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 ❤








22 thoughts on “breakup town: how to date someone avoidant

  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 ❤

    1. 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.

    1. 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!

    2. Exactly what I encountered and am now on the 8th silent treatment on the 4th week. Everytime something was great like a great weekend and he got close- then began a new silent treatment. Me being anxious, I texted, tried to find out what was wrong only to be humiliated and silenced more. Now Im reading and trying to take back my control in my life and realize its not me. Its how he has always been in every relationship ( marriages only lasting 2 months) and he will never find the women he thinks will conform to all. He runs from all closeness unless its at a time he initiates something. After realizing what he is to himself as a dismissive avoidant, it makes more sense to me and unless he can see it within himself he wont ever be happy. Im not sure where ive been left at in his life right now as stated he’s done silent treatments so many times after a great weekend together. Previously a 6 week one. hes said we were done and over 3x but then days later or a couple weeks later back like nothing happened. NO telling but Ive learned how I am anxious and I have stopped reaching out to him. NO use. Maybe the scared boy inside him will think ” wow this time she is leaving me”.
      Instead of thinking he can push and pull away whenever he feels like it and play with my heart over and over again. He tells me to chill, relax but never am I given any moment to relax and chill with. he has me still on facebook but ive gone radio silent now. I am moving on to date someone else and not waiting around to see when he chooses to feel he misses me again. I do love him and wanted this to work out and it could have if he could look at himself and his avoidance of intimacy and closeness. All he does is run. Cycle, good times, silent treatment, back again… repeat repeat repeat

      1. Gahh, how painful! EXACTLY–“unless he can see it within himself, he won’t ever be happy.” Ugh. I am so sorry he’s jerked you around like this. GO YOU for moving on and not waiting for him! You deserve someone who can love and be there for you consistently!!! ❤ Sending big hugs and high fives and empathy your way.

  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.

    1. 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.

    1. 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 ❤ ❤

  6. Thank you so much for this post. I realized unfortunately this week that I have been hit and run by a man with avoidant dismissive attachment. It was my first real relationship and it felt like love. My family loved him and it was serious. He pursed me like nobody else had and he wanted to hangout all the time. I was so flattered and felt special. He said he was head over heels, saw me as his life partner, wanted to meet almost daily (we both are business owners so we had flexible schedules) said he was dead serious and wanted to share his life with me and we are on the road to an engagement. (our culture has courtship not dating so we generally marry a person within a year if they are the right one) My only complaint with him was that he would not express his emotions and would not reciprocate when I would write sweet emails or messages. That conversation was a recurrent one and it never caused too much of a problem. Then one fine day, after 4 months of having a great relationship, he gets distant and cold and began to ignore my texts/calls. It was like a switch in his head. He broke up with me abruptly in the coldest and most callous manner. It was a complete shock to me. I had no idea he had this till I looked it up. Thanks for this post. If I knew this about him I would have reacted differently with him and have never gotten so close. He showed up in my life like a storm and exited like one, creating so much pain, devastation and damage in our family’s life.

    1. I am so sorry, Sarah!! How devastating. It’s so hard when the person is saying all the right things (and seems to mean them!). I’m so sorry this guy hurt you and your family. What a painful experience. I hope you find someone who CAN express his emotions and gives you the love and affirmation you deserve!!! ❤

  7. Hello. I am an anxious preoccupied and he is dismissive avoidant. We tick all the boxes of this kind of pairing. We have been “seeing” eachother for 2 years. The last month has been more difficult than the usual push/pull. He does not initiate much contact anymore but will respond if I do and usually ask to get together. I have backed off with my initiating hoping he will step up but he seems to be okay with talking to me less. Feels like it has backfired on me. :(. I love this man so much but do not know how to get him to contact me like he did before. It hurts to think he doesn’t miss me or think about me. My phone is so silent. I hope to hear from him and when I don’t, I feel unworthy. I try to not contact him a lot but after 4-5 days of not hearing from him, my anxiety is through the roof and I reach out. We have such a wonderful time when we are together. He is attentive and caring. But when we part, my anxiety kicks in immediately as I don’t know if or when I will ever hear from him again. The silence between seeing him seems to be increasing and I feel us drifting further apart. It makes me very sad.

    I have done a lot of research on attachment styles and am beginning to understand this is how he is. But I still can’t help feeling sad and wanting to see and hear from him more.

    Thank you for this article and allowing me to vent.

    1. Gia, I’m so sorry about that. I know what you mean and it’s so painful. 😦 You ARE worthy of love and attention (even though this guy is jerking you around)! It IS really sad to realize there’s a relationship dynamic that isn’t working. In my opinion, you deserve someone who makes you feel secure and loved whether you’re hanging out or not. I wish I could give you a big hug!! Sending love and support from afar!!! Sincerely, Holly

      1. Thank you, Holly. We are no longer together. We spent Christmas together and then he went silent. Two weeks later, he has a new woman living with him. But he said I was wrong in thinking we were in a relationship. When I got upset, he said I was being childish, dramatic and immature.

        I am devastated by the whole ordeal and feel worthless. Now, this new woman is getting the best version of him and all his love and attention.

      2. Things have been so much worse with my DA ex. He started seeing someone in January. He claimed it wasn’t serious and he wanted to stay friends with me. I naively agreed. It has been nothing but pain ever since. He was going back and forth between new girl and me. I have seen the new girl go crazy when I was at his house one time but he still kept seeing her. He has been on and off with her since January and now, he has changed his FB status to “in a relationship.” He never wanted a relationship with me or claimed he wanted ANY relationship. I feel like such a loser. Why did he suddenly become committed and wanting a relationship with this new woman? It hurts so bad that he miraculously became a securely attached person. I am hurting so much from all of this. I was thrown aside like yesterday’s trash.

      3. Ugh, I’m sorry, Gia. That sucks. You might have to cut this guy off completely. You’re NOT a loser. I doubt he became secure–it might be that she’s avoidant and in this dynamic he’s the anxiously attached one, chasing her. In any case, it doesn’t sound like a healthy relationship. It might look good from the outside but I bet it’s pretty dysfunctional and painful. I would run in the other direction and leave those two to their unhealthy dynamic! You deserve so much better!!! ❤

  8. Gahh!! I’m sorry, Gia! What an asshole. I’m sorry he belittled your emotions like that. That must feel so unfair. You deserve love and attention without the drama!!! I hope you get a good fresh start with the new year and can heal. Sending love and good vibes your way. ❤

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