breakup town: how to date someone avoidant

tl;dr You can’t.

They won’t let you.

You’ll try to get close & it’ll feel like banging your head against a wall.

This reinforces your beliefs of inadequacy. THOSE ARE A LIE. YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH JUST AS YOU ARE.


A week ago, before my boyfriend broke up with me, I googled “how to date someone avoidant.” To my (sadly hilarious in retrospect) befuddlement, there weren’t any useful posts about it, only posts like “How to avoid dating someone avoidant” or “How to spot an avoidant person and run the other way.” How strange! my pre-breakup brain thought.

And then he dumped me.

So I wanted to write something for the other anxiously attached folks out there whose avoidant partners haven’t pushed them away yet. IT’S COMING. It’s only a matter of time. You can’t change them; they’re only going to hurt you. Not to sound all apocalyptic, but get out now! Save yourself!

Early on, my ex assured me he was emotionally secure, that the thing he wanted most in life was emotional intimacy, that he longed for (and was ready for) the closeness he never had during 15 years with his (avoidant!) ex-wife.

But when it came down to it–when I got close–he chose avoidance and being alone rather than working through his shit. OUCH.

Side question: Does anyone ever really change? I’d like to think so, or at least that I’m the exception to the rule–I’ve been working on grief, anxiety, depression, codependency, and emotional attachment for years. (I’m also very humble.) But it seems to me that it’s pretty hard to change past patterns and habits of unhealthy behavior UNLESS YOU’RE READY & WILLING TO WORK HARD AT IT. No one said it would be easy. But would it be worth it? I thought so. (Still do.)

It wasn’t that he didn’t care about me. He did. Avoidant people can be caring and affectionate and make love and cuddle for hours. They can agree to be exclusive, go on a weekend getaway with you, even introduce you to their friends and family. They give great pseudo-relationship for short periods of time (usually 3 months max). They think they want love–after all, (almost) nobody wants to end up alone.

But if you spook them one too many times, if you get too close emotionally or make them too vulnerable and want to hang out in their heart, they run. They run and they don’t look back.

And maybe someday you join the ranks of their exes whom they extol and praise to their NEW unlucky partner–the poor sucker who will never be good enough. The poor sap thinks, “I’ll be the one to scale his walls in a sort of weird reverse-Rapunzel! My love and affection will heal him!” Yikes. I cringe to even type it. That’s the codependent brain in a nutshell: Rescue! Smother! Control! FEAR! Enough backrubs and they can NEVER leave me. (Antidote: THIS.)

If I sound bitter, it’s because I’m sick of this unhealthy pattern playing out in my life. I thought I’d finally broken out of it and found someone emotionally secure. Now I know to judge by actions, not words, and to get my butt to Codependents Anon more often.

It hurts in a major way. And unfortunately my therapist/self-help bookz/meditation app all say I have to FEEL MY FEELINGZ rather than smother them in nacho cheese and brain-numbing sitcoms. Don’t they realize feeling your feelings seriously sucks sometimes? It’s the worst! My only consolation is that feelings pass. I won’t always feel this way. And maybe, just maybe, if I let myself feel shitty/sad/lonely/abandoned now, it’ll help me heal and get back to kicking ass sooner. (It helps that I have amazing friends. <3)

These Louise Hay affirmations are my heart-salve:

  • Self-compassion nurtures and sustains me constantly.
  • The one person I am with forever is me. I am my own best friend.
  • I cannot change other people. I accept them the way they are.
  • I accept only healthy relationships. I deserve to be treated well.
  • I willingly release any need for struggle or suffering. I deserve all that is good.
  • I am willing to let go of what is no longer necessary in my life.
  • I offer compassion to myself and others. We are all doing the best we can with the understanding, knowledge, and awareness we have.
  • The greatest gift I can give myself is unconditional love.
  • Loving myself gives me the extra energy to work through any problem more quickly. My life is a labor of love.
  • Love happens! I release the desperate need for love and allow it to find me in the perfect time and space.
  • I do not have to earn love. I am lovable because I exist.

Ahh. It sounds so dumb and cliche…but I’m feeling a li’l better already. Thanks for listening, internet ❤










  1. Thanks, Zach!!!!!!!!!! This means a lot! I’m so sorry you’re dealing with heartbreak too. Self-compassion for the win. I’d love to read April’s post but I can’t find it by googling–link me? And YAY for breakup songs! Sending warmth & good vibez your way ❤

    • Lol I received this post by email and replied by email, thinking it would go to your inbox instead of WordPress… it also seems to have stripped out the links. I’ll email you manually 🙂

  2. ❤ Obviously needs to develop a set of slick, seemingly benign first date questions to expose these avoidants. TWO WEEKS. TWO WEEKS. Want to label envelopes tomorrow for meditative comfort? 😉 Bikini Kill on repeat. xo xo

  3. So this little article certainly brought a little sunshine into my day. Sooooo relatable. I’m still at the “I’m not exactly sure what happened, things were so good and then all of a sudden she’s pulling away” phase, but acceptance is right around the corner and reading this gives me one more reason to believe that I didn’t do anything wrong. Thank you Holly, reading this made my day a little easier.

    • I’m so glad it helped a little, Todd! And I’m so sorry you went through that. It’s confusing and sucks big-time. Yeah! It’s not you!!! 🙂 Hope things keep getting better for you. You’re not alone!

  4. Hi Holly,
    Your personal story helped me feel a little less alone. The guy I was dating for just over a year just let go of our relationship last night. It blindsided me. But like you expressed so well, it was always like running into a brick wall. Get close and then the distancing tactics that were hurtful would kick in. I had told him that for this to work out, he really needed to look at why he couldn’t open up and be vulnerable. I think that was too much.

    It hurts, but I feel like I learned a lot about recognizing my feelings as valid. Even though early on I thought I was needy, and all the focus was on helping me not need. But relationship is not about being alone together. It is about connecting and feeling like those love feelings are reciprocated. Consistently.

    So thank you. I am picking myself up, dusting myself off, and when I can give it a fair shake, looking for a life partner again. With my eyes wide open though.

    Best of luck to those of us on the receiving end of this. It’s hard. We all know it gets easier with time though. Hurray for supportive friends. Hugs.

    • Hi again, ginhare! I just found your first comment in my spam folder–so sorry it didn’t get posted the first time. Anyway, hope you’re holding up OK, and sending big hugs!!

  5. Thanks Holly. I got blindsided last night by being broken up with after dating a guy for over a year. He knew he had to choose looking into why he could not connect if we were to continue . He says at one time he could, but can’t right now. I thought our relationship was important enough for him to look at why that wall was showing up. Like you, I read that a person is better off running from a relationship with someone who doesn’t feel comfy with consistent emotional intimacy.

    I guess he made it easier for me, but it sure does hurt. This post makes me feel just a bit less alone. So thank you. Hugs to all of us on this thread. And compassion to those who aren’t equipped to connect. I suspect we are actually the lucky ones.

    • I’m so sorry, ginhare!! Ugh. That sounds so painful and frustrating, especially since he said that. 😦 It sounds like you are way ahead of him in terms of self-awareness and being open to this stuff! (Not that that makes it any less painful) 😦

      I think you’re totally right…we’re lucky we’re ready for that kind of emotional intimacy and vulnerability, even if they aren’t. And THANK YOU for the reminder to be compassionate. I keep hoping I’ll find someone who isn’t avoidant–I hope you find someone who’s a better fit, too! BIG hugs to you too!!! You definitely aren’t alone ❤ ❤

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