[1 of 5] The Anxious Avoidant Trap: A Case of Like Sees Like
Updated: May 31, 2019
If you always seem to find yourself back in those same old patterns, with partners that…
-Don’t appreciate you, and take your generosity for granted
-Show up with fireworks one day, and then disappear without explanation the next
-Treat you like an intimate partner, but don’t give you any physical intimacy
-Or they only seem to be interested in sex, but exclude you from other aspects of their lives
-Avoid labeling the relationship and make you feel neurotic for needing it
-Behave in a needlessly secretive fashion
-Ignore you for weeks then text “miss you” at 2am
Or maybe your partner is...
-Intrusive and over-controlling
-Monitors every move you make
-Has high demands and never gives you any space
-Takes everything personally, and over analyzes everything you say
-Interprets most situations in the negative
-Presses for too much too fast
-Doesn't respect your boundaries or a need for space
-Expects you to read their mind, and blows up when you don't
-Is hot one minute and cold the next
You may be caught in a roller coaster relationship fueled by insecure attachment styles, "the anxious-avoidant trap."
The anxious-avoidant trap is a situation in which we find ourselves caught in unhealthy, push-pull relationships.
On the surface, most people tend to view the anxious-avoidant trap as a case of opposites attract, but truly, i find it to be a case of like-sees-like.
In this 4-part video series, we will explore the phenomenon of the anxious-avoidant trap.
Let’s go over what you will learn over the course of this series.
⭐To begin, today, on day 1, we will explore some underlying dynamics of the anxious avoidant trap as a general introduction.
⭐On day 2, we will go over 6 signs of the anxious avoidant trap.
⭐On day 3, we will explore 4 Neurochemicals That Feed the Anxious-Avoidant Trap.
⭐On day 4, we will look at The Role of Fantasy and Avoidance in the Anxious-Avoidant Trap.
⭐And on day 5, we will look at 3 Ways Anxious And Avoidant Partners Push Each Other Away.
If you would like to look at the other videos in this series, see the full listing below:
[1 of 5] The Anxious Avoidant Trap: A Case of Like Sees Like: https://youtu.be/i2Pf3U1W-ZQ
[2 of 5] 6 Signs of the Anxious-Avoidant Trap: https://youtu.be/Kw0YMwKb6xo
[3 of 5] 4 Neurochemicals That Feed the Anxious-Avoidant Trap: https://youtu.be/Hf9DtzrGw7M
[4 of 5] The Role of Fantasy in the Anxious-Avoidant Trap: https://youtu.be/5iwwgh8XmP8
[5 of 5] 3 Ways Anxious And Avoidant Partners Push Each Other Away: https://youtu.be/vBojJVwAykc
Below is our Live Q&A Series to address all of the questions that came up from our followers throughout this series:
[LIVE Q&A] [1 of 5] "A Case of Like Sees Like..." https://youtu.be/B84mWhzDtTc
[LIVE Q&A] [2 of 5] "6 Signs of the Anxious-Avoidant Trap..." https://youtu.be/cOx9NXBalio
[LIVE Q & A] [3 of 5] "4 Neurochemicals that Feed the Anxious-Avoidant Trap..." https://youtu.be/6FlhtHXmpxY
[LIVE Q &A] [4 of 5] The Role Of Fantasy in the Anxious Avoidant Trap: https://youtu.be/x9ZF7NNlrhs
[LIVE Q&A] [5 of 5] 3 Ways Anxious and Avoidant Partners Push Each Other Away: https://youtu.be/eroD8H4EEtA
So, now, let’s dive into an overview of the Anxious-Avoidant Trap...
Have you ever thought...
"I know this relationship is unhealthy, but I cannot leave this person. Why am I so afraid of being alone? I mean, this is probably the best I could do...I just know there is so much potential here! Sometimes we are so good together; if only my partner would just get with the program and stop being so afraid of love, everything would be fine. I know if I stay strong and love them enough, they will come around. No one else could love them as unconditionally as I do.”
Or perhaps you've felt...
"I am attracted to my partner and I think I love them, but anytime we get close, I start to feel suffocated and like they are trying to control me. They start telling me they will be there for me no matter what, and it only makes me feel bored and/or lessens my attraction to them. I just need someone with an edge...a challenge. They really deserve someone better. Someone who can return that kind of selflessness. They’ll just end up disappointed. I’d be doing them a favor to bow out now. I just don't think I am cut out for relationships."
Perhaps you have harbored both of these sentiments at one time or another.
These statements illustrate the two extreme ends of a spectrum of ambivalence, which in the context of an interpersonal, romantic relationship, we are defining as the anxious-avoidant trap.
I tend to think of this kind of push-pull, roller coaster relationship as living in an addictive state of “take” or “get” mode.
When we passionately want someone, it stimulates a feeling similar to hunger, and we want to take or get the object of that hunger, however and whenever we can.
In essence, we are trying to get what we didn’t as children, and so our wounded inner child is often aroused and stimulated in these types of relationships.
Well known relationship expert, Harville Hendrix claims, this spark of attraction is most likely because you have met an imago partner—someone whom you instinctively know will replicate your past attachment relationships. Someone with whom your implicit and/or unconscious memory wants to enlist, in order to help you “correct” what went wrong in your past.
If this is the case, your parents may have provided a distorted mirror, bent by their need to see you as an extension of themselves, or how they wanted to see you, steering you towards having an insecure attachment style.
If environmental factors supported these parental projections, or “conditions of worth,” and temperamentally you were susceptible to taking those in, these styles may have become solidified and followed you into your adult relationships.
If you never felt fully seen, loved, respected, or allowed to just be who you were, as a child, your feeling of wholeness will depend on someone else’s validation and approval, and/or external evidence of worth (such as money, aplomb, or other trappings of power and “success”). You do not experience your own energy as abundant and limitless, but depleted and vulnerable to theft.
If you listen to other people’s opinions about romance and attachment relationships, they usually center around a narrative that is very revealing of their personality as a whole (including early wounds)—whether its rigid, flexible, or anywhere in between.
For example, Many anxiously attached individuals keep themselves feeling safe and in control by giving a lot, but never allowing themselves to really surrender to receiving; because that would be to give up too much control, and they have been taught it is “selfish” not to be selfless.
For both anxious and avoidant individuals, partners that are too available, too consistent, or too predictable are labeled “too boring” or “too nice.”
Frequently, I hear people saying, “I want someone with a bit of an EDGE to them.” Meaning, they want someone that will make them EARN love and respect...they are aroused by a “challenge.”
Why is that so sexy?
Because otherwise, they don’t feel worthy of it.
They want to have to work for it; to earn love, because they don’t believe they are loveable enough as they are.
For anxiously attached individuals, they attempt to make themselves indispensable to their partners so that they will never be abandoned.
Because this looks like things we typically respect—i.e. generosity, caring, and concern—it can be a subtle form of passive aggression that uses victimization to exert power: “See how much I give? And yet I get nothing back.”
I refer to this as the “martyr syndrome.”
Avoidant individuals--particularly those that come from enmeshed family backgrounds, as opposed to dismissive ones---might become hyper-reactive and interpret genuinely well-meaning overtures as attempts at emotional manipulation, when they aren’t.
Instinctively, they rebuff this subtle--and sometimes NOT-so subtle-- attempt at control, by withholding their emotions, or cutting themselves off from their loving feelings entirely, because they feel threatened by this kind of well-intentioned “invasiveness.”
They quickly turn from hot to cold.
Relationships then typically devolve into power plays, in which lovers get caught in a love/hate, push-pull dynamic and emotional token economy (which I will talk about more later).
The anxious partner connects to, reflects, contains, analyzes and organizes the yearnings the avoidant partner will not allow him or herself to feel--the “potential” they see in their partner. In essence, this is one way the avoidant partner avoids taking responsibility for their own emotions and feeling states, and maintaining healthy boundaries with them.
At the same time, the avoidant partner fulfills the prophecies that keep the anxious partner in a victimized state—one in which the anxious partner doesn’t have to assume responsibility for their own feelings, either.
In my opinion, this is truly the Attachment Paradox, even anxious people are avoidant, because they are choosing partners they sense (or flat out KNOW) won’t give them what they want, and then they CLING to them, which means they never have to surrender to the act of receiving.
Why do they do this?
Because they perceive a surrender to receiving, as akin to a loss of control. “I want this closeness so bad, but deep down I worry that if I get it, I will become so completely lost and dependent, who I am--whatever I am-- will disappear.”
OR, “I worry that if I finally got what I wanted, I would become the bored or withholding one, and that seems cruel, and I would rather play the role of the victim, than hurt someone else.”
OR “If I was with someone that actually wanted to look closely enough, I am terrified they won’t like what they find, and then they’d abandon and reject me anyway, but then I’d feel twice as stupid and humiliated.”
This is EXACTLY the SAME mechanism as the rolling stone’s inner -and often unconscious--monologue!
A rolling stone, or avoidant person, also cannot allow themselves to receive because it stimulates the hunger they have buried so deep down, that it threatens to dismantle the sense of independence and equilibrium they feel they have accomplished in their lives.
It also stimulates worthiness issues; “She is too good for me...he deserves better...I could never give them what they need...better to end it now so at least we have the memories, before it goes sour, no harm no foul…etc.”
So, as we dive into what I will refer to as “the anxious avoidant trap” I would emphasize that while on the SURFACE this may seem like a case of opposites attract, it is ACTUALLY a case of like-sees-like.
Want to learn more about attachment?
What if there were a simple solution to your most painful relationship problems?
Gain insight into your relationship problems in 4 questions, when you take this attachment styles quiz!
Take the Quiz: http://bit.ly/4LuvStyles
Briana MacWilliam ATR-BC, LCAT
Licensed and Board Certified Creative Arts Therapist
Author, Educator and Reiki Practitioner