If you think of every adult as having a child-like part and an adult-like part, certain combinations are very attractive. For example, an adult with a well-developed adult part, let’s say he’s a banker. Quite serious, not much fun. He grew up with inconsistent messages from his primary carer and learnt to take care of himself from an early age and deny his feelings. He grew up to have an avoidant attachment style as an adult. He is not really in touch with his inner child and struggles to be spontaneous and have fun.
He meets a woman who is in touch with her inner child. She is spontaneous, fun, creative and sensual, and has anxious attachment tendencies. Maybe her inner adult (the serious side is not so well developed), so she finds his inner adult very attractive. He intuitively feels safe and stable in a way that her carers were not as a child. In a way, she wants him to be her inner adult, and he wants her to be his inner child. As unhealthy as this is, usually, the initial chemistry is incredible!
As time goes on, the avoidant wants to pull back to re-create the environment of his childhood subconsciously. He is expecting not to have his needs met; closeness for him involves a LOT of space. And his adult part might judge her for not taking life seriously enough.
In response, she feels rejected and unsure about the relationship. She is getting mixed messages. All of her anxious tendencies are triggered. It’s confusing. Often it is confusing for him too. He might love her but find her too close to him somehow. He might find himself judging her and even looking at other women to push her away. This can be his defence mechanism kicking in to keep him safe, remember, for the avoidant, intimacy is not safe.
As this happens, the anxious one will also be triggered and may act out, becoming emotional and demanding, pushing the avoidant further away.
And there we have it, one of the dances of the avoidant and anxiously attached.
The way through this is working on yourself. You can do it together or independently. The first step is to acknowledge the personal patterns and the couple dynamic. Know that this dynamic CAN work – it just takes a little focus.
If you are interested in learning more about attachment theory and HOW to shift attachment styles, you might be interested in my Relationship Cycle Breakers Course.