Fearful Avoidant Attachment in Relationships:

Navigating the Bumpy Waters 


January 31, 2024

Conflict is an inevitable part of any relationship, but for those with a Fearful Avoidant (FA) attachment style, it can become a tempestuous sea of repeated grievances. Individuals with FA attachment often find themselves caught in a cycle of needing to be heard and understood so profoundly that they may rehash an issue tirelessly. Those on the receiving end may say their partner is "rehashing an old argument" or "beating a dead horse," and as a result the partner may feel berated and talked down to, as if their ability to comprehend is being underestimated.

At the heart of this relentless pursuit for clarity is the FA's deep need to be seen, heard, and fundamentally understood—needs so vital that they equate to trust. For the FA, there is a fear of betrayal and an anxiety that they cannot trust those closest to them. When hurt, they feel compelled to express their pain from every angle, hoping to engrain their experience in their partner's mind to prevent future harm and build a foundation of trust and safety.

Example Conversation with Fearful Avoidant and Dismissive Avoidant Dynamics (note that these dynamics can change and the conversation would look different)

Let's consider an example conversation between an FA and a Dismissive Avoidant (DA) partner, a pairing that is often drawn to each other despite their vastly different coping mechanisms and ways that they approach emotions:

FA: "I can't believe you forgot our anniversary. It feels like you just don't care about our relationship the way I do. It's like that time you didn't call when you were running late, and I was left worrying for hours."

DA: "We've been over this. I said I was sorry about the anniversary. Why do you keep bringing up the past? It's exhausting."

FA: "Because it keeps happening! It's not just about the anniversary. It's about feeling valued and important to you. I need to know you understand that."

DA: "I understand, but I can't change the past. What do you want me to do? You're making a mountain out of a molehill."

FA: "Well, it doesn't sound to me like you care" " I am just trying to bring it up and your already dismissing my concern." 

DA: "Oh, boy, "here we go again"

In this interaction, the FA is seeking deep emotional validation, while the DA feels overwhelmed by the intensity and persistence of the conversation. The DA's response, comes across as minimizing or dismissive, which actually exacerbates the FA's fears and perpetuate the cycle of conflict. 

The Antidote to Help Your FA Partner Regulate

To help an FA partner regulate their emotions and break the cycle of repetition, it's crucial to provide empathetic and kind cues that show a deep understanding of their perspective or of their concern that they brough up. Instead of a simple acknowledgment i.e. "I get it" or "I understand," reflect their feelings back to them and affirm the validity of their experience. Its relatively simple; though from doing this for a while I know it can feel like a monumental action:

DA: "I see that my actions have made you feel unappreciated, and that's the last thing I want. I understand why our anniversary is important, and I'm genuinely sorry for not honoring it the way you deserve."

This kind of response acknowledges the FA's feelings and demonstrates a willingness to engage with their emotional reality. It can help disarm the FA's emotional reactivity and foster a more constructive dialogue.

Now, this is also where I will see FA's communicate it agian to make sure they heard and this can then lead to the DA going back to a dismissive or defensive response and the cycle will kick back in. Thus, it is crucial for a DA to just stay with that for just little bit longer and it will work wonders. 

Ok What if You are Dismissive Avoidant?

As a DA, it's also essential to recognize your own attachment insecurities and how they might contribute to the conflict. Defensiveness and an inability to fully absorb your partner's feelings can stem from your own wounds, which may include feelings of being judged or unfairly criticized. By stepping into your own attachment security, you can learn to set proper boundaries, communicate effectively, and listen and validate your partner's experience without necessarily agreeing with them. Stay Tuned for my Next Blog on this. 

Understanding the dynamics between FA and DA attachment styles is key to navigating the complexities of these relationships. If you recognize these patterns in your relationship and are seeking tools to manage them effectively, stay tuned for an upcoming blog series on attachment.

Remember, both partners in a relationship have valid needs and perspectives. Through mutual understanding, empathy, and effective communication, it's possible to transform conflict into a bridge towards deeper connection and trust. There is Hope!

Write me if you want something else covered  on fearful attachment. This might be worksheets or side topics. Email at jared@graceandpeacecc.com

Core Wounds of Fearful Avoidant Attachment

Examples of How FA Wounds Can Develop

The Impact of FA Core Wounds in Relationships

These core wounds can lead FAs to exhibit behaviors that oscillate between clinginess and withdrawal. They may desperately seek closeness and reassurance from their partner but then push them away out of fear of getting too close. This push-pull dynamic can be confusing and painful for both parties involved.