AVOIDANT TO SECURE ROADMAP: PART III

STRATEGIES FOR A PARTNER

If you are in a relationship with someone with an avoidant attachment pattern, there are lots of things you can do to support their development and your own, and to improve the quality of your connection and the happiness you both feel. Also check out videos for partners in the Video Tools section. If you are avoidant, see if you can show your partner this page. That may feel very exposing, but ultimately it can build trust and help you work together as a team. 

Although attachment styles are set earlier in life, they can slowly change as individuals have new relationship experiences. An avoidant or anxious individual whose partner is more securely attached can gradually learn to tone down their insecurities. However, it does take a lot of insight and effort on the part of the securely attached partner to effect this change and not to go the other way, tipping them into insecure attachment themselves. Buffering yourself against an avoidant's deactivating strategies and trying respond to your significant other in a way that fits their attachment style requires a considerable amount of self-awareness, self-esteem and a willingness to, at certain times, act against your intuitions. But remember that intimate relationships are all about meeting each other’s needs, not our perceptions of what they should be. Instead of giving our significant others what we ourselves want, we need to give them what they want. And when we meet their needs, they’ll feel secure enough to meet ours.

Good relationships require sustained hard work and a generous spirit. It can be hard to motivate an avoidant to work, as they believe others are the source of the problems. The avoidant can’t detach from themselves to objectively view their behaviour. It is necessary to make the avoidant conscious of distancing behaviour and their fear of intimacy. A good strategy involves teaching them to use empathy, explain how it hurts and asking them to consider family and friends feelings.

If you are in relationship with someone with this style, be patient. Realize that it is not in your power to take away all of their pain. But you can be there for them, provide comfort and support and be a secure base while they explore their own inner workings. If you want to stay in the relationship, you should be aware that you may also have to endure some “testing behaviors.” The avoidant may engage in some negative or challenging behaviors and push you away if you get too close, to see if you are going to reject or hurt them. After all, that is what their experience has taught them to expect. If you take these behaviours for what they are, however, and don’t take them too personally - I know; easier said than done - the person is likely to start effectively regulating their emotions and become much more comfortable with intimacy in the relationship.

However, it is still important you maintain your own boundaries, to stay conscious of whether the relationship is still making you feel good and providing for your own needs, and not to allow mistreatment. For example, if you're feeling concerned that your partner could always be on the brink of leaving you then your concerns might be justified - until they work on themselves avoidants can be overcome by flight mode, and in times of crisis prioritise running from the relationship over protecting it. Things must go two ways - we all deserve to feel safe in a relationship, and if your partner has not yet reached stability in working through these impulses then it is fair to recognise they are not a safe long-term investment. Being a runner does not make anyone a bad person. Often they tend to be beautiful souls with the kindest hearts, but without work the internal conflicts created by the emotional attachment to someone else in a romantic relationship make them feel inherently unstable. 

 

Ultimately, avoidants have a right to be who they are, and for that to be respected. Be mindful to always accept your partner as they are. Seeking to change people or extract something they cannot give will only result in frustration and disappointment. Our setting of boundaries with avoidants comes primarily from our own decision over the extent to which we interact with them, choosing to participate only in relationships that feel mutual.

But while it may sound challenging to date someone with an avoidant attachment style, the good news is, through support from their partner and their own self-work, they can move from avoidant to secure. Once they realise that they are safe and that intimacy will not control or cause them the same pain they experienced as a child, a healthier narrative becomes reaffirmed through time and experience, and they gradually rewire their baseline. If both partners have the determination to work together to develop a more secure dynamic, it can be an extremely enriching, loving relationship—though it will take a little bit more work upfront. Ultimately avoidants can become very giving, sensitive, practical and reliable partners. Their relationships are built on a solid foundation of shared experience in a relationship that feels stable, calm, harmonious and easy, rather than heightened emotion - ultimately, if we accept it as their path to love, such a basis can be secure and reassuring.

SELECT ARROWS:

 

 1. Don't take it personally

 

 2. Be reliable

 

 3. Communicate your needs, avoiding strong emotion or blame, and validate

 

 4. Be patient & don't push too hard

 

 5. Give them space & time

 

 6. Stand your ground & catch negative thinking

 

 7. Don't try to fix them

 

 8. Seek connection outside the relationship

 

 9. Focus on you

 

 10. Be prepared to leave