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Tips for Communicating With an Avoidant Partner

Each of us has an attachment style. How we connect with others as an adult has a whole lot to do with what happened during our childhood. If your primary caregiver left you feeling confused or neglected, the odds are that you’ll grow up to be an avoidant partner. You don’t want your partner to feel invalidated but you probably don’t realize you’re doing it. It’s an old and dysfunctional coping mechanism.

An avoidant attachment style is especially obvious when it comes to communication. Your partner may seem distant or unwilling to express their emotions. You sometimes feel you have no idea what they’re thinking. Well, the good news is that we can all change our attachment style!

Step 1: Rule Out Other Possibilities

Here are just a few reasons why your partner may appear avoidant but is not:

  • When your relationship is new, some people take it slowly
  • They simply might be inconsiderate
  • They’re being other people and/or don’t see your connection as “serious”
  • A lot is going on in their life and they’re overwhelmed

You must familiarize yourself with attachment theory but also, not jump to conclusions. If something feels off about your communication dynamic with a partner, talk to them. Find out more. Best of all, talk to a mental health professional. If it turns out that an avoidant style is the culprit, there are definitely steps you can take.

Tips for Communicating With an Avoidant Partner

Talk Openly About Your Past

Let your partner know how you were raised and how it may have influenced who you are today. Ask them to also share as much as they feel comfortable sharing about their childhood. During such a vulnerable conversation, practice active listening and be sure to validate any troubles they had during their earliest days.

Be a Role Model of Trust

An avoidant person has a hard time letting down their guard. They felt betrayed when they most needed intimate care and even if they desperately want to trust you, it does not come easily. Help them feel safe by showing — in word and deed — that you are here to stay. Demonstrate that you’re happy to do the work to move past communication issues to deepen your bond.

photo of a couple standing outside near trees while holding handsBe Patient

It took years or even decades for your partner to develop avoidance as a defense. Obviously, this pattern will not instantly vanish. It’s a process but you have every right to request that it involves check-in conversations. You need to know they remain committed to changing. Attending therapy together is an ideal way to make this happen.

It’s Not Just Sacrifice For You

Helping your partner reinvent their attachment style is a challenge — but well worth the effort. However, you must be sure to honor your needs as you progress. Set boundaries and talk openly about your own triggers. It can be helpful to recognize that healthy communication has no finish line. You keep working on it and evolving as a team. Again, it’s wise to ask for help.

The Role of Therapy in This Situation

Whether you start with individual or couples counseling (or both), you will find it illuminating to gain a true understanding of attachment theory. A therapist is ideally situated to offer such information while also working directly with you — and possibly your partner. Even when our patterns are counterproductive, we tend to hold on to them tightly.

Over the course of your weekly sessions, more past history can be revealed as progress happens. Committing together like this can be a powerful positive step for your relationship. Let’s talk soon about how to get started for couples therapy.

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