There are so many reasons why someone might avoid intimacy.
Whatever the reason, if your partner is avoiding physical closeness, it probably feels pretty frustrating.
Even if they like you and enjoy spending time with you, they will feel much safer if they know that you won’t leave them first.
Here are 11 smart ways to communicate with your avoidant partner effectively.
1) Talk about your feelings.
Communication is the key to any healthy relationship. That goes double if one of you is an avoidant attachment type.
Avoidant individuals often have a difficult time expressing their emotions, even if they feel them.
That can cause them to either be unaware of their own emotions at the moment or feel like they need to shut them down entirely to avoid being “too needy” or “too dependent” on their partner .
As you probably know by now, the best way to get a feel for your partner’s point of view is to talk.
This means that you actually need to listen to what they’re saying, rather than jumping into a conversation with your point of view.
When you take the time to truly listen and understand how they feel, you will be much more able to connect with them on an emotional level.
Getting into a habit of talking about your feelings together might sound like a tall order, but it can be as easy as saying, “I’m feeling frustrated when you don’t respond to my texts.”
Or, “I’m feeling sad when you don’t initiate intimacy with me.” Getting in the habit of being emotionally honest with your partner can help them feel more comfortable expressing their own emotions as well.
2) Be patient and gentle.
As an anxious or avoidant partner might be more likely to act out of fear, frustration, or anxiousness, it may be best to start off gentle in your approach.
If they’ve just been triggered or are still experiencing the aftermath of the initial emotional reaction, now is not the time to go in with a heavy hand.
Try to keep your voice soft and even with a soothing tone. Sometimes, just being there for them without judgment is enough to settle the storm.
Yes, you read that right.
If you feel that it would be helpful to talk about what happened, be sure to choose your words carefully.
Avoiding partners often have a difficult time trusting their emotions and thoughts, as they may have been accused of “being too sensitive” or “overreacting” in the past.
That’s why being patient with them and approaching the situation gently will help them associate talking about their emotions with positive feelings.
This can help let your avoidant partner know that they are not the only one experiencing their emotions.
If you have tried asking your avoidant partner about things that have happened in the past and they still remain closed off, then you may want to try being yourself instead of trying to change your behavior or personality in order to get them more intimate.
If you’re in the middle of a fight and your partner is showing signs of shut-down, silence, or withdrawal, you’ll likely be better off waiting until they are feeling a bit more open or less emotionally charged before initiating a discussion.
This may mean that you have to let go of your desire to have things resolved right away.
3) Show them that you trust them.
Avoidants want relationships that are secure and reliable. They need to know that you are not going anywhere, no matter what.
As a partner, you may be feeling neglected, hurt, and ignored by your avoidant partner.
If so, it’s important to remember that these are the fears their avoidant style of attachment is designed to protect them from experiencing.
It can be incredibly healthy to help your partner process these fears in the way they are afraid they will be.
Build trust by showing them that you have their backs, no matter what.
If you notice that you’re avoiding conversations or remaining silent when your avoidant partner is clearly upset, reevaluate your role in the relationship and start showing them how important they are to you.
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4) Ask for what they want.
Avoidant individuals are generally uncomfortable with showing vulnerability and “needing” others.
Asking for what you want can come off as needy or confrontational, depending on the way it’s presented.
As if that’s not enough.
Asking questions such as, “What do you think we should do?” or, “What do you want to do?” can open the door for them to express their thoughts and feelings.
When an avoidant partner does start talking about what’s bothering them, consider validating their feelings.
Some avoidants might have learned that sharing their emotions is not a safe thing to do.
If you want to discuss the relationship or your future together, consider saying something like:
“I have an idea I wanted to run by you – I know you’re not ready to talk about commitment yet, but I just want to make sure we’re on the same page about where things are headed in our relationship.”
If you’re in bad ignorance with your avoidant partner, and they’re not trying to cool things down, consider asking them to do something specific — like come over to help with the dishes or call a friend.
These types of requests may seem small, but they can help make a huge difference in reinforcing that you want to repair the relationship.
It’ll also provide your partner with an opportunity to show you that they want to repair the relationship as well.
5) Set boundaries and maintain them.
Avoidant individuals often struggle with setting boundaries — especially if they’ve been raised in an environment where setting boundaries was considered “rude.”
If you notice that your partner has a hard time setting boundaries and maintaining them, it can be helpful to gently remind them what their boundaries are.
For example, if you’ve been together for several months and they haven’t clarified that you’re exclusive, it might be good to gently ask them if they want or need to make it official.
If they say no, respect their wishes and back off. That way they will know what the boundaries are in your relationship so they will not feel violated.
Consider waiting until you’re in a calmer state to set some boundaries with your partner.
You might say something like, “I would like it if you’d text me back when I text you,” or, “I would appreciate it if you’d initiate intimacy with me more often.”
If your partner ignores those boundaries, let them know that you’re still setting them — and why you’re setting them.
This can help your partner to re-enforce the boundaries they set for themselves — which can also help them feel more secure in the relationship.
6) Don’t push too hard or give up too easily.
It can be easy to fall into one extreme or the other when you’re dealing with an avoidant partner.
You might be tempted to push too hard, too fast — demanding an explanation from your partner for their behavior, accusing them of being distant or uninterested, or just generally being pushy.
Or you might find yourself trying to go so soft that you’re afraid to confront the issue at all.
Either of these extremes can be damaging in the long run.
Pushing too hard, too fast can be overwhelming to your partner and make them feel even more trapped in the relationship — which can lead to them trying to escape the relationship even sooner.
Meanwhile, going too soft can make your partner feel like they don’t have to be accountable for their actions.
7) Confront the problem directly and don’t be vague.
If you’re having a fight with your avoidant partner, and you want them to confront their own emotions , work on confronting their issues from your side.
This can be very challenging, but it will make them more comfortable in the relationship when you confront the real issue — rather than being vague on what you think is wrong or poking around for “evidence” for them to show you what’s wrong.
Avoidants often have a hard time sharing their own emotions or admitting that they made a mistake.
In order for them to feel comfortable, consider asking them questions that allow them to talk about their feelings without being labeled as oversensitive and confronting the problem directly.
If you’ve been feeling ignored or neglected for a while, say something like, “When you’re not initiating with me, it makes me feel like I don’t matter enough to you to be important.”
Or, if their lack of communication has left you feeling confused and unsure about the future of your relationship, say something like, “When you don’t tell me how you feel or what you want in the future, it makes me feel like you don’t have faith in us.”
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8) Send love and care via text or email.
If your partner is particularly shut-down and unresponsive, consider sending them a text or email reminding them that you love them.
Compassionate messages, for example:
“I’m worried about you. Are you OK?” and “I know we’re having a hard time in this relationship, but I hope we can get it back on track soon. Love you!”
I know the feeling.
It can be an important way to show your partner that they are loved and cared for.
This can help them feel more secure in the relationship — and show them that they’re not alone.
It can also give them something to hold onto during a time when they may be feeling particularly emotionally overwhelmed.
9) Set a time limit to have the conversation face-to-face.
As much as you may want to, you can’t always have all of your important conversations over text or email.
And if you’re trying to start a conversation with your avoidant partner, you may want to force them to start sooner rather than later.
However, if you know you’re about to start a confrontation with your partner, consider giving them a time limit for how long you’ll wait for them to respond.
However long you set the time limit, make sure you stick to it.
If your partner doesn’t respond within the time limit, end the conversation as gently as you can and leave them with something like:
“I wanted to talk with you, but we’ve been waiting for a while now, and you don’t seem to be coming back anytime soon. I apologize for bringing it up when you’re too upset to have a calm, rational conversation.”
10) Work towards growth
Compromise is required for the relationship to flourish. You and your partner might have to give up some of your personal space to make things work.
Given the characteristics of individuals with avoidant attachment styles, it is not easy for them to show their emotions, but you can both work towards this.
You can also try and offer comfort or support when you detect some change in your partner’s behavior.
Try to understand their point of view and help them by providing reassurance.
Think about it this way:
Maintaining a healthy relationship requires time and effort on both sides, so do not give up yet.
Similarly, your partner may need to push himself to be closer at times than he might like. Long-term avoidance and anxiety in a relationship can lead to increased security.
Seek support, whether individual or marital therapy, if you both find yourselves in a bind.
11) Don’t take their behavior personally.
Last but not least, one of the most important things you can do if you’re in a relationship with an avoidant partner is remember: it’s not about you.
Depending on their history and how they were raised, your partner may have difficulty opening up, initiating intimacy, and expressing their emotions to you.
However, that doesn’t mean that they don’t love you or want to be with you — and every effort shouldn’t be made to try and get them to change
A review of the scientific literature from 2008 found that “avoidant attachment is, in general, considered an adaptive strategy for uncertain or changing life circumstances”.
And more studies than before indicate that an avoidant attachment style is associated with “relational stability”.
This may be largely out of their control.
Don’t take it personally — and do everything you can to avoid assuming that your partner doesn’t want to be with you or isn’t attracted to you.
Taking their behavior personally can lead to unnecessary arguments and frustration for you both — not to mention it can cause you to miss the opportunity to support your partner in the best way you can.
When you’re in a relationship with an avoidant partner, understanding
Despite the challenges that many people face when in relationships, it’s important to remember that a key sign of any relationship is that both parties are willing to communicate their needs and wants.
Whether you’re in a healthy relationship or struggling with an avoidant partner, it’s important to remember that your partner will be able to better meet your needs if you are able to communicate them clearly and directly.
But for many, that’s easier said than done.
Avoidant individuals often have a difficult time sharing their thoughts and feelings, and may fear being judged as “needy” or “controlling.”
That’s why it can be extremely helpful to take a few moments during your routine conversations to have a heart-to-heart chat about those topics.
This way, you can help your partner see the benefits of being open and vulnerable while also helping yourself by gaining emotionally-secure, meaningful relationships with others.