I’m Anxious, They’re Avoidant — is There Hope?
How to resolve conflicting attachment styles.
If you find yourself co-creating anxious/avoidant cycles with your partner(s), this one’s for you. This is a big question I’ve been asked countless times, in various forms, and it usually sounds something like this:
“I just found out that I’m anxious, and the guy I’m seeing is avoidant. All our patterns suddenly make sense! I’m always seeking more connection and feel like he’s pulling away. Given how mismatched we are, is there hope for us? Or should we go our separate ways?”
First of all, teachable moment: You are not anxious. However, you may currently have an anxious attachment style. Words matter. Be careful with them. Separating this pattern from your core identity will make it easier to change, because you’re not perceiving it as being a fixed part of you.
Now, this is such an important question: How can two people be together when they have patterns that feed into each other, creating a dysfunctional cycle?
One person comes too close, the other pulls away. And when they pull away, the other chases harder. Eventually we just get fed up and say, “This isn’t working. Byeee.” Right? Or maybe one person is so avoidant that they literally disappear. They move, or ghost you, or block your number and social accounts.
In any case, the anxious person tends to want to move towards the space that the avoidant person is creating to distance themselves with. And the anxious person also tends to be the one who initiates this entire conversation (sorry, anxious people… Oops, I mean those with anxious attachment styles…)
You tend to be the one who’s more likely to seek relational information. You also tend to be the one who wants to fix things. You’re the one chasing love, and the other person is running from it.
So, it makes sense that you’re the one who often makes the initial move to bridge the gap. And that might be something you need to come to terms with. But WHICH move you choose to make is even more crucial…
Rather than continuing to play this game where the avoidant person runs away and the anxious person runs after them, both people need to break the cycle and meet in the middle.
Imagine you and your partner standing at the centerline of a basketball court, facing each other…
Now, if you have an anxious attachment style, when an avoidant partner distances themselves and runs off around their half of the court, instead of chasing them like a beheaded chicken, you want to stand still. You don’t step into their space, you just lean over the centerline a bit.
You might lean in and say, “Hey, I noticed that when X happens, you lean out…” or, “I noticed you said that you want Y, and now you’re saying you want Z…”
You’re calling them forward, but you’re not leaving yourself. Your center. This is how we heal anxious attachment.
…Okay, it’s a little more complex than that. But, in its simplest format, that’s the gist. The avoidant person needs to learn to come back, and the anxious person needs to stay put.
What you’re ultimately learning is how to stand in the space between the two people.
We sometimes think this work is just about learning how to relate to the other person. It’s this kind of one-way mindset. But it’s actually about learning how to navigate BOTH people and the space between them—how to be with ourselves AND another at the same time.
This is some of the hardest work in the world. Especially for Avoidants. For them, closeness leads to pain. They’re driven to have space that they can control. Whereas for the anxious style, distance leads to pain.
So the avoidant person needs to lead with trusting love again. Both people do. And what we really have to do is trust ourselves again. You begin doing that by having boundaries. By communicating. By learning what’s going on in your system and what’s going on in theirs.
In the course Silvy Khoucasian teaches called Attachment 101, she dives deep into this. She talks about the different attachment styles—how they dance with one another, how to understand them, how to work with them, and how to change them. It’s SUPER powerful. Click that link above if this is a subject you’re ready to master.
So, can it work out for an anxious person and an avoidant person? Of course it can! Because “anxious” and “avoidant” aren’t permanent states of being. They’re learned behavioural coping mechanisms. Just as we learned them, we can unlearn them, and create bigger love.
This is the invitation that relationship provides. It invites us to heal. Isn’t that beautiful?