2 Ways That Your Attachment Style Might Be Making You Overly Secretive

If you have an avoidant attachment style, you might unknowingly be keeping secrets from those you care for.

Mark Travers, Ph.D.

By Mark Travers, Ph.D. | 04 March, 2024

Mutual self-disclosure is essential to building a strong foundation in relationships.

Feeling safe to share personal information with another person can bring you closer to them—something certain individuals may desperately try to avoid.

A 2024 study found that individuals who display an "avoidant attachment style" are the most likely to avoid opening up and tend to be highly selective about revealing information to others, even in close relationships.

An avoidant attachment style is characterized by a reluctance to rely on others and a desire to maintain emotional independence. Avoidantly attached individuals may downplay their need for emotional connection and prioritize self-reliance over intimacy. They may be uncomfortable with closeness and have difficulty expressing their emotions.

Avoidantly attached individuals often struggle with trusting romantic partners and appear distant, emotionally unavailable or detached in relationships because they fear being hurt or rejected if they allow themselves to become too attached.

Here are two reasons why avoidantly attached individuals are often secretive, according to the 2024 study.

1. They Want To Avoid Looking Weak

Researchers found that in romantic relationships, avoidantly attached individuals develop a "selective sharing strategy," which impacts not only how much they share with a partner, but the type of information they share. Specifically, they find it safer to reveal primarily positive life events, which tend to display their strengths, abilities and high levels of personal competence.

"In avoidant relationships, the likelihood of sharing positive events or events conveying high competence was approximately three times greater than that of sharing negative events or events conveying low competence," the researchers write.

Avoidantly attached individuals avoid mentioning any losses or perceived failures, such as losing a job or struggling with health issues to avoid looking "weak" to others and, often, themselves.

Such individuals might develop a self-image based on strength, competence and self-reliance. Sharing emotional difficulties contradicts this carefully-crafted persona, making them feel dependent and inadequate. So, they avoid being vulnerable to preserve their sense of self-worth.

Further, avoidantly attached individuals often learn to suppress emotional needs and present a stoic front to cope with caregivers who were inconsistent, unresponsive or emotionally unavailable. As a result, they may avoid revealing information that could increase their chances of being rejected, abandoned or criticized ever again.

Such individuals often come into relationships with the expectation of getting hurt and do not want to present the other person with the "ammunition" to do so. Consequently, avoidantly attached individuals avoid seeking support or even seeming like they need help at all costs.

"Because sharing negative events may be functionally equivalent to seeking support for those events, attachment avoidance may motivate people to selectively keep negative experiences to themselves. Alternatively, sharing positive events conveys no expectation of support-receipt," the researchers explain.

Ironically, in trying to avoid a scenario where people will be uncaring and unresponsive to them, avoidantly attached individuals do not give others the chance to be supportive at all.

2. They Want To Avoid Emotional Closeness

Researchers found that avoidantly attached individuals avoid sharing information that is emotionally vulnerable to effectively distance themselves and avoid building deeper connections with others.

"In relationships with high attachment avoidance, people were 1.5 times as likely to share events they rated as low in vulnerability than events they rated as high in vulnerability," the researchers write.

However, this avoidance usually triggers childhood patterns of neglect as it hinders their ability to form close and fulfilling relationships, since genuine intimacy requires a willingness to be open, vulnerable and emotionally connected with others.

Researchers also suggest that avoidantly attached individuals might be secretive to avoid dealing with their own feelings about an issue and circumvent the uncertainty or discomfort of feeling these emotions. Not having emotionally responsive parental figures as a child can teach them to be unresponsive to themselves when they are upset and self-soothe in potentially unhelpful ways.

Avoidantly attached individuals also prioritize hyper-independence and self-sufficiency as a way to maintain control over their emotions and relationships. Being emotionally open can feel like relinquishing this control, which can be difficult to let go of as a coping mechanism.

Further, due to past experiences with unreliable or emotionally unavailable caregivers, avoidantly attached individuals may have difficulty trusting others with their emotions, believing that vulnerability only leads to disappointment or betrayal. They prefer not to get their hopes up that a connection will be secure and long-lasting.

Choosing to keep one's feelings to oneself can make a person lose out on healthy love, meaningful connections and healing social support. However, people can learn to accept love and support over time, with more positive relationship experiences.

With practice and professional mental health support, it is possible to feel safe while being vulnerable, prove your fears wrong and give loved ones a chance to offer you the support you always deserved.

Does your avoidant attachment style keep you isolated in your relationships? Take the Loneliness In Intimate Relationships Scale to find out.

A similar version of this article can also be found on, here.

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