People who have an avoidant attachment style are independent to the point that they can find intimacy difficult and find it hard to reach out to others in times of need. This trouble with intimacy can be expressed through a dismissive attitude and they can come across as disregarding the feelings and interests of others. They find it hard to tell others what they are thinking and feeling and can have a negative or cynical attitude towards other people.
Although avoidant caregivers may meet the child’s basic needs they may be emotionally unavailable or unresponsive and disregard their child’s emotional needs. They can be especially rejecting when the child is sick or hurt and discourage crying and encourage premature independence in their children. They may feel that parenting is not very satisfying or personally meaningful.
They may appear not to care about whether their caregiver is there or not. They learn to suppress the natural desire to seek out their caregiver when frightened, distressed or in pain because they have learnt that acknowledging or displaying distress leads to rejection or punishment. They realise by not outwardly expressing their needs for love, closeness or affection they can at least stay physically close to their caregiver. This can lead them to believe they don’t need any one else to take care of them so they have little desire to seek out others for support.
Avoidantly attached adults will seek out relationships and enjoy spending time with their partner but will often avoid emotional closeness, instead becoming uncomfortable when the relationship becomes too close. They have a hard time being vulnerable or showing any level of dependence and may see their partners as being clingy or needy when they try and become emotionally closer. When the relationship is threatened they deny any sense of vulnerability and repress their emotions, if they do try and seek support it is likely to be indirectly by complaining or sulking. They often react angrily to perceived slights or threats to their self-esteem.
Attachment theory is useful when it comes to understanding the more subtle aspects of relationships but it’s only one factor in many. Having an avoidant attachment style doesn’t mean you are destined to have bad relationships or that you will be avoidantly attached your entire life or in all your relationships.