You think it’s going so well—
Until he pulls back.
He stops calling. He doesn’t reply to your texts. You have no idea where his attention has gone.
If you’re lucky, he shows up one day, acting as if nothing happened. When questioned, he just shrugs. “I’ve been busy.”
So busy he couldn’t call you?
So busy he couldn’t answer your texts?
Of course he must be lying.
Maybe there’s someone else. Maybe he’s having doubts.
Whatever it is, you won’t rest until you get to the bottom of it.
And that’s the beginning of the end. He feels like you don’t trust him, or accuses you of suffocating him, while all you want is a guy who keeps in touch and lets you know what’s going on. That’s reasonable, isn’t it?
There are a lot of reasons this dynamic can occur, but one of the most interesting comes from attachment theory.
Understand it, and you’ll see why a man’s distance may just be due to his attachment style.
Attachment theory proposes that each of us has 1 of 3 major attachment styles.
- Securely attached
- Insecurely attached: Avoidant
- Insecurely attached: Anxious
The second attachment style, avoidant, is the one you need to know about, because it can cause a man to act distant even when he genuinely wants to be with you.
But first, what are attachment styles?
They’re strategies we use to get our needs met. They’re developed back in early childhood, in response to both our own genetic temperament, and how we experienced the bond with our primary caregiver.
If your parents were smothering or controlling, you probably pulled back. You wanted their love, but you needed more control over when and how closeness occurred. As a result, you developed an avoidant attachment style.
If your parents were inconsistent—emotionally volatile, or not always there—you may have looked for ways to keep them close to you. You were always afraid of losing their love or attention. As a result, you developed an anxious attachment style.
If your parents were consistently loving, able to bond with you emotionally without overwhelming you, then you had it made. You could confidently go out into the world, knowing help was available if you stumbled. You developed a secure attachment style.
Although there are formal tests to determine your attachment style, you can take a reasonably good guess which style describes you best by answering this question:
When you’re romantic bond…
- Do you need your space? Do you prefer to keep your life private until he’s earned the right to know more? Do you fiercely maintain your independence, even once you’re close? Do you ever find yourself driving people away and later wonder why you did it?
- Do you frequently worry he’s going to dump you? Do you examine his behavior for ulterior motives, interpreting coolness as a sign he’s losing interest? Do you work hard for his love but still feel insecure when things are going good?
- Are you happy to allow things to go with the flow? Do you feel secure in yourself, regardless of what he thinks of you? Are you confident you’ll be able to find someone else, even if this doesn’t work out?
If you chose A, then you may have an avoidant attachment style.
If you chose B, then you may have an anxious attachment style.
If you chose C, then you may have a secure attachment style.
It would be great if we could switch attachment styles at will. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Old patterns are hard to break.
But a little awareness goes a long way.
Imagine what would happen if you knew your guy was avoidant.
When he pulled back, you wouldn’t panic. You’d understand his need for space. You wouldn’t take it personally. You’d react in a secure way. You wouldn’t let his behavior make you doubt yourself.
But what if your attachment style was anxious?
Then you might overreact. You’d see his distance as a withdrawal of his love. You’d search for ways to lure him back to you. He’d pull away even more, feeling controlled. Your relationship would self-implode.
It turns out that a lot of rocky relationships consist of one avoidant partner and one anxious partner.
Can this kind of relationship work?
Absolutely. Discussing your fears with one another is a great start.
What is it that each of you fear most about getting into a relationship? Can you empathize with each other? How can you help allay each other’s fears?
Most importantly, understand that there’s nothing wrong with either of you. You are who you are. Plus, you can adjust your actions even if you feel insecure.
Take just one baby step in the direction of trust. Then another. Then another.
You can do this. And so can he.