Growing up, the Love Avoidant developed defensive coping mechanisms in order to protect the self from a controlling, demanding, and/or needy parent (‘s) … In adulthood, these defensive patterns remain active in driving behavioral choices in close relationships (i.e., evading intimacy).
Such defensive patterns are what I call Distancing Strategies.
It’s rather paradoxical that a Love Addict and people with an anxious attachment style can often obsessively pursue romantic love with individuals (a Love Avoidant) who regularly use defensive strategies to avoid what love addicts want most— intimate contact.
Initially, a Love Avoidant will seem very eager to connect with their Love Addict partner– triggering an illusion that they finally found “one-of-a-kind.”
But once hooked, and the relationship unfolds and progresses… the Love Avoidant flip-flops, seemingly changing into an entirely different person. Instead of displaying a desire to connect, he/she emotionally disengage, becoming cold, unavailable, and unreliable.
In a short time, the message seems to be, “I want you, but go away.” -- leaving the Love Addict feeling baffled, and asking themselves, “What the hell happened?”
There is a good reason why a Love Addict finds it is so difficult to intimately connect and feel close to their partner - Since, for a Love Avoidant, one of their chief objectives in romantic relationships is to evade intimacy - at all costs!
Love Avoidance is an “intimacy disorder. When people have an intimacy disorder, it means they all share a profound fear of intimacy (e.g., closeness, “being known,” vulnerability, sharing thoughts/feelings) * along with an underlying fear of abandonment.
In a Love Avoidants mind, intimacy with another person is equivalent to being engulfed, suffocated, and controlled.
Too much closeness can literally cause them to feel like they are losing themselves, and yes, it can even feel like dying. (that is how intense their fears can be).
Consequently, in romantic relationships, they have a heightened focus to make sure their partner keeps from getting too close.
A Love Avoidant does not embrace intimacy - but embraces ‘defying it’.
The Love Avoidant partner may send just enough mixed messages to keep the fantasy alive— just enough to give you some hint of what “might be” possible,” or “could be” possible, or “would be” possible.
Yet the REALITY is: What is possible, will NEVER actually be. Any sporadic “crumbs” of connection you get, is as much as you will ever get with an Avoidant.
Love Avoidant Distancing Strategies - The "Anti-Intimacy" Tool Box for the Avoidant
How does the Love Avoidant disengage and keep their romantic partner at a distance?
According to researchers, avoidants distance from romantic partners by using various “deactivating strategies” in relationships. These methods and strategies are like an “anti-intimacy” toolbox.
They consciously or unconsciously deny their needs for attachment and connection. They are compulsively self-reliant and feel a deep need to keep others at arm’s length in order to preserve a sense of autonomy and independence.
Deactivating or Distancing Strategies are tactical behaviors and attitudes used to elude and squelch intimate connection.
Although Love Avoidants have a need and desire to seek closeness in relationships (a hidden truth behind their mask)— they make an intensive effort to repress these needs (learned coping defensives from childhood).
Distancing Strategies are the tools used to incapacitate and suppress these needs. The following are some of the most common distancing strategies used in romantic relationships.
12 Common Distancing or Deactivating Techniques Love Avoidants Use To Evade Intimacy In Relationships
Examine the following list of Distancing Strategies (whether single or in a relationship) used by Love Avoidants to avoid an intimate connection in. The more you experience your partner utilizing one or more of these tactics-- the less fulfilled, and more alone you will feel in your relationship.
- Avoiding physical closeness— avoiding sex, or severely reducing sexual contact; eluding physical affection; avoiding proximity/closeness: (e.g., hugging, kissing, holding hands, sitting close; avoiding sharing the same bed; avoids sharing same bed; walks ahead or behind, etc.); also may retreat when affection is offered.
- Refusal to make commitment— makes assorted statements to shun commitment to a relationship, “I’m not ready for commitment,” “I’m no good at relationships,” or “I never have good relationships”, all the while engaging in a monogamous relationship, sometimes for years; (relationship looks/appears like a committed relationship).
- Avoids verbalizing “I love you”— avoids saying “I love you”, while simultaneously asserting feelings towards the other; makes excuses as to why he/she can’t or won’t say, ”I love you"; may say something like, “You know how I feel, why should I have to say it."
- Sabotages when things are going well— when a relationship seems to be going well, he/she sabotages or disrupts it in some way; e.g., starts arguments; suddenly acts angry or resentful; becomes passive-aggressive; doesn't keep agreements; doesn't call back; becomes overly demanding, controlling arrogant; becomes hostile, defensive, or reactive for no apparent reason; creates unnecessary drama, etc.)
- Cheats or has affair/’s— establishes a sexual, romantic, or emotional relationship with another person; creates a relationship with people who are unavailable (e.g., married or already in a committed romantic relationship).
- Refuses to resolve conflicts; communicate— refuses to discuss relational problems or resolve, negotiate conflicts; rebuffs sharing his/her internal or external stressors; withhold feelings, thoughts wants or needs.
- Criticizes or devalues— partner becomes the “enemy”; focuses on partners flaws or imperfections; makes belittling observations (e.g., comments on way partner talks, dresses, eats, looks, or (fill in the blank); finds fault/blames partner for any current or ongoing issues); displays a negative attitude of resentment, revulsion, or dislike; disparaging comments on traits he/she found to be positive in recent past; devalues, despite partners genuine effort of being open, loving, honest, caring, supportive, etc.
- Pines for past relationship (ex-girlfriend/boyfriend)— talks or thinks about a past relationship partner with a sense of craving, nostalgia, yearning, or longing for “the long lost love”; may make statements about great qualities of an ex-flame, all the while ignoring/minimizing ex’s imperfections that, in reality, what avoidant focused on in past relationship; convinces self that he/she was “the best partner I ever had”; may also dream of “the one perfect partner” who is “out there somewhere”.
* This defense may seem absurd (it is). Yet, in the Avoidants mind, this defense justifies that “I’m okay and not the problem, my partner (current) is the problem” … to them, a perfect rationale to keep a current partner at arm’s length and make him/her seem unimportant by comparison. It also sends a message that the avoidant partner “actually craves or is capable of intimacy." Don’t buy it!– dreaming of an ideal partner or ruminating about a past relationship doesn’t mean the avoidant is capable of real intimacy; the truth is in fact, they drive it away; and would do so in any romantic relationship they get in.
- Flirting with others— frequently leads on, flirts, teases, or plays with other/'s seemingly potential partners or “flings” (with little or no consideration of current partners feelings) - a tactic to send a conscious or unconscious message that “I’m always on the lookout for another, you’re not that important to me”-- no doubt, this is an emotionally abusive and callous act to make a partner feel insecure, anxious, and self-doubting. As goes one quote, “Flirting is the Art of Keeping Distance at a Safe Distance."
- Emotionally “checks out” of relationship— spends lots of time away from partner; displays disinterest about partner’s daily life, concerns, thoughts, views, or feelings; rarely initiates conversations and/or cuts them short; indifferent, aloof, and unconcerned attitudes; ignores or minimizes sincere caring and loving acts/behaviors by partner; exhibits a posture such as, “you’re not that important to me”, “I have more important things to do with my time”, or “Don’t bother me."
- Keeps Secrets — withholds important information from partner (e.g., won’t tell how money is spent; doesn’t share what he/she is doing with their time , or persons, they spent time with when away; conceals important feelings, thoughts, or views); shares information in ways which leaves things unclear, vague, or ambiguous; may keep secrets from close family members, friends, etc. about personal or relational matters. This defense is to maintain an entrenched desire to be independent and self-reliant (all Avoidants have) * Healthy/secure relationships involve inter-dependency: a balance of independence and dependence. One extreme or the other blocks authentic interaction and intimacy, and leads to painful/unhappy relationships.
- Focus is outside/away from relationship— creates external distractions; diverts essential time and energy away from relationship (e.g., being excessively preoccupied in work, hobbies, children, or other relationships); outside focus can be some addiction or compulsive behavior (e,g., porn, sex, drugs, alcohol, gambling, gaming, etc.) -- All a sure way to disengage and avoid giving a relationship time and nourishment; guaranteeing the obstruction of intimacy.
Avoidance is NOT Love. True Love Does NOT
Evade or Turn Away. True Love Embraces and Turns Towards.
A quintessential representation of a Love Avoidant in romantic relationships is someone who consistently maintains an emotional and mental distance from their partner. They feel overwhelmed by their partner’s desire for closeness and feel stifled at any thoughts or pressures of vulnerability-- and rely on an escape route, through distancing strategies.
For the Love Avoidant, distancing strategies make sense, as they are very effective at keeping themselves emotionally walled up and disengaged in a romantic relationship. Yet, using distancing strategies is very ineffective at creating a loving, happy relationship- for both partners.
Love Avoidants fear of intimacy, vulnerability, and closeness are recurrent and pervasive. They are afraid to genuinely love another and to be loved by another. Intimacy is their foe.
The more the Love Addict pursues, the more the Avoidant distances. So try and try as you may, put all your effort and energy you want to feel connected, valued, reassured, and loved by a Love Avoidant partner... and still, you have a fearful/insecure partner pushing you further away, and who by the way, will inevitably see you as the problem to their unhappiness-- Don’t ever accept this.
Never ever, take on blame or accept responsibility for what is not yours. A Love Avoidant does not just enter a relationship and suddenly become this way.
Who you are isn't the cause. Sorry, you just don’t have that much power to “make” someone behave and act this way. They have unresolved issues, and you cannot rescue them, nor are you responsible for them. This is who they were before you met; and who they will continue to be, whether you're with them or not. It is not you - none of their junk is about you.
One more thing... Just because you’ve felt intense chemistry, attraction, euphoria, and excitement with someone who is Love Avoidant– doesn’t mean it is love!
STAY AWAY FROM PEOPLE WHO MAKE YOU FEEL AS IF
YOU ARE HARD TO LOVE.
You can learn the in's and out's of the Love Avoidant, and the painful relationships you can become involved in, by checking out my book on love addiction relationships: Love Addict in Love Addiction.
About the Author: Jim Hall MS is a former therapist turned Love addiction Specialist and Relationship Coach who helps individuals get over unhealthy attachment patterns, -- and develop the skills and self-assurance to acquire fulfilling love in their lives. Jim is also the author of three books and workbooks. - see below