Individuals with AvPD are "lonely loners." They would like to be involved in relationships but cannot tolerate the feelings they get around other people. They feel unacceptable, incapable of being loved, and unable to change. Because they retreat from others in anticipation of rejection, they lead socially impoverished lives. They have immature and unrealistic expectations of relationships; they believe that they can have no imperfections if they are to be accepted and loved. Interpersonally, they are ill at ease, awkward and tense. They experience unremitting self-consciousness, self-contempt and anger toward others (Oldham, 1990, pp. 188-193).
Individuals with AvPD will develop intimacy with people who are experienced as safe. Nevertheless, they will often engage in triangular marital or quasi-marital relationships which provide intimacy while maintaining interpersonal distance. These individuals like to foster secret liaisons as a "fall-back" position in case the key relationship does not work out (Benjamin, 1983, pp. 307-308). As sexual partners and parents, people with AvPD appear self-involved and uncaring (Kantor, 1992, p. 109) as they preserve distance from others through defensive restraint and withdrawal. Even so, these individuals long for affection and fantasize about idealized relationships (DSM-IV, 1994, p. 663).