AVOIDANT TO SECURE ROADMAP: PART IV
"A good partnership is not so much one between two healthy people (there aren’t many of these on the planet), it’s one between two demented people who have had the skill or luck to find a nonthreatening conscious accommodation between their relative insanities, in large part because they have a good grasp of how they are difficult to live with."
Just because you may have different ways of approaching life, it doesn't mean the relationship has to suffer - you can both benefit from the other's perspective on doing things (which may be part of what attracted you to each other in the first place!)
Both take the time to learn the patterns and tendencies of the other individual, and rather than personalising it and inferring self-criticism, interact with it in a way to show you understand and respect their perspective - that it's each of your unique way of being who you are.
When things get triggered, it does not necessarily mean you’re in the wrong relationship (unless, of course, there is physical or emotional abuse), but rather that it’s time to heal the false beliefs that led to the self-abandonment and controlling behavior. If even one person becomes aware of how they are trying to control, and they heal their end of the dynamic, everything can change. Power struggles are replaced with compassion and understanding. Adversaries become allies. If once there was jealousy and hypervigilance, there’s now a boundless sense of freedom, trust, and security that makes the partners want to get closer.
“I must have made the wrong choice.”
“He’s a jerk.”
“She treats me badly.”
“If only he would change, we would have a chance.”
“I’m further along than my partner is.”
These are the kinds of statements I hear all the time from clients, and perhaps you’ve said a few of them yourself.
All of these statements are placing blame for the problems in a relationship squarely on the shoulders of the other person. But the reality is that when both people come into a relationship with unhealed issues, they both create painful relationship dynamics.
That means that regardless of the particular problems in your relationship, both of you are creating the problems and keeping them alive. Each of you are playing a part in a finely orchestrated dance, as dysfunctional as it may feel. For example, one person may appear to tyrannically wield all the power: making decisions unilaterally, minimizing what the other partner wants, taking over the finances, etc. Meanwhile, the other partner feels dismissed, intimidated, and taken for granted. But what’s not so obvious here in this common scenario is that this partner is contributing to the dynamic by not speaking up, by going along, and suffering in silence.
When partners realize that they are both contributing to the problems, they can then stop judging and blaming each other. Instead, they can move into the intention to start learning about exactly what is causing their issues in the first place. Someone who has truly evolved beyond their wounding doesn’t feel superior to their partner and isn’t looking for deficits in him or her. When you have uncovered and healed your own issues, you stop playing your part in the painful dynamics that exist within your relationship. You effectively interrupt the pattern by removing your dysfunctional part in it. When one person stops fighting, withdrawing, or resisting, there’s nothing for the other to fight against, complain about, or resist. It’s not always about fighting—withdrawal and resistance are just as common in a struggling relationship.
At this point, one of two things will happen: The painful problems in your relationship will resolve, or it will become evident that your partner isn’t capable of creating the kind of healthy relationship you want. This is why you should never leave a relationship (unless there is abuse) until you’ve healed your part of the dysfunction. Once you heal your end, the relationship might heal. If you don’t take full responsibility for your own healing, you’ll simply go on to repeat similar patterns in your next relationship.
1. Avoid the blame game
When your fears are activated, if we focus on who is at fault or who started it then we perpetuate the fears. Blaming another for our fears (and for our own reactive, unloving behavior) makes the relationship unsafe. Then both people in the relationship end up feeling bad, each believing that our pain is the result of the other’s behaviour. We feel victimized, helpless, stuck, and disconnected from our partner. It’s also easy to see that the anxiety of one partner (coming from the fear of rejection) and the resistance/avoidance of the other partner (coming from the fear of engulfment) create a circular system where each partner’s fears are triggered by how the other deals with their fears. Remember there are pluses and minuses on both sides and no one is the villain.
2. Get closer indirectly
It’s easier for avoidants to get closer if there’s a shared task in between. In experiements, when avoidants were distracted by another task, their ability to repress lessened and their true attachments and feelings were more able to surface. For example, intimacy while cooking dinner and eating together is easier than sitting on a couch and hugging without doing nothing. So use the distraction technique of doing activities together to make it easier to get close to your partner and access their loving feelings.
"Researchers distracted the avoidants by giving them another task to perform - like solving a puzzle or responding to another cue - while a word recognition task was going on. In these situations, the avoidants reacted to words related to their own attachment worries ("separation," "loss," "death") just as quickly as other people did. Distracted by another task their ability to repress lessened and their true attachment feelings and concerns were able to surface"
- Attached by Levin and Heller
3. Avoid the pursuer-distancer dynamic, and affirm each other's way of doing things
It's easy and common to slip into this familiar pattern. When problems arise there is very often one partner who falls into the role of distancer and the other of pursuer. Check out this article on how to fix it.
Both ask yourself what you might be doing to create some of the behaviour that angers you in the other person
Include empathy for the other when you speak about your needs. Openly acknowledge the validity of the other's perspective: "I understand that you want to have connection/space - that's normal and I appreciate that about you"
No coercion - convincing/pleading/persuading. Speak in a calm, non-coercive way, respecting who each other is and giving them the freedom to do the thinking themselves
Resist immature forms of communication - finger pointing, sarcasm, sulking etc
Use neutral moments as times for affirmation - let it be known you notice the good things
4. Couples counselling
4. Engage in relationship maintenance
Ask what were the dynamics that weren't working and how to handle the conversations differently - "what did you need when we went through these patterns?"
Over time, reassuring each other of your care and respect for their needs will replace a fear-based connection (reaching out or acting out only when triggered) to a care-based connection
Good communication is the key to a successful relationship
Connect Game "a card game to foster connection"
- If you're feeling brave enough to look at improving some things head on together, try the Relationship Reboot game
"Relationships usually go wrong not because we are ‘bored’ or ‘with the wrong person’ but because we have failed to make ourselves understood and haven’t managed to properly understand our partner. We often give up on each other too soon. Relationships that, with the right assistance, might have been good enough (or even more than that) come unstuck because we don’t work out how to speak about, and listen to, what is really on our minds. This box is a tool with which to save love."
Adopt secure principles of communication and conflict resolution
Partner needs conversely to take energy out to encourage the avoidant back. And the avoidant needs to take up a bigger share of the space to assuage the partner’s
Just learn about their attachment type and realize sometimes it’s a mixed bag, its partially you, and partially them. Only focus on working on yourself to be better and more open.