Ever wonder why your dismissive avoidant partner never apologizes? Or when they do, their apologies sound ingenuine and defensive, or they struggle to come up with what they’re even apologizing for. Those with a dismissive avoidant attachment style can often struggle to apologize in intimate relationships. In a worst-case scenario, you may never hear an apology from them at all.
This can be really tough at the end of a relationship with a person who has an avoidant attachment style.
When going without an apology leaves you to pick up the pieces alone; trying to understand what happened and how much responsibility you should give to them versus how much responsibility you should take yourself.
Let’s explore why a person with this attachment style struggles to apologize.
Overview of the dismissive avoidant attachment style.
This attachment style develops before the age of five; children with this attachment style can often experience neglect at an early age or pressure and responsibility put on them at an inappropriate time in their development. People with a dismissive avoidant attachment style can often struggle with trust, intimacy, and relationships, as well as vulnerability and interdependence.
As adults, they tend to be independent. They can be rigid or rule-driven and focused on personal success in the areas that align with their values.
Apologies require a level of vulnerability and consideration of wrongdoing to be genuinely communicated by the person apologizing.
Studies have shown that the more comprehensive an apology is, the more likely it is to be effective. Effective apology elements can include “expressing remorse, taking responsibility, offering to repair, giving an explanation, promising to improve behavior in the future, and acknowledging the harm done as well as admitting wrongdoing and requesting forgiveness.”
Someone with a dismissive avoidant attachment style may struggle to apologize for a number of reasons.
They may simply not know how to apologize in an appropriate way.
It may be especially challenging if the content of the apology pushes them to empathize with uncomfortable emotions that may be foreign to them.
When people hear that a person with this attachment style has difficulty empathizing they start to worry that this person is a narcissist. That can be far from true.
It’s not that people with avoidant attachment can’t empathize. It’s more that they struggle to empathize with certain emotional states.
Often people struggle to empathize with another’s experience because they lack the compassion and often the capacity for that experience within themselves.
So let’s say the avoidant has a partner who acts needy or has lots of emotional needs. For the avoidant, whose emotional needs may have been neglected at a pivotal time in their development, never learned how to connect with their emotional needs, or connecting to their needs comes with a lot of pain.
Then when they grow up and if they haven’t done the work to connect with and understand their emotional needs and that it’s okay to have them today. Then likely the emotional needs of their partner will bring up that same pain that they never processed. So then what looks like a lack of empathy is really a rejection of something that they can’t tolerate within themselves.
The second reason you are not getting an apology from your partner in a dismissive avoidant breakup is that apologizing may not have been modeled to them or modeled in an unhealthy way.
For instance, they may have received the messaging that expressing emotion, expressing remorse, or being vulnerable is a sign of weakness.
Some may even have deeper wounding around apologizing and could have received messaging that apologizing is demeaning or humiliating. Rather than it being an act of courage.
So instead of apologizing in a meaningful way, the dismissive-avoidant partner can become defensive, avoid, or even hostile to protect their vulnerable state.
Reason #3: They don’t apologize because they struggle to accept responsibility for their actions.
Your partner in your dismissive avoidant breakup may not be able to own the consequences of their actions, or they may be too ashamed to admit any wrongdoing. This can be especially true if the degree of the transgression is really high. So if they did something that they really regret, it could be this kind of record scratch between what they did and how they view themselves.
“If I do this thing, what does that mean about me?”
“What does that mean about my character?”
This cognitive dissonance between who they believe they are and their behavior can often motivate people to avoid confronting the transgression directly and addressing their inner conflict because they feel ashamed. Instead, they may sweep the issue under the rug, rationalize the issue to themselves and to their partner, or deny and deflect.
Reason #4: A lack of apology can be used as an “unconscious” strategy to create emotional distance after a dismissive avoidant breakup.
Finally, the avoidant ex may realize they made a mistake but won’t apologize because it is an avenue for closeness and reconnection. In this case, the avoidant ex is sorry and may want to apologize, but they are afraid that if they do it will re-open the connection or a conversation that they’re hesitant to explore. Instead, they withhold the apology to distance themselves from getting pulled back into the relationship.
Now, that said, a lack of a meaningful apology can still lead to a lot of frustration and resentment in the relationship and can even result in an ongoing conflict or the relationship ending. It’s common to feel like apologizing can make us vulnerable and open us up to attack or criticism. We may feel like we’re not in the wrong or that we don’t need to apologize because the other person wronged us too, but a tit-for-tat strategy rarely works to create lasting connection.
Apologizing is actually a powerful way to take ownership of our actions and can help us build resentment free, connected relationships.
If you’re still trying to understand what happened or is happening with your dismissive avoidant partner, and want personalized insights into your unique situation. Or if you’d like to heal from grief and heartache after a dismissive avoidant breakup, then I recommend trying one-on-one coaching with me.
Even though this article has been geared towards the dismissive avoidant attachment style, I’m wondering if you could actually relate to any of these reasons for withholding an apology in your own life. Let me know in comments.