Have you ever found yourself afraid to open up to a romantic partner because you just couldn’t trust them completely? Or have you been in a relationship with a partner who had trouble depending on you?
If so, you may have an avoidant attachment style. Attachment style refers to how we connect with others. Think of it as the lens through which we see our relationships. Avoidant attachment is characterized by a fear of closeness and the tendency to avoid depending on others. You might even find that relationships don’t really seem all that appealing to you in the first place.
Psychologists from China have conducted a number of scientific studies to discover how avoidant individuals can still have healthy and intimate relationships. Their suggestions are:
1. Work on Intimacy
Avoidantly attached individuals often have difficulty connecting with others. They seem like “closed” individuals who are afraid to share intimate feelings or desires with others.
What you can do: An avoidant individual may be this way because they have dealt with betrayal/abandonment/hurt in their past–usually from a trusted friend or relative. Even the small amount of trust they may place in you now is not lightly given. Be grateful for what you have at the moment, don’t abuse that trust they have given you, and show them that you trust them to know what is safe for them to share with you. If you are the avoidant partner in the relationship, try experimenting with sharing your emotions. Test the waters with trivial things (like a movie)–get in the habit of sharing your emotions little by little with your partner until you feel safe and secure enough to share deeper feelings.
2. Find Support
Avoidantly attached individuals may often feel like they are not being supported in their relationships. They may in turn withdraw and appear unsupportive themselves sometimes.
What you can do: Don’t try to take over their life and do everything for them. Let them be in charge of the things which are most important to them, but offer to help with minor things that they may be more willing to let you handle. Show them that you are dependable in small things first, and eventually they will come to you if they need your help with something bigger. If you are avoidant, realize that your partner is often trying to support you in ways you may not notice. If you feel unsupported, work on expressing this in a calm way to your partner and allow them to explain their intentions of support.
3. Respect Relationship Needs
Avoidant individuals are more likely to withdraw from relationships than any other type of person. This is usually a defense mechanism they use to avoid being hurt.
What you can do: Don’t take it personally if they need some emotional space for a short time. Let them feel safe with their own thoughts and desires, and don’t push them to talk to you about it until they are ready. If you try to push them too much, they will only withdraw more. Be patient. For the avoidant partner, recognize when you withdraw and recognize why you withdraw. There’s nothing wrong with taking a timeout, but be intentional about your efforts to re-engage with your partner after you’ve taken a break.
Being in a relationship with someone who seems to avoid closeness and openness can be very frustrating. Many of us want to know what our partners are thinking, and we feel a sincere desire to help them through their struggles. Maybe avoidant individuals can learn to open up to you like this further down the road, but for now, take things slow and when they do open up show them you will keep it safe for them.
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