Something I haven’t seen talked about anywhere else is the phenomenon where an avoidant will create an anxious attachment out of a normally securely attached person.
Can this happen? Yes! I know because I have had this experience myself.
I grew up with a secure attachment to my mother, but historically (and I’m talking over 20 years ago) I can have side portions of anxious or avoidant depending on the person I am with and what is going on in my life.
With all of my partners I had a secure attachment, the signals from my partners were those I was used to in an intimate relationship. Then I bumped into an avoidant and I was TOTALLY confused.
The mixed messages were just crazy. One minute we are off on a weekend away together and it is fantastic, it is easy, the conversation is great, the intimacy is awesome. Then we get back and he backs right off.
What happened? I found myself second-guessing what was going on. I found myself feeling ANXIOUS! When I dated an avoidant, this was the first time it had ever happened to me. It felt horrid. Because I was getting mixed messages from him, I would back off. I would try not to get too invested. I really liked him, but it felt like too much hard work.
As a therapist, I now understand what was going on for him. As he moved closer to me, as a securely attached person, he would have felt that my distance was too close. He did want to be with me, but there was a part of him screaming internally to stay safe, don’t trust, remain an island.
Avoidants can be such tender and loving people. They have been wounded. The mother wound runs deep. They have learned to block out their needs and deny them, to be independent to survive. They avoid in order to protect themselves. Unfortunately, they inadvertently recreate their childhood wound.
The challenge for this couple is to communicate their fears. It takes time and focus to work through attachment issues. One of the best ways to do this is in a loving relationship, with the support of a therapist.
Getting close to people can feel terrifying, but the rewards are life-changing.
Have you ever had this dynamic show up in your life?
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Attachment theory by John Bowlby, Mary Ainsworth & Main & Solomon