Understanding What Happens When You Pull Away from an Avoidant: 5 Key Things to Know

Have you ever tried to pull away from someone who seemed emotionally unavailable? If you have, you probably know how this scenario often plays out. You might have thought that distancing yourself from an avoidant would lead them to miss you or change their behavior, but instead, they seem even more distant and unwilling to engage with you.

It can be incredibly frustrating when you feel like you’re putting in all the effort in a relationship, but the other person just won’t reciprocate. Maybe you’ve tried to talk to them about your concerns, but they shut down and refuse to engage. Or perhaps you’ve tried to give them some space, but they just seem to retreat further into their shell. Whatever the case may be, it’s difficult to feel like your needs aren’t being met in a relationship.

But here’s the thing – pulling away from an avoidant might actually be the best thing you can do for yourself. As much as it might hurt in the moment, it’s important to remember that you deserve a relationship where you feel seen, heard, and valued. Sometimes, the only way to move forward is to leave behind the people and situations that are holding us back.

Avoidant Personality Disorder

When it comes to relationships, individuals with Avoidant Personality Disorder (AVPD) tend to feel uncomfortable and fear rejection or criticism. This can lead to a pattern of avoiding emotional connections or keeping themselves isolated from others.

  • They often have a negative self-image and fear being humiliated or embarrassed.
  • They may struggle with expressing their emotions and often appear distant or detached in social situations.
  • They may also have a tendency to cling to relationships that are emotionally unavailable or unfulfilling, further perpetuating their anxiety and avoidance.

When pulling away from someone with AVPD, it’s important to understand that this behavior is rooted in deep-seated feelings of insecurity and vulnerability. They may take rejection or criticism very personally, leading to an even stronger desire to distance themselves from others.

If you notice someone with AVPD pulling away, it’s important to communicate your feelings clearly and calmly. Reassure them that your intentions are not to hurt them and that you value their presence in your life. However, it’s also important to respect their need for space and avoid pressuring them to open up or become vulnerable.

Types of Avoidant Attachment Styles

  • Dismissing: Individuals with a dismissing avoidant attachment style often appear confident and self-sufficient but struggle with emotional intimacy and may avoid close relationships altogether.
  • Fearful: Those with a fearful avoidant attachment style have a mixed fear of both rejection or criticism and being emotionally close to others, leading to a pattern of constantly pushing away and then seeking out closeness.
  • Preoccupied: Individuals with a preoccupied avoidant attachment style are often anxious about rejection or abandonment and may feel a constant need for reassurance and validation from their partners.

Healthy Boundaries in Avoidant Relationships

Establishing healthy boundaries is crucial in any relationship, but it can be especially important when dealing with someone with AVPD.

Some tips for setting and maintaining healthy boundaries include:

  • Communicate your needs and limits clearly and calmly
  • Respect each other’s privacy and personal space
  • Avoid trying to control or change the other person’s behavior
  • Set realistic expectations for the relationship
Signs of Progress in Avoidant Relationships Signs of Regression in Avoidant Relationships
-Increased willingness to open up emotionally -Avoiding communication or becoming more distant
-Showing more interest in spending time together -Becoming more critical or distant
-Taking responsibility for their actions and emotions -Blaming or avoiding responsibility

Remember, any progress in a relationship takes time and effort from both parties. With patience and communication, it’s possible to build a healthy and fulfilling relationship with someone with AVPD.

Attachment Styles

Attachment styles play a significant role in relationships, and understanding them can help explain why people react the way they do when someone pulls away. John Bowlby, a British psychiatrist, first developed attachment theory, which explains how early experiences with attachment figures shape our future relationships.

  • Secure Attachment: Individuals with secure attachment styles have a healthy sense of self-worth and are comfortable with intimacy and independence. They tend to have positive expectations of others and form trusting relationships.
  • Avoidant Attachment: People with an avoidant attachment style usually have emotionally distant or neglectful caregivers, causing them to learn to suppress their need for emotional connection and avoid intimacy. When someone distances themselves from them, they tend to withdraw even more to avoid rejection.
  • Anxious Attachment: Individuals with an anxious attachment style may have inconsistent or overbearing caregivers, leaving them craving for affection and validation. They tend to be hyper-vigilant towards changes in relationships and respond to someone pulling away by becoming clingy or demanding.

What Happens when You Pull Away from an Avoidant

When you pull away from someone with an avoidant attachment style, you trigger their fear of rejection, making them withdraw even more. According to attachment theory, this is called a protest response, where the avoidant will distance themselves from the sources of their distress, you. They may avoid you or become passive-aggressive in their behavior, making it difficult to resolve the issue. The conflict then becomes circular, with each person’s behavior compounding the other’s.

Avoidant’s Response to Pulling Away Possible Meaning Effective Communication Strategy
Avoidance, withdrawal Fear of rejection and intimacy Reassure the avoidant of your commitment, give them space to process their emotions, and avoid being critical or judgmental.
Passive-aggressive behavior Anger and resentment Validate their feelings, use “I” statements to express your own needs without blaming them, and seek professional help if needed.

It’s essential to understand that an avoidant attachment style is not a choice or a character flaw. It’s a coping mechanism developed in childhood to adapt to an unstable or neglectful environment. While it may seem frustrating, working on communication and building trust can help improve the relationship for both partners.

Fear of intimacy

When you pull away from an avoidant, one of the most common reactions they may have is fear of intimacy. Avoidants, by nature, shy away from emotional connection as a way of protecting themselves from vulnerability and potential hurt. As a result, pulling away from an avoidant can trigger this already deep-seated fear of intimacy and cause them to withdraw further.

  • The fear of intimacy in avoidants is rooted in their past experiences and relationships. They may have grown up with neglectful, emotionally distant, or abusive caregivers and learned to associate intimacy with pain and rejection.
  • In romantic relationships, avoidants may have been hurt or betrayed in the past, leading them to view intimacy as a threat to their emotional wellbeing.
  • Avoidants may also struggle with trusting others, as they fear that getting close to someone will result in them getting hurt or abandoned once again.

Due to their fear of intimacy, avoidants may respond to the withdrawal from their partner by becoming even more guarded and distant. They may use tactics such as stonewalling, avoidance, or even ghosting as a way to protect themselves from the perceived threat of emotional intimacy.

It is important to note that fear of intimacy is not a justification for avoidant behavior, as it can lead to patterns of dysfunctional relationships and emotional distress for both partners involved. However, understanding the roots of this fear can help both partners work towards a healthier, more balanced relationship.

Signs of fear of intimacy in avoidants How to approach an avoidant partner
Difficulty expressing emotions or discussing feelings Validate their fears and concerns, but also focus on the benefits of emotional intimacy and how it can lead to greater connection and happiness in the relationship.
Frequent avoidance or withdrawal when emotional vulnerability arises Practice patience and empathy, and try to create a safe, non-judgmental space for them to express themselves. Encourage positive communication patterns and set boundaries that respect both partners’ needs.
Fear of commitment or reluctance to nurture the relationship Provide reassurance and support, but also prioritize your own emotional needs and boundaries. Recognize that a relationship with an avoidant partner may come with challenges, and seek outside support or counseling if needed.

Push-pull dynamic in relationships

The push-pull dynamic is a common pattern in relationships, where one partner will push the other away while the second partner tries to pull them closer. This can create a cycle that can be destructive to the relationship, especially when one partner is an avoidant.

  • Avoidants push their partners away as a way to create emotional distance and protect themselves from getting hurt.
  • The more the other partner tries to pull them closer, the more the avoidant will feel threatened and try to push them away even further.
  • Unfortunately, this cycle often leads to emotional distance and can eventually break the relationship apart.

If the other partner decides to stop pursuing and pull back, the avoidant may feel abandoned or even rejected, as this is the opposite of what they were used to. However, this can actually be a positive step for the relationship.

By pulling away and creating some space, the avoidant partner is given the opportunity to analyze their feelings and desires. They may realize that they do want to be with their partner, or they may realize that they need some more time and space to figure things out.

Ultimately, what happens when you pull away from an avoidant will depend on the individual situation and the people involved. It is important for each partner to communicate their needs and feelings openly, and to work together to create a healthy, fulfilling relationship.

Signs of an avoidant partner: Ways to deal with an avoidant partner:
Avoiding emotional intimacy and vulnerable conversations Respect their space and boundaries
Focusing on external distractions or activities to avoid emotional engagement Encourage self-reflection and emotional awareness
Frequently changing plans or scheduling conflicts Be patient and understanding, but also set clear boundaries for communication and expectations

Relationship Anxiety

Relationship anxiety is a common experience for both avoidants and their partners. Avoidants often experience anxiety when intimacy begins to increase in a relationship, causing them to push their partner away. On the other hand, their partner may experience anxiety due to the constant push-pull dynamic of the relationship.

When an avoidant pulls away, it can trigger feelings of abandonment in their partner, causing them to become anxious and uncertain about the future of the relationship. This can lead to a cycle of the partner repeatedly seeking reassurance from the avoidant, only to be met with further withdrawal.

Signs of Relationship Anxiety

  • Constant worry and fear that the relationship will end
  • Constant need for reassurance and validation from the avoidant partner
  • Difficulty trusting the avoidant partner and their intentions

The Impact of Avoidant Withdrawal on Relationship Anxiety

Avoidant withdrawal can be very damaging to a partner’s mental health and can further exacerbate relationship anxiety. The avoidant partner’s inconsistent behavior, mixed messages, and sudden withdrawal can cause the partner to feel rejected and confused.

Over time, the partner may begin to feel insecure, question their self-worth, and feel emotionally drained from the constant push-pull dynamic. This can lead to feeling resentful, angry, and hurt.

Addressing Relationship Anxiety

It is important for both partners to communicate openly and honestly about their feelings and concerns. The avoidant partner should work on expressing themselves more openly and consistently, while also being mindful of their partner’s need for reassurance. The partner should work on not taking the avoidant’s withdrawal personally and seek support from friends, family, or a therapist.

Ways to Address Relationship Anxiety Examples
Communication Setting aside time to talk openly and honestly about feelings and concerns
Mindfulness Practicing meditation and mindfulness to reduce anxiety and live in the present moment
Self-Care Taking care of oneself by getting enough sleep, exercise, and healthy food

By addressing relationship anxiety and working together, partners can create a healthy and fulfilling relationship.

Emotional Numbing

Emotional numbing is a common response for individuals who pull away from an avoidant partner. This is because when you pull away, the avoidant individual is likely to shut down emotionally as a means of protecting themselves from the pain of rejection and vulnerability.

The experience of emotional numbing can be incredibly isolating for both partners in the relationship. While the avoidant partner is focused on shutting down, the partner who is being avoided may feel confused, insecure, and invalidated.

  • This resistance to feel and express emotions can make it difficult for the avoidant partner to develop a deep and meaningful connection with their partner.
  • Their partner may also feel as though they are constantly walking on eggshells, as they are unsure of how to approach their avoidant partner without triggering their emotional numbness.
  • The avoidant partner may also become disconnected from their own emotions, which can lead to difficulties in regulating their moods and feeling a sense of purpose in their life.

If left unchecked, emotional numbing can lead to emotional distance and disconnection within the relationship.

It is important for both partners to recognize the impact that emotional avoidance and numbing can have on their relationship. Seeking the help of a therapist can be an important step in understanding how these behaviors are impacting the relationship and developing strategies to overcome them.

Signs of Emotional Numbing Impact on the Relationship
Difficulty expressing emotions Unresolved conflicts and misunderstandings
Lack of interest in sex and intimacy Emotional distance and disconnection
Avoidance of difficult conversations Invalidation of partner’s feelings and needs

By recognizing the signs of emotional numbing and working together to overcome avoidant behaviors, partners can build a stronger, healthier relationship based on emotional intimacy and vulnerability.

Narcissistic tendencies

When you pull away from an avoidant, you may discover that they have narcissistic tendencies. Although not all avoidants are narcissistic, it is not uncommon for them to display some of these traits.

Below are some common narcissistic tendencies that an avoidant may exhibit:

  • Grandiosity: Avoidants with narcissistic tendencies may have an inflated sense of self-importance and believe they are better than others.
  • Lack of empathy: They may have difficulty empathizing with others and may disregard or invalidate other people’s feelings.
  • Entitlement: They may feel entitled to special treatment and believe that others should cater to their needs and desires.

It is important to note that not all avoidants display these traits, and not all people with narcissistic tendencies are avoidant. However, if you are dealing with an avoidant who exhibits these behaviors, it is important to set boundaries and protect yourself from emotional harm.

Here are a few tips for dealing with an avoidant who displays narcissistic tendencies:

  • Be clear and direct with your communication: Avoidants may try to manipulate or gaslight you, so it is important to be clear and direct in your communication to avoid misunderstandings.
  • Set firm boundaries: If an avoidant with narcissistic tendencies is taking advantage of you or causing you harm, it is important to set firm boundaries to protect yourself.
  • Practice self-care: Dealing with an avoidant who exhibits narcissistic tendencies can be emotionally draining, so it is important to take care of yourself and practice self-care regularly.
Narcissistic tendencies Dealing with an avoidant who displays these tendencies
Grandiosity Be aware of their inflated sense of self and don’t let them make you feel inferior.
Lack of empathy Set boundaries and communicate clearly to avoid misunderstandings.
Entitlement Don’t let them take advantage of you, and set firm boundaries to protect yourself.

Dealing with an avoidant who displays narcissistic tendencies can be challenging, but with clear communication and firm boundaries, you can protect yourself and maintain your emotional well-being.

Toxic Behavior Patterns

Avoidant individuals can exhibit toxic behavior patterns when they feel their personal space or freedom is threatened. These patterns are usually a defense mechanism to protect themselves from perceived emotional harm or vulnerability. It’s important to recognize these patterns and take steps to address them in your relationships with avoidant partners. Here are some common toxic behavior patterns exhibited by avoidant individuals:

  • Emotional distance: Avoidants may give the impression that they are emotionally unavailable or detached, which can make their partners feel rejected.
  • Mixed signals: Avoidants may send mixed signals to their partners, causing confusion and uncertainty about the future of the relationship.
  • Push-pull behavior: Avoidants may alternate between pushing their partners away and pulling them back in, leaving their partners feeling anxious and unstable.


Avoidants may also engage in self-sabotage behaviors, which can harm their relationships. They may do things like starting arguments, creating drama, or becoming overly critical of their partners. These behaviors are often an attempt to distance themselves emotionally from the relationship to avoid getting hurt.

Attachment Styles and Communication

Understanding your partner’s attachment style and how they communicate can help you navigate your relationship with an avoidant partner. It’s important to communicate openly and honestly about your feelings and needs, but also to respect each other’s space and boundaries. Relationship counseling can also be helpful in learning how to communicate effectively and address any toxic behavior patterns that may be harming your relationship.

Table: Reactions of Anxious and Avoidant Individuals

Attachment Style Reactions when feeling rejected
Anxious Seek reassurance, become clingy, and increase emotional pursuit of partner
Avoidant Withdraw, become defensive, and focus on independence and self-protection

Learning to recognize and address toxic behavior patterns in avoidant individuals is essential for building a healthy and fulfilling relationship. By communicating openly and honestly, respecting each other’s boundaries, and seeking professional help, you can work towards overcoming these patterns and creating a strong connection with your partner.

Trust Issues

When you pull away from an avoidant, one of the major issues that may arise is related to trust. This may be because avoidants often struggle to trust others or feel that they cannot rely on them for emotional support. In turn, if you try to hold an avoidant partner accountable for something they have done, they may lash out or withdraw even further. Ultimately, this can create a vicious cycle of mistrust and emotional distance.

Here are some ways in which trust issues may manifest when you pull away from an avoidant:

  • The avoidant may accuse you of being unreliable or untrustworthy when you attempt to set boundaries or make requests
  • You may start to second-guess yourself and your own judgment, as you are met with defensiveness or hostility
  • The avoidant may avoid or shut down conversations that address the issue of trust, which can lead to feelings of frustration or resentment on your part

To further illustrate this point, consider the following table:

Scenario Avoidant Reaction
You ask for more emotional support The avoidant becomes defensive and accuses you of being needy or demanding
You express a concern about a behavior they exhibited The avoidant withdraws or shuts down the conversation, refusing to discuss it
You attempt to set a boundary The avoidant feels threatened and may lash out or withdraw further

It is important to note that trust is a fundamental building block of any healthy relationship. Without it, the relationship is likely to be characterized by insecurity, anxiety, and conflict. Since avoidants often struggle with trust issues, it is essential to approach the topic with sensitivity and care. This may mean navigating conversations about trust with a professional or therapist, who can help mediate and provide guidance.

Cognitive Dissonance

When an avoidant partner starts withdrawing from a relationship, they cause cognitive dissonance or conflicting thoughts and feelings within their partner. The partner starts experiencing distress, confusion, and self-doubt as they try to understand what’s happening. They might even feel responsible for the avoidant’s behavior and start questioning their own self-worth.

  • One common reaction of partners of avoidants is to chase them down in an effort to get reassurance and emotional connection. They might start initiating more conversations, planning dates, and showing more affection to get their partner’s attention. This behavior is called the pursuer-distancer dynamic, where the pursuer tries to bridge the emotional distance created by the distancer.
  • Another reaction is to internalize the avoidant’s behavior and assume that something is wrong with them. They might believe that they are not attractive enough or that they are too clingy or needy. This self-blame and self-criticism can be devastating to their self-esteem and confidence.
  • Cognitive dissonance can also create a cycle of push-pull behaviors, where the partner feels rejected and hurt by the avoidant’s behavior but still craves their love and attention. They might push their partner away to protect themselves from further pain but then pull them back in when they feel lonely or insecure.

It is important to understand that cognitive dissonance is a natural response to the avoidant’s behavior and that it is not the partner’s fault. Avoidants have attachment issues that make it difficult for them to form close emotional bonds, and their behavior is not a reflection of the partner’s value or worthiness.

The best way to cope with cognitive dissonance is to communicate openly with your partner about your feelings and needs. Avoidants often struggle with expressing their emotions, but if you can create a safe and non-judgmental space for them to open up, you might be able to understand their perspective better. You can also seek out therapy or counseling to work through your own emotions and develop healthier coping mechanisms.

Signs of cognitive dissonance in the partner of an avoidant: Ways to cope with cognitive dissonance:
Feeling confused and conflicted about the relationship Communicating openly with your partner
Believing that something is wrong with them Seeking out therapy or counseling
Experiencing self-doubt and low self-esteem Developing healthier coping mechanisms

Cognitive dissonance is a difficult and painful experience, but it is not insurmountable. With patience, empathy, and communication, you and your partner can work through the challenges and build a stronger, more secure relationship.

FAQs about What Happens When You Pull Away from an Avoidant

1. What is an avoidant attachment style?

An avoidant attachment style is a form of attachment where individuals are uncomfortable with intimacy and avoid emotional closeness. They tend to distance themselves from their partners when they feel vulnerable.

2. Why do avoidants pull away?

Avoidants pull away because they are afraid of being vulnerable and getting hurt. They have a tendency to distance themselves emotionally and physically to protect their hearts.

3. What happens when you pull away from an avoidant?

When you pull away from an avoidant, they might feel abandoned, anxious, and try to cling onto you. This is because avoidants crave closeness but are often too afraid to seek it out.

4. Can pulling away from an avoidant make them want you more?

In some cases, pulling away from an avoidant can make them want you more. This is because they may feel like they are losing control and be triggered to chase after you. However, this is not always guaranteed and can backfire if the avoidant pulls away even further.

5. Is it healthy to be in a relationship with an avoidant?

Being in a relationship with an avoidant can be challenging, especially if you value emotional and physical intimacy. However, it is not impossible to make it work as long as both parties are willing to communicate and work on their attachment styles.

6. How can you support an avoidant partner?

To support an avoidant partner, it is essential to have open communication, validate their feelings, and understand their attachment style. Encouraging them to seek therapy can also be helpful in addressing their anxieties and fears.

7. Can avoidants change their attachment style?

Yes, avoidants can change their attachment style with the help of therapy and conscious efforts to confront their fears and anxieties.

The Takeaway

In summary, pulling away from an avoidant can trigger a variety of reactions, from attempted reconnection to further distancing. It’s important to keep in mind that avoidants have a unique attachment style that requires patience and understanding. Whether you decide to stay in a relationship with an avoidant or move on, remember to prioritize your emotional wellbeing and seek support when needed. Thanks for reading, and come back soon for more articles about relationships and attachment styles!