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Understand your marriage relationship - and what women want and don't want
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 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 ‘anxious’ style of relating, the most common relating style that women resort to under relationship stress.
‘Anxious Insecure’ Personality Type
“My strength is my ability to connect with others whom I love and care for.”
You will know your style is ‘anxious’ by the fact that a lack of connection or harmony with those that you love leaves you feeling desperate to restore that connection and harmony as soon as possible. More likely a woman than a man, you will get very upset during conflict if you are not listened to, taken seriously, and really heard at an emotional level. You will feel hurt easily and often, especially if your need to be listened to is not met, and may get frustrated or even angry when your partner continues to fail to ‘get you’ and may even pursue him in order to reconnect. Eventually, if you feel hurt or fearful of rejection enough, you may put up a wall, or just back off. If you’ve done this, you’ve evolved into an Anxious-Avoidant Insecure Personality Type.
1. Your strength of being connected to your feelings will not be seen as a strength by many others. Your personality type risks being ‘over the top’ emotionally because your feelings are so strong. When these feelings reach fever pitch, there may not be much understanding from others. Feelings of hurt, sadness, despair, rejection, loneliness and fear are all asking you to act on your own behalf to work out a solution. If this doesn’t happen, there will most likely be a sharp rise in your emotional temperature. See your strong feelings as a strength, and learn to express them in a way which does not overwhelm others. This is most successfully achieved by voicing hurt and sadness without letting your feelings head off into resentment and anger. Don’t allow hurt and upset to evolve into resentment and have this then undermine the love you would prefer to feel.
2. You may be possessed by a desire to pursue your partner in order to get resolution, only to see him/her head off into the sunset. Notice that when you get more worked up, you inadvertently distance yourself from others, and reduce the likelihood of either achieving either harmony or connection. Instead of pursuing, invite your partner to agree to a way of both sitting down to talk through your differences once you’ve both had time to settle down. It is a strength to want to connect and work things out, but only if you don’t frighten your partner off first.
3. You might need to explain that if your feelings are listened to, you can better connect to your own needs and knowing. Your partner is unlikely to know this, and may even have to be helped to learn how to reflect your feelings, thus enabling you to reflect on what you are needing and wanting to ask for. Explain also that for you it is essential to have your feelings heard and validated, and that this then allows you to come to your own conclusions about what you are wanting for yourself. You can come to your own decisions, but only after your emotions are settled and the emotional static is cleared from your mind and a way ahead formulates itself within you.
4. Notice that logical argument, especially during conflict, doesn’t work well for you. It is feeling that makes sense, and reasoned debate can leave you confused, exhausted and at odds with yourself. What probably matters most to you is how you and others feel towards each other, not what makes rational sense, is right, better or correct. However, because some issues do require rational discussion, you will be best able to participate in that once your emotions are settled and you have felt heard.
5. You may well feel inadequate or wrong when you’re emotional, because you may have grown up with people who criticised your emotional style. Thus, you can very easily give up on yourself when in an argument, feeling as though no one cares or understands. You may even feel judgmental towards yourself when you get emotional. You can overcome this pattern by taking time out and supporting your feelings and yourself, knowing that they are both OK and also very functional. Never give up on yourself, no matter how inadequate, wrong or frustrated you may feel. Your feelings are both your guide and your responsibility. No-one can make you feel anything. So take time out to sit with and calm your feelings before communicating.
6. You may have to explain to your partner, that s/he is most lovable and helpful to you when s/he is connecting with you at a heart level. The only time a relationship feels good to you is when your partner feels warm towards you, and cares about how you feel. No matter what the debate or conflict is about, it is this quality connection that cements the relationship for you. Help your partner to know that this quality connection is what you most seek, and that you can discuss matters logically (or talk about sex) once emotional connection has been prioritized.
7. Although you have a high need for relationship time (with partner, kids, or friends), know that for balanced mental health you must prioritize ‘alone’ time. While you love relating, you can easily get overwhelmed looking after others at your own expense. It is easy for you to slip into rescuing others. Support yourself to have time doing what you love, just for you. Overcome any ‘selfish’ feelings that might get in the way and bring balance into your life. Once you learn to put yourself first, you will become more empowered to express your needs, wants and preferences in general.
8. One of your prime needs is likely to be to spend quality time with your partner. It may surprise you that not everyone thinks this way, but often anxious types become strung out if they get insufficient time with their beloved. Don’t expect him/her to know this. Ask for your need to be met – before your frustration builds to resentment or anger. Your partner will hear you better when you are cool calm and collected when you can express your needs clearly.
9. Learn your preferred style of feeling loved and ask for it. You may prefer to be given things, told how much you are loved, given touch such as hugs or a held hand, have things done for you, quality time with you made a priority, or a combination of these. Learn the love language you most enjoy. Express your needs to your partner, and certainly don’t assume they ‘should' know. Feeling loved is a priority for you, because it is what you most seek from life. However, if your partner expresses love to you in the way they would most like it given to them, there may be a mismatch and therefore a misunderstanding occurring.
10. Undertake an activity that will help you settle your emotions. Notice that your urgent desire to communicate, even if you do so whilst screamingly angry, destroys the relationship. Instead, take time out and act in ways which soothe you and care for your feelings. This could include unwinding by talking to a friend, or writing down on paper something to later hand to your partner. If you get too anxious about connection with your beloved, you could easily slip into becoming angry or becoming distant.
11. You may find yourself feeling disempowered in your relationship. Because reasoning is not your first port of call, and for ‘avoidants’ it is, you may feel that your partner constantly ‘wins’ arguments by sounding more reasonable and sensible. It is therefore easy for you to feel overwhelmed, minimised, ignored or sidelined when you argue with others. Support your feeling backed perspective. It is neither wrong, inferior nor illogical, and don’t get caught in arguments based on reason. If you tend to meet argument with argument, reflect on whether this pattern actually benefits you.
12. When both you and your partner are in a settled resourceful state, talk. You will want to discuss your needs, wants and preferences and be heard by your partner. Let them know how you can best support your viewpoints and felt perspectives, and how they might be able to support you expressing these. Ensure you both discuss how conflict arises, and what you can both do to circumvent it in future.
13. Rejection or abandonment may be big for you. Not all anxious types experience this, but if you do, it will be a big part of your emotional experience. These overwhelming feelings may leave you feeling alone and devastated, but they have their origins in childhood, not in this relationship. You must ask for support and comfort without accusing anyone else for your emotional reactivity. You can reach out for support, but your partner is unlikely to understand what it is you experience much less what you need. You may feel vulnerable asking, but it is the only way to break this pattern and come in from the emotional cold.
14. Avoidant 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. While neither you nor the avoidant person can change their underlying behavioural type, you can choose new ways of behaving that bridges and works with the differences. It is essential for you that your partner hears how you tick, and can support you, and you them.
15. If you find yourself screaming at your partner, saying abusive things, or just being nasty, it is YOUR job to stop this. While this is a pattern in only a small percentage of anxious insecure types, it is highly destructive and will sabotage the partnership. Remind yourself that no-one can make you react without your permission. This is your childhood trauma revisiting you, but you may be convinced that it is not your fault but caused by your partner. However, your emotional reactivity is ALWAYS about you. Even someone in an abusive relationship who is not so reactive would walk away or in some way take care of themselves. That would be harder for an abusive anxious insecure person because they would fear the disconnection. Thus, anger replaces skilfully chosen methods of self-care.
'Anxious-Avoidant' Insecure Personality Type
“I like connection, but it feels too scary for me to engage.”
This style is a variation of the Anxious Insecure type, but may not feel like it. Mostly a female style, it develops when connection feels too scary, too hard, too risky, or you've just given up. Some with this style know they’ve pulled back from their partner or put up walls. However, others will only recognise that they fit the ‘avoidant’ description more than the ‘anxious’ style, and may have even learned as youngster not to get too close to people. However, a strong desire for connection and closeness hints that your preference is not to remain distant and cut-off from your partner.
1. Your natural style is the ‘anxious insecure’ style described above. However, you will notice a lot of fear about relating closely. You may also notice that when conflict occurs, you pull away or close down very quickly. Too much conflict, hurt, resentment, frustration or anger has turned you off.
2. The feeling of fear of your partner(s)has been a big part of your life. So practised are you at avoiding close connection, you may fail to notice that fear of closeness is dominating any relating you would prefer to be doing. It is essential that you recognise the fear of rejection, or any readiness to reject and be critical of yourself. You must learn to support yourself no matter what, so that if you do get rejected, you don’t take it personally, but know that this sometimes happens when people don’t understand one another.
3. You may feel incomplete or alone a lot. Inevitably, aloneness will be a consequence of this pattern. Know though that these feelings are asking you to support yourself by connecting with others. Be choosy who you connect with, and be sure that they have relational skills to talk things through, rather than push people away when conflict arises.
4. Let your partner know why you are pulling away. Your partner won't have ESP, he'll need to be told. Choose a moment when you and he are not at war, and explain to him that you feel too fearful to connect anymore. Explain that you want to feel heard and appreciated, even if he disagrees with your feelings or viewpoint. Know that your feelings are precious, and communicate these to those you love if at all possible. Expression of feelings is your lifeline.
5. Practice getting closer to your partner (or others) in safe situations. Choose friends who demonstrate functional relating, so that you can risk connection with what appears to be people with sound relationship skills. Practice talking about yourself, and learn to embrace and support that part of self that gets fearful being vulnerable to your partner. Once you practice and succeed at supporting yourself, you will become aware that you have the capacity to do this no matter what others throw at you.
6. Take steps to communicate the impact aggressive people have on you. If you are avoiding closeness with a partner for fear of reprisals, let them know (in a non-blaming way) that you’ve pulled back because of behaviours of theirs that you find difficult to work with. Let them know your struggle to connect with them, and the fear their style of relating brings up in you. This doesn’t mean that either their style or yours is wrong (unless they are being abusive or addictive). It’s simply the interactive dynamic that causes you to close down and limit closeness.
7. Notice if you are overreacting fearfully to a threat that is long gone. If you’ve had an abusive past, you may be fearing it will rear up in the present. Notice if you are reacting to a threat that isn’t what your fear claims it might be. Breathe into the fear you feel, connect and communicate in ways that your partner can hear. Ask for support from your partner when these fears and self-doubts arise, and explain that you fear his response, or fear his disinterest, or whatever it may be you fear from him. If your partner is abusive, addictive or disempowering you, you could seek professional support for finding a way forward.
8. Avoidant 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 styles. While neither you nor the avoidant person can change their underlying behavioural type, you can choose new ways of behaving that bridges and works with the differences. It is essential for you that your partner hears how you tick, and can support you. Without this, you will not feel safe to come out of your shell and engage with them.
9. It's in your interest not to stay in this stuck place. You won't enjoy being in this closed-down state, you will feel disempowered, and you certainly won't feel happy. So don't allow this pattern to continue, because you risk having it eat away at your self-esteem. You will not only close down to him, but risk closing down to yourself and to your life. Expressing your feelings, your truth, your experience of the other, and your unhappiness at the situation and desire to be supported to be who you are will all help you escape this unpleasant trap. If this doesn't feel safe to do, you will require support from somewhere to get unstuck.