In this post, we’ll discuss the dynamics of the Secure and Avoidant attachment combination. We’ll compare and contrast this combination with the Secure-Secure partnership and explore how the Secure partner can support and reassure their Avoidant spouse.

Secure and Avoidant attachment combination 

A marital relationship can have distinct dynamics where one partner has a Secure attachment style, and the other has an Avoidant (sometimes called Avoidant-Dismissive) attachment style. These dynamics are influenced by the characteristic behaviors and emotional responses associated with these attachment styles:

Communication and emotional expression:

The Secure partner is comfortable with emotional expression and open communication. They are able to express their feelings and needs clearly and be attentive and responsive to their partner’s emotions.

The Avoidant partner tends to downplay, suppress, or dismiss their own or their partner’s emotions. They may view expressing emotional vulnerability as a “weakness” and may avoid dynamic sharing or transparency. They may deny “negative” feelings of sadness, shame, guilt, or fear, but not anger. Anger is used to regulate distance from their partner. They may focus on practical matters rather than delve into deep emotional discussions. They may mock or ridicule the expression of emotions they are uncomfortable with. The Avoidant may downplay even more “positive” emotions such as pride, interest, or joy, or consider them irrelevant or unnecessary to life. 

Independence and intimacy:

The Secure partner can balance their need for independence with their desire for intimacy, they value closeness in the relationship. They can also pursue individual interests without fear of abandonment.

The Avoidant partner tends to prioritize and highly value independence and self-sufficiency and require personal space and alone time, even at the cost of connection. They prefer to handle emotions and problems independently rather than seeking support or comfort. They may be uncomfortable with too much closeness and intimacy. They may pull away when they feel overwhelmed by emotional demands. They may become intimidated and angry at their secure partner, experiencing the invitation to share as a “demand.”

They may feel overwhelmed or suffocated if they perceive their partner as too emotionally demanding or intrusive. They might find it challenging to express love or affection in highly emotional or vulnerable ways, which can be frustrating or hurtful for their partner. The Avoidant partner may fear becoming too dependent on their partner for emotional well-being. This can lead to a reluctance to lean on their spouse, even in times of need. They may prioritize their autonomy and individuality, sometimes at the expense of the relationship. This can result in a preference for pursuing personal interests and goals independently.

Response to emotional distress:

Where as the Secure partner is empathetic and supportive when their spouse is going through a difficult time, providing comfort and reassurance, and their presence is intended to create a sense of safety;

The Avoidant partner struggles to offer or accept emotional support during distress. They may not always understand or know how to respond to their partner’s emotions. Instead, they may distance themselves and grow cold to their partner’s “neediness.” They might find it uncomfortable or unfamiliar to receive emotional support or reassurance from their partner and “shrug it off.” They may struggle to accept help or comfort when they are feeling vulnerable.

They may view discussing problems as “just making it worse” rather than imagining a favorable resolution.

Conflict resolution:

Where as the Secure partner approaches conflict with a healthy and constructive mindset; they can communicate openly about disagreements, seek compromises, and find solutions that work for both parties;

The Avoidant partner, when faced with conflict or emotional intensity, may withdraw or shut down rather than engage in open communication. They might need time alone to process their feelings. The Avoidant partner may tend to minimize or dismiss relationship issues to avoid the discomfort associated with emotional conflict or confrontation. They may view discussing problems as “just making it worse” rather than imagining a favorable resolution.

The usually solidly grounded Secure often finds the Avoidant exasperating, even making the Secure resemble an Anxious partner. The Avoidant partner can erode the Secure partner’s otherwise robust self-esteem with their chronic emotional unavailability and distancing.

However, as with the Anxious partner, a patient and robust Secure partner can sometimes warm up an Avoidant and nudge them grudgingly toward a more Secure attachment. They may not want to, however, and may choose to respond to the clear messages their partner sends. It’s a great deal of lonely, one-way work to establish a mutual Secure attachment with the Avoidant.

As with the Anxious partner, shifting an Avoidant toward Secure attachment without the benefits of science-based couples therapy can be daunting.

Accepting influence from the Secure partner is essential for the Secure-Avoidant pairing to work. While the Secure partner believes in people, the Avoidant spouse does not have such an optimistic view of humanity. Consequently, the Avoidant partner may fail to accept influence from their Secure partner, and the emotional gridlock might persuade the Secure partner to leave.

Secure partner can sometimes warm up an Avoidant and nudge them grudgingly toward a more Secure attachment. They may not want to, however. ..It’s a great deal of lonely, one-way work…

It’s helpful when an Avoidant partner can accept the validity of their partner’s desire for connection without getting defensive. Even if the Avoidant partner is skeptical, they can test themselves to connect more with their Secure partner while tolerating their anxiety.

It is poignant to see long-term Secure-Avoidant couples struggle for growth. We work intensely with these couples so that they can become more intimately connected. And they often do!

Remember, attachment-based couples therapy works on the premise that attachment styles can shift. Science-based couples therapy works well with this combination. In our intensives, we teach the specific things you can do to help create a more secure attachment.

The critical thing to remember is that we are all struggling to gain mastery over our childhood attachment injuries. We select partners who we feel are best suited to help us to accomplish this critical task.


The Secure and Avoidant-Dismissive attachment combination can be challenging, but with patience, understanding, and the support of science-based couples therapy, these couples can work towards creating a more secure and emotionally connected relationship. In the next post, we’ll explore the complexities of the Secure and Disorganized attachment combination.