Dismissive-Avoidants: Gay and Lesbian Cases

Avoidant: How to Love (or Leave) a Dismissive Partner

Avoidant: How to Love (or Leave) a Dismissive Partner

I published a few examples of anonymized correspondence I had received in Avoidant: How to Love (or Leave) a Dismissive Partner. I want to point out two examples that illustrate that gay and lesbian relationships have the same underlying attachment dynamics.

Example 1: “Tess” and “Natasha.”

Sometimes it’s better when an avoidant lets you know before you get into a years-long relationship that you really aren’t that important to them. Painful as that might be, it’s less painful than having built a life or family with them, only to discover they are just tolerating you.

In this example, “Tess” is just out of a bad romance with an avoidant (“Natasha”), and she’s still trying to understand what happened:

Tess:

I am very recently out of a relationship where I think now that my former dating partner may be an avoidant, but I am not totally sure which type. I know from therapy that I’m anxious-preoccupied and I’m working on that, but this relationship activated my attachment issues. I did better this time than I have in the past, but it is still really hard.

I met this woman through work, and we hit it off and became friends. Over the course of our friendship, I developed an attraction to her, and I thought she did to me as well. Before we started she had doubts about me as I had never been with a woman before, and I had doubts as to whether or not she was over her ex.

I should have paid closer attention to her mentioning that she was planning to move 5 hours away when she was able to find a job in that area. The only area she was willing to look for a job was in the city where her ex lives. I asked her once why the only place in the whole world she wanted to move was that close to her ex, and she responded by asking me why it bothered me.

When “Natasha” (my ex) met the woman who would become her ex, she was married and had small children. They began an affair, and eventually this woman left her husband for Natasha. They were together in some capacity for 3 years until the ex-husband threatened to take the children away if they didn’t end their relationship. She ended the relationship with Natasha and moved with her ex-husband to the area where Natasha has now moved.

She also has a history of having long distance relationships that I knew about when we started dating. I really thought I wasn’t jumping into anything too fast this time because we had been friends for over a year at the time we started dating. She really pursued me at the start and was very romantic. Then it was like as soon as I was in, she started distancing herself a little. I know that I am sensitive to distance because I am preoccupied, so I tried to rely on my tools I had developed and ignored my feelings. But sometimes they were overwhelming, and I would need to ask for reassurance. She always gave it and assured me that the distance was due to stress and nothing more.

She ended up moving 5 hours away for a job, and she insisted that she wanted to try long distance. I am also job searching, and so I suggested that I search for jobs in her city. She said that I should do whatever is best for me. And I said that I feel like for our relationship to move forward, we need to be in the same city. She said she agreed, but she was fine with long distance also.

I visited her after she moved, and everything seemed fine. The next day she broke up with me over the phone when I had returned home. Basically, the only answer she had was that I wasn’t “The One.” She still hopes we can be friends.

This break up was totally devoid of emotion. Then I called her two weeks later to talk because I missed her and just wanted to talk to her. She acted fine. She was cold and callous. She had absolutely no emotion whatsoever. Which over the course of our relationship, she didn’t show a lot of emotion anyway except when she was trying to win me over it felt like.

The only time I heard a hint of emotion in her voice was when I asked about her mother. She had an edge of anger. Not much, but some.

Her father committed suicide when she was 12, and I know she doesn’t have a lot of close friends. She does have a close relationship with her mother and her sister.

I am looking for answers to help myself move on…

Jeb:

She sounds primarily dismissive; most of the signs (often cold, valuing an unobtainable ex over a real available person, breaking up right after a visit) fit. Talking about moving away while seeing you is another typical sign. If she were fearful, she would have run away after really being a relationship, as it started to get very close. But the fearful and dismissive share common characteristics and some people straddle the line.

You already know she’s not reliable or consistently valuing your feelings. The best thing for you is probably to move on. She sounds like she has more issues than just being avoidant, so perhaps it’s just as well you didn’t get in as deep as you could have. Talking about moving far away — which happens to be to a place near her ex! — while she was supposedly getting into a relationship with you is as red-flaggy as it gets.

Tess:

Is it typical for an avoidant to act very interested in a relationship at the beginning? One of the things I am having a hard time reconciling is the fact that Natasha seemed very, very interested at the beginning, and it changed sort of suddenly. Like one day she was all about me, and then it was like she wasn’t there. We still went on dates and saw each other regularly until she moved, but she seemed emotionally distant.

I asked her how her feelings changed so quickly, and she just said that her feelings haven’t changed. She still thinks I am an amazing woman, but that I am just not “The One.” I know from previous conversations that she had felt like her ex was “The One,” but since they weren’t together anymore, she was trying to believe there could be someone else.

Was she lying in the beginning about how attracted to me she was? That is one of the mental obstacles I am facing in working through this. How does a person have strong attraction and then no attraction over the course of 4 months?

Jeb:

“Lying” is probably the wrong word. Most people are aware of their motives for doing things, but the avoidant’s lack of emotional connection to memories allows for an inconsistency of feeling that is hard for us to understand. A typical person would recognize something odd about wanting someone one day, then shortly thereafter rejecting the same person, but they are not conscious of a remembered “landscape of feelings” like we are.

You would not do that. But she could, and without ever lying — she could only have been lying if she wasn’t truly interested, but most likely she was. No, it does not make sense. Just realize you can’t fit her actions into your emotional reasoning.

It’s not at all unusual for an avoidant to be charming and very interested-seeming in courtship. Avoidants can enjoy the thrill of the chase, hunt, and capture; most of the “players” (charming seducers) over 30 are avoidant. They will focus attention on you—one study found that avoidants touched their dating partners during conversation more than secure and preoccupied types. But once the prey is bagged, the level of interest drops.

Generally the dismissive aren’t conscious of why they act this way; a rationalization is made up to explain their own behavior.  

Example 2: “Joshua” and “Alan”

The second example is “Joshua,” a gay man in his first year with “Alan” in New York City, who is just realizing how unsupportive his dismissive partner is:

Joshua:

I downloaded the Kindle version of your book Avoidant: How to Love (or Leave) a Dismissive Partner yesterday. I finished it today and have started my second pass. Thank you. It has profoundly changed my point of view and has helped me tremendously.

I am a gay man, 34, and have been in a committed relationship for just over a year, after a long stint of being single. We have encountered a growing number of interpersonal problems over the recent months. In the process, I have started to trend from being a caring loving man to one of extreme preoccupation and worry about the emotional status of my relationship. Needless to say, I came upon your book in a frenzied attempt to find answers about why certain things and behaviors where manifesting.

Jeb:

I’m glad you discovered my book. Only a handful of his friends would have any idea he has an issue, most likely, and in the old days you’d have no way of knowing it was his difficulty responding supportively that was making you insecure. The Internet and Google make it far easier to find similar people with similar problems.

Joshua:

I don’t need to go into too many details, but I believe I am involved with a dismissive. His past is in line with that likelihood, and his behavior and actions toward me are absolutely in line with how you’ve described a person of this temperament might behave. My gentle entreaties were once answered in kind to only soon be ignored, overlooked, dismissed or outright called stupid and unnecessary. Presently, we are in a paralyzed state where my partner is not participating, mad at me, putting up roadblocks to communication, and has recently started to not talk at all.

Jeb:

No, you’re not crazy, and at least initially not too demanding to have expected empathetic communication. Your partner has tired of the novelty of the relationship and may now see you as a burden to be held at bay.

Joshua:

I have been labeled needy, controlling, demanding and at times “insane.” Through this process I have started to feel invisible, disposable and a convenience. I should add that this all began when I noticed him pulling away emotionally, which was shortly followed by a sudden vacation with a friend I have never met on which I was not invited.

Jeb:

What?? Alarm bells. He’s certainly not hiding his lack of concern for your feelings.

Joshua:

Since then matters have spiraled into chaos. And in that chaos I have found him online talking to other men, making plans for sex dates, posting indiscreet pictures of himself on sex sites, disappearing for lengths of time and erratic changes in our plans. And when I asked to talk about it he has denied that anything is happening and called me crazy. When I supplied the proof he refused to talk about it, and still refuses. His response was that he was working through something and now it is over. And all through it my emotions have not been acknowledged or properly addressed. And now I am in a place of constant anxiety about my emotional and physical well being, and have very conflicted feelings of attachment and love for this person.

Jeb:

You will find that love is not enough. There are many people we will meet who we can love, but few of those who will be loyal and steady partners. Letting go of someone you may continue to love when you realize they are not good for you and never will be is hard, but much better for you than not letting go.

Joshua:

In the end, after reading your book and taking the test suggested in the beginning, I am surprised to learn that I am demonstrating preoccupied tendencies. This is not who I identify as, since I have a history of secure, open and well balanced relationships in my past. I am now prone to believe I am acting this way because the climate of my relationship is driving me in that direction.

Jeb:

I think you are right.

Joshua:

Hence my belief that I am involved with a dismissive person that can’t feel his attachment to me. Therefore, I have decided I need to locate a therapist that can assist me with these issues and help guide me through them. I am very confused since I love this person a great deal, but he is unable or unwilling to help me understand how to care for him. I need assistance.

Jeb:

If you have not already tried it, ask him if he will take the online test and talk with you about the results. Most dismissives won’t do anything to explore the possibility that they might be causing the trouble in a relationship, but it is worth trying to get him to understand that he has a problem which he could work on. It’s unlikely he will respond positively.

As for therapists, it’s very personal, so you are looking for someone who you can have a rapport with, who quickly “gets” you, and who is familiar with dismissives and attachment insecurity. A good therapist will refer you to someone more suitable if the match is not good.

More on Attachment and Personality Types:

What Attachment Type Are You?
Type: Secure
Type: Anxious-Preoccupied
Type: Dismissive-Avoidant
Type: Fearful-Avoidant (aka Anxious-Avoidant)
Avoidant: Emotions Repressed Beneath Conscious Level
Serial Monogamy: the Fearful-Avoidant Do It Faster
Anxious-Preoccupied: Stuck on the Dismissive?
Anxious-Preoccupied / Dismissive-Avoidant Couples: the Silent Treatment
Anxious-Preoccupied: Clingy and Insecure Relationship Example
Domestic Violence: Ray and Janay Rice
Malignant Narcissists
Teaching Narcissists to Activate Empathy
Histrionic Personality: Seductive, Dramatic, Theatrical
Life Is Unfair! The Great Chain of Dysfunction Ends With You.
Love Songs of the Secure Attachment Type
On Addiction and the Urge to Rescue
“Bad Boyfriends” for Kindle, $2.99
Controlling Your Inner Critic
“Big Bang Theory” — Aspergers and Emotional/Social Intelligence
Porn Addiction and NoFAP
Introverts in Management
Dismissive-Avoidants as Parents

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