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Ask Eleanor, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 1517
Experience:  Marriage & Family Therapist/Prof. Counselor for 20 years
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Anxious/Avoidant Relationship

Customer Question

I am 32 never been married have no children. My boyfriend is 48 divorced and has a child. I am an anxious atachment style. He is an avoidant. We both trigger each other. I am in therapy as my anxiety has gotten strong with in the last 2 years. I would like to know what I am doing/not doing that causes him to trigger his avoidant behaviour and in turn triggers my anxiety. We have gotten better since I have started therapy and since he has done is own forms of self improvement. I have trust issues. He has fear of intimacy. (he says he doesnt) Can anyone help with this?

Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Elliott, LPCC, NCC replied 1 year ago.

Elliott, LPCC, NCC :

Seeking expert counseling is a sign of strength. A personal relationship with a caring professional is proven clinically effective.

Elliott, LPCC, NCC :

Dear friend,

Elliott, LPCC, NCC :

I believe that I can help.

Elliott, LPCC, NCC :

This is a difficult combination: you anxious attachment style and his avoidant attachment style. You need intimate and supportive relationships that are stable and long lasting. His lack of emotional availability may be suffocating to you.


 

Elliott, LPCC, NCC :

This said, people with anxious attachment style often date people with avoidant attachment styles because these people, lacking in relationships are often more available than others.


 

Elliott, LPCC, NCC :

He probably did not know your style before you started dating, and you did not know his, which is why you have tried this difficult combination.


 

Elliott, LPCC, NCC :

Now that you are already in this relationship how can you try to make this work better?


 

Customer:

yes that is the question

Elliott, LPCC, NCC :

You must first recognize and verbalize your mutual needs in this relationship


 

Customer:

we have been together for 5 years off and on since we have a "cycle" lol

Elliott, LPCC, NCC :

Tell him that you need to feel secure in this relationship.


 

Elliott, LPCC, NCC :

Communicate effectively with him before the fact rather than complaining after the fact of being let down.


Elliott, LPCC, NCC :

If he is not willing to give you the intimacy that you seek then you will have to change your expectations. This may mean giving up your dream of closer intimacy and this may be too much for you to bear to remain in this relationship.

Elliott, LPCC, NCC :

Are you willing to remain in this relationship at all costs?

Customer:

I am willing to do what I need for us to have a healthy relationship. We both are aware that we have issues. We both are aware that we need to communicate.

Customer:

so basically I need to communicate more?

Customer:

not expect him to be a mind reader?

Elliott, LPCC, NCC :

And your therapy is teaching you that?

Customer:

yes but the question I was asking was what is it that i am doing or not doing that is causing us to do this dance?

Customer:

I know I get needy and I get needy when he feels disengagged sooooo how do I stop that before hand? would communicating be the thing? Saying hey Need you to do xyz or saying can you do xyz for me?

Elliott, LPCC, NCC :

You are not doing anything. Your existence in a relationship does this to him. You are looking to take responsibility for his issues that you have no control over. That is a problem that you must face and overcome.

Customer:

what problem?

Elliott, LPCC, NCC :

His nature of being afraid of or avoiding intimacy. Is this a problem?

Customer:

yes he does this but as an avoidant and anxious attachment style relationship there are things that each trigger in eachother isnt there?

Customer:

I mean I know that when he distances himself I get anxious. When he does on his trip with his son and doesnt call me to tell me he arrived safe (mostly becuase I want to ensure their safety my there is abandonment) it makes me needy. Soooo if he called me when he arrived It wouldnt trigger me

Customer:

fear is abandonment*

Elliott, LPCC, NCC :

This is thoughtfulness and lack of real concern for you. It is common courtesy.

Elliott, LPCC, NCC :

You have a right to feel abandoned.

Customer:

yes ok so that is an example. So in a situation like that Do i just say I would like you to call me when you arrive?

Customer:

that is what my therapist says. he says im not acting out of line. So the thing to do is to ask him in advance for what I need then?

Elliott, LPCC, NCC :

Why would you have to remind him to consider your feelings?

Customer:

ok so what is your advise then?

Elliott, LPCC, NCC :

Do you think you can train him to care? There is a difference between teaching him how to act appropriately in given situations, on the one hand, and knowing without having to be trained, that others have feelings and needs that should be met.

Elliott, LPCC, NCC :

What are your options?

Customer:

so you are saying that my existance in the relationship is a problem and his in mine is a problem? are you saying that there is no hope for us?

Elliott, LPCC, NCC :

I do not know the limits of your needs and patience and that is why I asked you about your options.

Customer:

I needed to have written my question clearer. My fault. I just wanted to know what am I doing/not doing and he doing/not doing that is causing us to trigger each other.

Customer:

I have chosen to want to make this work.

Elliott, LPCC, NCC :

Then the answer is clear. Put up with his shortcomings and don't have so many expectations from him. He may never change profoundly. If he is enough the way he is then you must accept him.

Customer:

I have decided that this is the person I want to spend the rest of my life with. I know there are things that are not going to be normal. Like with me I have a fear of abandonment big time. I know that if I see a relative call that I havent heard from in a long time I instantly get nervous and anxious thinking something is wrong. I know I will always have that fear underlining in my life. So yes there are things about him that I will have to accept and do. He likes his autonomy

Elliott, LPCC, NCC :

What does your therapist advise?

Customer:

how familiar are you with attachment styles?

Customer:

communication. asking for things point blank

Customer:

saying what I need and feel

Elliott, LPCC, NCC :

I understand how attachment works.

Elliott, LPCC, NCC :

And does saying what you need and feel make a difference?

Customer:

yes

Elliott, LPCC, NCC :

Then you are making headway?

Customer:

I honestly am feeling more anxious than I did before I started chatting

Elliott, LPCC, NCC :

The purpose of the chat is for self-exploration. What have you found in this chat to make you feel more anxious? I am sorry but I am just trying to get you to talk about your situation.

Customer:

i understand. I feel like i had a question and it's not getting answered. There isnt a book or video out there except for 1 that shows you what people do/dont do that trigger their partners. I wish there was something out there that showed this becuase it would be helpful to know what I do and what he does that make us trigger.

Elliott, LPCC, NCC :

He is triggered by feeling a relationship closing in on him and he doesn't really feel totally comfortable with it. You are triggered by his lack of apparent regard and attention for you, which is something you crave and he does not supply.

Customer:

why are relationships so much work? Disney llied

Customer:

ok so then what if we talked about it?

Elliott, LPCC, NCC :

Some people mix together better than others.

Elliott, LPCC, NCC :

Who is "we"? You and your boyfriend or you and I having this discussion?

Customer:

me & bf\

Customer:

havent seen anyone who has an easy relationship they are all work.

Customer:

anyone who expects them to be easy peasy would be living in fantasy I would presume

Elliott, LPCC, NCC :

Talking about things doesn't mean changing feelings or needs. Some relationships are easier than others. Some are superficial. Some are between self-reliant people who do not need much from the other.

Elliott, LPCC, NCC :

I think that relationships should be profound and involve each person trying to engage and fulfill the other in a mutual way. Not everyone would agree with that, but I think that my idea and sensibility about relationships are fairly similar.

Elliott, LPCC, NCC :

fairly similar with your ideas, that is.

Customer:

my ideas?

Customer:

what ideas?

Elliott, LPCC, NCC :

Your needs, then.

Customer:

ok so going back through this stuff that you have written I only see that

Customer:


Elliott, LPCC, NCC says:

9:12 PM



He is triggered by feeling a relationship closing in on him and he doesn't really feel totally comfortable with it. You are triggered by his lack of apparent regard and attention for you, which is something you crave and he does not supply.






Customer:

is the closest to answering my question. Well I appreciate your time. I figure I need to search for a book on amazon for these answers that I am seeking

Elliott, LPCC, NCC :

I may be able to help you with a book on relationships by Gottman.

Elliott, LPCC, NCC :

It is the best one out there. Give me a moment and I will find the link.

Customer:

no its ok

Customer:

Ill search for something on attachment styles. I like point blank answers so next time I will send out point blank questions

Elliott, LPCC, NCC :

What is a point blank answer?

Customer:

direct straight to the point answer. What color is a banana- Yellow. Point blank answer :-)

Customer:

maybe I need to ask questions directly like How do I help my significant other open up intimaty? That kind of thing \

Customer:

We can lose ourselves in transalation especially online

Customer:

sorry If I wasnt clearer

Customer:

Elliott I appreciate your willingness to help but I feel like I didnt get my answer. I would like to thank you for your time but would like another expert to help me I may just need to refine my question

Expert:  Ask Eleanor replied 1 year ago.

Hello, I am a Marriage and Family Therapist and have been working with couples, married or not, for 20 years. The two of you are doing what is known as the dance of the Pursuer/Distancer, the more anxious and needy you get (the more you pursue him emotionally) the more he distances himself from you. Many couples do this dance; the answer is to change the dance steps. Right now you are leading emotionally and that is not working, not getting you the attention you want from him. So if you can stop pursuing him, stop leading in the dance, he will come closer to you emotionally, start leading. This will require a lot of trust on your part, but ask yourself if what you are doing now is working. Of course, the best thing for the two of you would be couples therapy, preferably with a Marriage and Family Therapist, who could help you work through this and any other issues. You may search for MFTs where you live at www.therapistlocator.net or www.psychologytoday.com. You can also Google "Pursurer/Distancer" to get immediate information about the dance two or you are doing right now. I think you will find it interesting. I hope this helps. Chat back if you have any questions. I wish you and your bf all the best, XXXXX XXXXX Eleanor

Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Yes I found this information to be good. Do they have examples on what the persuer does and should not do vise versa?

Expert:  Ask Eleanor replied 1 year ago.
Yes, in general, the pursuer needs to stop questioning the distancer as to why he/she has not called, etc., just be happy to hear from them when they do. I know it is difficult, but you need to try and be less anxious and less demanding of your bf. I think you will be surprised at what will happen if you can let go a bit. You need to give him the opportunity to miss you, to want to contact you, to pursue your attention and affection. Here is an excellent book you may purchase on Amazon, it is expensive, but they sell them used: http://www.amazon.com/Intrusive-Partners-Elusive-Pursuer-Distancer-Dynamic/dp/0415948010 It will be filled with examples. Hope this helps, take care, Eleanor
Ask Eleanor, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 1517
Experience: Marriage & Family Therapist/Prof. Counselor for 20 years
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Marriage & Family Therapist/Prof. Counselor for 20 years