If you’re in the dating scene, chances are you’ve had an encounter with a man who avoids relationships. You know the guy… the “never married” type, or the guy who seems like he’s into the relationship for the first few dates and then disappears as soon as things get close. He’s the “ghoster”… or the perpetual bachelor. Every almost-lover who’s encountered this kind of man wants to know… why do some men avoid relationships?
Well, let me start with saying that the perpetual bachelor is usually not a cold hearted man who purposely decided to spend the rest of his life as a bachelor. There is usually one underlying reason that explains why some men are downright terrified of a relationship.
Quite simply, his brain may be wired to avoid relationships.
How He’s Wired
How does someone become wired to avoid a relationship? The answer to this lies in the psychological concept of attachment. As infants, we develop something called an “attachment style” which stems from the bond between a child and a primary caregiver.
In this process of attachment, our brains become wired to react in certain ways, based on the interactions we have with those who are closest to us.
As infants, we express our needs (needs for hunger, sleep, safety, etc.) by crying or interacting with a primary caregiver or parent. Over time, we learn whether our needs will be met with warmth and consistency, with a negative emotion like anger or irritation, or with inconsistent responses. Sometimes, our needs aren’t met at all. As this cycle of expressing and responding to our needs is repeated thousands of times in those first few years of life, we make powerful connections in our brains that tell us what relationships mean to us.
Basically, we learn whether it is safe and comfortable to depend on others, or whether it is better to keep a distance because our needs are never met in a positive way.
So… flash forward to adulthood and our question of why some men (and women) avoid relationships. Men who avoid relationships often have something called an “avoidant” attachment style. These men learn early on that relationships are not safe. For them, independence and emotional distance trump intimacy and vulnerability.
Why All Hope Isn’t Lost
Having this style of attachment does not mean that a man is doomed when it comes to relationships, or that he is an insensitive, unloving human being. It simply means that he has developed an internal alarm system that alerts him every time he starts to feel emotional or sometimes even physical closeness with someone. The hard wiring of the brain can be so powerful in these responses, that it can even override the goals of a man who has a goal to remain in a relationship. This attachment system is meant to keep the human species alive. It was not designed to think of things like getting married, settling down, and commitment.
Some men are so strongly avoidant that they are very clear that they don’t want a relationship. Others may have less intense avoidant tendencies, and actually desire to be in a relationship, but their brains keep reacting in ways that sabotage their attempts at intimacy.
This tendency can be frustrating not only for someone who dates these men, but also for the men themselves. Most avoidant men realize, on some level, that relationships are difficult for them. However, without an understanding of how attachment works, they are constantly hijacked by the reactions of their brain that work overtime to keep them avoiding intimacy.
Signs that he may be more avoidant include a history of no long term relationships, statements about how relationships seem like a threat to his independence, or distancing and disappearing acts after you’ve had emotionally or physically intimate encounters with each other. He may have a difficult time expressing his feelings toward you, and may resist moving forward with any type of commitment.
If you find yourself dating someone who you think might have an avoidant attachment style, but you know you’re a “relationship” person, start with communicating. Ask him about how he feels when he gets close to you. Ask about his relationship history. He may truly want to connect, but not know how.
If you’re reading this and wondering if you might have an avoidant attachment style, first of all, thank your brain for doing its job.
If you feel that you want to make some changes in how you react to relationships and intimacy, start by reading up on attachment, or talk to a therapist or coach who specializes in attachment. Research has shown that our attachment styles remain fairly consistent into adulthood. However, the good news is that with awareness, personal growth experiences, or therapy, people can make changes in their primary attachment style and learn to feel more comfortable with intimacy.