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A frustrated man sits on the left side of the couch, his leg bent and his arm resting on his knee, his other hand to his face. A woman with blond hair sits on the other side of the couch with her body pulled away, arms crossed, looking down.

You probably know someone who is Love Avoidant — someone who avoids and fears intimacy. Love avoidance is common for people who suffer from sex or porn addiction.  

Love Avoidants often are attracted to Love Addicts — people who are fixated with love. One characteristic of both attachment styles is the fear of authenticity and vulnerability within a relationship. 

What is Love Avoidant?

There are four attachment styles with unique traits and behaviors.

Those attachment styles are:

  1. Secure. These people tend to have stable and long-term relationships. They have high self-esteem, enjoying intimacy and independence. They share feelings with others.
  2. Avoidant/Dismissive. These people are strong, independent, and self-reliant. They don’t want others to depend on them, nor do they rely on others. They don’t seek out the support or approval of others. They have high self-esteem, avoid intimacy, and suppress feelings (especially in conflict).
  3. Anxious/Preoccupied. These people are anxious about relationships. They display “clingy” behavior and require a lot of reassurance and validation. They fear abandonment and have a negative self-image.
  4. Dismissive/Fearful-Avoidant. These people’s intimate relationships create feelings of fear and desire. They want intimacy, but they have a difficult time trusting others. They avoid attachment, so they don’t get hurt.

Those in the Love Avoidant or Dismissive categories see intimacy as unreliable, dangerous, or risky. They think dependence on another person is a weakness. 

Love Avoidant people keep potential partners at arm’s length. Relying on compulsive behaviors such as addictions is expected for love-avoidant people. This behavior allows them to create intensity elsewhere in their lives rather than in a relationship. 

Love Avoidant people are showing a trauma response based around lack of attunement in childhood.

Trauma 

Trauma and responses to trauma impact everyone differently. Trauma manifests itself most clearly in adult relationships. 

You are dependent on your caregivers when you are a child. Whether they responded to your needs impacts your romantic relationships, interpersonal relationships, and parenting. 

As you grow up, you unconsciously develop a mental blueprint for healthy relationships. This map develops into a more solid understanding as you grow into adolescence and form relationships with peers. 

If you grew up feeling like people did not respect your boundaries and would abandon you for expressing your needs, you’re more likely to develop a Love Avoidant attachment style. As a trauma-response, you may feel like you cannot rely on anyone and feel intense fear of disappointment. You may become independent and avoid intimate relationships where you develop a dependence on others.

Characteristics of Someone Who is Love Avoidant

Love Avoidant people share many of the same behaviors. Some of those behaviors include:

  • They’re afraid of commitment, whether it be to a relationship, a weekend away, or any activity which could lead to a more intense feeling of bonding or closeness.
  • They’re suspicious of others, finding it difficult to build trusting feelings or a relationship. 
  • They’re secretive, preferring to make decisions that impact others on their own
  • They have difficulty expressing affection other than sex, meaning that physical touch and embraces put them off.
  • They limit communication, whether with daily contact or when you want to discuss more serious matters such as your relationship.
  • They’re never there when you need them. Love Avoidants find excuses to be unavailable when loved ones need support.

Examples of Love Avoidant Behavior

Some examples of the typical behavior of someone who is Love Avoidant are:

  • Pushing other people away using single word responses, avoiding social outings, or being vague about their needs and intentions
  • Creating emotional walls rather than healthy boundaries in relationships
  • Using their energies on their interests and hobbies while isolating their partner
  • Needing to be in control of the relationship
  • Needing to be right because of a fear of being wrong or out of control
  • Changing from the person you first met, going from charismatic to disengaged

A Love Avoidant may only be interested in casual sex or one-night stands. They may have a reputation as a don’t-need-anyone person. 

It’s challenging to develop an intimate bond with Love Avoidant people. You may find yourself shut out, feeling lonely, and experiencing gas-lighting behavior. This behavior is the Love Avoidant partner protecting themselves.

A man with dark hair and beard, wearing a red sweater sits with his back to a woman. She has dark hair and is wearing dark clothing. They are avoiding each other.

People who are love avoidant often refuse to solve the conflict, communicate, or express their feelings.

Why Love Avoidants Prioritize Everything But Their Relationship

A hallmark of those who avoid love is prioritizing other things that give you a feeling of control outside of your relationship. You still seek the intensity that true intimacy allows. You seek it elsewhere.

This seeking is when many Love Avoidant people turn to addictions. These behaviors help them block feelings of intimacy by keeping them busy and preoccupied. Commonly, it is compulsive sexual behaviors, gambling, drugs, alcohol, or even becoming obsessed with their careers.

Addiction is a powerful form of escapism that Love Avoidants use to sabotage any chance of someone getting close to them. 

Secretive

Love Avoidant individuals usually maintain separate lives or activities they keep from their partners. They may not discuss what they do during this time away. 

These secrets may be hobbies, friendships, addictions, hiding money, or being unwilling to talk about complex topics.

Avoid Physical Contact

Physical contact is more than sex. For example, couples share a loving embrace, hold hands, or have their legs touch under a table. Those who are love avoidant avoid unnecessary contact. They view contact as a violation of their independence and autonomy. 

Distancing Techniques

A Love Avoidant may incorporate many distancing techniques into a relationship. 

Distancing techniques include:

  • Refusing to make commitments in relationships
  • Avoiding saying “I love you” or other expressions of intimacy
  • Refusing to resolve conflicts or communicate, often withholding feelings
  • Devaluing or criticizing, making their partner the “enemy” and the relationship a battlefield 
  • Cheating or having affairs as a way to remain physically and emotionally unavailable 
  • Flirting with other people as a way to demonstrate that they’re always looking out for the next available partner

Commitment Shy

Commitment looks different to every person and couple. But Love Avoidants find ways to prevent labeling or finalizing any form of commitment. 

Love Avoidants may engage in monogamous, stable relationships for extended periods, sometimes even years. But they still withhold their feelings from their partner or refuse to “label” the relationship.

They also may avoid situations that deepen their bonds with their partners. For example, they may refuse to go on a romantic vacation. 

Fears of Love Avoidants

Love Avoidants fear vulnerability, intimacy, dependence, and genuine love. This avoidance of connection stems from difficulty developing healthy attachments in their early life. It is a form of self-preservation. 

Love Avoidants fear giving up control, seeing their independence as the only way to get through life. They may refuse to verbalize their needs and yet, simultaneously, expect others to meet those needs. 

What If You’re in a Love Avoidant Relationship?

If you are in a relationship with a love-avoidant person, you may feel unimportant, abandoned, isolated, and unloved. Your partner may need professional help to understand their behavior.

Suggestions for those in a relationship with a Love Avoidant include:

  • Don’t Take It Personally. Remember that this is a trauma response, and it isn’t your fault.
  • Reinforce Positive Actions. Reinforce the positive instead of complaining about negative actions. You can help balance out the negativity in the relationship by keeping things positive.
  • Be Mindful of How You Express Yourself. You may have emotional needs your partner isn’t meeting. You may need to speak to your partner about them. Be tactful in how you do this, not to cause your avoidant partner to shut down or withdraw.
  • Give Them Space. If your partner is on the path to recovery, don’t expect things to change overnight. They’ll still need time and space to process what they’re going through and create lasting change.

 How BAI Can Help

Many people suffering from sex or porn addiction are also Love Avoidant. At the Begin Again Institute, we know that trauma is at the center of these attachment styles and intimacy disorders. When you start our 14-Day Men’s Intensive for sex or porn addiction, we’ll work together to help you heal from your trauma and stop your addiction. 

  • Category: Relationships
  • By John Squires
  • May 5, 2021

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