My last relationship took me for a loop that I could have never expected. My boyfriend was an overall good guy, not the type I was typically used to dating in the past. He was not physically or verbally abusive and everyone who knew him seemed to adored him. I only heard people speak highly of him and I mistakenly assumed that he would make a wonderful partner. I was very wrong. Our relationship ended in a lot of drama and pain that left me confused and hurt for some time. I have learned a lot from this relationship and I am now thankful for the experience.
The most important lesson that I learned from this failed relationship is that love is simply not enough to make a relationship work. I loved my boyfriend very much and I assume that he also loved me. I dreamed of spending the rest of my life with him as I had never been with such a “good guy”. I wrongly assumed that he was the love of my life because he was loving at times and not abusive like the past men that I had been with. Our relationship in general seemed better off than any other that I had engaged in in the past. But there was always something not quite right and in the whole two years we spent together and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until the very end. Once I realized what was wrong our relationship was far too damaged to salvage.
What was so horribly wrong with this man that everyone seemed to put on a pedestal? I began to realize that his friends and family’s needs were a priority over mine and even his own. I thought he was just being a good guy by taking care of everyone but I began to realize that by doing so he completely ignored and avoided my emotional needs at the same time. Not only did he ignore my needs, but he would also put his on hold to please others regardless if the outcome would damage his self-worth and our relationship. After a lot of therapy and reflection I now know that this man is a “Dismissive-Avoidant”.
A dismissive-avoidant is someone who subconsciously fears intimacy because they have learned that caregivers are not dependable. Because of this deep-seated fear, a dismissive-avoidant type may feel that they are better off alone and will usually resort to avoiding the closeness of emotional intimacy. This type of person is often unable to take attachment issues seriously and when pushed to do so becomes agitated and unwilling to discuss the issues at hand. They often use work or other activities to busy themselves so that they may have an excuse to avoid emotional attachment. They do not understand that emotional distance has an impact on them. These types will often subconsciously resort to having their own emotional needs met by a less demanding partner who does not require reciprocation of real intimacy and closeness. On the outside, dismissives may pin their relationship issues on their partner while deep inside they have such low self-esteem that they do not feel worthy of love and affection. This is something that they learned from their caregivers who failed to meet their emotional needs at a very young age.
When you are in a relationship with a dismissive-avoidant they repeatedly remind you in many ways that you are quite low on their list of priorities. They often feel that any relationship problems are their partner’s problem as they cannot identify their own feelings deep within. A dismissive-avoidant will use distancing to limit the intimacy within their relationships that they can’t seem to tolerate. There are many different ways a dismissive can distance themselves from their partners but in my case my boyfriend would frequently “mentally check out” on me when I was trying to discuss something that was very important to me. This treatment lead me to realize that my emotional needs were the least of my boyfriend’s worries. And that made me feel very alone, although he was physically by my side nearly every day for our entire relationship.
Our relationship started on the rocks and I should have taken the red flags to heart and ran the other way. The biggest wedge in our relationship was his friends and family who treated me with complete disregard and were frequently downright disrespectful to both him and me. The first time I met his brother, he drunkenly flipped out on me and caused a huge and embarrassing scene at a party. I felt completely unwelcome amongst his friends and family after this occurred. His friends were the most disrespectful group of people I have ever encountered, bullying and belittling me even in front of my boyfriend who could never muster the courage to stand up to them. My boyfriend’s family gradually became more and more abusive towards me and when I would bring these issues up to my boyfriend he would simply dismiss and avoid them. He was used to this treatment and to him it was no big deal. Towards the end of our relationship I felt so completely alone and worthless because that was what my boyfriend subconsciously engrained into me. But everything else seemed great and I chose to ignore these blaring red flags because I loved him and thought that was enough for our relationship to endure. I am not saying that the failure of our relationship was one-sided but that simply both sides must be equally engaged for a relationship to thrive.
What have I learned from all of this heart ache? Love is not the only factor needed to maintain a healthy relationship. Respect and communication are also key. Attentiveness to your partner’s needs are of the ut-most importance regardless of how you unimportant they may feel to you. Communication cannot be one-sided and both parties must be willing to dive deep into their emotional issues if a healthy level of intimacy is to occur. I wish that I had fully understood how important each of these aspects of a relationship are two years ago when I began my relationship with this boyfriend, but I am also thankful that I am now able to take the pain that I felt from this relationship and turn it into an important learning lesson that I hope to never forget.
And with that being said… if things just don’t feel completely right in a relationship, I suggest that you take a hard look at the red flags you are encountering and be honest with yourself. If something feels wrong, discuss your feelings with your partner and work together to resolve them. If the issues are being pushed back to you as your own personal problem, then your partner is dismissing your needs and may not be capable or willing to fully engage in an intimate relationship.
I hope that by sharing my experiences and reflections that my readers will be able to take my journey as a lesson and apply it to their personal lives. Red flags in any relationship are something that should not be ignored and are there for a reason! If you can work through them, your relationship will be that much stronger. If you can’t, then perhaps it is time to take the high road regardless of feelings of love.
August 11, 2016 at 1:23 AM
This is really sad. We’ve just read this and identified an ex boyfriend in this as well. His family and friends were all nice to us but he was avoidant of serious relationship discussions or conversations about feelings towards the end of our relationship. He used the physical distance between us to justify not moving forward in our relationship, and wouldn’t acknowledge my alters. He wasn’t a bad guy, he helped a lot, but the constant avoiding and dismissal of anything that would make the relationship more serious ended it between us. I’m sorry you had to go through that. X
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August 11, 2016 at 8:55 PM
This is so amazingly familiar! Thank you for you ❤
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October 22, 2016 at 9:11 PM
I spent 10 years with my dismissive only to be tossed aside. Lesson learned but hopefully I still have time to find ago of partner and make a life with them.
Avoidants aren’t bad people but I do think they are fundamentally incapable of making a real relationship work. The research shows they almost never change. The self help available to them is to find secure partners and tell them they need a lot of alone time. Basically they need secures that don’t want intimacy or closeness from their relationships.
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October 28, 2016 at 8:54 AM
I agree so much Justin! My ex wasn’t a ‘bad guy’ but he was certainly a horrible partner. That was conflicting for me because I was so used to being with bad guys by the time that I met him that I forced myself to overlook his dismissive personality. In the long run it didn’t work and hearts were broken. Lesson learned!
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August 30, 2017 at 6:43 AM
Sadly all these comments echo with me.
My boyfriend began being the most loving and attentive person in the first four months only to become more and more emotionally distant and cold over time.
I have spent months going round and round in my head about how I could do things to help him embrace communication and intimacy as journey worth taking with me. I feel as though I am walking on eggshells.
When I raise it he becomes increasingly hurt and defensive.
He is a person with many good qualities- but I just can’t get close.
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August 31, 2017 at 7:07 PM
This sounds too familiar. My “boyfriend” (he never could never call it a relationship) broke up with me 6 weeks ago after 4 years. We live an hour apart from each other. In the beginning. It was amazing. He chased me until he caught me. About 4 months or so in, I started seeing him a little less. Every time I tried to leave, he came for me and I wasn’t strong enough to break free. When I saw him, he was perfect and charming. He tried so hard to make me happy (I have an anxious attachment), but I always needed more from him. Considering how avoidant he is. I’m surprised he continued to try and make me happy. When I read about the signs of an avoidant, he has every last one, to the extreme. I always knew something wasn’t right, but I loved him so much, I would go along with it. Towards the end, a woman in his hiking group started flirting with him on social media and this set off my neediness. He assured me she was just a friend and not his type. This went on all summer. I wanted to stop the rollercoaster ride I was on, but just wasn’t strong enough. I continued to push and push until he finally ended it. Off course, he has “jumped” to the woman who was chasing him to try to suppress his feelings for me.
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September 6, 2017 at 7:31 AM
Thank you! I just read your post and felt as though you were describing my last relationship. At the end of my 3 1/2 year relationship, my therapist raised the issue of adult attachment and brought to my attention that my ex and I were in the Anxious/Avoidant Trap. I have an anxious attachment, which of course I learned after 3+ years of wondering what was wrong with me. Like yours, my ex was such a “good guy” that I couldn’t see how he was incapable of ever meeting my emotional needs. That feeling you described, of being so alone even with him physically by your side? Perfect description. I really needdd this this morning.
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October 13, 2017 at 3:57 AM
Reading this post and the comments has helped me so much! I am just coming out of a 3 1/2 year relationship with a man that I swear was going to be my forever. It was a long distance relationship which was fine for me for now. There were many red flags in the relationship and he was not big on talking to me about many of his routine, day-to-day details but I attributed this to the distance and that he was a hard worker. His family was amazing, and getting away to see him every couple weekends was perfect. Recently he had started to pull away, and as an anxious type, this really set me off. The more I pushed for more, the more he pulled away until we ended up on this month long “time out” of sorts that I just could not get okay with. I blamed myself for the way I handled it, but looking back it was his avoidance that was setting off my anxiety. It is comforting to read these stories because I feel like I am reading my own story over and over. It has helped me recognize that this is how a relationship with him would have ended for anyone, not just me, and that I did nothing wrong but love a guy who can’t accept the love. Thank you all for this!
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November 17, 2017 at 11:10 AM
I have recently been dumped. We were in a relationship for almost 4 years! I was too stupid and naive to realize the red flags since the beginning since he had been my first serious bf. Nevertheless, I loved (and still do) with all my heart, I know he loved me as well, because he would show it, through physical affection, and by calling and texting me. Yet, as time went on he had started becoming too comfortable, and not wanting to deal with our issues or my emotions, he would constantly stonewall me, which as I have learned now as an anxious attachment style person, it was incredibly damaging for me. He mentioned before, that his mother was the same way, and that is the reason he didn’t want to have children, because he was afraid of raising them like she did to him. Whenever we would argue, my anxiety would flare up, especially with jealousy and insecurity issues which he would completely dismiss. He also started to become more obsessed with his hobby, once he found a group of people that he truly clicked with, now he’s closer than ever with them! I guess they fulfill his emotional needs without much hassle. It makes me feel worthless, because he didn’t see a future with me, even though I have been his longest and best relationship by far. His family loved me, and my family adored him! I truly believed I had gotten so lucky on the first try, we were the couple everyone wanted to emulate. But I was too much for him, he discarded me, and my self-esteem is shit. I didn’t know better then, but I do now. I loved him so much I overlooked many things. I still love him now, and I’m willing to work things out, but as of October 27, he has not contacted me at all. The day of the break-up, he had stonewalled me the day before, and that day he was extremely cold, like if he didn’t know me. Did he ever truly loved me? Why did he string me along for so long? Will he ever contact me again? I don’t know.
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May 23, 2019 at 11:42 PM
yes I understand the ‘disgarding’ part when suddenley they become mean and end it all mine ….by message on FB…3 years all gone in a few seconds
mine also had a hobby group where he could ‘be himself’
December 23, 2017 at 1:06 AM
Wow. Thank you so much for this article. It describes the 17 year relationship with my ex almost to a T. Everyone thought the world of him (he has low self esteem, so he’s very ingratiating to gain admiration, respect and approval). He also used work and other issues in his life, such as his extremely co-dependent and enmeshed relationship with his son, which was the main thing we fought about and the reason I broke up with him. I still love him, because the good side of him is so extremely good, but I just keep telling myself he isn’t good for me in the most important way; emotionally.
Thanks so much for letting me know I’m not crazy!
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March 5, 2018 at 5:28 PM
This is all very familiar to me and very sad I’ve been going through six months of the most horrible heartbreak ever because the lady who I love just couldn’t be there for me and it was always something to do with her children or her health or her friends or her work and I thought next week or the week after everything would be just like it was on the honeymoon phase but then we never got there
My take away is that I was taking red flags and spending time and energy to neatly cut them into little red hearts which is not a good idea
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March 18, 2018 at 8:46 AM
Now that we know we need to apply what we know to the rest of our lives. Take long hard looks within to fix ourselves.
There is a reason we were attracted to that behavior. Still in the back of my head I hope he realizes how much he must love me and come back. He is my Soul Mate right? Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
I know in my being that we need to stay away from each other.
And I will no matter what.
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October 22, 2018 at 7:35 PM
I, too, have this attachment style. I’m in my 30’s now, and the only real relationships that I’ve had have been those with men whom I’m not attracted to (heteroflexible guy here, btw), and the BDSM community. I used to think that I could survive on my own, that relationships were for weak people who needed others, and that I could remain in complete control of myself. Today, however, I realize that such isn’t true, and the hints of that go back a long ways.
Things went badly with my first Ex, a wrestler with secure attachment, and nearly 7 years later the man that I’d let in still affected me. I talked to him, and he realized that there was still a lot of baggage. When we resolved that, it felt like a weight had been lifted off my chest. We’re friends now.
There are two things here that are important.
1) I tend to be submissive in relationships because I can yield to the other person when they want to talk about emotional stuff. I kind of don’t want to. It hurts. I get scared. I panic. When I do get emotional, it feels like I can’t really stop, and it all just comes slamming in until I can’t maintain control over it and get overwhelmed.
2) If I let someone else have control and trust them to be able to deal with my inability to really control my emotions (women tend to be better at this per my experiences opening up to dominant women when compared to dominant men), I can hold onto them to not just get swept away. This tends to shift me from dismissive-avoidant to Anxious-Preoccupied with that person because I trust them enough to be open with them (something that Dismissive-Avoidant people are terrified of). In essence, if I had someone my emotional leash and let them have control, I’m putting their need for emotional closeness above my own and trusting them to realize that I’m probably going to be very, very bad at this.
To be honest, I adore people who can be close to each other. I want to be one of them. The problem with that is that women in the USA are basically trained to really not like men who, on some level, need a woman’s control to be able to really commit to relationships. Men, however, are far more open to the idea. The BDSM community basically externalizes that control to a bit if we look at bondage, contracts, or scenes, but that is a subject so nuanced that people could, and have, written entire wikis on the subject.
It is easy for me to be surface level with people. Oh, people want to kiss or screw? No problem, I can do that.\
It is the deeper parts that require some work arounds, and trust me on this, of the women I’ve dated, I’ve had plenty walk out of the door once they realize that I have to submit to them to go where they want to go emotionally. The ones that stay are real keepers.
An important side note: Attachment styles can change. Secure can become insecure with a really, really bad event, and insecure can become secure after ~3 – 5 years of trying. I can tell you that it gets easier to be emotional when I force myself to do it for someone else. The fear lessens. The anxiety attacks happen less. The really big emotional things, however, are still a problem for me, and expressing emotional secrets or anything that I feel would would me extremely vulnerable are hard to do unless I really wrap my head around submission with the other person. still, there is usually a point where I have to stonewall someone because I simply can’t keep going without emotionally falling apart.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to fall apart if the other person’s going to put me back together and deal with the consequences of that. I’m happy to be terrified. However, I realize that if I’m that messed up and the person just leaves, I’m screwed. I might shoot myself just to get away from it. I’m too weak to deal with that.
I suppose the point here is that you dealt with someone who is dismissive-avoidant, but that person never actually developed a method that allowed him to become emotionally close to you. For most dismissive-avoidant people that I’ve met, letting someone get close is like giving them to the keys to the castle, so to speak, and allowing said person conquer them. I mean, we want to be conquered, but we also don’t want to die.
October 24, 2018 at 7:32 AM
Wowwww it’s like we dated the same exact person. When I first met him we was so shy and quiet I thought that it meant he was mature, sensitive, and secure – boy was I super wrong. Even now when I think about him I think about his eyes and his smile and how I fell for him because he was the opposite for me. I’m outgoing and creative and he’s very dry and technical – except for when he craved and needed love. Then he would become like a little puppy and would hold onto me like it was oxygen he needed to survive. We were together for 3 years and even got engaged and I thought that commitment would make him more open and less of a workaholic like his father. He showed controlling behavior from the start and I gave up a lot of things because I thought that’s what someone in a relationship does, so I did. Before he had a job, which I helped him find, he really was depressed and looking to me for guidance because I was a few years older with degrees and a job, and once he got one it became his entire life. He couldn’t ever stand up to his cold and critical family and saw no point because they’d never change and he would cry to me about how he struggled but in the end wasn’t willing to work on himself enough or at all in order to stay and it makes you feel like shit because you have SO MUCH. It’s a paralyzing feeling thinking you’re not enough or that you’re “too much” for the person who really did love you, when all you wanted was support and acceptance the same way you accepted and supported them. He came back after a month all confused and devastated talking about how he tried to push away his feelings because they were too painful and I thought there was hope so I gave him another chance. We started seeing each other without a status and I hoped that he would face his fears and that love would be enough for him to really work on his issues. I tried so hard to help him work through his own demons but it just looked like he preferred to be alone. After 3 months of contact, where we almost sort of dated all over again, he decided to give up. He didn’t see it as giving up and he said he’s scared to lose me but he doesn’t have another choice. I think it’s all an excuse and all a massive cop out. I don’t see a way to contact you so I’ll leave this comment but would really like to discuss!
July 3, 2019 at 7:47 PM
Sounds very familiar but we were only close coworkers. Even tho he was very affectionate, complimented me and did things for me, i recieved also rejection signals. These negative signals included not texting, acting indifferent, ignoring me when i was frustrated n acting too laid back for my comfort zone. These actions increased triggers in myself ( an anxious avoidant). So we did this push/pull, avoidance dance. He reached out to me to talk, i was cold n avoided. When i reached out to him he acted very distracted to a point he flat out ignored me. It was very frustrating. Still i asked him out on a date to have more privacy n talk more n have some fun together. He said sure at first but then recanted saying ” i think we should scale back to being friends. You flip flop n you dont know what you want.” It really broke my heart. I admitted my faults n said WE both were going back n forth. He looked at me like i had 2 heads but i stood my ground. Heasked could istill give a half hug? I said no. No touching. Look, im not saying he is a horrible person because of his extreme dismissiveness. I am saying that as long as he thinks its okto be dismissive n doesnt care to change then yeah its not worth it.Its important to be heard, and to listen. To be appreciated, n to be thankfull for who is beside you. To love n be loved atthe same time even when it is inconvenient.He meant well. He tried to support, to appreciate….in his own way…but it wasnt enough. I am not going to feel bad for wanting more.So its okay to just forgive, wish him/ her the best and walk away while i improve my anxious avoidant attachment.