Communication is an important key to any successful relationship. Unfortunately, communication can often suffer when one person in the relationship has a more avoidant communication style. It’s easy to feel confused, frustrated, and even hurt when you’re dealing with an avoidant partner. Why can’t they just connect with you?
Sometimes what’s keeping an avoidant person from communicating with you is within their control or they are willing to try to meet you half way. Other times, they may have little ability or willingness to change, particularly if their avoidant attachment issues began in childhood.
Whatever the case, communication remains an important key. If you want to make things work with your partner, it’s essential to find effective ways to communicate with them.
Let’s cover a few tips you can use to communicate that will strengthen your relationship and intimacy.
1. Show Compassion
It’s likely that your partner didn’t receive the care and attention they deserved as a child. Even if their material needs were met, they may have had dismissive, critical, or intrusive caregivers. As a result, they might view intimacy as a threat. At the very least, intimacy may appear to them as something uncomfortable that causes their defense mechanisms to go up. Be compassionate when it comes to these reactions. Don’t force intimacy, and don’t be afraid to take things slowly. Over time, you’ll see that they’ll start to trust you–and the intimacy within your relationship–and they’ll be more likely to accept and even enjoy it.
2. Focus on Yourself
Avoidant people typically don’t do well with those who depend on them or “need” them or pressure them to get emotional intimacy “right.” In fact, it can be quite triggering for them and cause their avoidant tendencies to be even worse.
To lessen this tension, shift the focus of getting your needs met onto yourself. Get involved in different hobbies and things that interest you. Find ways to get some of your needs for emotional closeness outside of your relationship. Your relationship will be more peaceful, and you’ll appreciate the times of connection when you aren’t so focused on what your partner is, or isn’t, doing. The irony is that this often gives them the space and safety they need to open up to you.
3. Keep Realistic Expectations
It’s incredibly important to maintain realistic expectations when you’re with an avoidant partner. Don’t expect them to be someone they’re not, and don’t assume that you’ll be able to change them over time. Attempting to convince, coach, or even nag an avoidant person into opening up more, typically backfires.
While they might make changes on their own as your relationship grows and builds trust, they aren’t a project for you to deal with. You can’t blame them for being who they are or setting expectations that are outside of their reach if you continue to choose to be in a relationship with them. If you tend to crave closeness and can’t see yourself settling for less, you’re probably going to struggle in a relationship with an avoidant partner unless you can accept the reality of your partner’s limits.
4. Share Your Relationship Goals
Avoidant people often struggle with a fear of abandonment or emotional intrusion and use distancing as a way to manage this fear. Again, this usually stems from childhood. This makes it easy for them to misinterpret certain things or assume the worst about their relationships. A simple request may land as a criticism, or a complaint may sound like a threat to end the relationship.
You can provide reassurance and strengthen your relationship by sharing your goals and talking to them about what you see for the future. If they are not in agreement with the level of commitment you share, that may be a sign that your goals are misaligned and you may need to think hard about the direction of your relationship, but at least you won’t be guessing.
5. Establish a Routine
Most avoidant people don’t like surprises. While you might think planning a secret party for them or going on a spontaneous date is romantic, it’s likely just the opposite for them. One of the best things you can do for your relationship is to keep a steady routine. Doing so will give your partner time to mentally prepare for your time together while knowing exactly when they’ll get their time alone. It might not seem like the most romantic thing in the world, but it can go a long way to setting the right ground work for open communication.
Don’t spring intense or charged conversations on them, but set aside a regular time for checking in with each other. When your partner feels more prepared, they might be more willing to communicate.
Again, being in a relationship with an avoidant partner isn’t always easy. By managing your expectations, maintaining your independence, and showing compassion to your partner for who they are, you can find ways to communicate that work for both of you.
Whatever your communication struggles are, couples therapy can be helpful as a way to learn, practice and incorporate new ways of communicating into your relationship.