Avoidant Attachment Makes it Hard to Communicate
Does your love pull away from you? Act like you aren’t in the room? Criticize you or start a fight when you have been especially close? Leave or go to sleep right after sex? Spend money without talking about it? Or anything else that makes you feel left out, unimportant, or unwanted?
These experiences may very well be symptoms of the “avoidant attachment” style of relating.
Avoiders want love and closeness, but have developed styles that inhibit them. Here’s a couple of posts that offer these people a way to approach their needs that feel safer than therapy or listening to a partner.
Elizabeth Wedington and I created a Practice presented in our book, Stop Depriving Yourself: A Self Care Practice to Remove the Obstacles to Living Life Fully available October, 2018. It includes a 10 step guide at the end so that you can engage in the Practice on your own – often preferred by those liking the avoidant style. See my post, “Stop Depriving Yourself,” to read the Introduction.
it is possible to claim some of the “secure attachment” feelings. Those are the ideal, the way of relating that takes the other into consideration, is based on love and compassion and understanding. Communication is easy, conflict easily resolved. Sex is intimate and maintains your love and closeness.
And then there are the “anxious attachers.” Those with the nervous, needy experience of relating. The opposite of avoidant, they are far away from the secure ideal.
I am healing my own avoidant style of relating, and actually, how I approach life. I say I am an introvert, and while that is true, those distancing behaviors are also the result of discovering that avoiding could make me feel safe early in life. It’s just that I no longer need these behaviors, but they are on habit mode and it takes time to turn them off.
Here are some ways that your love may be showing up in his or her avoidant mode
- MONEY You just can’t seem to sit down together to go over finances. You have different ideas about what is an appropriate way to handle money, but resolving these differences seems impossible. So you take turns being mad at each other for spending on what seems unnecessary, or squirreling away more than needed for healthy savings.
How can you get him to sit down with you to talk? The first thing to do is read Attached so that you can understand why he or she acts that way. You may not like it, but having an objective understanding can help you not take his behaviors personally.
You want to get around the avoidant behaviors. Anger and control will backfire and trigger further avoidance. Gentle reaching out will have the best effect.
Think of a really non-pushy way of setting up a time to talk. Text or email that you have set up a date time when you know you are both available. Don’t argue when you get resistance. Then have documents about spending ready. Have your recommendations in writing, too. Present these in a calm voice. An interested voice. You are increasing the chances of walking past the most serious aspects of your partner’s avoidance way of life.
Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work will guide you in how to not fall into circular arguing about money.
- SEX Avoiders can have difficulty using sex well to connect, love and feel safely in relationship. The irony is that they feel deprived by the effects of their avoiding, and then may try to use sex to feel connected. The way an avoider uses sex will vary depending on what works for their particular programming. Some will want sex all the time to establish connection, but will be distant during it. Others will avoid it entirely.
Sex can be a powerful arena to heal avoidant deprivation, and so is a great place for a couple to work together. They can use sex to provide the closeness and intimacy they didn’t receive in childhood because sex can create such a powerful, non-verbal, intimate connection.
- FAMILY You grew up with one group of people, and then you become a member of another group. Attachment styles will play a role in how this integration takes place, right? If you are an avoider entering a family of anxious attachers, it won’t go smoothly. You will seem distanct and cold, even condescending.
If you and your love understand that attachment styles will create different values and needs and interpretations of others’ behavior, you will be able to offset conflicts. Lets say you come from the anxious attachers, and your mate is avoidant. You have the chance to explain this to your family, asking them not to expect your spouse to interact the way they are accustomed to. You can ask them to not believe he or she is cold and distant because he doesn’t want to hug all of them every time the get together. And that silence doesn’t mean criticism.
- CHILDREN How children are raised is another of the major areas of conflict for couples. Here, too, if you understand each other’s attachment style it can prevent conflicts that occur if you think you are just right, period. If an avoidant and an anxious attacher have children, they are likely to differ in how to respond to children. For example, the avoider may not want to control the children, or focus strongly on them. He or she may be seen as not taking responsibility a parent should.
In contrast, the avoider may believe the anxious parent focuses too much on the children. An anxious parent may want to be involved in great detail in the children’s lives, wanting to know every detail, and controlling their choices.
See the opportunity for conflict? Both parents may see their approach as valid, and the other parent’s approach as not. If they have both studied attachment styles in order to manage their own relationship, they will have information about why they differ in raising children. If they can accept each other, they will have a better environment in which to together make decisions about how to parent.
As usual, I recommend reading the books, even seeing a therapist, in order to learn your style and to understand the styles of others.
And there’s more!