I hate to make sweeping statements, but I’m going to: Love Addicts need to avoid Love Avoidants. Period. People who suffer from love avoidance are not good or bad, but they are NOT the best choice for a Love Addict.
Of course, I was always attracted to love avoidant men nearly all my life. If I took inventory of the personality traits of all my exs, whoa, they’d almost all be love avoidants, which is to say, I was attracted to one easily recognizable type–said they loved me but avoided spending too much time with me, always had an excuse for why they couldn’t come over, lived seemingly quiet, uneventful lives, yet they were always very “busy” and never had time for me when I needed them, and so on. So, when I recovered, I was determined to avoid this “type” of character at all cost. I wanted to break the cycle. And that meant figuring out not only who this type person was that I needed to steer clear from, but how to do so…
Step One: Make a list of your personal VALUES: (ahem, if you have not done this yet, do it!). Knowing your values helps you determine what you absolutely cannot live with and what you absolutely cannot live without. And once you know those things, you can clearly determine if John, the hot guy at the coffee shop who just told you he loves to “party hard” on weekends is an appropriate person for you or not. If you happen to have “I will not ever date someone who drinks or takes drugs excessively” on your values list, you know that you need to order that coffee from John and then move on. Quickly. When we choose our values over relationships or people, they guide us down a path of self-respect,dignity and peace, and help us meet our basic and higher needs.
But what does this have to do with avoiding the avoidant? Well, everything. Your list of values needs to include, “I will avoid dating partners who neglect or avoid me”. That is the first step in avoiding the avoiding. Get clear about not wanting to date someone who exhibits the behavior of an avoidant.
Step two: Understand that love avoidants typically don’t start out avoiding you! Barring the bad boy/girl type love avoidant who treats you like crap and neglects you from the start, most love avoidants start out rather opposite, in fact. They can pursue you, be super flirtatious, fall in love quickly and come on quite strong–for a little while, that is. And then, a few months into the relationship, when they begin to feel too overwhelmed, their avoidant nature kicks in. At this point, they still may “say” they love you, but the action is no longer there. You start to wonder how someone can be so in love for the first few months, then turn it off so quickly. You wonder how someone can say they love you, but not put any effort into seeing you, calling you, talking to you or spending any time with you. You even start to wonder what YOU did wrong. Well, you most likely fell in love with an avoidant. But more than that, you bought into the idea that love can and should happen impetuously. Both love avoidants and love addicts are highly impulsive. This impulsivity plays nicely into addicts’ and avoidants’ defense mechanism of latching on quickly to someone–anyone–so as to avoid facing any more pain. So, just because someone falls in love with you quickly, or pays you loads of attention for the first 6-9 months, it doesn’t mean they won’t eventually show their true colors. A good rule of thumb is the old cliché: if it started fast, chances are it will end fast. Your job, therefore, is to not assume that you’re in the clear just because your partner is really into you. Take a step back. Ask yourself questions: Has he been consistent in his words and actions? Has he been predictable? How long as he loved me with actions, not just words?
Step three: Get to know the stereotypical qualities of love avoidants. Yes, I know, you’re not supposed to stereotype and everyone is so different and blah, blah, blah. I am the first to repeat that you cannot think in terms of all men are this way or that. But, let’s consider this. The human brain stereotypes for a reason: to make intelligent deductive and inductive conclusions about the world so as to be safe and protect himself. When you stereotype you do not say, “All men are assholes.” Instead you say, “Most people from this particular group share these qualities.” This type of thinking in an extreme sense can turn into racism, or racial profiling. But from an evolutionary standpoint, it can help you predict people who share similar qualities or not. In other words, stereotyping can predict danger. If we didn’t have this inherent sense of stereotyping, we would constantly be walking down dangerous streets filled with gang members, or strolling into bars filled with people who clearly don’t want us there. Having the ability to form a general idea about whether or not you belong to a group is highly beneficial. Especially for avoiding avoidants. They too can be stereotyped. Here are some of the qualities to look for:
- Over the age of 40 and never been married.
- Over the age of 35 and never been in a serious, committed relationship longer than 6 months to a year.
- Possibly drinks excessively, smokes pot or does drugs.
- Has not treated women well in past relationships.
- Avoids responsibility in his life (financial, social and personal)
- Doesn’t take care of himself well.
- A Peter Pan (someone who exhibits signs of wanting to remain eternally youthful and never grow up).
- Falls desperately in love with women within the first weeks of the relationship.
- Not interested or ambiguous about commitment of any kind.
And here are a few more personality traits on Avoidant Personality Disorder from the DSM-IV:
- Hypersensitivity to rejection/criticism
- Self-imposed social isolation
- Extreme shyness or anxiety in social situations, though the person feels a strong desire for close relationships
- Avoids physical contact because it has been associated with an unpleasant or painful stimulus
- Feelings of inadequacy
- Severe low self-esteem
- Mistrust of others
- Emotional distancing related to intimacy
- Highly self-conscious
- Self-critical about their problems relating to others
- Problems in occupational functioning
- Lonely self-perception, although others may find the relationship with them meaningful
- Feeling inferior to others
- In some more extreme cases — agoraphobia
- Utilizes fantasy as a form of escapism and to interrupt painful thoughts
Before you let your inner-caretaker take over and convince you, “this is a great guy! I feel sorry for him already.” Remember your VALUES. These are the types of qualities in people you want to avoid.
Step four: Use your logic when you date. This is one of those things that sounds easier than it actually is. So often we meet someone, and whether we like it or not, our emotions take over. We feel like we’re just along for the ride and that we’ve been “love struck,” as if this relationship happened quite beyond our control. Well, get over it. Stop letting your emotions control your behavior. Your emotions are there for a reason: to tell you when you’re hot, cold, angry, sad, etc. They are reflectors of the bigger picture. But they do NOT have the ability to make critical, logical decisions that will guarantee your safety.
If you have a human brain, you need to use it. So often even the healthiest people depend on their emotions to guide them. This is not always good. There needs to be a balance between logic and emotion (but ONLY if your emotional side is healthy!). Your logical brain is the adult in you. It is capable of shrewd, emotionless analysis of a situation. It is very possibly the side of you that recognizes the red flags and says, “You need to stay away from this guy. ” The emotional side of you is the child within. If it’s healthy it says, “He’s so hot! But I am afraid of getting hurt. I will listen to my logical brain that tells me to slow down.” If your emotional side is not healthy it will tell you, “He’s so hot! He makes me feel good. He makes the pain in my life go away. I have to have him, and no matter what, I don’t want to let go.”
If you have an unhealthy emotional side of you (the child within) it will most likely not recognize red flags, it is apt to put its hand in the fire, and will run out into the middle of oncoming traffic to chase a pretty bouncing ball. This is not the appropriate behavior to employ when making life decisions about things like work, money, housing, and relationships. You were given a brain. You need to use it. Especially when dating. That means giving up certain long-standing dreamy concepts like “love at first sight.” It means no more “falling” in love. And it means that you don’t have spontaneous, careless, throw caution to the wind sex on the first date. This is reckless behavior for a love addict. And it’s as dangerous as letting a toddler hang out an open window ten stories up. That toddler is you. Close the damn window and be responsible. This brings me to Step Five…
Step Five: Take your time when you date. This means simply enjoying a person with no hoped for outcomes. It means getting the whole “I wonder if he’s the one” out of your brain. And it means giving up the notion that dating is romantic. It’s NOT! You may be attracted to someone, and they may be attracted to you. But dating someone new is partly awkward, and mostly filled with the unknown. I hate to take the thrill out of it. But it’s work. It’s the part of the relationship where there really isn’t a relationship yet. Why? Because relationships take time. Dating slowly and getting to know someone over months, not just days or weeks (and not just online, but in person!) is possibly one of the best things both of you can do for eachother. Only time reveals a person’s true character and allows you to see what they may initially want to hide, or things that naturally take time to come out (like their insecurities about intimacy or their fear of commitment). When you use dating as a guide to help you get to know someone as opposed to using it as a means to an end (we’re in this relationship now!), it gives you both the freedom to come and go if it doesn’t work out. And while this lack of security may horrify a love addict (who desperately craves love and relationships as security), it also buys her time to protect herself and know if she is getting involved with a love avoidant. Time allows you to make an educated choice about someone and thus, love consciously, as opposed to just falling for someone recklessly, without thinking.
Step Six: Choose shared values as the basis for a loving relationship versus chemistry. Love addicts are often attracted to love avoidants because, let’s face it, we are opposite sides of the same coin. They seem to have what we lack, and vice versa. It almost seems like it should be the perfect match. Well, it’s not. Love addiction and love avoidance are EXTREME personalities. Imagine a straight line. In the center is a perfectly healthy person. Love addiction would be far left and love avoidance would be far right. Neither are healthy places to be. If anything, these two in a relationship perpetuate the dis-ease of the other. So, just because there’s chemistry, or clicking that doesn’t make it a good, healthy relationship.
And speaking of chemistry…The biological cocktail of chemicals that ignites when you first meet someone you have chemistry with is part of the animal urge in us all to procreate, but, it’s not able to determine if a relationship is safe, healthy, compatible or loving. And it won’t tell you if your partner is respectful, attentive, or caring. We can “click” with darn near anyone. If you are older and wiser, you know this already. I clicked with so many people I’ve lost count. Imagine a teen’s collection of selfies on their mobile phone. That’s how many times I clicked with someone. I found out that clicking didn’t necessarily mean that these men would make for good boyfriends. Having chemistry with someone is a great precursor to a healthy relationship, it may even be a good “sign” that you will get along. But it by no means, and I repeat…BY NO MEANS signifies the health of a potential mate or the health of the relationship you might have with them. You can click with an axe murderer. But you wouldn’t want to date one, would you?
Now here’s the real clincher: avoiding the avoidant also means NOT BEING A LOVE ADDICT. Your avoidant partner is not necessarily avoidant because he has a disease, per se, (we’re not talking about the narcissist types of avoidants) and if he goes to therapy or takes meds he may get better. He may be avoidant because it’s a response to who YOU are.
But hear me out. We so often think that our PoA (person of addiction) is the way he is with everyone. That avoidant personality disorder is a static characteristic. This is not entirely true. While some individuals’ traits are set in stone (narcissists, for example), others are malleable. We can be different with different people. Some people trigger really bad behavior in me, others do not. They keep me peaceful. Avoidance and love addiction are, believe it or not, tend to be situational. And more than that, they can be symbiotic and inter-dependent. One often does not exist without the other. They are responses to who we are with. I can be an avoidant. But, ONLY when I am paired with a love addict. When I am paired with another avoidant, I become a love addict. It’s a balancing act, because, simply, nature seeks balance. And therein lies the key…until YOU become balanced within yourself, you will continue to find and attract avoidant personality types. Get right within yourself, and voila! The avoidant disappears. Sadly, that doesn’t always apply to the person you are with now. You may have to kiss that relationship goodbye.