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Understand your marriage relationship - and how men can relate so that women will love them.
Couples are drawn into relationship with each other because of differences in personality types, and then those same characteristics can lead to seemingly endless conflict and disagreements. What is all this about? What can we do to get on with a person whose behaviours bother us and which we now dislike? Is there any hope we could ever get on? This article deals with the ‘avoidant’ style of relating, the most common relating style that men resort to under relationship distress.
‘Avoidant Insecure’ Personality Type
“My strength is my common sense, rational thinking, and ability to get things done”
You are an ‘avoidant’ if you find yourself running away from conflict – or more accurately, the intense emotional upheaval that comes with conflict. Although most avoidants will simply leave the room, go to a quiet place, or stay late at work, others will self-medicate with alcohol, drugs, gambling, over-eating or any other activity that masks unpleasant feelings or generates more appealing good alternative feelings. More often men than women, avoidants will also tend to spend their lives focusing on achieving, working, or in some way attending to tasks at the expense of relating – which will often have them on a different page to their partners. Although you will enjoy relating, you will tend to take your relationships somewhat for granted, and for that reason risk losing them. Some characteristics of the avoidant insecure behaviours.
1. Avoidants love to focus on tasks, and get a lot of pleasure out of accomplishing these. If someone were to interrupt you whilst at work, you would very probably be annoyed or at least somewhat frustrated (most avoidants are male) because your focus on ‘doing’ will have been interrupted. It is a strength to be good at and focused on completing tasks, but your relationships will matter more in the long run and so it may pay to consider letting go of the task and turn your attention to those you most care about.
2. While avoidants may be intensely conversational during courtship, this may soon tail off. You are probably not a big talker, although you can push yourself to engage socially. However, you will usually run out of steam whilst chatting - earlier rather than later. During courting and the honeymoon period you may have been an excellent communicator (when the feelings for your partner were positive and strong) but this could give way to minimal talking once ‘real’ life resumes. As a new relationship progresses, your partner may be mystified as to why this once-passionate talker now seems so unengaging. The truth is, avoidants aren’t big on emotional or social connection, so they don’t as a rule get caught up in long passionate or intimate discussions. The exception is when rational ideas are being exchanged. However, you can learn to stay engaged by not trying to solve the other person’s emotional drama. Curious listening will do more for your relationship than anything else.
3. If you are passionate about anything, you will probably be able to hold the floor for hours arguing a defence of your opinion. You probably approach the world from a perspective of reason, logic, and problem-solving and may struggle to understand why people get so emotional. Whenever there is an argument, you can, and usually will, advance the reasons behind your comments, behaviour or viewpoints. It can be particularly frustrating for you when your partner reacts emotionally to a viewpoint, and then doesn’t want to listen to either a justification or clarification that you are so keen to offer. Your strength lies in being logical, but remember that relationships require you to attune to feelings also, no matter why they are occurring in you or the other person.
4. Avoiding your own feelings, and especially strong feelings of others expressed during conflict, has probably been a life-long pattern for you. Of course you do have feelings, but may well think that feelings are just annoying and shouldn’t be given too much attention. You are unlikely to have noticed that the world is a collection of feelings, and that when these are felt, your style tends to override them with logic. This is a disaster when it comes to relationships, because people relate according to what feels good, and shy away from what doesn’t. Feelings, then, are a barometer for what is happening in a relationship, and only by taking notice of them can a relationship get back on track. Key feelings you probably feel a lot include shame, fear of failure, inadequacy, despondency, defensiveness, pressure to perform or succeed and hurt. You will very likely only get angry when your frustration or pressure to complete a task or support others reaches a crescendo, or your partner insists on being ‘illogical’ or 'nagging'.
5. Having things sorted and well organised tends to matter more to you than having a happy partner. Thus, your type can tend towards being rather controlling or strong on who should be doing what. You may well get concerned when ducks are not lined up as they should be, and can ride roughshod over those who seem to be lax or are more concerned about talking things through. Your strength is usually in being organised (in some ways but not necessarily all ways), but you have to ask yourself what price you may pay in your relationships when being sorted, and being ‘right’, persists as a priority. Consider allowing more disorder if harmony is a consequential benefit. Being mister 'right' never helped any relationship.
6. Avoidants can seem hard, uncaring and unfeeling when they are resistant and defensive.
Your type of person can pull back, get very logical, and easily lose your empathy and compassion. This can dig you into a deeper hole when it comes to relating. Your partner may be left feeling even more alone, ignored, unloved, uncared for and initially upset and ultimately angry. The way forward is to stay engaged and as open hearted as possible. Come back as soon as possible from being resistant or defensive, recognise that you’re in no danger of being emotionally overwhelmed really, and try to connect with warmth, touch or caring and loving gestures.
7. Giving up fixing the problems of others and just listening to them is a ‘must’ for avoidants. Because they are so task focused, this personality style naturally tries to fix concerns their partners have. More often than not, partners are not wanting their problems to be fixed. They may be wanting their feelings to be heard, understood and empathised with. Avoidants can turn their fixing skills to fixing through quality listening, especially to how their partner is feeling, and how they might want to be supported. Note that your partner probably feels a lot of hurt, sadness, anxiety about connection, fear for the relationship, and fearful of your seeming disinterest in them.
8. Most avoidants can learn to listen both to their own feelings and those of their partner. It’s just that this skill is usually somewhat unpractised. If your partner is wanting their feelings to be heard, reflected and taken seriously, then reflective listening will make a big difference to the relationship. But this might seem something of a challenge and it may require practice to transform from being an emotional runner to an emotional stayer and listener. When avoidants come to appreciate the pivotal role of feelings in a relationship, they can start to work with them. Most partners of avoidants will appreciate you talking about yourself and what’s going on in your world, especially how you feel about your life, about them, and about being with them.
9.Your partner will want to be heard more than anything else. Allowing your partner to be heard and taking steps to hear your partner's emotional process is crucial for a conflict free relationship. Your partner is unlikely to be damaged or needing to be fixed just because of emotional reactions. The anxious insecure style views their world through their feelings, and usually wants these to be heard and taken seriously. This style usually settles down emotionally when heard and genuinely connected with empathically. If you find yourself reacting to these emotions, remind yourself that your partner's reactivity has its roots in childhood. Your current interactions are just triggering these.
10. Know that avoidants want quality, meaningful, heart-felt relationships, but often don’t realize this until they no longer have one. Never let tasks, work and other distractions dominate your life. Deep down you want to love and be loved, nurture and be nurtured. Make sure you bring balance to your life so that your primary relationship is given the time it needs. You are not likely to be happier without a partner whom you can love and be loved by. On your deathbed, one more day of quality relating would mean more to you than one more day of accomplishments.
11. Avoidants have a high need for ‘alone’ time. We all have personal needs which we must attend to, and high amongst these for this personality type is the need for time out, time alone. This means down time, exercise time, relaxing time, hobby time, and so on. If you don’t get enough alone time, you may feel that the relationship is overwhelming and swallowing you up. Talk to your partner about how to balance alone time, relationship time, family time and work time. Don't let alone time dominate though to the point that your partner feels like a widow (er). Your partner is with you so that you can do quality things together. Don't take them for granted - your partner will not be enjoying being with you if there is not enough of you in the relationship. Seek balance.
12. In order to come back from your cave after a time of feeling defensive, resistant, pressured, inadequate, angry or stuck, undertake an activity that lifts your feelings. Activities like walking may help, but you may still find yourself ruminating about what went wrong with your partner. Try an activity such as listening to uplifting music, reading a good book, or looking at a TV program that moves you. It must be something that changes a down mood to an uplifting mood. Then you will be in a better space to talk with your partner. Don't try talking if either of you are still reactive, but don't indulge in lots of time wallowing in your cave either. Both your partner and your relationship require quality connection time, and healing chats if there have been meltdowns. Remember - just listen to where your partner is at, as well as express where things are at for you.
13. Discuss and meet those needs that will help you avoid these unresourceful emotional states. Reflect on what it is in your relationship that is not working for you, and when you’re feeling better, take steps to let your partner know what it is you are wanting that didn’t happen when you got upset. Allow time to tune in to your needs, wants and preferences, and take time to practice communicating these constructively. Withdrawing for long periods, stonewalling, ignoring or minimizing the desire of your partner to make up and move forward constructively will be disastrous for the survival of your relationship.
14. Anxious insecure personality types may be difficult for you to understand or get on with. That is until you appreciate and work with each other's personality differences. Differences are OK and a factor that brought you together in the first place. While neither you nor the anxious person can change your underlying personality traits, you can each choose new ways of behaving that bridges gaps and works with the differences. You will need a down to earth sensible rational discussion (where no-one is being emotional) about this in order to know how to proceed in future.
15. Attend to any violent or abusive behaviours immediately. A word of warning. Some avoidants can easily slide into power games. These might involve angry outbursts, short or long term bouts of violence, or other controlling, abusive, manipulative or coercive behaviours. While this may be the behaviour of a minority, it is behaviour that will sabotage any relationship. Few relationships survive any of these. Address these behaviours ASAP and get support to stop them - you will not be likely to succeed in a relationship with anyone if you allow these childhood abusive patterns expression in your adult life.