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."
"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 come unstuck because we don’t work out how to speak about, and listen to, what is really on our minds."
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.
What many people don't realise is that couple conflicts and breakups often come down to one thing: different preferences for intimacy. To enjoy smoothly functioning relationships, partners must eventually learn to negotiate how much intimate contact they will have. People vary in the amount of closeness they prefer. Two people may have quite different thresholds for closeness, and even if they have relatively similar basic thresholds, they are not always going to be in perfect synchrony with each other. They will have different goals; their priorities may differ. One person’s attachment system may be activated while the other person’s exploratory system is activated. The ability to negotiate this honestly is what often determines the success of relationships. If we can recognise what is really at the heart of difficulties we can more quickly get to how we can successful solve those difficulties in ways that genuinely provide for the needs of both.
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.
No one benefits in a breakup. The problems in your current relationship you will take to the next. Particularly if you’re deeply invested, such as married or with children, you both need to change. It can be exceptionally difficult to get an avoidant to admit to their own behaviour and recognise a need to change (often they’re happy as their own needs are being met) - not least because avoidants tend to feel hostile, act aggressively towards and reject anyone who gets them to confront emotions - and then to proceed to develop enough trust and intimacy to change the underlying demand/withdrawal pattern. This may require compromise and restructuring, as well as developing a shared vocabulary to understand and address what is happening.
“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 realise 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.
Couple starter strategies
1. Avoid the blame game
2. Get closer indirectly
3. Avoid the pursuer-distance dynamic, affirm each other's way of doing things
4. Relationship maintenance
5. Couples counselling
A joint way out: healing insecure bonding together within a conscious, committed, cooperative relationship
Finally remember: good relationships are important for our health
A bad relationship is defined by carelessness in requests and responses to each other's needs. Bad relationships harm your health. So do separations. For those in these relationships, an adversarial and undermining connection is worse than no relationship at all. Hostile relationships cause constant physiological stress.
A demand/withdraw relationship results in a frustrating cycle of contempt and anger, which hurts us psychologically and physically. It is documented that withdrawal/demand dynamics cause bowel, urinary, and erectile problems, adrenal fatigue and cortisol problems. Frequent worries and demands, suppressed emotions or frequent conflicts are linked to 2×3 times mortality, as well as cancer, heart disease and liver disease. Those who are sensitive or empathic are more likely to develop chronic fatigue and they are also more likely to get into and stay in relationships with predatory individuals such as narcissists.
There are heart health benefits to being happily married, and lower odds of diseases if married. Social isolation results in a death risk more than twice as high, as we are pro-social creatures. Our perceptions of relationships also influence us. Men release more cortisol in response to maritial conflict, with stressful social relationships are vulnerable to dying, and end up depressed if unhappily married. Marriage is, however, also more beneficial for men. Marrieds tend to be happier and healthier.
A relationship can be a source of stress, but the right partner and dynamic reduces stress. For this reason, it is important to determine if a partner undermines more often then they support.