An attachment style is the specific way in which we relate to others in relationships. Attachment styles are very powerful and strongly define how we respond emotionally to others. People differ in their attachment styles based on their early interactions with their primary caregivers, usually their biological mother and father. The attachment theory was introduced by Mary Ainsworth and John Bowlby in the 1950s and now has a mass of evidence behind its validity. According to their work, attachment styles are shaped and developed in our early childhood as a response to the relationship we had with our primary caregivers. Our developed attachment style as adults reflects the type of attachment we had with our mother and father mostly in early childhood, and I can tell you that clinically in my work, attachment styles get played out in loving relationships.

There are several types of attachment styles that are more mainstream and written about on the internet – secure, anxious, avoidant, and disorganized, but the public need more detail here on how attachment styles affect loving relationships, so I will be writing about each attachment style one by one to help people in loving relationships. In this article I will cover the avoidant-dismissive attachment style because this attachment style causes a lot of problems in loving relationships. It is very confusing and painful to be on the receiving end of an avoidant-dismissive attachment style with someone you care about, or indeed love.

Attachment styles are powerful. They are much more powerful than the rational mind. They define our behavior in relationships. But once someone is more conscious of their own attachment style, they can gradually, with professional support and personal persistence and effort, break the grip their attachment style has on their behavior. By understanding your attachment style and learning to observe your behavior and working to change your behavior driven by your attachment style, you can change, because your behavior is not invisible to you any longer. So, with work you can improve the quality of your relationships in your life, and your loving relationship too.

We have structured this article with questions and answers to the often repeated questions regarding the avoidant-dismissive attachment style and how it impacts and affects a loving relationship.

What is the Avoidant-Dismissive Attachment Style?

The avoidant-dismissive attachment style is one of the insecure attachment styles. Please don’t take the word insecure to heart because it is my estimate that 50% of Americans have attachment issues related to us needing to learn more about how parenting impacts us as children. However do note, people with an avoidant-dismissive attachment style can’t really tolerate emotional intimacy. They are wary of closeness and hesitate to build an emotional connection with others. They can’t trust others easily, and stay emotionally unavailable in relationships. Neither do they want to rely on others, nor do they allow people to rely on them. They feel safer and more comfortable caring for themselves and behave as if they don’t need the support and care of others. They value independence and freedom to a higher level that they may even feel uncomfortable with their self-reliant behavior, but find change and letting someone into their life fully, very difficult. Though they may fall in love intensely or enter into a loving relationship, they will crave independence as they feel safer on their own and find loving relationships difficult. This is a particularly difficult attachment style to date or be in a loving relationship with.

What Causes the Setup of an Avoidant-Dismissive Attachment Style?

It stems from growing up with primary caregivers who were consistently emotionally unresponsive or emotionally unavailable during the early years of childhood of the individual. Emotionally unavailable is a huge word to use at this time as the book Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, a bestseller was only written in 1995. Since then and maybe earlier people are collectively waking up to their emotional intelligence and emotional world, with emotional intelligence collectively needing to become much more mainstream alongside relationship skills and relationship intelligence. But people with an avoidant-dismissive attachment style might have faced multiple rejections to their emotional needs and this has prevented them from expressing their emotions and feeling safe doing so. They may also have experienced disapproval when they tried to express or display their emotions – both positive and negative. When they tried to express joy or sadness, the caregivers may have shown anger or shown disapproval or displeasure due to their own emotional issues. The primary caregivers might too have expected their baby and child to behave independently and as an adult far too young, instead of encouraging them to show up with all of their emotions. An avoidant-dismissive attachment style can commonly develop when someone has non-biological parents or caregivers, it shows up as distrust later in life.

How does an Avoidant-Dismissive Attachment Style Benefit an Individual?

Attachment styles also have benefits. Individuals with an avoidant-dismissive attachment style respond quickly to threats and can identify problems rapidly. Their rapid ability to evaluate others issues enables them to solve issues or decrease the impact of problems quickly. As a result, people with avoidant-dismissive attachment styles are often incredibly productive independently and self-reliant. They rarely require the support of others in making decisions because they don’t trust others. They will elicit more confidence in their choices and usually have greater abilities due to self-reliance. They are more likely to push themselves toward achieving their goals and to achieve individual success.

What is it like to have a Loving Relationship with a Person with an Avoidant-Dismissive Attachment Style? 

Having a loving relationship with an avoidant-dismissive personality can be very challenging, stressful and uncomfortable, especially if you are a genuine, sincere person. When you dismiss another in a loving relationship, where the heart is more open, this is mentally and emotionally debilitating and confusing to the person on the receiving end, because relationships require honesty, so both people know where they stand.

Too much emphasis is placed on boundaries currently, and not enough emphasis on the damage dismissing or avoiding another has on a person. Dismissing or avoiding another is a total disregard of respect for that person, and it is painful and confusing to be on the receiving end of avoidant or dismissive behavior.

As part of their avoidant-dismissive attachment behavior, these individuals tend to be and want to remain independent in their loving relationship. Since they were not allowed to or able to express their uncomfortable feelings during their early childhood, they will avoid situations where they feel uncomfortable when they grow up as well.

An attachment-dismissive personality will be less demanding with their partner because they are more comfortable on their own, and more uncomfortable committing to a meaningful loving relationship where deeper feelings and vulnerabilities will come up. They can usually stay respectful of the other person’s boundaries but will constantly cause the other person stress due to avoiding or dismissing words or behavior, which is very confusing to be on the receiving end. They will respect other’s freedom because this is comfortable for them. But they may be very reserved in sharing their emotions and uncomfortable being vulnerable. This can be worked through by working with a highly skilled professional, but it is not usually an overnight fix as attachment styles can be very resilient.

In general, avoidant-dismissive individuals avoid closeness and intimacy in a loving relationship because they struggle to trust. Being aware of their personality will help you to understand them in a more loving way, but it can be a very difficult attachment style to date or be in a serious relationship with, if they can even get to being in a committed, loving relationship.

Can a Person Change an Avoidant-Dismissive Attachment Style Personality?

It is possible to work through an avoidant-dismissive attachment style to a secure attachment style. It takes some time and effort with regular weekly sessions with a skilled professional, and the individual needs to be paying attention to their behavior constantly, to break the grip of the previously invisible attachment style. Also becoming more aware of their emotional and physical sensations relating to intimacy, and not letting them run their behavior. Self-reflection is also useful and something I advocate for to analyze existing patterns and become more self-aware. Gradually an avoidant-dismissive attachment-based person can become more secure in relationships and in a loving relationship with professional support and if they really want to work on this. They can improve their relationships and ability to have more emotional intimacy with people, and gradually succeed in a loving relationship.

An avoidant-dismissive person can also focus on their non-verbal communication style as this helps to connect to strong messages about their emotional world. They can consciously work to be present in the moment and improve their emotional awareness rather than constantly running on and acting on their emotions. If you want a loving relationship you will need emotional intelligence to develop relationship intelligence. An avoidant-dismissive person can develop by being around people or families who are securely attached to find balance. They can also work with a skilled counselor, therapist or coach to develop through their attachment-based challenges.

Will an Avoidant-Dismissive Attachment Person ever Commit?

An avoidant-dismissive partner finds it very hard to commit to a loving relationship. They appear to have higher self-esteem, but stay emotionally distant due to emotional intimacy and trust being very difficult for them. In romantic relationships, they can often think that they are superior to the other person and position themselves as such, and give verbal dismisses like ‘work on being happy’ but this is a defense mechanism to deflect this person getting close to them. It is easier for them to avoid intimacy in a loving relationship. They prefer to have non-committed relationships, or a friend with benefits scenario, or hookups than a loving committed relationship. A committed loving relationship is sadly too difficult for them to allow or trust. This can be worked on and changed with willingness, effort, and by working with a highly skilled counselor, therapist or coach. Basically, if a person is mature enough to enter into counseling, therapy or coaching they can learn more deeply about their avoidant-dismissive attachment traits and behavior associated with this, and work to become more secure and comfortable enough to succeed in a loving relationship.

Can Avoidant-Dismissive People have a Successful Loving Relationship?

Our attachment style influences dramatically how we feel and interact in relationships, and feel and interact in our loving relationship. Attachment styles are very powerful. An avoidant-dismissive person can have a successful loving relationship once they acknowledge their attachment style and are willing to work on the detrimental effect it will play out on their loving relationship if they continue acting out avoidant-dismissive behavior. It is my experience of working with individuals and couples that an avoidant-dismissive person can with effort, work and professional support and guidance move to a more secure attachment style within themselves, but it usually takes more longer-term counseling, therapy or coaching.

There are a few signs to know if an avoidant-dismissive person likes you. They will spend more time together with you though they may not reveal their emotions, or feel deeply. They may discourage you or move away when you share any negative emotions rather than inquire what they are really about. They will show a tendency to take things slow. If you want to get serious they may run away rather than talk through things and they will most likely find it very difficult to communicate their emotions. Any deeper feelings will be mostly unfelt and dominated by an inability to trust.

Do Avoidant-Dismissive Attachment Individuals Commonly End Loving Relationships?

In general, an individual with an avoidant-dismissive attachment style will more likely end or move out of a relationship, even without any problems or reasons. This can be very painful for the innocent person on the receiving end, especially if it comes as a reaction or surprise with no clear reason. This behavior is part of protecting themselves from building emotional intimacy with another and the emotions that come with a loving relationship. They will commonly distance themselves from a loving relationship, rather than commit to being loved, cared about and supported. They are more comfortable living an independent, self-reliant life, even if stressful and unenjoyable, it is more comfortable than opening up and committing to someone who loves, cares for and wants to support them.

An avoidant-dismissive attachment person may too be more comfortable having a loving relationship that they know is not quite right for them for convenience. This way they can get their companionship and physical needs met, but be guarded, and so avoid emotional intimacy and deep feelings.

Summing Up

The avoidant-dismissive attachment style is common currently in society due to misunderstandings in how parenting affects children. They find it difficult to build trust, emotional intimacy and closeness in a loving relationship as an adult. The good news is they can transform themselves into a secure attachment style by working with a highly skilled professional counselor, therapist or coach. If you feel this resonates with you and want to work through anything with our professional support, please reach out to us.