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What to Do When an Avoidant Partner Pulls Away?

Dating someone with an avoidant attachment style can be challenging. You’re just starting to feel close and connected when they suddenly pull away and become either physically or emotionally unavailable.

In this article, we’re going to help you understand what’s going on and what to do when an avoidant pulls away. This is going to give you the skills to create a happy, healthy relationship with your avoidantly attached partner.

Understanding Your Avoidant Partner: Why Does He Pull Away?

One of the hardest things about your avoidantly attached partner pulling away is that you often have no idea what’s going on or why they’re suddenly not as physically or emotionally available as they were. Once you understand what’s going on, it’s easier to see the best ways to deal with it.

1. They are trying to maintain their independence

Someone with an avoidant attachment style values independence above almost any other character trait1. They see being independent and self-sufficient as essential parts of being a strong, capable person.

When they feel their independence is being threatened, they pull away to try to protect it. If you value empathy or kindness, you’d probably pull away from people who made you feel less kind or who criticized or degraded you for your empathy. Someone with an avoidant attachment style is doing the same thing for their independence.

The important thing here is that their independence doesn’t need to actually be at risk for them to pull away. They’re going to get defensive and withdraw if they feel as though it’s being attacked or at risk.

2. They are dealing with their own issues

You don’t need to have had a traumatic upbringing to develop an avoidant attachment style. It’s pretty common, with up to 25% of the population relating to the world in this way2. It is a sign of some underlying issues and insecurities, however.

When a partner with an avoidant attachment style pulls away, it’s usually because something has brought up their own attachment issues. They withdraw to help themselves feel safer and to either process what’s going on for them or, more likely, avoid dealing with it until everything settles down again.

3. They don’t believe that others will support them

they don't believe that others will support them

An avoidant attachment style comes from past experiences of not having your needs met3. If your partner has consistently been surrounded by people who didn’t meet their physical or emotional needs, it’s not surprising that they won’t turn to others for support. They simply don’t believe that people will be there for them if they reach out.

If you were stranded in the middle of a huge lake, you wouldn’t just keep trying to grab at imaginary people if there was no one around. You’d swim for the shore or tread water until someone was there to throw you a lifebelt.

To someone with an avoidant attachment style, asking for support feels a lot like trying to grab a non-existent lifebelt out of midair. It’s not going to save you and it just wastes your energy. Even if you know that you want to support them, their experience simply doesn’t back that up.

Pulling away to deal with their problems alone is their way of swimming to the shore.

4. He doesn’t believe that he deserves support

This is very similar to the previous point, but it’s useful to talk about it separately. Someone with an avoidant attachment style has often internalized the idea that they’re not worthy of care and protection and support. If they pull away from you, it might be because they simply don’t believe deep down that they deserve warm, intimate relationships.

Bear in mind that this lack of self-worth is probably subconscious. They don’t really recognize that they don’t believe they deserve support and care. 

This comes from how their avoidant attachment style was formed. When a child consistently has their needs ignored, they try to find a way to make sense of it. Remember that this happens really early in life when they probably don’t have the words to discuss or explain what’s going on.

To feel safe, they need to believe that their parents and caregivers are good people. As a result, they start to believe that they’re not getting their needs met because there’s something wrong with them.

When someone with an avoidant attachment style pulls away from you because of their lack of self-worth, they’re trying to protect themselves from rejection4. As you get closer to them, they feel more vulnerable. This sets off their hidden fear that you’ll reject them if you see who they really are. They deal with this by pulling away.

11 Things to Do When Your Avoidant Partner Pulls Away

1. Try to empathize with them

The first thing to do when you have an avoidant partner who pulls away is to try to understand them, what might be going on and how to communicate with an avoidant partner. This means trying to understand avoidant attachment styles in general and them specifically.

If you don’t have an avoidant attachment style, it can be hard for you to empathize effectively with their experiences, but it’s important to try. Read as much as you can and try to learn about what having an avoidant attachment style might be like.

Imagine what it’s like to walk in their shoes. Someone with an avoidant attachment style probably feels judged and criticized for their needs. Showing that you care enough to understand, rather than judge, helps them to feel safe and respected.

2. Be honest with yourself about your feelings

Although it’s important to understand what might be going on for your avoidantly attached partner when they pull away, you shouldn’t ignore your own feelings either. Make sure that you pay attention to the emotions you’re feeling and what your partner’s behavior means to you.

Being honest about your feelings doesn’t mean that you need to tell your partner every single thing they do that annoys or upsets you. We’re going to talk later about guilt trips and putting pressure on your partner.

Instead, focus on being honest with yourself first. If you notice a knee-jerk hurt or angry response to something your partner says or does, spend some time thinking about it and trying to understand where it came from.

Taking the time to understand your own feelings about your partner’s pulling away will help you with your next step.

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3. Set clear boundaries

set clear boundaries

You might think that setting boundaries will increase the pressure on a partner with an avoidant attachment style and make them more likely to withdraw. In fact, it can be reassuring as long as your boundaries are reasonable and open.

Someone with an avoidant attachment style doesn’t want to push on someone else’s boundaries. They hate the feeling of others pushing on their boundaries and they almost never want to do that to someone else. Being honest about your boundaries helps them relax.

Acknowledged boundaries are also easier to understand and discuss than implicit ones. Talking about your boundaries lets your avoidantly attached partner ask questions and raise potential problems. 

For example, if you have a boundary that means you want them to call you once a week, they might point out that this is something they can’t commit to if they’re having a tough week or feeling the need to pull away. You might then compromise by finding something that both of you can agree to.

Setting clear boundaries is helpful to your partner, but it’s even more important to you. You need to make sure that your needs are being met in your relationship5. This will help you to maintain your self-esteem despite your partner withdrawing.

4. Find ways to fulfill your own needs

Someone with an avoidant attachment style values independence, both their own and yours. Becoming more self-sufficient gives you the tools you need to fulfill your own needs and makes you more attractive to your avoidantly attached partner.

This may include dealing with your own attachment issues, especially if you have an anxious attachment style. When people with an anxious attachment style and an avoidant attachment style get together, the relationship can be especially difficult. Make sure that you’re dealing with your own baggage as well as encouraging them to deal with theirs.

A strong social circle can help give you the support you need to make sure that your own needs are met. Find hobbies that make you feel good about yourself and spend time with friends and family who make you happy and let you feel secure.

When your avoidantly attached partner realizes that you’re able to take care of yourself, they will find it easier not to pull away.

5. Give them the space they need

If you have a partner with an avoidant attachment style, they will almost certainly need more time alone and more space than you do. Making sure that they have that space is as important to them as making sure you feel loved or reassured is to you.

This is especially true if they’re pulling away. Someone with an avoidant attachment style pulls away when they don’t feel safe or secure. Space gives them that feeling of safety and security, so make sure they have plenty of it.

Often, our partner’s need for space conflicts with our need for love and affection. Try to think carefully about what your needs actually are, however. Lots of the things we think of as “needs” are actually social expectations.

You don’t “need” a goodnight text. Your need is for their attention and to feel cared about. You might feel hurt and rejected when you don’t receive the text, but this is because of the meaning you’ve assigned to it, rather than the text itself.

Try to look for other ways that you can know how your partner feels about you. Don’t assume that them not doing something that other people’s partners do means they don’t care about you. Look for the ways that they try to show their love.

6. Don’t try to fix them

Dating someone with an avoidant attachment style is hard work, and it’s normal to wish that you could just wave a magic wand and “fix” their attachment issues. That’s understandable, but try to avoid falling into the trap of believing that their avoidant attachment style means that there’s something wrong with them.

An avoidant attachment style isn’t a mental illness or a diagnosis. It isn’t a sign that something’s broken or that they need to be fixed. However inconvenient or frustrating it might be to you, it’s just a way of interacting with the world.

Does it lead to the best possible outcomes for them? No. Is it easier for you? No. But that doesn’t mean that they have to change. They might not want to change. If your avoidantly attached partner doesn’t want to change their attachment style, you will have to choose whether you’re ok with that or whether you need to leave the relationship

You can’t force them to change and trying will usually backfire.

7. Recognize that it’s not always as simple as “just reaching out”

One of the common complaints people have when they’re in a relationship with someone with an avoidant attachment style is that the other person “just won’t reach out.” It feels like such a simple thing to do. After all, how long can it take to send a quick text?

While this is a completely understandable type of frustration, it’s not entirely accurate. For someone with an avoidant attachment style, it can be far harder than you think to just reach out.

Most people want to reach out to others because it fulfills a need for connection. They have an inner prompt that pushes them to seek connections and contact with others. Someone with an avoidant attachment style has buried that prompt really deeply. This means that they often won’t feel the inner drive that pushes others to reach out.

They can also easily feel overwhelmed by contact. They might be ok to send a quick message to say that they’re thinking of you, but they might not have the energy to deal with a whole conversation about how your day is going or what’s going on with them.

Someone with an avoidant attachment style will also usually only reach out when they have something to say. They might not see the point in just saying “hi” without anything else going on. This means that they have to put a lot more thought into their texts, which takes even more mental energy.

8. Recognize the ways that they do include you

recognize the ways that they do include you

Someone with an avoidant attachment style will often be very used to others always wanting more from them. When they move out of their comfort zone enough to try to meet their partner’s needs, they don’t get any credit or thanks because their partner sees this as just normal couple behavior. 

For example, you might find it comforting to send someone a text goodnight. You enjoy reminding them that you’re thinking of them and it feels good to know that you’ve shown your affection. It can often help you to feel more secure in your relationship as you know that you’re pulling your own weight in terms of keeping the relationship strong.

Someone with an avoidant attachment style might not feel that same sense of comfort or pleasure at sending a goodnight text. If they do it, they’re trying to give you a gift that they know is going to make you feel loved and special. They don’t actually get anything out of it themselves.

This creates a mismatch between how they experience it and the way you do. To you, this is just normal couple behavior where you’re both showing affection and it’s mutually enjoyable. For them, they’re making a big effort to do something that they don’t really see the need for, and you don’t even seem to notice.

You can imagine how frustrating this might feel to them.

Showing appreciation for the times that your partner does try to meet your needs is a way to show that you recognize their efforts and how much they’re trying to meet your needs. It also demonstrates that you respect their needs as equally valid to your own. This is key to allowing someone with an avoidant attachment style to feel safe and respected.

9. Avoid using guilt trips or pressure

If we’re honest, we probably all know that we shouldn’t be using guilt trips or putting pressure on our partners, no matter what attachment style they have. If we’re even more honest, we might also acknowledge that most of us do this at least a little bit, partly because it’s often quite effective.

If you grew up in a family where guilt trips and social pressure were common, it’s understandable that you use the same strategies as an adult6. Guilt trips don’t have to be awful to be effective. As a child, you might have been told “Grandma will be sad if you don’t give her a hug goodbye.” That’s a guilt trip to get you to hug grandma.

While these are often effective, they’re not respectful of the other person. If you have an avoidantly attached partner, they can also backfire really badly.

Someone with an avoidant attachment style might give in to avoid the emotional fallout in the short term, but you’re breaking their trust and reinforcing their impression that other people don’t actually respect their needs.

This loss of trust can make them more prone to pulling away in the future, and make them less willing to come back to you afterward. This is especially true if they think they’re going to be given a guilt trip for their need to pull away in the first place.

There can be a fine line between being honest about how you feel and giving someone a guilt trip. Remember that someone with an avoidant attachment style is going to be hyper-aware of any pressure or covert attempts to make them change their behavior.

It’s often better to be really upfront and open about what’s going on. You could say “I want to tell you how I’m feeling but I’m worried that it’s going to come across as a guilt trip. That’s not my intention. I want to be really clear that I don’t think you’ve done anything wrong and you have nothing to feel guilty about. I’d just like to explain how I experience it.”

10. Be careful when suggesting compromises

be careful when suggesting compromises

Compromises are an essential part of a healthy relationship. You won’t always want the same things as your partner and there will be times when you will both have to adjust your preferences to find something that works for both of you.

If you’re trying to find a compromise, make sure that you’re actually giving them something they wouldn’t otherwise have. Otherwise, it feels to them like you think you’re entitled to control their decisions and actions.

Never try to bargain with an avoidantly attached person by offering them freedom in exchange for something you want. It will just make them feel more trapped.

For example, you might try to bargain and say that they can have the weekend to do whatever they like as long as they come to dinner with your parents on Friday. To you, that sounds like a compromise. To them, they’re already entitled to spend the weekend however they like. Offering it as a compromise feels controlling and restrictive.

Instead, try asking them for suggestions for a compromise. Being genuinely collaborative in trying to find a solution that works for both of you shows your avoidantly attached partner that you really do respect his independence and autonomy. 

11. Remember that it’s not personal

This can be a really difficult tip to actually implement. Of course, it feels personal when your partner pulls away from you, ignores your calls and messages, and doesn’t want to talk to you about what’s going on. It is important that you at least try to remember that this is about them and their past, not about you.

Focusing on the fact that this is about their attachment style, rather than something you did, doesn’t just let you focus on helping them with their issues. More importantly, it can help you avoid having your self-esteem and self-worth damaged.

When your avoidantly attached partner pulls away, make a point of reminding yourself that this is their past playing out. If you realize that it’s starting to damage your self-esteem, try to find ways to counteract that. Talk to a friend who makes you feel good about yourself or find an activity that reminds you how awesome you are.


Will an avoidant reach out after no contact?

Someone with an avoidant attachment style will often reach out after a period of no contact, especially if you’ve respected their need for space. The time alone has helped to settle their anxieties and they’re ready to re-engage in the relationship. This isn’t guaranteed, however. Sometimes they will stay away.

Do avoidants pull away when they like you?

There are many reasons why someone with an avoidant attachment style might pull away from you, including that they really like you and they’re scared of getting in too deep. This is especially difficult to deal with because it usually happens when the relationship is going really well.

Do avoidants come back after pulling away?

Someone with an avoidant attachment style will often come back to their partner after pulling away, as long as they feel safe enough to do so. If they feel pursued, pressured, or judged, they might decide to cut all ties and go about it alone instead.


It can be hard to know what to do when an avoidant pulls away. It’s important to balance your needs and boundaries with theirs and to make sure that you both feel acknowledged, respected and loved.

What are your experiences? What do you do when an avoidant partner pulls away? Or are you the avoidant partner? If so, what do you need when you withdraw from a relationship? Let us know in the comments, and don’t forget to share this article with anyone who might enjoy it.

Utilize this tool to verify if he's truly who he claims to be
Whether you're married or just started dating someone, infidelity rates have risen by over 40% in the past 20 years, so your concerns are justified.

Do you want to find out if he's texting other women behind your back? Or if he has an active Tinder or dating profile? Or even worse, if he has a criminal record or is cheating on you?

This tool can help by uncovering hidden social media and dating profiles, photos, criminal records, and much more, potentially putting your doubts to rest.

6 Sources:
  1. West, M. L., & Sheldon-Keller, A. E. (1994). Patterns of relating: an adult attachment perspective. Guilford Press.
  2. Levine, A., & Heller, R. (2011). Attached: the new science of adult attachment and how it can help you find--and keep--love. TarcherPerigee.
  3. Bretherton, I. (1985). Attachment Theory: Retrospect and Prospect. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 50(1/2), 3.
  4. ‌Foster, J. D., Kernis, M. H., & Goldman, B. M. (2007). Linking adult attachment to self-esteem stability. Self and Identity, 6(1), 64–73.
  5. ‌Whitfield, C. L. (2010). Boundaries and relationships: knowing, protecting, and enjoying the self. Health Communications, Inc.
  6. ‌Curran, T., & Allen, J. (2016). Family Communication Patterns, Self-Esteem, and Depressive Symptoms: The Mediating Role of Direct Personalization of Conflict. Communication Reports, 30(2), 80–90.

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