The Avoidant Partner
There is that somebody.
They’re mysterious. Permanently mysterious it seems despite all the time and talks we’ve shared with them. They maybe don’t even speak that much. Which only leaves us wondering half the time ‘Where are we?’ with them. Their eyes stare through us at times and at other times they are 100 miles away. It seems as though they are always a little forlorn. A sadness in their heart that we long to touch but can never quite get to. They bring us closeness but are amazingly able to keep us at arm’s length at the same time. Like a dance, where they bring us in and spin us back out.
This person is probably one of the most attractive types of people to us. Yet how are we attracted to them? And what in the hell is going on with them?
Congratulations, you have just met an avoidant personality. They make up about 1% of the population yet somehow affect the other 99%. Being one myself and being married to one, I’m going to give you the inside scoop on what’s really going on with us.
Not the Easy Lover
Ask us or any of our exes, we are not easy to love. In fact, we may very well be the most difficult type of people to love.
Avoidant personality types will, from the very beginning, feed into our insecurities:
Do they actually care?
Do they love me back?
Why do I feel like I am making all the effort?
No doubt these questions leave us feeling angry, depressed, or simply harsh towards our avoidant partner. We feel that they are neglecting us or being selfish. Their very attitude towards us feels like a betrayal, and we just don’t know how to deal with their seeming egocentricity.
Obviously, these types of reactions and feelings fail in the eyes of our avoidant partner. As soon as the avoidant personality sees signs of trouble or a possible judgment of how they manage relationships or criticism about their personality directly, they close the gates and set the archers on the towers. They are back behind their walls, safe and sound, leaving us in the muck we’ve stirred up ourselves.
Other people’s ambitions for the avoidant personality are just too chaotic and sloppy to be dealt with. Why deal with all those consequences when running away from it is so much easier? So much cleaner?
If your avoidant lover is ‘finding’ more reasons to work or just getting out of the house for new hobbies. His or her drawbridge is up and you best let things cool down before you approach them with ‘we need to talk,’ or even worse, further attacking them. If they actually go on a long journey without even asking if you want to go, you probably shouldn’t even contact them until they contact you.
This isn’t to say they will always avoid us in small or large ways. On the right day, they may turn back around and face us with all their rage. A fury no doubt from all the nonsense they are tired of tolerating or tired of trying to avoid.
When they do argue, they will make us feel ridiculous, as if there is no point in any of the arguments at all.
Truthfully, they aren’t trying to trick us or manipulate us. This isn’t about the so-called gas-lighters or narcissists or manipulators. The avoidant personality really doesn’t see what the issue is. They truly don’t feel they are being distant, cold, or isolated. And they equally convince us they are just busy, or perhaps they just don’t like to show the sort of affection or feelings we are expected to seeing.
In fact, we can see that they truly don’t believe they are doing anything wrong, which leaves us feeling somehow wrong - too clingy, too soft, overwhelming, or just plain nuts. They are telling us that we are the problem and we damn near believe them.
How to Handle
Deep down, there is something that should be known about our avoidant partner. Something that will take very fine maneuvering to get them to admit or even be aware of about themselves.
Quite simply, the avoidant personality is frightened.
Their coldness is a symptom of their fear rather than their indifference towards us. They are afraid that if they ever allow themselves to get close to someone, if they truly let down the drawbridge and invite us in, they will be betrayed or abandoned.
It is much like the tough exterior of a bully who hides the hurt and scared child inside. However, if you get a chance to know the person, you will find a story that explains their fears in a rather moving way.
It may be that they were, way back when, disappointed terribly by someone else. Perhaps in a moment in their life when they had no defenses at all. It could go back as far as childhood and be buried so deep in their memories they won’t even remember it themselves.
Nonetheless, this event will have given them an armor that has left them safe ever since. An armor they have come to trust more than any person they have met since. An armor of never allowing themselves to completely trust somebody again.
The walls. The armor. The archers. They don’t do this because they don’t care. It is because being cared about gives them strange or perhaps creepy feelings.
They have no positive experience of love. Perhaps they never even had a good example of love growing up. Love is unreliable and at any chance it might appear to be real, they will prove themselves right by ruining it. Ultimately, proving themselves right that not only is love not real, but they didn’t miss out on much by not bothering to try for it.
Like most human problems, the issue runs much deeper than surface-level and we must, therefore, remember that when trying to deal with our avoidant partner. When they get too cold, the answer is not to get even hotter. We must realize and accept the fear that swirls underneath that thick skin they wear.
As impossible as it may seem, we must try to meet their fear with a closeness that feels safe. It is a long and arduous process, not a one-time application. And every time we do make a wrong turn by running from them, the damage made to the progress seems unrecoverable.
Likewise, if they get too shaken by our attempts at closeness, and they choose to run, we must not meet that reaction with punishment.
It isn’t easy loving an avoidant partner, but like any great challenge, the reward is equally great.
How Different Are We?
In the beginning, I mentioned that only 1% of the population is considered to have an avoidant personality. Yet, if we really take a look at ourselves, we might all show a few signs of being that difficult partner that isn’t so easy to love.
Sure, you may say it is easy for you to be close to someone… as long as you aren’t tested on it too much by being with someone who does have issues. But honestly, how easy of a thing is it to be close to someone?
Perhaps you aren’t as scared as those of us with the defined avoidant personality, but is there a chance that your own slighter fear may seem like no fear at all by pushing it on to your avoidant partner?
Have you perhaps rejected someone who immediately opened up to you and invited closeness to chase after the more distant and cold romantic candidate? Is it really just bad luck you’ve ended up with this current avoidant lover that you are now trying to understand and be with?
Perhaps there is a bit of pleasure in the pain? Or maybe there is comfort in knowing that we can claim to want closeness without actually paying the heavy price of being close?
If we stop to think about it, the fear of getting close to another person, so close that they could hurt you is going to be present on both sides. Some of us may be more direct about it, while others are guilty by association.
No doubt, with my partner and I both being who we are, we have gone through some heavy struggles. Yet, we have managed to overcome many of our fears and found the true greatness of allowing someone close by.
We often joke we deserve each other not only for how we were before we met, but how we have treated each other as we have grown together. Nonetheless, if love, a bit of wisdom, and a lot of patience are there, anything is possible - including all the dangers and uncertainties inherent in building love.
Choosing to face the fear of closeness is a challenge for us all, and overcoming it will take a level of courage many will find impossible to muster. Just remember to be patient with your partner and compassionate with yourself.
Iris and I wish you all the best while we continue to work on our own trials and tribulations. Don’t let the difficult times scary you away. For the right person, it is all worth it in the end.