An Avoidant Person (Me) Attempts Vulnerability

I am a naturally avoidant person — but I’m trying really hard not to be.

A door into an alternate universe has been opened in front of me and I am staring — skeptical and scared — straight into it. I have to walk in… right?

After a few months of living life’s lovely turbulences and riding the consequential waves of upheaval and confusion, my girlfriend brought a book to my attention. At the time, I was self-diagnosing on psychologytoday.com (not a smart idea, BTW) and my head was spinning — I didn’t know which way was up. The last thing I needed was a book. Or so I thought. She was trying to make sense of a recent break-up when her therapist recommended Attached. No thanks, I thought as she explained it to me… I got this, I’m good, I’m fiiiiine. Meanwhile, I was silently picking apart my life, wondering how I got to be where I am.

A few more weeks passed, and she still spoke highly of the book and its positive difference in her perspective. Me, on the other hand… I continued to silently question past decisions, and feel apprehensive about the future. “OKAAAAY,” I groaned at her as I reluctantly pulled out my phone to download the book. Little did I know that I was turning the key to unlock a door I never knew existed.

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Attached, in the most general way, is about how we relate to people. Essentially, due to the combination of our life experiences, background and genetic code, we all fall into a category of anxious, avoidant, secure or a mixture of the three, attachment style. I don’t want to dive into the book, necessarily — though I highly recommend it to anyone interested in human connectedness. I’d rather share my experience, my learnings (my avoidant self-discoveries)… because, guys, I feel like my eyes have been opened. I was raised by loving but avoidant parents, and have learned the same behavior over the course of my life through that and failed relationships, et cetera. What do I mean by avoidant exactly? According to Attached, “avoidant people equate intimacy with a loss of independence and constantly try to minimize closeness.” Ouch. (But, true.) Looking back at previous relationships, I can connect the dots and realize it all makes sense. In the beginning stages of getting to know someone, the more we share, the more we start to feel vulnerable. However, in my experiences, I am quick to pull back to a place where I feel comfortable, which is usually somewhere around arm’s length. True partnership is tough for me, connecting is even harder. And when I have to share something about myself it comes out an inarticulate grumble of random words mixed with a lot of staring at the ground. The funny thing is, though, is that I actually love connecting with people — it’s just hardand sometimes avoiding the entire situation is an easier option.

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So why am I sharing this with you now? Well, I don’t really know… but, learning this about myself has opened up a new door in my life and I just can’t stop thinking about it. And I want to share it — oh crap, is this vulnerability?! I’ve realized that I can’t keep people at arm’s length if I truly desire close relationships with them. I need to keep being intentional about my relationships, to sometimes go out of my way, or outside of my comfort zone (scaaaary), to connect with people. I take pride in my independence, but I’m also learning that life is a journey (man), and finding a balance between holding on to my beloved space and truly connecting with people is a process. But one I am excitedly willing to work on!

So here I stand on the other side of this newfound open door, albeit wary and cautious. But if true intimacy, friendship or partnership is on the other side of that door, then (gosh darnit) I’m walking through.

+Does this resonate with anyone else? I’d love to hear your thoughts… you too, fellow avoidants!

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Comments

  1. Another great book to read about attachment styles is Why You Do the Things You Do. I just finished it and learned that I am also a person with an avoidant attachment style. Check it out :)

  2. Wow loved the article and it did resonate with me a little and I want to read that book! So I really feel like I am a naturally outgoing person. I am actually very loud and if I am in a room, everyone knows just by the volume of my voice and a lot times curse words that fill the air. With that being said, I am definitely still an avoider. I have so many “aquiantances” and people from work that I really enjoy, but making that leap across the line, actually getting to know someone, one on one, I get extreme anxiouty. Even when I was younger, I would tell my mom to lie to my friends on the phone and tell them i was sleeping or not there.. Just to avoid conversation! I don’t know why that is.. Its like on the surface, on paper I feel like I look great, but any deeper than that I get nervous to share or allow someone to really know who I am. Therefore, i get left with no close friends like everyone has, no bachelorette parties, no intimate dinners.. But maybe that’s how I like it? I feel like I am missing out on important opportunities or connections, but i find it hard to get over this hump.

  3. OMG! My parents were like that — their friends would stop by the house — and even though they liked their friends — it wasn’t “convenient” to see them at that moment so my mom would have me go to the door and “lie”. I picked that up and now that we have caller ID, I pick and choose who I will or won’t talk to at that moment or when I’ll call them back.
    As a kid, I wasn’t the coolest kid in the class, but I had friends. I WANTED to be a COOL kid and have those kinds of relationships. I still want relationships and I DO have them,, but I get scared when I have to do something all the time even when I don’t want to. It becomes too much relationship and the “down time” or “privacy” goes out the window. It’s like I’m supposed to be all relationship 24/7. Is it ME or am I just not a COOL kid yet???

  4. Interesting. I seem to be an avoidant yet at other times secure. Most times I’m what I call a “Watcher”. If I’m with my husband, I’m very secure. If I’m attending a class (like Zumba), I’m a watcher until I feel confident of my ability to do the new step. Of course at other times, in the same class, I’m right there up front learning the new step. I’ll have to see about getting the book. It never hurts to learn something new about yourself.

  5. My case is a bit different: I’ve always craved for deep, close relationships with people, and while one of my friends have commented on how easy it is for me to go deeper in a conversation, I almost always play second fiddle even though I’ve provided myself for them :( I tend to get really attached, too, so it amps the pain.

  6. I have been dealing with these same issues, but I didn’t understand why. This helps, I’m going to get that book. Thank you for sharing your story.

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