Fearful avoidants and dismissive avoidants are alike in that they both have an avoidant attachment style. But they’re also different in how the attachment style forms, what triggers deactivation and what makes each attachment style feel safe.
What makes a fearful avoidant feel safe and what makes a dismissive avoidant safe may slightly differ, but one thing they both need is space to self regulate their emotions (and actions) and regain a sense of safety.
Growing up, avoidants didn’t have someone who could have helped them learn how to regulate disturbing emotions and because their emotional security was not nurtured, fearful avoidants and dismissive avoidants struggle with being close and from time-to-time need to “get away” from a partner and the relationship.
The mistake many people make is only focus on meeting an avoidants need for space thinking that this is what will make an avoidant feel safe.
Avoidants need a lot of space and time alone but too much space is not healthy for a relationship. Giving an avoidant too much space not only emboldens a partner who is neglectful of your needs but also creates a codependent relationship.
Moreover, too much space with no moments of connection does not make a fearful avoidant who also has an anxious attachment feel safe. To feel safe a fearful avoidant needs to also feel that you value them and them needing space is not going to result in abandonment. This is very important because space to a fearful avoidant can sometimes feel like abandonment, especially if it’s more space than they need.
As mentioned early, a fearful avoidant is part anxious which means that just like someone with a preoccupied attachment style, fearful avoidants have a strong fear of abandonment. They’re hypervigilant to any clues that someone is abandoning them and react with pulling away.
For example, in your mind you think you’re giving a fearful space to miss you and come back, but a fearful avoidant takes the space you’re giving them to mean you have lost interest, do not value them, or they did something to push you away. They may even think you’re breaking up (or broken up) with them. If you’re already broken up, they may take “giving them space” as you moving on, or already moved on.
Understanding how to hold space for an avoidant in secure way is key to creating safety in the space you offer, otherwise space becomes a source of insecurity and a feeling that the relationship is not safe.
Space is not the only thing that makes fearful avoidants and dismissive avoidants feel safe. To feel safe, a fearful avoidant and dismissive avoidant also need a partner who is available, responsive, consistent and reliable. All of these and more add up to a feeling an avoidant feeling safe.