What is a love avoidant?
The love avoidant will build relational walls during intimate contact in order to prevent feeling overwhelmed by the other person. The love avoidant associates love with duty or work.
This coping mechanism is usually the result of a child being parented by an adult with no personal boundaries, making the child “responsible” for the major caregiver’s happiness or sometimes, their survival. The child often feels smothered by the parent. As a result, the child loses all sense of self and starts believing that esteem is directly related to how much he/she takes care of other people. For the love avoidant, being in a relationship (i.e. relational) involves making sure that walls are in place to reduce the intensity in a relationship, to avoid being controlled or smothered and/or to avoid the risk of showing vulnerability. Love addiction is frequently discussed in the 12-step rooms of Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, however, the love addict’s dark twin, love avoidance, is often brushed under the rug.
What are the signs of a love avoidant personality?
1: Fear of intimacy and emotional closeness
For an avoidant, intimacy equals the risk of being hurt. Although in a healthy relationship emotional intimacy is essential and sought after, emotional closeness is the love avoidant’s ultimate fear. For the avoidant, intimacy is identical to a feeling of being smothered or being controlled. The love avoidant builds walls and boundaries to make intimacy more, or less, impossible.
2: What you see is not what you get . . .
A love avoidant may be acting as a love addict. Often they share the same desires and act as the chameleon to become their love interest’s rescuer. A love addict sees the avoidant as the perfect partner, their white knight and hero. But after a while in a relationship, the love avoidant seems to change from a hero to a cold, unavailable or distant partner. Indeed, the love avoidant cannot continue the charade of being Prince Charming and starts using certain coping mechanisms that will protect him (or her) from anyone trying to get closer.
The avoidant uses these coping mechanisms, or boundaries, and comes across as not being “committed” to the relationship. The avoidant suddenly becomes super busy at work, volunteers an extravagant number of hours to a charity, creates drama through arguments or simply avoids physical intimacy – the love avoidant will do anything to avoid intimacy.
3: The presence of an addiction or a compulsive problem
A typical characteristic of the love avoidant is the presence of an addiction. Undeniably, there’s nothing better than an addiction to keep people away! From substance abuse to behavioral addictions, the avoidant person may use sex with others, video games or work to avoid intimacy in their primary relationship.
Often the love avoidant displays a number of narcissistic features. Although it may not be a clinical diagnosis of narcissism, the avoidant feels a sense of entitlement and has a two-faced personality – turning from “Mr. Nice Guy” in public to “King Lear” in private. Wishing to cover up their true feelings, an avoidant becomes defensive at any challenge, has major difficulty admitting a mistake, and can fall into compulsive lying. It is easy to see how the love avoidant can very often be mistaken for a person with narcissistic personality disorder.
5: Resistant to help
We often hear much more about the love addiction part of this illness than the love avoidance aspect, because the love avoidant is highly resistant to asking for professional help, either for themselves or their relationship. Indeed asking for help from anyone, let alone a clinical professional, would require the ability to open up oneself to vulnerability and connection . . . and of course, this is what the love avoidant fears most. Being in a relationship with a love avoidant is like being in a relationship with an actor in a movie.When the director yells “cut,” the love avoidant actor recedes to their trailer for privacy and protection from outside influences.
Yet, somehow the love addict and love avoidant are drawn to each other. Read more on this dance of love between the love addict and love avoidant in next week’s post.