**This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events that I have experienced firsthand; used with permission.
“I have commitment issues,” I declared before our first date. He’d been single for several years following a difficult divorce. And although he was admittedly afraid of getting too serious, he said he was “actively working on letting people in.”
While the red flags were glaring, he was pretty easy on the eyes, and he made me laugh. I had also convinced myself that I wasn’t looking for anything serious, so dating someone with commitment issues seemed ideal. Little did I know that his dismissive-avoidant attachment style would activate my anxious attachment like a moth to a flame.
He would do this thing where he would be available and then disappear. Then he would complain about the things he could use help with him but then refuse the help when it was offered. And he would go from cold to hot to frozen solid in the span of a single conversation.
Dating this guy was like riding a high-speed roller coaster on a moonless night. It was impossible to know what he wanted, how he felt, or whether he was into me or not.
When I told him that I couldn’t see him anymore, he was genuinely surprised. While I was struggling with his ambivalence about him, he thought things were fine. The ability to be himself without being judged allowed him to feel deeply connected to me.
In other words, while he was feeling safe and secure in what we had, I was feeling alone and isolated.
Dismissive-avoidant attachment style
Many people with dismissive-avoidant attachment styles are dismissive throughout their lives without knowing it. Dismissive behavior can come in the form of emotional distancing, controlling behaviors, or angry outbursts.
The dismissive-avoidant attachment style is characterized by a fear of intimacy, avoidance of closeness, and discomfort with emotions. People with this attachment style tend to be independent and self-sufficient. They often suppress their emotions and may have difficulty expressing their feelings in a healthy way.
The dismissive-avoidant may use various defense mechanisms to keep people at a distance. They may seem cold and uninterested or try to control the situation and the people around them. Their goal is to avoid intimacy at all costs.
There are several reasons why dismissive avoidants act like they don’t care.
Dismissive avoidants have a fear of intimacy
A fear of intimacy characterizes the dismissive-avoidant attachment style. This means that they are afraid of being close to someone emotionally. They may view any emotional closeness as a loss of control. As a result, they may go to great lengths to avoid intimacy.
“People with dismissing attachment styles don’t seem to have a difficult time initiating romantic encounters or starting relationships. They just aren’t sure how to go about keeping them and allowing them to grow.” —Hal Shorey Ph.D.
Dismissive behaviors are a defense mechanism
Dismissive avoidants often use dismissive behaviors to protect themselves from getting hurt. They may do this by emotionally distancing themselves from others. Unfortunately, their need for space and distance often makes the people in their lives feel unimportant and cast aside.
“The reason that love and affection are so threatening to someone with a dismissing attachment style is that these things were typically not made available from parents in childhood — even though on being interviewed, they usually state that their childhoods were idyllic, and that their parents were loving, without offering supporting memories of evidence.” —Hal Shorey Ph.D.
Dismissive-avoidants struggle with emotional expression
Many dismissive avoidants have difficulty expressing their emotions in a healthy way. This may be because they are afraid of being vulnerable. As a result, they may suppress their emotions or try to control the situation. This can make it difficult for them to form close, intimate relationships.
“The problem here is a strong disconnect between the dismissing person’s conscious thoughts and his emotional system. His conscious mind tells him that this partner is attractive and has a great personality — that he should be happy moving forward with the relationship. But simultaneously, her emotional system is reading her love and affection as a threat and triggering an anxiety response. —Hal Shorey Ph.D.
If you are in a relationship with a dismissive-avoidant, what can you do to get them to open up?
The best way to get a dismissive-avoidant to open up is to be patient and understanding. Try not to take their dismissive behavior personally. Instead, focus on building trust and creating a safe space to express their emotions.
If you can do this, you may be able to help them overcome their fear of intimacy and form a closer, more intimate relationship. But ultimately, the dismissive-avoidant must be willing to work on their issues to make progress and build connections.