AVOIDANT TO SECURE ROADMAP: BEHAVIOUR STRATEGIES III

ACTIVATE THE NEW

"Everyone wants to be with the perfect partner, but few people want to be the perfect partner. The vast majority of problems around 'finding someone' are caused by uneven expectations like this. But the best way to find an amazing person is to become an amazing person."

Once we're more in control of our old impulses we can learn powerful new ways to relate...

Relationships will not just 'work' for us. The key mindset change for avoidants is to accept that rather than relationships working for us, we have to work for relationships, and that we are more than capable of this. Even, and most importantly, when we might feel inclined to do the opposite - to unconsciously block love. It takes time to get comfortable showing care, to trust we can do it, or to value the person providing it, when we internalised care as a weakness. Remember that avoidants internalised not to try - fearing too quickly we are getting it wrong and that working for connection would only cause us pain. Part of developing a successful secure mindset is consciously reorientating ourselves to have more concern for our attached other, to learn to embrace and enjoy the feeling of being a great partner, thinking in terms of what we can give rather than what we receive, and trusting that we will always naturally benefit by extension. We must reorientate ourselves from seeing relationships as an arena to protect ourselves in to understanding that in fact the more we give, the happier it can in fact make us, and that it is ok not to always get things right, because what matters is to try and to learn by communicating.

If Love Requires Effort, Was It Meant To Be? - read this

 

"Why should we work on it? If we were right for each other, we would be able to understand each other’s needs. We wouldn’t have any problems."  One of the most destructive beliefs for any relationship is this thought process. In essence, choosing a romantic partner is choosing a set of problems. Believing that being compatible with your partner means everything should come naturally is a sure way to naturally end any relationship you will have. A no-effort relationship is not a great relationship; it’s a doomed relationship. It takes effort to communicate and understand each other. Love takes work. It takes work to expose and resolve conflicting beliefs and expectations. However, that doesn’t mean there is no “happily ever after.”It’s more like, “they worked happily ever after.”

 

The key to moving into this next stage is having got comfortable identifying and expressing your needs and boundaries first. Once you can do this you will feel safer that you can lean in to the relationship without being overwhelmed, because if there is something you really need, such as space, you will now be confident to say.

It is not our fault if we did not learn all the tools to naturally connect in this way. But now we can retrain ourselves to become relationship experts! Be on alert that as avoidants this may be the last thing we want to do. For avoidants, relationships are emotionally dysregulating. We may avoid getting close, or when we do unconsciously want to back away to feel more in control. But if we do that we will never learn to manage, soothe and control these feelings, and can force distance that ultimately scuppers relationships. The more we can master the skills to maintain great relationships instead, and make it our goal to become experts, the more we will shift our patterns, receive back in the long term, reconnect with purpose in the world and secure our future happiness. Maintaining successful long-term relationships is very doable once we know how. 

Our culture often places independence and stoicism above collaboration and vulnerability. Yet, what I see as a couples therapist is as many or more relationships suffering when partners balk at mutually making it their sacred responsibility to put their partner’s emotional well-being first.

So read every book you can on relationships, and teach yourself to master the strategies. On this page you will learn some starting strategies to move towards a secure relationship. The first step is simply accepting that this process is sometimes going to feel uncomfortable, and for avoidants the landscape of relationships can be inherently scary - such feelings will appear, but now knowing where they really originate from, they are just feelings you can work through on your way to secure attachment.

Read this on how to become more emotionally available. "This will not be an easy task. You will feel overwhelmed. You will want to attack your partner. When you feel like you’re suffocating from a lack of space, you’re on the right track. You are suffocating the belief that you don’t deserve love. You’re allowing someone else into your heart as you fill its emptiness. Your childhood and failed relationships may have been a great source of pain, but it is your responsibility to make the effort to change the undermining beliefs that destroy your relationships."

For avoidants it can also help to remember that mature love is not a feeling as much as it is a choice, and to first understand the three stages a relationship must go through to reach mature permanence:

 The stages of a relationship

The Stages of a Relationship

1. Romantic Love (dating & honeymoon stage)

We discover all the things we have in common and minimise, if we even notice, the differences we have. We can’t take our hands off each other. We finish each other’s sentences. We merge with each other. It all seems amazing. We feel that this is the one person who will meet the unmet needs of childhood, but we are not consciously aware of feeling this. Powerful neurochemicals produce feelings of attachment and connection, a sense of well-being and belonging. The comfort of these neurochemicals works to suppress our natural attachment style, so avoidants won't feel the need to get away so much. This phase can last anywhere from three months to two years before this “drug” begins to wear off. 

The purpose of this stage is to form a bond that provides a secure foundation for the journey forward.

Because avoidants struggle with the vulnerability to let themselves fall in love and don't have such an emotional attachment to memory anyway, it can be difficult to develop enough of a bond at this point to last them through the following stage. Avoidants' guiding motivation is to feel safe: feeling captivated by a partner does not feel good in this respect, so they prefer to quickly move to the second stage so they are free to show their avoidant selves and regain a feeling of control in themselves.

2. Power Struggle

At the beginning of a relationship, we generally do not see the things that will annoy us as the relationship progresses into the second stage. In the second stage, you start noticing each other’s differences. You may find you feel frustrated in a similar way to your disappointments in childhood. In this stage, you may try to deny these differences in order to preserve the bliss of the first stage, or you may begin squabbling. The relationship may feel like a lose-win or win-lose. It may be experienced as competitive as to who is going to get his or her way. Many at this stage say it doesn’t feel like love. But if we care about a partner and the relationship, we become aware that love is more than a feeling—it is a behaviour, a commitment to stay with your partner and do the work. As long as both are committed to the relationship and doing the work, a relationship can grow. If we lose ourselves in the honeymoon stage of a relationship, the power struggle stage is where we integrate ourselves back in. We learn to communicate our needs and have them understood, so we can be loved in our vulnerability as our true selves, rather than the image we present in the earlier stage.

The purpose of this stage is to learn the skills and tools to resolve differences without losing yourself.

The power struggle phase is where most relationships fail, particularly for avoidants, who are sensitive to the slightest hint of losing themselves and tend to always exit at this point. They find compromising involves an uncomfortable loss of control, and noticing negative things overwhelming. They are quick to assume they cannot meet a partner's needs and vice versa. The speed at which couples reach the power struggle phase can depend on the speed at which they both become willing to show their true needs.

3. Mature Love

Assuming that both parties are committed to growth and value the relationship, they can now explore what it is like to be in a long-term, conscious relationship. They are now aware that, together, they can heal their childhood wounds. They have learned the skills and tools of dialogue so that they can listen and hear each other. They understand that they have differences and how those differences make sense. They have compassion for their partner. They are less reactive and more intentional. They communicate their wants and needs more clearly. They allow themselves to be influenced by their partner without losing themselves because they care about his or her happiness. They fully recognise that to have a healthy, happy relationship, both need to experience a sense of well-being. It becomes a win-win. Mature love is a version of the honeymoon stage where can both finally appreciate each other as their authentic selves.

 

The purpose of this stage is to enjoy each other and feel the intimacy of connection with someone who really, finally gets you. We do this by using the skills and tools learned in the second stage when challenges arise.

 

 10. Practise vulnerability to create intimacy & love

 

 11. Lean in & appreciate, to bulletproof your relationship &

      get the freedom you desire

 

 12. Become a fixer - fix, don't flee

 

 13. Work with a supportive partner or work on yourself solo

 

 14. Ask for help