“There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness”
— as Nietzsche so rightly said. This applies perfectly to dealing with an avoidant partner because while their behaviors can seem confusing, they come from a place of misguided logic. Understanding that is the first step in communicating with an avoidant partner.
20 approaches for navigating communication issues and getting closer to your avoidant partner
Like most things to do with the mind, there’s a wide range of potential behaviors when dealing with an avoidant partner. At one extreme, you have Avoidant Personality Disorders as described in this article.
Then, you have the rest of us with around 30% of people who have an avoidant attachment style, according to WebMD. That leaves roughly 50% of securely attached people and 20% anxiously attached, according to this Washington Post article.
So, what does all this mean for communicating with an avoidant partner?
1. Plan ahead
Avoidant people need independence and autonomy such that intimacy can feel threatening. That’s why it’s important to avoid surprises when communicating with an avoidant so they don’t feel out of control. So, plan quality time together well in advance.
2. Talk openly about boundaries
How to deal with an avoidant partner means understanding that they have strict, sometimes rigid, boundaries. They essentially see closeness as a weakness.
Instead, discuss how boundaries look to both of you and under what circumstances your avoidant partner needs time alone.
3. Be compassionate
How to help an avoidant partner starts with understanding and compassion. The belief that intimacy can be a threat is a defense mechanism they developed as a child with unresponsive caregivers.
With time, they can let go of that belief and come to see intimacy with you as a positive experience. They’ll gradually realize that you are there for them when they need it.
Communicating with an avoidant partner means being your own, independent person. One of their biggest triggers that makes them distant is when someone depends on them. So, get out there and enjoy your hobbies and friends.
Be realistic about who your avoidant partner is. You’ll then find communicating with an avoidant partner much easier because you’ll accept them for who they are. This makes them feel safer and more valued.
6. Balance the roles
We all crave intimacy and when someone pulls away from us, our first instinct is to draw in closer. This is one of the worst strategies for how to deal with a love avoidant. They’ll resist even more as they start feeling increasingly threatened and controlled.
A more balanced approach when communicating with an avoidant is to let them come to you sometimes. In essence, don’t always be the one who reaches out but wait instead for them to move first.
7. Talk about needs
How to deal with a love avoidant means honoring your needs just as much as theirs. They’ll respect you more for that.
Expressing your needs and your level of commitment is also a strong strategy for establishing a safe environment. This then acts as a buffer to your avoidant partner’s defense mechanism of withdrawing.
8. Share your emotions
This one is a little trickier because you have to balance talking about emotions without overdoing it. Communicating with an avoidant partner means understanding that they don’t want to talk about too many emotions.
9. Observe the stress triggers
Research shows highly avoidant people who are under extreme external stress will not seek support from their partners. On the flip side, when they experience internal stress, they react relatively well to instrumental rather than emotional support. This support includes preparing dinner or buying them something tangible.
10. Share your goals and motivations for the relationship
Avoidant individuals fear being abandoned and rejected and will often misinterpret your intentions because of that belief system. That’s why it’s helpful to talk about your reasons for being in the relationship, including your goals.
11. Explain the new norm
An avoidant partner basically needs to re-learn what a healthy relationship looks like because they had no role models growing up.
You can help them do that by explaining that requests and needs are normal. Although, remember to do baby steps so as not to be overwhelming.
12. Reframe problems
Avoidant people don’t want to talk about issues or problems generally because they don’t want to change anything about themselves. They’ve developed this strong withdrawal defense mechanism such that they believe in their self-efficacy.
You can soften this approach by reframing issues into short, practical statements that are rational rather than emotional.
13. Use I statements
Communicating with an avoidant means using non-threatening language. Remember that their behaviors come from a place of low self-worth.
That’s why it’s useful to use I statement to state what you’re feeling. This approach essentially avoids blame.
14. Accept your differences
You have to accept them as they are, including sometimes being emotionally distant. These moments usually come in ebbs and flows, which gives you clues for the best time for communicating with an avoidant.
15. Be vulnerable
Slowly but surely is the best approach for communicating with an avoidant partner. So, when you see them feeling secure, you can start sharing a few more emotions about your insecurities.
16. Manage your triggers
You need to watch your frustrations that arise from their aloofness, as this could make you lash out at them. Essentially, don’t take their behavior personally.
17. Find your routine
Communicating with an avoidant partner is easier when you have structure. That’s because they can prepare themselves mentally for time together, and they know when they get their time alone. Basically, you’re creating a safe routine where both your needs are met.
18. Talk about your fears
Avoidant people learned to suppress their emotions and vulnerabilities when they were children. So, with some avoidants, talking about your own fears and imperfections can help them open up. Of course, you have to build trust before communicating with an avoidant partner about this topic.
When communicating with an avoidant partner, be clear in your mind that you’re not there to fix them. You can only be a supportive partner who understands their fears and triggers.
20. Get help
At some point, you might realize that you need some help either through individual or couple’s therapy. This can also be useful for you to understand your attachment style and what type of relationship is right for you.
If you decide it’s time to leave, then you’ll have to deal with it just like any other breakup. How to get over an avoidant partner means going through the five stages of grief.
25 evidence-based ways to connect with your avoidant partner
How to talk to an avoidant partner doesn’t have to be daunting. Remember to look for the signs for when they seem at ease and not triggered before communicating with an avoidant partner.
1. Provide a secure environment
There are several potential triggers for an avoidant attached person, as detailed in this article by The Attachment Project. Some of them include being criticized or judged, having to depend on others, and when their partner demands too much.
Bearing this in mind, you can create a safe place where they feel valued and independent while being supported.
2. Ask how to deactivate stress levels
Depending on the person and the relationship, you might have the right trust levels to talk about stress triggers. You can even share yours first to help your partner open up. This can be a powerful way for communicating with an avoidant partner. Then, ask them what they need from you when they experience certain triggers.
Communicating with an avoidant partner means focusing on the positives. Fundamentally, the avoidant mind is in defensive mode and will be looking for negatives everywhere.
4. Establish your language
Have you noticed some words seem to have a certain impact? Perhaps your partner suddenly switches behavior, and you can visibly see them shutting down when you say specific things?
Language matters when communicating with an avoidant style. That’s because you can counteract their negativity with encouraging and supportive words.
5. Know your attachment style
It’s crucial to understand your role in the relationship dynamic. Not always, but avoidantly attached people tend to partner with those who are anxiously attached, as discussed in this research.
Of course, the avoidant style can also attract avoidant individuals. Either way, it’s good to understand how you are either helping or exacerbating the stress triggers through your own attachment style.
This quiz from The Attachment Project can get you started.
6. Listen deeply
How to talk to an avoidant partner starts with listening. This doesn’t just mean interacting and asking questions.
Listening deeply means leaving your judgments behind and truly wanting to understand your partner and their feelings. It means cultivating the art of listening to understand rather than looking for a pause for you to jump in with your views.
This paper summarizes the various types of listening and how to practice them. Contrary to what most of us believe, we all need to learn the art of listening.
7. Explore bonding activities
An avoidant partner needs to trust that you’re there for them without being overly clingy. They also tend to watch behaviors intently to believe that. So, doing things together to create positive feelings will build trust over time.
Examples include reading, walking, and going to shows together, amongst others.
8. Share memories with positive emotions
Once you’ve created memories, you can refer to them when communicating with an avoidant partner. The idea is to allow them to connect to positive feelings that you generated together so they feel good about the relationship.
It can be useful to learn about how your avoidant partner grew up and developed their defense mechanisms. That way, you can create a safer environment within your relationship.
10. Boost their self-worth
When communicating with an avoidant partner, try to be encouraging. The more you can make them feel valued, the less they will be triggered and the more likely they’ll open up.
11. Become securely attached
Talking to an avoidant partner means understanding yourself such that you can become more securely attached.
Watch this video to learn more about how to do that:
12. Compassionately reduce negative emotions
As mentioned, avoidant patterns of behavior are a coping mechanism developed when their emotional needs were being ignored. This makes avoidants highly wary of anyone who talks about their emotions so they tend to assume negative intent.
Flip this belief round by being compassionate and sharing your positive intentions.
13. Understand the discomfort with conflict
It can be difficult to resolve issues with a conflict avoidant partner. In those cases, the best approach for communicating with your avoidant partner is to do the opposite to them.
So, for example, be open about your feelings but don’t sound clingy or desperate. You can also reframe your issues to talk about needs to stay factual. Check out the 8 listed in this research from the University o:f Ljubljana, Slovenia.
You need to build a strong level of trust and understanding when communicating with an avoidant partner. This doesn’t happen overnight by forcing them into deep and meaningful conversations. Instead, express your gratitude for what they do and praise them regularly.
17. Be independent
An avoidant partner fears clingy and needy people. Instead, have your life outside the relationship with friends and family to show that you’re not overly dependent on them.
18. Enjoy them as they are
People with an avoidant style suffer from low self-esteem. They struggle with relationships despite wanting them. Nevertheless, you can help them feel better about themselves by accepting them without judgment.
19. Be reliable
As children, avoidant style people felt abandoned by their caregivers. To alleviate that fear of abandonment, you should show that you’re dependable.
20. Focus on future growth
As mentioned, share your goals for the future without being demanding. It can also be helpful to think ahead about life-changing moments such as having children.
As research shows, highly avoidant people can feel threatened by a new child because they feel that the child is taking too much of their time. So, establishing boundaries and healthy role division early on is a wise approach.
21. Be patient
A conflict-avoidant partner might not always know what they need in stressful situations. In that case, try to experiment together to find what works.
It’s critical to note that yes, they need space but if you keep doing that, you’ll never move forward. The key is to try to understand the stressful situations and either remove them or manage them together.
22. Use positive tones
As mentioned, avoidantly attached people tend to focus on the negatives. Don’t forget that the way you speak also has an impact on their outlook on life, including your tone of voice.
Most of us want to change other people. Nevertheless, changing ourselves is a more powerful influence than we realize. Be the calm, vulnerable and secure person you strive for, and your avoidant partner will also start feeling safer.
24. Use calm, assertive language
Avoid blame and anger when communicating with an avoidant partner. A passive-aggressive approach also further alienates avoidants.
25. Be open about your flaws
The more you can share about yourself, the easier it will be for your partner to believe that this relationship is a safe place. They’re also less likely to jump to the wrong conclusions about your intentions.
Yes! They simply suppress their emotions, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have them.
Can an avoidant partner love you?
Avoidants can love just as much as anybody, even if they show it in different ways. You can expect body language and verbal queues more subtle than your classic lovey-dovey approach.
How do you deal with a conflict-avoidant partner?
Use I statements to avoid sounding aggressive. Then, reframe the problem to be factual rather than emotional, for example, by referencing needs.
How to talk to an avoidant partner?
Tell them reassuring things about themselves and that you’re grateful for who they are without being clingy.
How to help an avoidant partner commit?
Explain to them the norms of relationships with the ‘give and take’ that revolves around setting boundaries. Don’t be afraid to explore this through trial and error.
What’s the best way for dealing with an avoidant partner?
Always be compassionate and understanding about their behaviors that come from a place of fear. So, be calm and patient while looking out for their triggers.
What are the signs that an avoidant partner loves you?
The obvious sign is that they want to spend time with you, and they’re happy to listen to you talk about your emotions.
Communicating with an avoidant partner is both hard work and highly fulfilling. Your own attachment style will tell you if you’re ready to take on this challenge. If this is too much for you, you’ll have to focus on how to get over an avoidant partner instead.
Either way, you’ll learn something about yourself and what you need from relationships. After all, we all have demons to tame. Nevertheless, if you find a partner who’s willing to grow and learn with you, then that’s a gift in itself, regardless of their demons.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Sylvia Smith loves to share insights on how couples can revitalize their love lives in and out of the bedroom. As a writer at Marriage.com, she is a big believer in living consciously and encourages couples to adopt this principle in their lives too. Sylvia believes that every couple can transform their relationship into a happier, healthier one by taking purposeful and wholehearted action.