How to Communicate with an Avoidant Partner: 10 Proven Techniques
Avoidant personality disorder (AVPD) is a behavior pattern that revolves around feelings of inadequacy and social inhibition. Persons with avoidant personality disorder are timid, sensitive to rejection and criticism, and prone to social anxiety disorder.
In relationships, avoidant individuals may be emotionally distanced and withdrawn, creating communication problems and causing their partners to feel unloved, insecure, and abandoned. However, such avoidant behavior usually stems from a profound fear of disapproval and rejection these persons developed due to unhealthy attachment in their childhood.
Insecure Attachment in Childhood
Children crave attention and connection with their caregivers. The quality of the emotional connections in childhood determines the quality of relationships we establish as adults.
Some kids grow up in dysfunctional families unsuccessfully trying to win parents’ approval and attention, constantly feeling like a disappointment. Growing up, they may unconsciously transfer this pattern of disappointment to their adult relationships, fearing that no one will ever meet their needs. To reduce the inevitable disappointment, they keep distance in relationships appearing insensitive, cold and distanced.
Attachment researchers believe that the exact mechanisms that explain a bond between children and their caregivers apply to the attachment styles between adults in romantic relationships. We tend to feel accepted and valued when our partners are responsive to our needs. And the other way round, most people feel insecure and abandoned when their partners are distant and cold.
Healthy relationships are founded on interdependence that allows you to connect and bond with your partner while developing as individuals. However, people whose parents didn’t meet their attachment needs tend to believe they are not good enough to be loved or that they can never rely on others.
People with an avoidant mindset can become open to closeness and intimacy with a lot of support. Here are ten techniques to communicate with an avoidant partner that can bring you closer together.
1) Get Informed about Different Attachment Styles
According to John Bowlby’s attachment theory, insecure attachment developed in early childhood appears in three main types:
- Disorganized or disoriented attachment
- Anxious-ambivalent attachment
- Anxious-avoidant or dismissive attachment
If your partner was neglected or abused in childhood, never knowing what to expect from their caregivers, they might tend to repeat these unhealthy behavior patterns as an adult. People with an anxious-avoidant attachment style usually grew up with emotionally distant parents, lacking care and support. Therefore, they learned not to trust others and keep away from being too dependent on other people. They typically appear careless and have difficulties establishing and maintaining closeness.
2) Learn about Your Partner’s Avoidant Personality
Getting yourself familiar with avoidant personality disorder can help you become more understanding of your partner’s behavior and the reasons that stand behind it. Once you learn that your avoidant partner distances themselves out of self-protection, you will be more likely to understand that their behavior is not about you, so you will not take it personally.
3) Give Your Avoidant Partner Space
Try not to be pushy when your avoidant partner needs space. While you may miss them when they withdraw, pursuing them may make the distance between the two of you even greater.
Avoidant partners tend to focus on the individual self and pursue independent experiences in relationships, so allow your partner to enjoy their time without taking it personally.
4) Respect Your Differences
Accept that your partner’s needs for affection and connection differ from your own. Avoidant individuals are typically uncomfortable with intimacy and closeness. An understanding that their withdrawal doesn’t mean a lack of love can improve communication and increase closeness between you and your partner.
5) Encourage Your Avoidant Partner to Talk about Their Feelings
Offer a listening ear and encourage your partner to share how they feel. Extend compassion and be open to hearing about their concerns and fears without fixing your partner or their feelings.
6) Cultivate Healthy Independence
Self-reliance is the best way to maintain a relationship with an avoidant partner. Develop and cultivate your own interests and nurture your time apart. Have your own friends, hobbies, and activities. Avoidant individuals fear that others will become dependent on them. So, when your avoidant partner realizes that you are self-sufficient, they may become more open to closeness.
7) Have Realistic Expectations
Understanding your partner’s avoidant attachment style will help you adjust expectations from your relationship so that you won’t feel unlovable, frustrated, or rejected.
8) Be Mindful of How You Express Your Intimacy Needs
Successfully communicating with your avoidant partner doesn’t mean hiding or suppressing your feelings and needs. It would help if you shared your emotions and desires with your partner, but doing so in an intense way may cause them to withdraw.
Try not to be needy or demanding but express your feelings openly and assertively.
9) Don’t Try to Fix Your Avoidant Partner
Stop trying to fix your partner’s feelings and personality. Although your intentions are good, fixing things for your partner simply will not work. Recognize and acknowledge their limitations, accepting that no partner is perfect.
10) Set Boundaries
Healthy boundaries are an essential part of self-care. They are also a foundation of healthy relationships. Let your partner know about your expectations, needs, and behaviors you don’t feel comfortable with. Loving someone doesn’t mean accepting toxic behavior.
Every relationship requires effort, compromises, and mutual acceptance to work. A relationship with an avoidant partner may be challenging and even seem impossible at times. However, if you learn that your partner’s withdrawal stems from fear of disappointment and rejection, you may increase the chances of building a strong and stable relationship. With healthy boundaries, understanding, and support, your avoidant partner may become more secure and relaxed in your relationship. If you want to keep up the relationship with an avoidant partner but don’t know how to do it yourself, seek support from a skilled couples’ counselor. Coaching can be a secure environment to unpack avoidant attachment patterns and develop strategies to strengthen your relationship with an avoidant partner.