Part III: The Love Avoidant – Home at Last

Ok. Here we are again. My last article in the “Love Avoidant” series.  So, we have explored the “what?” and the “how did this happen?” questions. In this final section, we delve into the “what do we do about it?” department. Hopefully, by this point, I have persuaded you that the walls of the Love Avoidant (LA) provide a false illusion of safety and security that only keep us from the closeness we most desire and deserve. Good relationships make us live longer and healthier – and make the living worthwhile – so, let’s see what we can do to reconstruct this particular defensive posture.

 

The heart of the process in becoming available to intimate love is the tuning into oneself. In other words, the foundation for secure attachment originates with loving attunement within. I must be mindful to the “me” inside. To that deep inner core which houses my source feelings, thoughts, fantasies, hurts and longings. In so doing, I become my own best caretaker. Like an air traffic controller, I pay attention to, monitor and respond to the many detailed happenings inside me. More specifically, this process involves:

 

1. Thawing. As we discussed in the last article, many LAs have walled themselves off as a means of necessary protection. Ok. Got that. But until the heart stops beating, we can’t just give up. There is bound to be life somewhere inside there. Some place, maybe very deep inside, some inkling of humanity has yet to be smoldered out. There are real feelings, wants and needs. If the LA wants to find loving contact, he/she has to both admit that something exists and be willing to find it. Thus, the journey is launched to becoming emotionally attached by increasing access to and awareness of feelings. Often this grand thaw starts in the patient loving presence of another. Or with the harsh realization that continuing to live in my self-defined prison is no longer serving me well. This takes us to the next step …

 

2. Grieving. Most LAs are not likely to reach out for help because they are having relationship difficulties. Contrarily, most are sadly comfortable with long periods of aloneness and non-intimacy. However, they may be lucky enough to either be dragged in by a partner or to ask for help for another reason such as an active addiction or a destructive attempt at self-soothing. Once in a setting to take a more honest look inside, the LA has an opportunity to explore his/her family of origin role and the childhood trauma that caused such a need for the emotional and relational blockade. In so doing, compassionate meaning can be attached to the reason for the over-protection as well as an honest assessment of no longer needing all those defenses.

 

3. Choosing. Having spent many years in analytic school, I am a believer in the value of insight. But, at some point, we have to make a choice. I tell patients that much of what I do in my office is brain surgery (except without the anesthesia and the unfortunate reality that you can’t just sleep through the process). At this point in our adult lives, the neural pathways in our brains are pretty hard-wired. Like an old-fashioned pinball machine, that ball is going down the same rut over and over and over again. I call it my “whoosh.” When triggered, I am whooshing through “Door A.” Plain and simple. I will think, feel and act in a certain predictable way. For a LA, that whoosh is one of independence, keeping life and others at arm’s length. In order to counteract this well-worn groove, I have to behave the opposite, despite the inevitable discomfort it causes. Intentionally and consciously, by choosing Door B, through moment to moment practice and repetition, I revamp the brain patterns toward true relational living.

 

4. Being Vulnerable. LAs avoid vulnerability. Anything but telling you what is really going on inside at the rawest, most primitive and human level. I am reminded of that saying that “what is most personal is also most universal.” When we admit our imperfections and talk about our truth in an authentic way, we are opening ourselves to genuine connection. When we self-disclose with our words, we move from feeling isolated and alone to being joined by and bonded to another human being. This is the seed-bed of human relations. 

 

5. Touching. Physical touch acts as a glue between people and certainly, between partners. Touch and affection has been shown to increase the secretion of oxytocin which is the same natural bonding hormone experienced between mother and infant. Thus, physical touch can increase our bond with our partner.

 

6. Staying. Overcoming Love Avoidance means that we commit to enduring feelings we would rather not have. Rather than fleeing, we pull up a chair and tolerate feelings of discomfort such as fear, suffocation, abandonment, rejection, contempt and even love. Rather than do our usual – walling off or running away – we put on our safety belt and we sit. Squirm as we might, we move from running to a place of curiosity, understanding and gradual acceptance.

 

7.  Remembering.  Being in an intimate, attached relationship does not mean that I give up my self.  I get to hold onto my power as an individual person.  I get to maintain my own separate thoughts, feelings, wants and needs.  I get to set limits and maintain my boundaries.  In fact, it is through remembering that I can hold onto my separateness, that I am more willing to soften my boundaries that I might enter a deeper level of connection. 

 

Like a colicky baby being swaddled by the patient and persistent love of a parent, over time and experience, we eventually settle into the idea that being loved and connected ain’t so bad. In creating a connection with a partner we do not want to lose, we become convinced that transforming our pattern of Love Avoidance is not only necessary, but also opens us to a whole new world … that of life’s vast candy store.  Many of us are entering its doors for the first time. It can be overwhelming in its wonder and endless possibilities. But, have at it. Indulge. And enjoy every bite of life’s sweetest offering – connective love.

 

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14 thoughts on “Part III: The Love Avoidant – Home at Last

  1. These posts on love avoidance are so important for me. I am 44. I have depression. In addition, I had a traumatic experience at age 13 that I have only recenlty begun to realize may be a prime reason why I have never been able to maintain a long term relationship. I have sabotaged numerous relationships with wonderful, loving women through love avoidance, and these posts are spot on for me. I am going to share it with my hypnotherapist. Thank you so much.

  2. Thank you. This brings hope and courage for someone who loves a love avoidant deeply but had to let him to so that he could find his way. This knowledge has inspired me to be patient and strong in supporting him and praying for him without his knowing (so as to not pressure or suffocate him). I can tell it is going to be a long journey, but if we succeed, the success will be immeasurable.

  3. I lost my avoidant wife this year. I spent a year trying to slip a note under her iron door but every attempt turned me into a criminal in her eyes. We were only married four months and it started. I’m still crushed because I know the person underneath it all. Or I thought I did. It hurts being discarded and dismissed. I’ve lost myself completely in the process. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through. I still think she cries for me inside her stone rib cage.

    • I know right where you’re at, Jim. Right where you’re at. After posing as an amazing rescuer to pathetic me a decade and a half ago, mine rather quickly retreated into an iron fortress of sterile dead air silence or non-presence, only ever coming out of the fortress to constantly “critique” my failures. Blech.

  4. I am currently in love with an avoidant, and after reading this, I was so deeply moved that I cried tears of relief and hope. I am the opposite of him, which is an anxious lover, and after a roller coaster 2 years of push and pull, I finally have some clarity and understanding of our individual struggles. We are both in therapy and i hope that over time, he realizes we owe it to ourselves to let go of our former selves and find a renewed sense of passion for the life we deserve.

  5. Thank you for writing these articles. You make so much sense. I can fully relate to the avoidant characteristics and I have met an avoidant like myself. We are “friends”. Even though we had an attraction to each other and people see us as a “couple” we do not have the ability to get past our issues to have a real healthy relationship. We are disfunctional and yet “safe”. I don’t have the slightest idea if we will ever be able to progress past our issues. I am afraid to talk to him about us because he uses it as an excuse to push me away. We have a great deal in common but we are afraid to build anything real. I believe we are both doomed to have a life of looking through the window and seeing happy couples but we don’t have the skills to have it for ourselves.Thanks for helping me to understand that we are not alone.

  6. Thank you so this insight- my husband had an emotional affair an dI thought he had a love addiction- his counselor said it was actually “love avoidant.” A am just beginning journey of learning of love avoidant and this has helped immensely – please post if there is another sites that help with healing and counseling as well. I hope to work through this with him despite his emotional infidelity.

  7. An awful lot of the behaviours described resonated with me in these articles, thank you for writing them.

    I’m unsure whether I am a love avoidant or addict, or just a plain narcissist, but I have left goodness knows how many men behind me reeling from an involvement with me and am hating myself for it. Don’t know if I will ever have a truly authentic relationship, don’t know if I’ve ever had one as I’m now looking back on all the years of partying and playing the field and whilst I thought I’ve felt love, I just don’t know anymore.

    However, I’m struggling with all this as I had a very happy childhood with no trauma. Loving parents, safe environment and encouragement to study, see the world and enjoy life. They’ve instilled great social values in me as well as how to maintain a marriage of 50 years, and yet I can’t seem to find that relationship. How much of this could be just down to my personality, which is quite dominant? Some of my earliest memories are feeling put out that I wasn’t included in something in school and being bossy. Am I looking for perfection when it’s just not out there? Have the decades of failed relationships just left me jaded? I feel really quite lost at the moment.

    All come to a head recently as there have been a few men in the past year who all seemed to contact me at the same time conveying their hurt at my behaviour and the loss of the relationship. I feel great shame.

    • Jess, thanks for sharing. Even though you may not be able to put a label on your behaviors at least you are able to recognize your behaviors. It says something that you feel bad and have shame based on what the men have shared with you (I don’t think someone with full blown NPD would). Given what you wrote I have a question for you. I was involved with what I am pretty sure was a love/intimacy avoidant, commitment phobe and someone with narcissistic traits (not sure if he is full blown narcissist) man for a year. We were friends before we started dating. Early on all the behaviors developed (I thought he was temporarily emotionally unavailable) due to some hardships he had happen during that time. However things were not getting better only worse. I have come to the realization this is who he is. Based on what I know about him I am certain his childhood created his issues. I ended up walking away and cutting ties because I was so hurt. I often contemplate contacting him like the men that contacted you and conveying my hurt and telling him what I saw. I am not sure if that is a good idea. Do you feel it has helped you that these men have shared this with you? Does anyone have any recommendations? It has been a little while since I have had contact and my perspective and emotions are much more in check now.

    • Jess, thanks for sharing. Even though you may not be able to put a label on your behaviors at least you are able to recognize your behaviors. It says something that you feel bad and have shame based on what the men have shared with you (I don’t think someone with full blown NPD would). Given what you wrote I have a question for you. I was involved with what I am pretty sure was a love/intimacy avoidant, commitment phobe and someone with narcissistic traits (not sure if he is full blown narcissist) man for a year. We were friends before we started dating. Early on all the behaviors developed (I thought he was temporarily emotionally unavailable) due to some hardships he had happen during that time. However things were not getting better only worse. I have come to the realization this is who he is. Based on what I know about him I am certain his childhood created his issues. I ended up walking away and cutting ties because I was so hurt. I often contemplate contacting him like the men that contacted you and conveying my hurt and telling him what I saw. I am not sure if that is a good idea. Do you feel it has helped you that these men have shared this with you? Does anyone have any recommendations? It has been a little while since I have had contact and my perspective and emotions are much more in check now.

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  8. My experience with an avoidant wife regarding “touching”: She had no problem touching as long as you touched her first, and as long as it was kept to a perfunctory hug. She would never initiate the touching. Oh, and after luring me to the altar with wild sex for the first few months, her libido quickly and suddenly shriveled up and died and disappeared from the planet. Poof! Gone. Nothing. All appallingly infrequent sex after the hasty and permanent vanishing act of her sex drive was conducted by her as mechanically, as dispassionately as possible. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, a lot of you guys reading this are going ” So what? Isn’t that what most women do once they get the guy legally hitched?”—and my answer to that is, “NO, YOU REALLY HAVE NO IDEA OF INFREQUENT SEX AND MECHANICAL SEX UNTIL YOU MARRY A LOVE AVOIDANT!”

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