Avoidant attachment triggers to be aware of


Attachment styles are shaped in early childhood and are reinforced throughout life. Children can develop a secure or insecure attachment style based on their interaction with primary caregivers.

A child with a secure attachment style grows up to be an adult who feels secure in relationships. They have quality relationships with others.

A child with an insecure attachment style grows up to be an adult who feels insecure in relationships. Their relationship quality suffers.

Insecure attachment is of two types:

  1. Anxious
  2. Avoidant

An anxiously attached person feels tremendous anxiety in their close relationships. They tend to be overly dependent on their partner. They have an intense fear of losing their partner.

Avoidants, on the other hand, tend to withdraw from relationships. As soon as their relationship gets too close, they start looking for an exit.

Avoidant attachment style has two sub-types:

  • Dismissive-avoidant
  • Fearful-avoidant

Dismissive avoidants tend to dismiss their own emotions in a relationship. They also dismiss their partner and the relationship as unimportant. They strive for independence and hate having to rely on their partner.

Fearful avoidants experience a combination of anxiety and avoidance in relationships. They desire closeness in relationships but are afraid of it at the same time. They tend to have low self-esteem and are overly self-critical.

Avoidant attachment style

People with an avoidant attachment style avoid closeness in relationships. This stems from their childhood when their caregivers did not adequately meet their needs, especially emotional ones.

Dismissive-avoidants strive to be independent to take charge and meet their own needs. They learn:

“I can’t trust others to meet my needs.”

As a result, they experience trust issues in relationships.

Fearful avoidants typically grow up in chaotic environments where their needs were sometimes met and sometimes not. When their needs were not met, they learned:

“I have been betrayed.”

These experiences result in the formation of core psychological wounds. Avoidants carry these wounds throughout their lives. Unless they work on healing these wounds, their psyche becomes a landmine-filled land waiting to get triggered.

Key avoidant attachment triggers

While there are differences between the dismissive and fearful attachment styles, they also have some similarities. Both being avoidant styles of attachment, they’re triggered by some of the same things, such as:

1. Relationship getting closer

Avoidants tend to have superficial relationships with people. When someone gets too close to them, their alarm bells start ringing. Their childhood core wound of “I’ll get hurt if I get too close” gets triggered.

2. Unpredictable situations

Having survived a difficult or chaotic childhood, avoidants seek stability as adults. They don’t like to put themselves in unpredictable situations.

3. Feeling out of control

Avoidants like power and control. Being powerless and lacking control triggers the “I’m powerless and helpless” core wound they were subjected to in early childhood.

4. Criticism

Both dismissive and fearful avoidants despise criticism. It triggers their “I’m defective” core wound.

While dismissive avoidants develop high self-esteem to prove to themselves that they’re not defective, fearful avoidants fail to do so. So, fearful avoidants are more prone to get triggered by criticism.

5. Expectations

Avoidants don’t like it when too many expectations are placed on them. They feel like they can’t meet them. When they don’t meet the expectations placed on them, they feel incapable and inadequate. This triggers their “I’m defective” core wound.

Let’s dive into what triggers dismissive and fearful avoidants specifically:

Dismissive avoidant attachment triggers

1. Demands for time and attention

Since dismissive avoidants tend to value independence and focusing on themselves, focusing on others can be a considerable burden. They’re likely to get triggered when their partner demands too much of their time and attention.

They perceive the situation as follows:

“I’m losing myself.”

Dismissive avoidants need to spend a lot of time with themselves to not feel like they’re losing themselves.

They simply don’t have the same level of affection and attention needs as other people in relationships. They can talk to you once weekly or monthly and still think they’re on good terms with you.

2. Pressured to open up

Dismissive avoidants come across as distant right off the bat. They don’t easily open up, and getting them to do so may require tremendous effort. Notably, they don’t like to open up about their emotions and feelings. That makes them feel vulnerable.

Vulnerability triggers their “I’m unsafe with others” core wound. Their childhood trauma makes them think:

“If I reveal too much of myself, I’ll get disappointed.”

Just as they were disappointed in childhood by their caregiver when they expressed their emotional needs.

3. Violation of boundaries

Dismissive avoidants guard their personal space like a fortress. They tend to have firm boundaries. When others violate their boundaries, they get very defensive.

4. Relying on others

Dismissive avoidants see relying on others as a weakness. While it may feel normal for other people to rely on their partner in a relationship, dismissive avoidants struggle with that. Often, their partners feel dismissive avoidants don’t need them for anything.

5. Volatility in relationships

Thanks to their self-reliance, dismissive avoidants can attain a good deal of stability in their lives. If they get into a relationship with someone who’s emotionally volatile, they find that difficult to handle.

Same reason why dismissive avoidants can’t deal with people nagging and throwing tantrums.

6. Not getting acknowledged for relational efforts

To a dismissive avoidant, reaching out and connecting with others takes a lot of effort. Something that comes naturally to others feels like a big task. So, when dismissive avoidants are not acknowledged for their relational efforts, they’re triggered.

For example, if a dismissive avoidant goes out of their way to arrange a date night with their partner and their partner doesn’t appreciate it, boom! Very triggering.

7. People expecting them to read minds

Unless they’ve worked on it, dismissive avoidants are poor at reading non-verbal signals. It’s partly because of how dismissive they are of emotions. Nonverbal cues reveal emotional states.

So, when a dismissive avoidant’s partner says, “Can’t you tell I’m not okay?!”, they’re like:

“Do you think I can read minds?”

Fearful avoidant attachment triggers

1. Lack of trust

Lack of trust in a relationship- in any shape or form- triggers a fearful-avoidant. It triggers their “I’m betrayed” childhood core wound.

So, things like lack of transparency, secrecy, lying, and cheating can be exceedingly hurtful to a fearful-avoidant.

Not keeping promises, passive aggressiveness, and incongruency between words and actions can also be triggering for the same reason.

2. Feeling unworthy

Anything that reminds a fearful avoidant of their “I’m defective” core wound is triggering for them. Since they have low self-esteem, they’re quick to feel inferior if made to feel inferior.

When things go wrong, they’re quick to blame themselves. They overthink a lot about what others think of them.

Brushing them off when they’re reaching out to you for attention and affection is also triggering for fearful avoidants.

3. Lack of consideration

Not considering the thoughts and opinions of your fearful avoidant partner when making decisions is a trigger point for them. To them, consideration equals trust. It also makes them feel seen, heard, and valued, healing their “I’m unworthy” wound.