26 thoughts on “18 Ways to Increase Intimacy and Communication with an Avoidant Partner

  • July 7, 2018 at 4:01 pm

    As a child of two avoidant parents, I want to point out that avoidant persons in a relationship can also do a lot of damage to it. Avoidants want to place the blame for their emotional deficiencies on their partner, escpecially if they’re narcissistic. This article paints a picture that places the burden of intimate connection entirely on the other partner. One doesn’t necessarily have to have issues with abandonment to desire a real, intimate connection with their partner. A relationship is a two-way street, and what’s described in the article is quite a sacrifice on the non-avoidant’s part. Avoidants can cause a lot of pain if their avoidance extends to serious and important matters and they shut down rather than address their partner’s feelings. Avoidance paired with addiction is horrible. The child of an avoidant narcissist may experience extreme emotional neglect. I think that this article gives good advice for those who genuinely want to make a sacrifice. But people should not feel required to make a sacrifice if they don’t want to. In a marriage, both partners are responsible for connection, whatever their past, or attachment style, sets them up for.

    Reply
    • May 28, 2019 at 1:52 am

      I love this response Grace. I just left an avoidant after a year and a half. I know I land on the more “anxious” Side of the street- but Im self aware and was so open to looking at anything. I tried to get my partner to therapy, to communicate, to read books…yes- I should have listened to the stonewalling and distancing signals early on. I was hoping he would change ( my stuff) and finally realized he never would an I would have to walk on eggshells and sacrifice myself my entire life- not willing. Its a journey but Im glad Im out.

      Reply
  • December 8, 2018 at 11:00 pm

    Dr. Neuharth,
    My husband is avoidant/dismissive and filed for divorce 6 months ago, despite my desire to stay together. We are currently separated and living apart. I have an anxious attachment style and our 2 year long 2nd marriage was quite difficult. However, I love my husband and have learned through articles like yours that these relationships can survive. I want my marriage to continue. I truly understand what this would require of me. I can find little to no information on how to approach an avoidant about restoring a marriage. What is the best way to do this? I would sincerely appreciate your guidance.

    Reply
    • December 9, 2018 at 2:15 am

      Stephanie,
      I would suggest seeking marriage counseling with an attachment-based marriage counselor. You can check local listings, or online directories of therapists who use an attachment-informed approach. Another good source is the International Center for Emotionally Focused Therapy. You can search for an EFT-trained therapist at Find an EFT Therapist.
      Dan

      Reply
  • December 9, 2018 at 10:43 pm

    I met a man whom i believe is Love Avoidant. He used to text me every morning. Good morning wish me a blessed day with a 🌹. We met in AA. I feel as soon as i started showing interest back and expressing my feelings he stopped texting me after 4 months . what gives? It has been a week since he texted me.

    Reply
    • December 9, 2018 at 10:53 pm

      Hi Kristin,
      That must feel disappointing and painful. When somebody who has been attentive goes cold or “ghosts” us, we often feel discarded and mystified. However, such behavior speaks volumes about the other person and can indicate an unreliable potential partner. By not texting you for a week he may be sending a strong message about himself: Don’t count on me, don’t trust me, don’t need me. That is worth listening to. You may find my blog on 20 Signs a Lover or Friend May Eventually “Ghost” You helpful. Dan

      Reply
  • December 9, 2018 at 10:55 pm

    I met a man who I believe is love Avoidant. He texted me every morning and wish me a good morning with a 🌹once i started showing interest he stopped texting me. We met in AA. What gives? He hasnt texted me in a week

    Reply
  • December 11, 2018 at 12:09 pm

    I was with my ex for 10 months. After I got angry with him 1 night via text in September,he broke up with me. I realize I am a bad communicator and super anxious. He didn’t want to discuss the issue and the next day just said he is selfish and might get worse down the road so we should just break up. Said he shouldn’t be in a relationship and is better off alone.prior to this he was always there for me. Never disappeared once.i now believe from researching that he has avoidant issues. Drug addict mother growing up, no father,had to go into foster homes twice. He doesn’t really go out. Likes his time at home watching tv. And that is ok with me. I really love him and I believe he cared about me . I texted him a bit after the breakup and he responded but each time I panicked and asked for another chance. After a few times he now ignores me. I also emailed him twice apologizing for the way I handled certain things. I know this was all probably the wrong thing to do and drove him further away. I just need to let it go. I’m heart broken and having a very hard time. We are both in our 40’s.
    I see that he still uses my Hulu account everyday , and I’m sure he knows I know. We were big tv watchers.If he truly is avoidant do I let him keep using to show I’m there, or kick him off to show I’m moving on? I know I’m probably making more than it is out of it, and maybe he’s just being rude. And maybe he’s not avoidant and just got scared. It’s all so confusing to me. But he was a really good guy up until all this happened. And I am working on myself but it’s still hard.

    Reply
    • December 11, 2018 at 12:36 pm

      Hi Cris,
      I am sorry to hear about your heartbreaking situation. Sounds like the Hulu account represents one last “connection” between you, and it makes sense that you would wonder whether to keep it open or let it go. And you may understandably feel in the dark about how he feels. Yet it does sound like you have reached out to him, apologized, and he has not initiated any contact for some time after telling you he is better off alone. That is hard to ignore. Yes, he may be avoidantly attached and acting primarily out of fear, but he may just not be able or willing to have anything deeper. Perhaps deciding what you do about the Hulu account use can reflect the broader question of choosing what is best and most healthy for you.
      Thank you for your post.
      Dan

      Reply
  • December 14, 2018 at 10:03 am

    My wife and I have hit a rough patch. The end of our relationship nearly came and I still feel that the end is still very much a possibility. This has driven me to research where the problems come from. It led me to this site. It was very helpful in understanding where she is coming from and has helped me give the her the space she needs. I however still crave intimacy with her. I’m afraid to pursue my needs because it will push her away. She easily gives affection to our son,friends and coworkers but is stingy with affection towards me. My question is two fold, 1) how do I ask for more intimacy without pushing her away and 2) how do I get her to talk about her attachment style?(it seems to me that she knows she has issues and is afarid to talk about them because that is admitting she is somewhat at fault too). She is stubborn with things like this. Thanks for the help.

    Reply
  • January 27, 2019 at 5:46 pm

    I believe I have an avoidant attachment style. I don’t want to argue especially when I believe my partner does not understand my point. I can go for days without contact.

    But here is the twist, when I go without contact, it’s not because I want my partner to give me space. I want reassurance that they love and care. When I go away without contact, that’s when I actually want my partner to be in touch. Also at times I, in a childish way, want my partner to know what my problem is or to try and find out. It’s not intended at all. When I was growing up, my father lived with his new wife and his children from that marriage while I lived not far away with a relative. I never believed that he loved me. Whenever I go away without contact, I desperately want reassurance from my partner. My partner knows this and it works for us. When I sulk, he takes no offence, he will do something else and then asks if I want a cup of tea. That’s all it takes.

    Reply
    • January 27, 2019 at 7:41 pm

      Hi Jenn,
      Thank you for sharing your experience with such candor. Wanting reassurance at times is a fundamental human need. Your comment sheds light on that, and is a contribution to the community.
      Dan

      Reply
  • February 19, 2019 at 3:49 pm

    Thank you for a very clear, well-written, and practical guide to avoidants! I am in a stable, wonderful relationship with my husband who has a secure attachment style. In recent years I have found a deep desire for close friendships too. Recently, I have become close with another female friend who has issues with depression sometimes and has significant difficulty with following through on things, even with her own family. We get close, then she pulls away unpredictably, leaving me frustrated and confused. She asks me to do things together then cancels, repeatedly. It has “unearthed” an anxious style in me (my parents divorced when I was young, etc. etc.). I am working on that as the panic/preoccupation I sometimes feel is overwhelming and keeps me from enjoying the present. She says that she has lost friends over this issue. I know that she is petrified of letting me down (even though she’d like to think she doesn’t need anyone), but it almost seems like a self-fulfilling prophecy. I am getting tired of all the negative emotions and it seems she doesn’t care about my needs/feelings. On the other hand, I deeply care for her and when we do get together it’s amazing. I’m also scared I won’t find another close friend easily as it is very hard for me to develop this degree of comfort with someone (even though I do have several other friends). Wondering if I should give up or try harder to be understanding. Also wondering whether bringing up the concept of anxious and avoidant attachment styles may help her so that we can understand each other better, or if it is best not to be this direct. She is in therapy, but I’m not sure she’s aware of this particular body of work. Thanks again for your insight!

    Reply
    • February 19, 2019 at 6:20 pm

      Hi Stacy,
      Your post captures quite well the dilemmas of having a friend with an avoidant style; thank you for sharing this with the community.

      Without knowing anything about your friend, I would say that, in general, bringing up the concept of attachment styles with someone who is in therapy can sometimes be helpful . . . as your friend could pursue on her own either in therapy or reading self-education about these dynamics. The other half of the equation is with you, as you acknowledged — working with your own feelings of anxiety that can get triggered by someone who is avoidant.

      Thank you,

      Dan

      Reply
  • April 15, 2019 at 5:20 pm

    It helps to see so many people going through the same and finding a way to move forward with the relationship. My partner of 7 months has recently asked for a break. She suffered a lot of trauma for most of her life and withdraws into herself when any kind of emotional pressure is placed on her. When our relationship grew more intimate she began to get stressed, afraid and we fought and she pulled away from me. She is aware of her problems and doesn’t know what to do about them though. This culminated with her asking for a break and space. What do I do? Should I leave her until she initiates contact or give it a little while and reach out? And how do I show her that I don’t care about her issues and want to be with her without causing this same emotional pressure?

    Reply
    • April 15, 2019 at 5:26 pm

      Hi Ryan,
      Thank you for sharing your dilemma. When someone with a history of trauma who tends to withdraw wants a break, it generally doesn’t help to pursue her or exert pressure. Could you ask her which she prefers — that she be the one to re-initiate contact, or whether she would prefer that you check back in after some time? Sometimes giving a withdrawing partner a choice helps. You can also let you know that you care about her and her issues in the same conversation.
      Meanwhile, it can help you to focus on your own life, your needs, other connections, and use this time to explore what you want out of the relationship, what you are willing to do, and not do.
      Best wishes,
      Dan
      Dan Neuharth PhD MFT

      Reply
  • May 25, 2019 at 12:49 am

    Hi Brad, what if my fearfully avoidant ex and I (anxious) mutually agreed to do no contact for a couple of weeks? He said we’ll try again after that No Contact period and we’ll see how it goes. Is that a bad idea? Do you think it’s still worth a shot? He was very clingy and obsessive all throughout the relationship and just one day he told me he doesn’t want to be in a relationship and thinks he could be happier alone because relationship put pressure on him and he’s scared that he’ll eventually lose himself and hurt me more. I wonder if after our no contact period, might there be still a chance for us to work this out? I am thinking of asking him to come to couples therapy together once we get to try working things out. I don’t know if that’s a good idea or not. But he still says that he cares for me and loves me but has his own issues. This in turn, triggers me and his distance leaves me devastated. I’m trying to keep myself busy during this break / space but sometimes it just really hurts. But I know it’s still worth a shot. It’s just that I’m very confused and hurt

    Reply
  • May 31, 2019 at 5:52 am

    Hi Brad. This article is very helpful in dealing with and understanding a Dismissive Avoidant in relationships, thank you. Unfortunately l didn’t find this information prior to my recent breakup. I have an anxious preoccupied attachment style and my ex partner is avoidant. We had an amazing relationship for 14 months and then during the last 2 months l started to be affected by her becoming distant, hot and cold and withdrawing after my requests for more intimacy or quality time together. I just wanted everything to be good like before. She was very clingy and madly in love with me and said she would never leave me but l think she got scared about the future of our relationship because she slowly started to withdraw. I believed her although l was always worried about the relationship ending. Basically we had a couple of arguments and she made me feel like l was being dramatic and acting crazy, all because l was expressing a need but maybe it was a bit too emotionally for her. That was it for her, she decided to break up with me but it took her almost a month to decide. She kept me hanging for 4 weeks and it triggered my anxiety and l was distraught during this time. She said she still loved me and cared about me when she broke up with me but at the same time was so cold in the way she did it. She said if being alone is the only way she can have peace it’s a price she’s willing to pay. She wanted us to be friends after but l wasn’t able to as l found myself trying to get close to her which in turn caused her to withdraw and run away. Now after 5 months apart l am still at times blaming myself and confused about what went wrong but l still love her dearly and miss her every day. Do avoidants come back?

    Reply
  • June 4, 2019 at 3:51 pm

    Thank you for this inspiring support. I am in a relationship since 8 years with a man who has been my very loving support for 6 years. We travelled together and finally lived together for 2 years. Then he started to withdraw and gradually got on his own stranges schedule – avoiding cozy time at home together. He kept on telling me he loved me but withdrew more and more. Finally he moved back to his appartement all the while telling me he still loves me. On several occasion he dumped me verbally right after an outing. The he came back all loving. This has been going on now for the last year on / off. Yesterday he called me urgently to his place because he has a gift for me and some good news to share. After a lovely hour he gave me the gift and 10 minutes later he said it was finished for good. But I still had to take the gift because he had given it before he knew he was braking up with me. I am caught in this terrible circle because I do love him and he says he loves me despite of this violant mood changes. I see many of the signs of an avoiding partner in his behavior. I don’t quite know whether I must try at all costs to wean myself from this relationship or whether I can trust my heart that I really do love him. Is it codependence or is it empathy I am feeling? It is really really hard to understand. It’s good to have this place to be able to read other “sufferers” – makes me feel less disturbed. But then how to know whether a relationship is really sick or just failing because of unsolved child hood conditioning? and how to know whether it is solvable or not?

    Reply
  • July 19, 2019 at 6:36 pm

    Great article with some good practical tips for those trying to make it work. Just trying to figure that out now. Can we make it work? There’s only one way to find out I guess. Thank you.

    Reply
  • July 28, 2019 at 4:38 am

    Wow! This is so helpful. I took notes, and I will do it! Thank you doctor!

    Reply
  • September 18, 2019 at 2:27 pm

    Thank you for such insightful and practical advice. I have crammed information and solution based approaches to an Avoidant Dismissive partner for over three years, since my DA ended our two year relationship officially. He had done so at the one year mark also, I imagine this milestone is particularly heavy for him.
    A year in, he took a job in another state in mines that required him to relocate there instead of a Fly in Fly out arrangement. Despite this, he paid for his own flights home every 2-3 months because he missed me. We still chatted every day & I think he was relieved that I was understanding and supportive of his choice to work away.
    I first noted an extreme aversion to interpersonal conflict and negative emotions at around the 3 month mark. I had to literally pin point why he was upset without any confirmation or clues from him & the first time I witnessed the shut down from him I was stunned. He was otherwise an affectionate, funny and steady person.. so to see him switch to completely blank face and cold toned voice in the face of an emotionally charged conflict then easily go to sleep absolutely me

    Reply
  • January 7, 2020 at 10:32 pm

    I can see the sacrifices required for a relationship of some kind with an avoidant. My (very big ) problem is my partner of 30 years informed me 8 months ago, that he had a “sex only” affair for 18 years ending it 9 years ago upon his retirement when the opportunities were no longer feasible! I found this out 2 years into recovery from an emotional affair he had with his tai chi pupil . I am totally devastated. He will not leave but has promised me that it won’t ever happen again( I should sincerely hope not as he is 75 years old!) and I feel cornered as I don’t t have the werewithal to leave and so feel obliged to try to work things out. There have been many years of cruel behaviour and openly flirting right under my nose. I should also add that I was forced into living without sex for 27 years when he convinced me that he had low testosterone! He’s had 3 previous failed marriages, all ending due to cheating. (facts I did not know as he’s a ‘closed book)
    You might ask why I never left before. Well , he was an accomplished liar but I truly loved him , and thought that underneath it all , he loved me.
    Now I feel faced with a very ‘cold’ future with a man who can’t show his feelings or ‘connect’..I hope to god we can build something, at least tolerable in our twilight years. He has promised to try very hard to make this work. I worry that I no longer have enough motivation to do this. What do you think are the odds for us improving our situation?

    Reply
  • January 21, 2020 at 5:55 am

    This is helpful & so well said. The disclaimers about accepting the partner’s style & personality are crucial yet not defeatist; the doctor seeks to give wise advice to those who are realistic enough to take it.

    Reply
  • March 7, 2020 at 9:08 am

    This is hard to hear, but awareness of where my wife is coming from is so critical. I have just recently been educated in attachment styles, and man has it been enlightening! Also a bit overwhelming… looking back over 27 years of marriage and realizing that I have been looking at things out of the wrong lens. I am the guy who takes things personally and feels that I have to help my wife be happy…even though the reasons she is not have nothing to do with me. The disappointment of not feeling close and feeling that I couldn’t make her happy drove me to some frustrating and overwhelming places. I have a secure attachment and want to be close, want to talk openly about things, am not afraid to be real and vulnerable, etc. But she doesn’t respond well to all of that. She doesnt want to have any expectations about anything (use of money, having sex, sharing responsibilities around the house, etc.) I think it’s so she doesnt fail or disappoint anyone. And I have felt dismissed, disrespected, and distanced more often than I can recount. My own struggle came when unknowingly I looked to unhealthy outlets to cope with this distance–particularly porn. This of course didnt help anything, and when she found out I struggle with this, I am sure it just validated some things that she thinks about herself: that she isnt enough, cant trust me, etc. Pushing her more away. I need to learn how to live strong regardless of how she responds. I want to love her even if it feels that I am loving from a distance at times. My happiness doesn’t have to rely on her (lack of) happiness.
    The hard step I need to take next is to cut her off from our money, since she doesnt have any self control and doesn’t want to talk about it to create any budget or plan. This will be a very hard step.
    Anyway, thanks for this post, Dr. Dan! It is helping my self-awareness. Clearly I need a support group around this! Know of anything, even if it’s online? Thanks

    Reply
 

Join the Conversation!

We invite you to share your thoughts and tell us what you think in this public forum. Before posting, please read our blog moderation guidelines. A first name or pseudonym is required and will be displayed with your comment. Your email address is also required, but will be kept private. (Please note that we use gravatars here, which are tied to your email address.) A website/blog/twitter address is optional.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *