Becoming less avoidant in a relationship is only possible through connection and conversation. Practicing being heard, understanding your partner and allowing yourself to being understood increase connection and security and decrease avoidance.
Avoidance in a relationship happens when you wall-off or disengage until you and your partner end up feeling alone in the relationship. Avoidance is lying in bed next to your partner pretending to be asleep; it’s skipping the details of your day and offering only neutral, closed ended responses; it’s the discomfort, resentment, or sadness that is ever present but unspoken.
When you move towards security in your relationship you’re telling your partner: “I care about you and I don’t want you to feel alone.” Building security is about being responsive to your partner in ways that leave them feeling validated and understood. It’s staying connected during vulnerable or emotionally charged situations.
Being less avoidant in your relationships is possible with deliberate practice.
How To Stop Being Avoidant & Overcome Avoidant Attachment Style
Here are 10 ways to overcome avoidant attachment style and move towards being more secure in your relationships:
If you tend to be more avoidant in your relationships, start by owning it. The more upfront you can be with yourself and your partner about having avoidant tendencies the better. The irony is that as you take more responsibility for yourself, the more secure you and your relationship becomes. Talking about hard things, acknowledging fears and admitting struggles are all integral parts of becoming more connected with your partner. Acknowledging avoidant tendencies is anything but avoidant in the moment.
Put Down Your Phone
If your partner is talking, make it a point to set your phone aside and look them in the eye. Nothing says “I’d rather be anywhere but here listening to you” than staring at your phone and mindlessly tapping the screen. Eye contact tells them you are listening and attending to them.
One of the best ways to build security in your relationship is to say yes to your partner’s needs while accepting the likelihood that doing so will feel counterintuitive. This is one of those times where you choose courage over comfort. You may fear that your partner is a black hole of neediness that will suck you in if you get too close but it’s likely the case that your withholding is magnifying their anxiousness.
Use Physical Touch
Physical touch reinforces to your partner that you are literally there, right next to them. It can increase levels of dopamine and serotonin which help the body relieve stress and anxiety. Physical touch can also trigger the release of oxytocin – the “love” hormone and can increase bonding and trust.
As you work towards building a more secure relationship with your partner, it may feel as though they have a constant need for reassurance that you will be unable to meet. Just try. Set a reminder in your phone to send a simple text a few times a day to let them know you’re thinking about them. When you have a bad day at work let them know it’s not about them. When there is conflict reassure them that it is not the end of the relationship.
Don’t purposely leave them waiting for a reply to a text or a returned phone call. Along the same line be on time for dates and planned activity. If plans change, let them know in a timely manner. All of these let your partner know they are a priority and can help them feel more secure.
Validate Your Partner’s Feelings
If you tend to be avoidant in your relationships you likely resort to gaslighting and stonewalling as ways of avoiding difficult feelings, emotional truths and attunement with your partner. As a result, your partner likely feels like they are “going crazy” as their reality is frequently called into question or discounted entirely. To build security you need to practice validating your partner’s experience.
Ask Meaningful Questions
Be curious about what they’re going through and the associated thoughts and feelings. If you need help with knowing what to ask, try this 36-question exercise. The 36-question exercise is the result of a 1997 research project that identified a series of progressively personal and intense question that can accelerate intimacy and a safe, secure attachment between two people.
Dr. John Gottman writes about a couple sitting and looking out towards the ocean when one partner comments on a beautiful sail boat in what Gottman calls a “bid for connection.” The other partner has a choice to sit quietly and “turn away” from the bid or they can “lean in” and respond with, “You’re right that is a beautiful boat.” Small seemingly insignificant interactions like this are the foundation to creating a secure attachment in a relationship.
Ask For Help
Relationships in which only one partner needs the other are out of balance. Start small by asking for help with small chores or tasks, even if they are something you could easily accomplish by yourself. Practice increasing vulnerability by asking for support or encouragement during challenging or stressful times. Asking for help might also include seeking out expert help in the form of individual or group therapy.
Early American Psychologist Abraham Maslow write, “In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.” Moving towards a more secure relationship with your partner will not always feel safe but being less avoidant can lead to a much fuller and satisfying experience with less resentment and more contentment. As you practice the suggestions above, they will likely feel counter-intuitive. That’s probably a sign that you are moving in the right direction.
overcome avoidant attachment style with Therapy
One of my favorite areas to deal with clients on in therapy for avoidant attachment style. People can frequently make quite clear and noticeable adjustments that have a significant impact on relationships. Additionally, attachment patterns are not only present in romantic relationships; they also exist in friendships and even the job.
Let me know if you have any questions about becoming less avoidant in your relationships either in the comments below or through direct message here.