’ll develop comfort in doing it more on our own, and you’ll get what you wanted (love) in an actual genuine way.
Invest in your own growth
The love avoidant’s growth is letting people in. The love addict’s growth is learning to stand on their own two feet — to develop emotional self-sufficiency and self-esteem.
Meet us halfway, here — or at least make an effort.
If you want intimacy from a love avoidant, you can’t sell us on intimacy in and of itself (and you shouldn’t be selling yourself on this, either.) You have to use intimacy, when we allow it, to a.) help us meet our real needs and b.) demonstrate that you’re trustworthy and won’t violate that space (by clawing our emotional “eyes” out.)