Emotions are a huge part of being human, so understanding how to self regulate your emotions and actions is an essential skill.
This is where attachment theory comes in. Adults with an avoidant attachment style may struggle with self regulating their emotions.
Keep reading to learn and understand how to work with your avoidant attachment triggers and how to heal.
Let’s dive in.
13 Avoidant Attachment Triggers
1. Emotional Volatility In Relationships
At a subconscious level, avoidants place a high value on safety. The irony is that this is due to the lack of safety they viewed in the relationships they saw during their childhood.
2. Personal Criticism
A dismissive avoidant attachment style can make it hard to deal with constructive criticism they might hear in the workplace because of low self esteem.
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During an avoidant attachment trigger someone can feel incapable with an expectation placed upon them. If this makes an avoidant person feel like it’s due to “weaknesses,” they can shut down quickly.
A person with an avoidant attachment style wants to show up, but when they don’t know how the action looks to their partner, they can feel like they’re failing.
4. Pressure To Open Up Or Be More Vulnerable
Vulnerability is one of the biggest attachment triggers, probably due to childhood wounds. Avoidants value independence so any need to rely on someone else triggers a sense of weakness.
5. Not Feeling Acknowledged
Avoidants don’t need a lot of attention or approval, however, they do highly value recognition of their efforts. They may not be looking for a cheerleader but want an ability to trust that someone hears and sees them.
6. Big or serious emotions
Whether it’s theirs or someone else’s, withdrawers with an avoidant attachment style tend to feel overwhelmed with difficult or serious emotions.
They want the unpleasantness to go away to feel safe. They’ve “turned off a switch” to difficult emotions they can’t manage on their own. Similarly, they expect other people to be able to do the same thing.
In intimate relationships, when those with avoidant attachment style pick up on a signal they’ve hurt their partner’s feelings, they tend to want to shut down, fix it, or push away from it.
So when they’re in a conflict with someone else, they often don’t know what to do to stay present with their own emotions or with their partner expressing emotion.
8. Failing, Making Things Worse, or Useless
Avoidant individuals often have internalized a message that it’s up to them to make sure distress or conflict go away. This could be because it was their “job” to be able to make their own emotions or distress go away when they were children.
If their attempts to make unhappiness go away just makes the distress or conflict get bigger, it can be a very difficult trigger.
Since their internalized message is that it’s up to them to find the skillset to get rid of difficult emotions, avoidant individuals often feel ashamed when they can’t make them go away.
If avoidant partners hear a loved one say, “You’re hurting my feelings when you push me away,” they often have a very difficult time staying with their loved one’s pain because their shame of causing hurt feels so big.
10. Shut Down
Avoidant adults still self-regulate their negative feelings in unhealthy ways. They might feel threatened and trigger dating or relationship situations. A trigger such as a partner trying to get emotionally intimate.
They might shut down their emotions in an attempt to feel safe and avoid feeling vulnerable.
This doesn’t mean that they don’t love their partner, but as a child, they learned that expressing their emotions was a bad thing, so they respond by retreating or pulling away.
You couldn’t rely on your caregivers as a child, so you have a deep need to rely on your partner. You need to feel safe and know what to expect.
When you feel insecure in your relationship, it’s not uncommon that you want to or even try to end it, believing that if you leave them first, they can’t leave you.
12. Depending On Someone
Since your caregivers didn’t give you emotional support when you needed it, you feel like your needs don’t matter.
This is why you feel like you must do everything on your own and the source of your self-reliance.
13. Pressure To Open Up
Fear of rejection causes you to build walls keeping people out. Being emotionally distant is a way to protect yourself from exposing your innermost self that you feel deeply ashamed of.
Your deepest wound is your sense of not feeling good enough, and you’re terrified of your partner seeing it if you open up to them.
Related: Signs Of A Love Avoidant
What Are Triggers For Avoidant Attachment?
Having a more secure attachment style doesn’t mean you’re in total control of your emotions. However, securely attached people can self regulate them in a healthy way.
They’re probably empathetic and sensitive to other people’s emotions and can set appropriate boundaries.
Self-regulation is the ability to control your emotions and the actions that you take in response to them, according to what’s appropriate for the situation at hand.
This ability is a key to successfully maintaining healthy relationships, problem-solving when there’s a conflict, and having a stable sense of self-confidence.
Attachment theory states that our ability to control our emotions, as well as how we respond to them, is influenced by our attachment style. So it’s important to understand when to trust our emotions and when our attachment style is influencing them.
Emotional unavailability is easy to spot in relationships. Many of us have dated someone who uses avoidance to manage their feelings as a coping mechanism.
When you bring up a triggering issue with an emotionally unavailable person, they tend to clam up, ignore you, or change the subject. They might even make a joke, try to act tougher, or deny your observations altogether.
Any of these triggers could cause the avoidant attachment style to withdraw from the relationship. They will also distract themselves from unpleasant emotions with work or hobbies.
- A partner wanting to get too close
- A partner wanting to open up emotionally
- Unpredictable situations or feeling out-of-control
- Having to be dependent on others
- Feeling like the relationship is taking up too much of their time
- Being criticized by their loved ones
- Feeling like they’re going to be judged for being emotional
- Their partner being demanding of their attention
Why Do Avoidants Shut Down?
Attachment Theory helps you understand how your relationship was with your parents when you were a child. Your relationship you had with them will reflect on how you treat those close to you as an adult.
So, understanding your attachment style helps you understand how and why you select your future partners.
It helps you see your emotional patterns, struggles with vulnerability, shame, and being afraid, as well as your needs and triggers.
If someone you love has learned an avoidant attachment style, it is so important to recognize why they shut down and push away.
This is how they learned to feel safe in relationships. They do this because you are important, not because they don’t want to be close to you.
Making sure your partner feels safe to open up is a huge part of being able to connect with him or her.
And remember that your longing to connect with your partner is a normal one!
Related: How To Make An Avoidant Miss You
How Do You Break Avoidant Attachment?
Rather than view someone with an avoidant attachment style as set in stone or pathologically as “Attachment Disorders,” attachment-oriented therapists know they can work with people who go on to have a fulfilling romantic relationship and secure parent-child attachment.
Healthy self-regulation when you have an avoidant attachment style might mean:
- Resisting the repression of emotions
- Expressing your needs and desires to your loved ones
- Allowing yourself to trust others
- Allowing yourself to be dependent on others
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What Makes An Avoidant Commit?
Most avoidants make good partners in the long run, but it can be awfully hard to convince them to commit.
Here are some tips:
1. Understand Their Avoidant Triggers
One way to get an avoidant to commit is by understanding the specific factors that trigger their insecurities. In this way, you can be proactive in preventing those triggers from holding you back from a healthy relationship.
2. Don’t Take It Personally
If their childhood was marked by neglect or abuse, it can create a sense of distrust making it difficult for them to commit to a relationship.
So once you understand their behavioral patterns are not about you, it allows you to just be strong and help them overcome whatever is holding them back.
3. Don’t Chase
This goes for all relationships, not just relationships with avoidants.
One of the worst things that you can do when you’re dating an dismissive avoidant partner is to chase them. Trying to “catch” your avoidant partner and get them to commit will most probably end up backfiring.
You may feel like you’re “playing it cool” or trying to be “low-key” by keeping everything on the down-low. However, you can’t expect him or her to read your mind. If you want the relationship to progress, make your needs known.
5. Ask Without Complaining
Avoidant types don’t respond well to complaining. They want to see you as someone who’s independent and capable. So, if you go on and on about how they aren’t committing to you, they’ll likely become more distant.
Instead, be specific about what you want out of the relationship, without apologizing for it.
6. Clear Your Own Issues
If you have abandonment issues, work through them before you can get an avoidant to commit. Avoidants don’t like to feel smothered or like they can’t have their own time to themselves.
If you start romantic relationships with the expectation that your partner will always be with you and never have time to themselves, you’re likely to push an avoidant away.
7. Be Reliable And Dependable
If you want an avoidant to commit, show them you can be counted on. The bottom line is don’t make promises you can’t keep and keep the promises you do make.
Avoidant Attachment Deactivating Strategies
Therapy is a great way you can figure out your unhealthy ways of self-regulating as well as why you’re doing it.
However, here are some healthy ways of dealing with your emotional triggers that won’t damage you or your relationship.
1. Identify Deactivating Strategies
Be aware when you’re excited about someone then suddenly feeling like he/she’s not right for you.
Stop, and ask yourself if this is a deactivating strategy you’re using to keep that person at bay. Being aware can help you diffuse the feeling and remind yourself intimacy is okay.
2. De-emphasize Self-Reliance And Focus On Mutual Support
When you start feeling less need to distance yourself, your partner will feel more secure leaning on you. You’ll feel more independent, and make your partner less needy.
3. Find Securely Attached People
People with a secure attachment style tend to make someone with an anxious attachment style more secure as well.
In fact, being with someone with anxious or insecure attachment styles can trigger your avoidance with his constant need for intimacy.
Related: Proven Strategies How To Communicate With An Avoidant
4. Be Aware Of Viewing Your Partner Negatively
Recognize this tendency and remind yourself you chose to be with this person and you can trust they have your best interests at heart.
5. Make A Relationship Gratitude List
Write down positive behaviors or qualities of your partner from that day, however minor they might be. With some practice and perseverance, you’ll find more and more to be grateful for every day.
6. Forget About The Ex, And “The One”
Reminiscing about your ex? Stop and remind yourself that he/she wasn’t that perfect. After all, the relationship ended for a reason.
As for the one, don’t wait until the one who fits your checklist shows up. You’re living in the past and the future. Stay in the present and focus on your partner.
7. Try The Distraction Strategy
It’s easier for an avoidant to get close to their partner when there’s a distraction. By focusing on activities like hiking, exercising, or preparing a meal together, you’ll be able to let your guard down and make it easier to access your loving feelings.
Signs An Avoidant Loves You
While you believe your romantic partner has genuine feelings for you, sometimes it’s not very clear from your partners behavior. Look out for the signs an avoidant loves you.
Related article: Signs An Avoidant Loves You
Avoidant Attachment And Lying
Those with fearful avoidant attachment styles believe that they don’t deserve or are unworthy of love. Although, equally, they don’t trust other people for fear they’ll be rejected.
They’ll struggle to work together with partners and be unable to explain what’s happening internally for them.
To the partner it may appear they’re often lying, holding secrets and highly paranoid. Many have developed disassociation as a coping strategy.
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How To Turn A Relationship With An Avoidant Into Success
Though avoidant partners might not seem as emotionally available or connected as others, their emotions and need for connection are often the same as anyone else.
With some understanding and support, it’s possible for avoidant people to open up and create greater emotional intimacy.
So, here are some ways to have a successful relationship if you’re someone with an avoidant:
- Be patient – change is possible, but it may not happen overnight.
- Create an atmosphere of safety – understanding each other’s perspectives.
- Avoid controlling their behaviors – even if it’s to get your needs met.
- Offer alone time – healthy boundaries are important to any successful relationship.
- Give them a transition period to go from being alone to being social.
- Avoid pushing your partner into doing something they’re not comfortable with.
- Be attuned to how much physical touch your partner is comfortable with.
- Communicate your sexual needs so you can both understand each other.
- Don’t take what looks like rejection personally.
- Talk about any issues when you’re calm without criticizing.
Adult relationships can be just as confusing as childhood ones. The beautiful thing about them is that we all get to learn from them if we tune in and understand each other.
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