How to Cope With an Avoidant Partner – Free Ebook

There are, for many of us, few people as attractive
as the avoidant; the sort that are permanently

a little mysterious; who don’t speak so
much; around whom one never quite knows where

one is; in whose eyes there is a faraway look,
and perhaps a certain melancholy too; in whose

hearts we intuit a sadness we long to, but
never quite can, touch; people who seem to

promise us intimacy and connection, and yet
who remain – however long we have been with

them – mesmerisingly unreassuring. Unsurprisingly,
it is not so easy to be the lover of an avoidant

person. The tendency, very often, after the
heady early days, is to give into the insecurities

they end up provoking in us: do they really
care? Do they love us back? Why are they never

the ones to call? Beset by such questions,
we may get cross, tearful or stern. We may

accuse them of neglect and selfishness, of
betrayal or egocentricity. These sort of inquisitions

can be counted on to fail. At the first signs
of critique, avoidant people pull up the drawbridge.

They are experts at fleeing the messy consequences
of other people’s desire for them. They

go off to play sport, abscond on a long journey
or discover new responsibilities at the office.

One is left hammering in vain at the gates
of their personal citadel. On a bad day, they

may also get furious back. They will deny
that we have any kind of point at all. They

aren’t trying to deceive us; they genuinely
can’t see the issue. They aren’t – they

assure us with mounting vehemence – distant
and cold, they are simply busy and not into

certain kinds of sentimentality. It is we
– needy, weak, hysterical and over-demanding,

as they put it – who are the problem. We
almost agree.

To survive, we should hold on to the
idea that, despite their robust outward manner,

the avoidant are, above all else, scared.
Their frostiness is the result of fear rather

than indifference – and what they are afraid
of is to let down their guard and then meet

with betrayal and abandonment. Their outward
strength masks a gelatinous interior. There

will, inevitably, be a rather touching backstory
to their advanced subterranean fears. They

were, way back, most likely let down very
badly by someone they depended on a lot when

they were defenceless. In response to a grave
childhood disappointment, they grew an extra

thick skin and plated themselves with armour.
They vowed, in a way they may not now even

recognise, never to trust anyone fully again.
Related image So they are distant and prone

to put up barriers not because they don’t
care, but because being cared for with kindness

generates unfamiliar and daunting feelings
for them. They skillfully undermine their

chances of being close, because they have
no experience of reliable love – and are

drawn to try to spoil it to prove to themselves
that it can’t be real (and that they haven’t,

therefore, missed out on quite so much). We
should avoid getting stuck in cycles of claim

and counter-claim; that they might be too
cold and that we might be too hot. Far better

to address the fears circulating beneath the
surface. Rather than provoking their panic

or denial, we should – as best we can – make
closeness feel safe. We should remember that

we are dealing with someone who finds vulnerability
frightening and therefore not meet their impulse

to flee with punitiveness. But more crucially,

we might along the way, start to ask ourselves
a few key questions. How similar are we to

them, beneath the apparent differences? It
is easy to claim that one has an uncomplicated

desire to be close – so long as one isn’t
put to the test, because one has carefully

picked out a person who has problems being
so. Yet in truth, how simple is closeness

for us really? Might we not be as scared as
they are – but simply have passed our share

of the problem on to them to hold? Shouldn’t
we be suspicious of the way that we managed

to reject other warmer candidates in favour
of this distant figure? Is it really an accident

that we are with them? Or isn’t it in some
way satisfying to us as well, allowing us

to claim that we want intimacy without having
to bear any of its costs? Through

such pointed questions, we stand to realise
that, most probably, the fear of closeness

exists on both sides. It’s just that they
are directly distant and we are so by proxy.

We can break away from caricatures and, as
a couple, own up to our mutual terrors of

dependence. We can start to sympathise with
one another’s techniques for warding off

anxiety and help each other to accept the
common risks of love. That will be the beginning

of true closeness – and bravery – on both
sides.

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