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The Adult Attachment Series: On Being Dismissive

If you haven't read my previous post called Understanding Adult Attachment, check it out. It gives a broad overview of how attachment is developed and how anxiety and avoidance combine to create four adult attachment styles: secure, anxious-preoccupied, fearful-avoidant, and dismissive. While secure attachment is the most desirable (due to the benefits and positive relationships typically experienced by securely attached adults), many adults are not fully secure. Instead, many adults either fit into one of the three insecure attachment style categories, are mostly secure with some insecure attachment tendencies, or are mostly one of the insecure attachment styles with some secure tendencies.

In this three-part series (The Adult Attachment Series), I plan to provide more in-depth explanations of each of the three insecure adult attachment styles. The first two part of the series were about being Anxious-Preoccupied and Fearful-Avoidant. This last installment is about being Dismissive.

Experiencing low anxiety and high avoidance, dismissive adults typically try to avoid getting too close to others in romantic relationships. Additionally, they can crave independence and might even claim that they don't need a romantic partner to be happy and/or feel fulfilled. Dismissive adults tend to have a high opinion of themselves and a low opinion of others: hence their typical feelings that they don't need a partner - not many people live up to the standards they have set for themselves. When dismissive adults actually find themselves in a relationship, they tend to not openly express their feelings or emotions, want to take things slow, and are typically "not ready to commit" as soon as their partners. One might hear a dismissive person cynically say something like, "True love isn't real," which could be one reason why they are reluctant to start relationships. In order to distance themselves (consciously or unconsciously) from a mate, they might focus on small imperfections, pull away when things are going well, check out mentally, avoid physical closeness, and/or keep secrets.

What to Do
- Educate yourself about dismissive attachment.
- Be patient.
- Take it slow- emotionally, physically, conversationally.
- Give your partner space and alone time when they need it. Let them hang out with their friends or family alone sometimes. Give them time to have their own hobbies and interests while still playing a role in their life- there is a fine line and you're going to have to find it.
- Let them guide the pace of the relationships.
- Minimize your own emotional disclosures to match the disclosures of your partner. Pay attention to the amount of emotional disclosure your partner can handle.
- Understand that your partner might need less quality time together than what you're used to. It has little to do with you and your relationship. Try not to take it personally if your partner needs alone time.

What to Say:
- Express your compatibility, "I love us."
- Reassure safety and security, "I'm not going to judge you," "You can tell me anything," & "You don't have to feel scared with me."
- Express understanding, "I get that you have a hard time trusting others. You can trust me. I'm here when you're ready."
- Walk the line between pushing for disclosure while not prying or smothering.
- Reinforce your support of their independence, "Of course you can go! Have fun!"
- Use "I" messages (an assertion about the feelings, beliefs, values, etc. of the person speaking); especially during conflict, "I feel hurt when people I deeply care about don't share their lives with me."

What to Avoid:
- Bombarding your partner or nagging them for emotional disclosures.
- Being too distant- you still want to be close (physically and emotionally) with your partner. Just be careful not to smother.
- Using destructive conflict strategies- accusatory language, disrespect, contempt, stonewalling, criticism, shaming, blaming, defensiveness.
- Blaming them or yourself for their distant/negative behaviors.

What to Do:
- Educate yourself about dismissive attachment.
- Go out of your way to do special things for your partner.
- Actively pay attention to how your partner loves other and feels loved by others (how they prefer to be loved). Then try to express love that way towards them.
- Invite your partner to hang out with you and your friends and family. Do not completely exclude your partner from other parts of your life.
- Make special occasions a big deal.
- Be self-aware. Think carefully about why you tend to avoid emotional and/or physical closeness.
- Reflect on your past experiences. Contemplate how your past has molded your desires for autonomy.
- Carve out quality time in your daily schedule for your partner.
- Seek professional help if you have the means to do so.

What to Say:
- Express your difficulties with sharing your emotions, "It's hard for me to talk about my feelings." Explain why this is difficult for you.
- Express your difficulties talking about commitment and the future, "It's hard for me to talk about our future because commitment makes me uncomfortable." Explain why this is difficult for you.
- Communicate your relationship likes and dislikes.
- Tell your partner that you care about them.
- Express your dislike with being pressured to share emotions, "I usually shut down when I feel pressured to talk about stuff I'm not ready to talk about yet. Please be patient with me. I don't move as fast in relationships as most people."

What to Avoid:
- Getting frustrated with your partner's bids for affection.
- Arguing defensively.
- Brushing your partner off.
- Thinking you're always right.
- Putting up walls when discussing difficult topics.
- Acting like you don't care about your partner.

Click HERE to read about being Anxious-Preoccupied and HERE to read about being Fearful-Avoidant.


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