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What Happens When You Date a ‘Love Avoidant’ Person?

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Glenn Stok studies emotional self-awareness, and he writes about it to help his readers understand its importance in relationships.

Love Avoidant Personality Disorder

Love Avoidant Personality Disorder

I once dated a woman with a love avoidant personality disorder. She continually would push me away with her evasive disposition and then pull me back with her good nature.

The experience encouraged me to do some research and study the frenzy of a love avoidant personality. The purpose of this article is to explain the struggle one might face with this behavior.

What Is a “Love Avoidant” Person?

About 1% of the population has some form of Avoidant Personality Disorder, which can cause significant problems in any social or work environment.1 But Love Avoidants have difficulty with personal relationships specifically.

The term is a poor description of this disorder, mainly because they don't intend to avoid love. For that matter, they want to be loved, and they have a desire to love others too.

I know that because my girlfriend was previously married—twice. So she did find a way to enter into a committed relationship. The only problem is that it didn’t last because of her avoidance methods that pushed both her husbands away.

A love avoidant tends to use techniques to distance themselves. They do this for fear of intimacy. They might have been hurt before, and this is their defense mechanism.

It could also be a result of early childhood consequences. Unresolved issues that remain from unfavorable events in one’s formative years can affect their ability to feel comfortable sharing a life with another person later on.

They struggle with the need to protect themselves from imagined undesirable treatment, despite the need to be loved.

Love Avoidant Distancing Techniques

Some distance is certainly understandable in a relationship since partners continue to lead individual lives. However, lovers in a healthy, committed relationship expect to support one another, especially when they are most vulnerable.

When one has a love avoidant behavior, they want too much distance. They set boundaries that are unrealistic and cause a lack of intimacy with distancing techniques such as the following:2

  1. They avoid physical intimacy.
  2. They avoid discussing their feelings.
  3. They flirt without involvement.
  4. They refuse to solve conflicts.
  5. Some are verbally abusive.
  6. They don’t nurture the relationship.
  7. They blame their partner for their confusion.

Love Avoidant Personality Traits

When I researched the traits of a love avoidant, I found it fascinating to see similar issues with my girlfriend that were discussed in the article, “Top 6 Signs of a Love Avoidant” by Jim Hall.3

I noticed a common theme, which is mainly avoidance of being close, as you will see in this list:

  1. They have a fear of closeness.
  2. They want privacy and not answer questions.
  3. They don’t reciprocate when you try to get closer.
  4. They set up emotional walls to avoid closeness.
  5. They feel they need to run away at times.
  6. They set unhealthy boundaries.

My research helped me realize what I was dealing with at the time. You’ll see how these traits affected my relationship later in this article when I tell you how I struggled with a love avoidant girlfriend.

What Do Love Avoidants Want?

It isn’t easy to have a friendly rapport because they make their partner feel they are walking on eggshells. That’s how I felt with my love avoidant girlfriend. I always had to make an effort to eliminate conflict. Otherwise, she would want to get up and leave.

When I studied research publications on this disorder, I found many doctors confirming that attitude. I learned what they want when I read “Identifying and Understanding a Love Avoidant Person” by Ariel Quinn.4

I’ll review those desires I noticed that my love avoidant girlfriend had.

They Want to Keep Their Life Private

They exhibit a fear of being branded and will not let their partner learn much about their life or background.

They want to keep their past history private and not allow their background to come up in conversation. When I tried to get to know my girlfriend more by asking questions, she got angry. She used that anger to make me feel I was out of place asking questions.

The distancing techniques they use are mainly to keep their partner from getting too close. The way I saw it, that included getting close emotionally, physically, and perceptively.

By saying "perceptively," I mean they don’t want their partner to know much about them.

They Want to Avoid Repeating Hurtful Past Experiences

In many cases, love avoidants are afraid of being hurt by someone they love, so they subconsciously do whatever works to keep an emotional distance for their protection.

That fear of being hurt might be the result of a negative experience they had in the past. It could have been with another relationship, but it might have been a bad experience in family life while growing up. For example, if they had parents who argued a lot with loud yelling, that might have left them with fear of experiencing that in a personal relationship.

They Create Unhealthy Boundaries When Confused

I noticed a certain degree of confusion. That became clear when we discussed what caused a prior dispute that occurred.

My love avoidant girlfriend had experienced a particular incident in a different way than was actually meant. When it first occurred, she was devastated and later told me she was thinking of leaving. But when we talked about it, she admitted she was confused and didn’t understand what it was all about and put her own interpretation into it.

Unfortunately, that confusion made her set boundaries that made me feel I had to be extra careful to avoid setting her off.

The strange thing is that when I backed off, she would become very kind and try to pull me back by telling me she missed me. It was as if she was afraid of losing me. I felt I was dating two different people: one who pushed me away and one who wanted me to be close.

How to Live With a Love Avoidant Person

If you feel it’s worth the struggle, you have to earn their trust. I did discover that my girlfriend was willing to discuss what was going on eventually.

She complained many times that I was controlling. I thought she wanted not to be told what to do. However, later when she learned to trust me, she explained that she appreciated how I took charge to handle things.

The end result that I discovered with dealing with a love avoidant is to learn to understand their way of expressing themselves.

That is true for any healthy relationship. But in the case of living with a love avoidant person, one might misunderstand what’s really going on for them since their way of talking sometimes pushes one away.

How I Struggled With a Love Avoidant Girlfriend

Her previous experience with two failed marriages left her with emotional stress. I’m not sure if that caused her to develop a love avoidant personality or if that personality disorder was the cause of her failed marriages.

Either way, the effect on anyone she dates is the same. That baggage caused tremendous problems in the relationship. Her bad experiences made her push me away numerous times, thinking I’d be like the others.

Her attitude towards me, whenever she pushed, would make me feel unwanted. She got resentful when she thought things were not going her way, and she sabotaged the relationship by suddenly acting angry.

Every time she noticed that I was moving away emotionally, she tried to pull me back. She had a sense of awareness about her tendencies to do this, but it didn’t help her refrain from repeating the same push and pull technique.

Her technique was to push with her actions and pull with her words. I always understood that actions speak louder than words, as the saying goes, so her kind words didn’t offset her negative actions in my mind.

Words don't mean much. I pay more attention to people's actions. Her actions always made it seem she didn't want a relationship. I found it unsettling never to understand her confusing behavior.

I felt she was playing mind games with me because she'd turn around and say she missed me each time she pushed me away.

I can see that she was frightened by imagining a reoccurrence of her past. For her sake, I hope she gets over it to move on with her life.

In Conclusion

I felt like a fish. As an analogy, she would catch me with a hook, then throw me back in the water. Suddenly I’d see another baited hook fishing for more — only to throw me back in the sea again.

I might have had a desire to try to work things out. But since it was a new relationship, I had no desire to put more effort into it, especially with the constant push/pull craziness.

To my surprise, she called one day to admit that her son just told her, “Yes, Mom, Glenn is right. You always push people away. You did that with Dad too before the divorce.”

Again, that was her way of baiting another hook. But that time, it didn’t work. She tried to tell me that now she knows, and she can change. I didn’t think she would be changing after two husbands had left her. People don’t change that easily.

Some people never change at all. Many issues that occur in childhood or later in life that hinder one emotionally can take a long time with much effort to heal.

I give credit to those who genuinely are willing to work on it. But that doesn’t mean someone else who is fished out of the sea needs to wait around.

References

  1. Jennifer Casarella, MD. (October 21, 2019). “Avoidant Personality Disorder” WebMD
  2. Rachael Pace. (June 15, 2020). “What Is Love Avoidant Behavior” Marriage.com
  3. Jim Hall, M.S. “Top 6 Signs of a Love Avoidant” Love Addiction Help. (Retrieved May 26, 2021)
  4. Ariel Quinn. (July 9, 2020). “Identifying and Understanding a Love Avoidant Person” Herway.net

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Glenn Stok

Comments

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on June 03, 2021:

McKenna, You said that very well. Some people don't put the effort into changing negative behaviors, and they remain stuck. I see that with some of my friends. Thanks for your great comment.

McKenna Meyers on June 03, 2021:

Glenn, your article made me recall what Dr. Shefali says: "We're not living a life; we're living a pattern." I'm glad that you walked away from this woman because a life-long pattern is so very hard to change. First, a person must recognize it, want to alter it, and then do the conscious work to eliminate it. Very few people have the tenacity to do that. It's impressive that you were able to look at your relationship objectively and write this article to help others.

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on June 03, 2021:

Umesh, I’m glad you found this well presented. That was my intention when organizing my thoughts for this article. Thanks for the feedback.

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on June 03, 2021:

Thank you for sharing that information about your friend, Dora. It’s sad that she imposes that treatment on her daughter.

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on June 02, 2021:

Very interesting. Well presented.

Dora Weithers on June 02, 2021:

I have a girlfriend who fits this description perfectly. She plays the same "game" with her daughter, wanting the young woman not to be like her, but then exhibiting great fear when the daughter seems to get close to someone.

Thanks for this explanation which helps us understand the disorder.

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