Ghosting is often confusing and demoralizing. When someone disappears on you, and ignores you, it’s natural to want to know why. One reason for this ghosting may be the other person’s avoidant attachment style.
What is avoidant attachment?
Avoidant attachment is one of four attachment styles.
This attachment style makes maintaining a relationship challenging. This is because an avoidant will push away intimacy. This stems from an internal conflict within the avoidant. They, like most people, desire closeness. Yet, they also have a core negative belief that intimacy represents obligation and loss of self.
Related: Dating with Trauma: What You Need to Know
It’s helpful to note that while the names are similar, avoidant attachment and avoidant personality disorder are two different experiences. Avoidant personality disorder acts as a more general and intense social anxiety. This stems from a fear of rejection, or embarrassing themselves, out of a belief they are awkward and/or unlikable.
On the other hand, people with avoidant attachment can have good social skills. They can – and often – have friendships. Instead, they feel triggered when a romantic partner is vulnerable or seeks supports research suggests.
What causes avoidant attachment
Avoidant attachment stems from the fear that a person will lose their identity in a relationship. Growing up, many avoidants experienced enmeshment. This happens when a child’s parent or caretaker fails to have emotional boundaries with the child.
The parent’s emotions, needs, and expectations become the priority. Often, this is “helicopter parenting” in action. The child learns that taking care of their parent’s anxiety, and making them happy, is the most important thing.
Enmeshment often feels like suffocation to the child. They will feel smothered by the intensity of their parent’s attention to them. This is true even when the parent is well-meaning and loving.
Why do people with avoidant attachment ghost?
Avoidants are more likely to ghost than those with the other attachment styles. This stems from their core fear of intimacy.
An avoidant fears intimacy because of how “love” was expressed to them. When a parent (or other adult) in their life failed to have healthy boundaries, they learned it’s their responsibility to take care of others. This, unfortunately, led the avoidant to equate love with obligation, duty, and suffocation.
At first, in a relationship, they may seem highly attentive. After all, they believe caring for you is their job. Yet, over time, they will feel overwhelmed. An avoidant will then convince themselves that you are the problem. They may tell themselves you asking for too much and “too needy.”
Before they disappear and ignore you altogether, they may start to distance themselves. Prior to ghosting you, they may have been saying they are “very busy” right now. Or they may have been dropping hints that it wasn’t the “right time” for them to have a relationship.
A person with avoidant attachment, prior to ghosting, may also have cheated. Compared to other attachment styles, avoidants are more likely to have more sexual partners in a reckless manner.
It’s not your fault if you were ghosted
When you are ghosted, it’s natural to want answers. Being rejected in such a cold manner is painful. There is no shame in feeling this pain and confusion. In fact, attachment theory says that loss, abandonment, and rejection by those we depend on is traumatizing. Therefore, ghosting can literally cause trauma.
Related: I got ghosted and it hurts.
At the same time, when you feel your natural pain and confusion, it’s important to not blame yourself. An avoidant – or anyone – ghosting you is not a reflection of your worth. A person with avoidant attachment finds themselves ghosting others because of their own anxiety. Natural and normal experiences of intimacy such as vulnerability and seeking support overwhelm an avoidant.
An avoidant will convince themselves you were the problem. But this is only because they are fundamentally overwhelmed by intimacy. This problem existed within them way before you. And this problem will exist within them way after ghosting you.
Do avoidants want to be chased?
It’s natural after being ignored to want answers. You may even find yourself wondering if the avoidant person wants to be chased. Do they want a big display of love perhaps? Or maybe, you wonder, do you need to clarify or apologize for something you did or said?
While these thoughts are understandable, the avoidant person does not want to be chased. They already feel overwhelmed by common expressions of intimacy. If you chase the avoidant down, this will likely trigger their belief that love is suffocation. They will then continue to withdraw from you.
The most important thing you can do for both the avoidant – and you especially – is to accept the space and distance.
Do avoidants ever come back?
Yes, but let’s clarify. Avoidants do sometimes cycle back around to those they have shut out, disappeared on, and ignored. However, just because they come back this doesn’t mean this is a viable relationship.
You may believe that this avoidant person was perfect for you. If they just give you a real chance at a relationship, they will see this too you may also think. These are understandable thoughts. It’s agonizing being ghosted sometimes.
Yet, a person who ghosts has revealed themselves to lack healthy relationship skills. Even if they come back, they will likely still struggle with avoidance. This attachment style will leave the two of you stuck in a cycle. Over and over again, your shared intimacy will trigger them to create distance from you and shut you out.
What if I can’t stop thinking about the avoidant?
If you can’t stop thinking about the person who ghosted you, this may be a sign of your own anxious attachment. (Note: At times, the trauma of ghosting can trigger past trauma. In this case, please seek the support of a trauma therapist whenever possible.)
With anxious attachment, a person clings to relationships. They believe, deep down, they are not good enough. An anxiously attached person will often blame themselves for the reason that their relationship is struggling or has ended. Therefore, it seems like every person they date will be the last person to ever like them. Walking away, or letting go, of unhealthy relationships is extremely difficult then.
The healthiest attachment style is secure. A person with secure attachment knows that even when a relationship ends there are plenty of other people who will find them attractive and lovable.
But can’t an avoidant change?
Yes, but only with a lot of self-awareness, courage, and commitment to changing. An avoidant doesn’t magically change. Even if an avoidant cycles back around after ghosting you, and says the right words, this doesn’t mean they have healed.
All people can heal and become securely attached. But the first step to healing for an avoidant is taking accountability. They must, deep down, stop blaming you for their fear of intimacy. Next, they must create an open and honest dialogue with you or a therapist when they feel triggered to ignore you. The avoidant must be committed to feeling uncomfortable to face their fear of intimacy.
This is not easy nor is it quick work. Even with the best of intentions, and commitment, this sort of healing often requires couples therapy for a minimum of a year.
Letting go of a fantasy
It can be hard to stop wondering why someone ghosted you. This is especially true if you have anxious attachment. Often, this attachment style comes from trauma related to abandonment or neglect growing up. Understandably, ghosting can trigger this trauma.
You may fantasize about the person who ghosted waking up and suddenly seeing how perfect you are. Yet, while understandable, this line of thinking keeps you stuck in your sadness.
Ghosting is never your fault. A person with avoidant attachment finds natural and healthy experiences of intimacy overwhelming. Thusly, they disappear.
While in your fantasy, the avoidant may magically heal and/or see your worth the reality is much different. In reality, the avoidant person who ghosted you doesn’t have the relationship skills necessary to have a long-term, healthy partnership.
Actions matter more than words
It’s natural to find yourself wanting to chase down the person who ghosted you. Maybe you want answers. Or maybe you hope that you can talk sense into them. You may think that if you can just speak with them, they will see how right you are for one another.
When you have anxious attachment, you cling and struggle to let go even when this defies logic. As such, you may find that you put more weight into words over actions. If the avoidant complimented you, or even said they loved you, you will naturally be confused.
Yet the truth is that healthy partners are trustworthy. They are consistent. Their words and actions align. Therefore, no matter your fantasies of the avoidant coming back, they are not capable of being a healthy partner.
Moving on from ghosting
The first step to healing after ghosting is to honor your feelings. Journaling is a great way to identify your feelings. Next, you will want to be gentle on yourself if you aren’t already. Learning to be more self-compassionate is invaluable for your mental health.
Being gentle with yourself is about validating that your feelings make sense. Then you want to be kind towards yourself. Practice simple self-care. Take steps to care for your mental health. Finally, if you notice that you have anxious attachment, you can heal this too.
You can change your attachment style
It can be especially hard to move on if you have anxious attachment. Yet, it’s completely possible to change your attachment style. The first step is to identify you have anxious attachment but to be self-compassionate. There is nothing wrong with you for having anxious attachment.
Therapy can be incredibly helpful to become more securely attached. If you can’t afford therapy, you can care for your mental health with these free or affordable strategies.
There are helpful books to become more securely attached such as Attached.
Next, practice transforming anxious thoughts to more self-compassionate thoughts. For example, if you think “I’ll never find someone to love me,” you may affirm, “It just takes one person for me to find my partner.”
Or if you think “I was asking for too much so they left me,” you can think, “Being ghosted was not my fault. Having needs is human and a natural part of healthy relationships.”
Another example is if you think “I just wasn’t interesting (or pretty or thin etc) enough so they ghosted me,” you can instead think “Being ghosted is a reflection of the person’s lack of relationship skills and not a reflection of my worth.”
Please be patient with yourself. I find change happens really slowly and all at once. This poem, Autobiography in 5 short chapters, perfectly captures the change process.
There are other healthier, potential partners out there
Moving on after an avoidant ghosts you can be extremely hard. This is especially true if you find you had trauma triggered or have anxious attachment. There is no shame in feeling stuck in pain, confusion and fantasy thinking after being ghosted. Yet, you can heal your attachment style.
When you are securely attached, you will know that ghosting is never a reflection of your worth. Instead, ghosting happens when someone has avoidant attachment. There are many other potential partners out there with better relationship skills.
For now, allow yourself to imagine the truth that there is someone better for you than the avoidant who ghosted you because it’s true!
About The Author, Krystal
Krystal Mazzola Wood, LMFT is a practicing relationship therapist with over a decade of experience. Currently, Krystal sees clients at her private practice, The Healthy Relationship Foundation. She has dedicated her entire career to empowering people to heal from unhealthy relationship processes. She does this by teaching the skills and tools necessary to have a life filled with healthy and loving relationships.
This passion led her to write her best-selling books and create courses. Her books, The Codependency Recovery Plan: A 5-Step Guide to Understand, Accept, and Break Free from the Codependent Cycle and The Codependency Workbook: Simple Practices for Developing and Maintaining Your Independence have helped many people heal.
Her third book, Self-Love Made Possible: The 5-Step Guide to Stop Being Your Own Worst Enemy and Become Your Own Best Friend will be released late 2022. To be notified of its release, please join the waitlist here.
Her course, Confidently Authentic: Stop People Pleasing and Start Being True to Yourself, provides the skills necessary to have a healthy relationship. This course features over a year of relationship skills you would learn in therapy. Students share this course has been “life changing.”
Each week, she answers your relationship questions from a place of expertise and compassion. To submit your relationship questions, please DM her @confidentlyauthentic.com or you may send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to submit your question.