Here’s Why You Stop Liking Someone Once They Like You Back

Anxious, avoidant and disorganized attachment styles tend to be rooted in a person's childhood, but they can cause problems once you're an adult.
Anxious, avoidant and disorganized attachment styles tend to be rooted in a person's childhood, but they can cause problems once you're an adult.

Anxious, avoidant and disorganized attachment styles tend to be rooted in a person's childhood, but they can cause problems once you're an adult.

Nicole Phillip, a 30-year-old social media strategist from Orlando, Florida, noticed a pattern in her dating life.

“Before entering a relationship, I’m super quick to write people off,” she told HuffPost. “When someone is very interested in me, it’s a turnoff. I prefer slow burns because rapid romance activates my fight-or-fly, and I usually choose ‘fly.’”

It’s a common experience. You develop a crush on someone, but when they reciprocate, you quickly lose interest.

For Jaz Melody, 27, of Los Angeles, that feeling was palpable.

“Before I was able to heal the parts of me that rejected intimacy, I would heavily pursue romantic connections,” she said. “But once they began to get deeper, I could feel my body physically rejecting them.”

Through therapy, Phillip and Melody were able to identify that these behaviors stemmed from their attachment styles.

“Attachment style” refers to the way a person relates to others in intimate and platonic relationships. Usually shaped by our relationships with our parents and early caregivers, attachment styles fall into four categories: secure, avoidant, anxious and disorganized.

A secure attachment style allows people to set boundaries and feel stable, safe and satisfied in their relationships. On the other hand, people with avoidant, anxious and disorganized attachment styles don’t feel secure in relationships. They worry about trusting people, and they tend to prioritize independence. As a result, an insecure attachment style may make someone reluctant to enter a relationship — hence, that feeling of pulling away once feelings are reciprocated.

It’s something psychologist Shaurya Gahlawat sees in her private practice all the time.

“We lose interest when we gain power, and when someone admits they like us, it is exactly what we feel,” Gahlawat said. “We give up on working hard and that is not challenging enough, so at times we feel, ‘I achieved this! What next?’”

A 2020 study by Southern Methodist University found that simply knowing your attachment style, and being aware of whatever anxious or avoidant qualities you may have, can help you become more secure in your relationships. (You can figure out your attachment style by taking this quiz.)

That was the case for Melody. “I realized that I experience both the anxious and the avoidant side of the attachment styles,” she said. “Once I read the description for disorganized attachment style, I felt like I saw myself and all my traits for the first time.”

We asked experts about how insecure attachments might be hindering your relationships, and how to develop a secure attachment style moving forward.

Insecure attachments in relationships

Anxious, avoidant and disorganized attachment styles overlap in some ways and differ in others. People with an anxious attachment style have high levels of anxiety prior to entering a relationship, and they tend to fear rejection.

“An anxiously attached person may feel they will not do too well in the relationship, the relationship will not last, that they will not be good enough, or the person may lose interest in them later,” Gahlawat said.

This may manifest in desiring “high levels of intimacy, often feeling worried about their partner’s feelings and seeking reassurance,” she said.

People who have an avoidant attachment style might have a fear of commitment, and might demonstrate a complete withdrawal from relationships. They might also crave independence and have a strong sense of autonomy. As a result, they try to distance themselves from other people to avoid frustration.

“People with an avoidant attachment style may have difficulty with emotional intimacy and may be uncomfortable with the vulnerability that comes with admitting or receiving feelings,“ Gahlawat said. “If someone with an avoidant attachment style is confronted with someone else’s romantic feelings, they may instinctively withdraw or become hesitant to reciprocate due to their fear of being engulfed or losing their sense of autonomy.”

Disorganized, or dismissive and fearful attachment styles, are characterized by low levels of emotional vulnerability and intensity, little reliance on partners, and greater reluctance to share personal information.

“Their behavior in relationships may be unpredictable and erratic,” Christine Taylor, a licensed professional counselor and relationship therapist, told HuffPost.

People with this style “may exhibit both anxious and avoidant behaviors simultaneously or in rapid alternation,” Gahlawat said. “For example, they may seek proximity to their partner, but then abruptly withdraw or display aggressive or fearful reactions when they get close.”

It’s important to note that various attachment styles can intertwine, and people might display different qualities and behaviors within their relationships.

“Attachment styles are not fixed or mutually exclusive categories,” Gahlawat said. “Individuals can exhibit varying degrees of both anxious and avoidant tendencies, and their attachment styles may vary in different relationships or contexts.”

On the flip side, securely attached adults are able both to trust others and to be self-sufficient. They’re comfortable with intimacy, and are able to communicate boundaries in a relationship.

“They tend to bond easily with others and feel comfortable being vulnerable and close,” Taylor told HuffPost. “They are more trusting and are able to communicate their needs effectively.”

How to develop secure attachments

If you notice a pattern of pulling away once someone likes you back, remember that these habits are not set in stone.

“It’s important to note that attachment styles are not fixed or absolute traits; they can be influenced by various factors and can change over time with personal growth and experiences,” Gahlawat said. “Additionally, individual differences exist within attachment styles, and not all individuals with the same style will respond in the same way.”

In order to create more secure attachments, it might be helpful to find a therapist, if you’re able, who can help you work through harmful behaviors like withdrawing from relationships, whether they’re intimate or platonic.

“It is important to dig deep, reflect on your past to understand why you feel anxious, avoidant, and not secure,” Gahlawat said. “Processing your relationships as a child and teen are important to stay aware of what is about today, your current relationship, and what is baggage from the past.”

It may seem counterintuitive, but Gahlawat recommended discussing avoidant feelings with the person you’re seeing as they come up.

“Build trust gradually, be reliable, consistent and honest, because trust is the foundation of secure relationships,” she said. ”If you are feeling anxious, discuss with them. If you feel you’re moving too fast, talk about it.”

Additionally, asking yourself questions while you’re in a relationship can be helpful. Taylor suggested posing questions to yourself like: “Does the thought of being vulnerable with my partner make me anxious? Am I afraid to get too close emotionally? Do I tend to push my partner away? Do I get jealous easily? Do I need a lot of reassurance even when I know that my partner loves me?”

Therapy has helped Phillip identify the triggers that make her want to leave relationships, so she can course-correct.

“The minute [someone I’m seeing] says something I don’t like, I’m over it,” she said. “Sometimes, it’s warranted, but I’m trying to scrutinize my motivations to end things with people. I talk to my therapist now about things I’ve noticed that make me want to stop speaking to a romantic interest, as a gut check to make sure I’m not ending things in an effort to avoid a close connection.”