The insecurity and unknown burrows into your brain like a parasite, constantly clawing at you and never relenting. You hate the feelings of the unknown that cause the tightness in your chest, that choke your throat. You try to speak to them but it never comes out right, it never comes out as the way that you think it should sound. It’s always muted. It’s so hard to know what to do, what to say… all you feel is doubt. You look for advice but nobody understands exactly what you’re going through, and you feel like you are alone.
The emotions are coming up. You can’t think of anyone else, you can’t do anything else. You can’t get them out. Do they feel the same way? Do other people feel this? Why can’t I just focus on other things? I’m scared. What if I get rejected? What if they laugh at me? I can’t deal with it. I just want them to like and appreciate me. Oh God why can’t someone like me for me? Can’t you just tell me that I’m OK as I am? I don’t want to make you angry or scare you off I just don’t know how to express myself. It’s not your fault it’s mine but I can’t help it. Do you understand? Do you know what I feel? Will you ever?
If I run away and don’t open up that will solve the problem, but I want that closeness so badly. I want the relationships with people. I want to get married. I want love. But I’m so god damn scared. I don’t understand why I feel this way. I don’t mean to hurt people or make them crazy it’s just what I think inside!
It’s better to stay safe and protected rather than risk getting hurt and deal with all these complexities. Welcome to a concise summary of the avoider mentality.
Exclusive Bonus: Download the checklist that shows you 9 common character traits someone displays when they’re affected by the avoider mentality.
Emotional Risk and Deep Relationships
In order to feel complex and deep emotions for someone in dating, we need to take risks. These risks start from when we get over our fears to walk up to them and introduce ourselves, with the possibility of rejection, to revealing that we love certain things, and risking them calling those same things childish, stupid, or boring. We take forms of risk asking them on a date, holding their hands, going for a kiss, asking them to meet our friends, taking off their clothes, having passionate sex, bringing up difficult subjects, arguing, proposing marriage…. the list goes on.
But, without being willing to deal with sadness, regret, remorse, depression, anger, frustration, and a wide range of negative emotions… without willing to risk potential hurt and abandonment… nothing on that list will ever happen. This leads to all that unknown insecurity, inability to express emotion, and fear of rejection.
Consider the avoider mentality a huge flight or fight response. Though even if there’s some fight involved, it usually moves to flight. Emotions are walled off so as to not feel vulnerable, leaving intimacy dead in the water.
The Unfortunate Origins of the Mentality
Beginning in childhood, the poisonous seed of the avoider mentality is planted: As a child cannot get their needs met when asking for them, or as they get rejected, they learn that they must rely on themselves alone to get what they desire. They cannot trust others, who will only say “No” or hurt them. It’s easier just to deal with things themselves then risk that.
Avoiders believe that they must rely on themselves alone to meet their own needs
The buried traumas of the past let avoiders function pretty effectively in their daily lives, at least at the surface. But the toxic effects surface in situations involving intimacy, aggression, abandonment, and fear. The unresolved past comes into play again and again, and there’s nothing the avoider can do about it if they are not conscious of the feelings.
The Avoider Mentality as it Plays Out in Intimate Relationships
Transferring into relationships (should they occur), the avoider stays quiet about many hard to face issues. Things that are irritating or large problems are internalized and stuffed away, versus being brought out.
Unfortunately, this strategy will ultimately fail. The emotions are released through one or many of the following non-exhaustive list of items:
- Violent physical outbursts
- Uncontrollable anger expressed verbally
- Withholding physicality and touching as well as sex
- Shutting down, refusing to talk
- Acting out sexually via affairs, prostitution, pornography
- Eventual divorce in marriages after repeated releases
You could classify the avoider mentality as a large amount of defences rolled into one complex milieu of mechanisms to prevent any further trauma. The “I don’t need you or want you” mentality isolates you from your own feelings and those of others. You live on the periphery of relationships, seeing others only as a means to an end. The abandonments from the past hurt too much that you can’t sustain anything further. Why open up. There’s no point. There are too many negative possibilities.
The crux of it is that there is an inability to love – both to feel it and to give it. It is not necessary that both are felt, or to the same degree, but one of the two is present.
Avoiders believe that they can handle things themselves and shouldn’t rely on anyone else, especially in hard times when support is needed. They believe that they should just suck up the pain and work through it themselves
The Honeymoon Phase
At the beginning of the relationship, there is the honeymoon phase where so many chemicals are being released that many logical issues in character traits are not apparent. It is only in the middle stages where the imperfections are seen that larger issues can begin to develop. One side may begin to pull away in the relationship; the one individual who feels engulfed while the other feels abandoned by this pull away. Complicating things is the fact that each person experiences their own set of emotions, and can think of each other as the abandoner or engulfer! In some cases the individual who distances themselves doesn’t notice, and the abandoner begins to feel like all the energy is coming from within to keep the relationship together.
This Relationship isn’t Moving Forward!
The avoider mindset can lead to stagnation and neutrality in relationships as well. While you can set goals that motivate you including for a relationship, one side wants the relationship to move forward, the other doesn’t. A case is built by the avoider to stop the relationship and to shut down their emotions, such as by being critical, finding faults in the other, and losing sexual interest. But is this the case? Asking certain questions can clarify this :
- Could it be that you have difficulty with insecurity, fear, and dependency?
- Is the partner filling an emotional hole in your life?
- Are you blaming your partner for other abandonments that you have experienced?
- Is the emotional neglect from the partner actually imagined and just left over from childhood?
- Does anger come out when the partner can’t instantly remove feelings of desperation and neediness?
Love and Vulnerability
The emotion of love makes us feel vulnerable. As emotions go deeper the other person starts to tread on past wounds and any pain left over from past abandonments. The insecurity can cause anger and make you direct the blame towards your partner.
You feel confused: you think you want out of the new relationship, but is it you or your partner causing the problem? If it’s you, then should you really leave? There are justifiable reasons for abandonment of another (alcoholic, abusive, etc.) versus perceived threats coming from your mind being projected outward in the form of insecurities, unrealistic expectations, and so on. The party that is more secure in terms of their attachment style enables the creation of a push-pull dynamic in terms of investment, further compounding the fears that the avoider feels. At any moment, they believe that they can be betrayed and so, their guard must be constantly up, lest they get shamed, abandoned, or hurt again.
To assuage these feelings, an avoider can move from relationship to relationship feeling the initial emotional highs of “falling in love” to medicate their feelings of loneliness, depression, and isolation…. but it’s only temporary. Once the relationship becomes more serious and as time goes on, the insecurities come out, and the avoider will want to leave based on all the issues that are coming up.
Body Changes in Relationships – Hormones in Play 
The unfortunate issue is that the avoider will never experience the power and rewards of a steady and stable long-term relationship. Powerful drugs in the body promote attachment to your partner-oxytocin, pheylethylamine, opioids, dopamine, and prolactin, as well as becoming addicted to each other’s pheromones. Activities such as sleeping together, cuddling, sex, touching, and thinking about the other person lead to mutual attachment. As two people’s psychobiological systems become melded, they create one interwoven neurohormonal system. During a breakup, the intertwined systems go haywire. The connecting wires are pulled apart and go off sparking. The wires are either put into another new relationship to prohibit the shock of pain and disconnection (in an unhealthy manner), or in remaining alone for a period of time, the brain continues to search for its lost object-the other half of your hormonal regulatory system.
Ironically, the fact that the relationship became a “mutual regulatory system” is most apparent when it breaks apart. The pain is the first sign that someone grew addicted to the other person. The addiction is biochemical: Each other’s pheromones are constantly breathed in, which are known to be habit forming. The couple’s pupils dilate in synchrony, breathing patterns synchronized, as is speech patterning and heart rhythms. One’s cognitive mind incorporated the other’s into a sense of future as well as in every aspect of your current life.
What is the Definition of “Love”?
A compounding issue is the societal definition of what “love” is. Love should be people staring at each other moon-eyed, writing sonnets, playing music for each other, having sex all night, never stopping to think about anything else but each other, never fighting, living in bliss, always calling each other… right? Some of that may be true, but that’s an ideal that doesn’t exist.
Love is not an absolute feeling. It is unique to the two people involved, which is what makes it so damn amazing. No love is ever the same between two people. It involves being vulnerable, honest, and taking risk. This can include:
- The reciprocal sharing of vulnerable feelings which builds intimacy and trust
- Not holding back, allowing energy to freely flow from partner to partner
- Creating new experiences with a partner that you can share – building a personal legacy not belonging to yourself alone, but to the relationship as a whole
- Talking honestly about feelings
The Truth Hurts, but Denial is what will Kill You
It is unfortunate that the avoider mentality hits the hardest in intimate relationships, but it can also extend to friends, work colleagues, and everyone that you know. You are scared of admitting true emotions, whether good or bad, and fear reprimand, abandonment, and negative emotions from the other party.
The core of this? You aren’t OK with yourself and place high value on what others think of you and what you do. You are prohibited from the true, un-filtered or watered down emotions you feel. And consequently…
Avoiders deny their feelings of vulnerability and longing for connection
In my last post on men and the laycount, I talked about guys running around fucking women versus being in long-term relationships. Avoiders can use casual sex as a means of running away as well. However, there is a dividing line that must be a established: An individual (man or woman, in this case) can consciously chose to have casual sex with one or several partners, getting their emotional needs met elsewhere and understanding that they won’t experience deeper feelings. This is substantially different when contrasted against an individual who unconsciously chases sex as a means of getting some form of intimacy that only goes to a certain point, knowing it won’t go any further. Usually, this person begins to develop deeper feelings which makes the other party question the “casualness” of the sex and move away. The avoider gets hurt anyways. Not only is the avoider selling themselves short, but also not being true to their inner feelings of the desire for closeness in a significant relationship. They are settling for less then they actually want, not only as a form of not dealing with deeper issues, but also providing justification to the untrue belief that they can’t find anyone to have that deeper relationship with.
Obviously, conscious choice here is OK. Unconscious choice is dangerous and hurtful.
Healing and Moving Past the Avoider Mentality
Getting over the mentality is tough. Here are a few suggestions to begin the process:
- The first step, as with many problems, is to identify and recognize it. This is the hardest part, as it can be both painful and embarrassing to admit that you have this issue. Moreover, it may be hard to really discern that you are running away out of fear.
- Next is to create love within yourself and around you. It may sound hippy, but it’s the truth. Avoiders fear getting into relationships and losing the love that may be present there, if they can even get to that point. But love can come from other places:
- First, it can come from within and being kind to yourself. Take a day off if something stressful has happened. Do things that you love just for the sake of doing them. Reward and treat yourself to a nice dinner once in a while. Goof off and take breaks.
- Then from around you, you MUST find people who love and support you. Family is one thing, but friends are the MOST essential in this. Having good friends that you know will never abandon you can help you feel support in all you do and experience, especially in hard times.
- While this will help, psychotherapy may also be in order to work through deeper issues stemming from childhood to realize that what happened in the past does not necessarily have to repeat itself.
- Learn to ask if your fears are based on fact, or what you think is going on. Talking to your friends and/or therapist can help you through this, as you will most likely need an outsider’s opinion to help wade through your mind.
- And finally, tell your partner. Perhaps not on the first date, but if things get deeper, explain that you have issues with intimacy, that problems surrounding this may come up. Keep an open line of communication and talk about the issues. Communication is the NUMBER ONE MOST IMPORTANT item that is essential to an amazing and successful relationship. If you don’t tell anyone anything, they won’t know, and make assumptions. That applies to why you do what you do, and what you need in the relationship. So start talking.
Avoiders fear intimacy yet crave it. It is only through recognizing this and consciously working through their issues that they can begin to enjoy the amazing possibilities of love that exist in the universe.
This article is dedicated to Jess. You will never understand how much our time together meant to me. I am grateful for everything that I got to experience with you, even if some of the things on our lists won’t be crossed off with each other. I hope that you know that you’ve made an amazing and positive impact on my life as I have learned much from being around someone as unique and amazing as you. I wish you nothing but peace and the best in the future, and know that you will find the happiness that you are looking for. My love for you will never change.
How Can I Use This Information To Help Myself Or Someone I Know?
I created a free checklist that you can use to quickly see how much you or someone you are thinking of is affected by the avoider mentality.
The checklist contains the 9 most common traits to look out for.
…and how identifying and working through them can lead to more intimacy, connection, closeness, and most importantly – happiness in your life and relationships.
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. Anderson, S. The Journey from Heartbreak to Connection. New York, NY: The Berkley Publishing Group, 2003.
I really liked this article. This gave me a lot to think about in terms of my anxiety with intimate relationships. I lost my father at a young age and I was wondering how this can compare to being afraid of losing someone in a relationship? Does this relate? Did psycotherapy help for anyone else?
Hey Cris. Glad you got something out of it, and sorry to hear about your Dad.
There could possibly be a link there… If you invest emotionally in someone, like your parents, and suddenly they are taken from you early on in development you’re probably going to be carrying something inside that says that it’s not safe to emotionally invest in people: They’re likely to go away at any second abandoning you. I would be grateful that you are aware of your general anxiety even if you aren’t exactly sure where it stems from, as many people walk around unaware of unconscious fears they have, never questioning or changing things until it might be too late.
For deeper emotional work or trying to get through painful things, I’d always say psychotherapy is at least worth trying. Worst case, you can always stop if you don’t feel that it’s helping you or giving you any clarity.
I have a question about the Avoider. What does this person want from the other person in an intimate relationship? Am I supposed to tell them we can be brave for them? Do they want someone to rescue them from themselves? What do they expect us to do when they do the push and pull? (Which isn’t possible but to love, support, and accept a person for who they are is possible. And in that one would hope they would find the strength in themselves to face their fears in the safety of our love, support, and acceptance of them.)
Note: The Avoider did the flight once intimacy revealed itself. Just want to know what I can do. And how I can be there for them. But there are so many mixed signals.
Hi there 🙂
I agree it’s pretty tough to know what to do. When someone who is an avoider is conscious of it, it can be easier since as they push away, they know it and can communicate that to you.
Usually, an avoider deeply desires connection and intimacy but is scared of getting hurt – i.e. if they let you in you can really make them feel good, but you also might slight them and they would be devastated. If they communicate their problems, issues, and fears with you you might call them stupid.
If you have recognized some avoider behaviour, the best thing I would recommend is to talk to your partner about it, and let them know that while you can give them space, you are there for them and want to help them through whatever struggles they are going through. You care about them and will not judge them if they have something they need to talk about. Avoiders are usually afraid of being judged and rejected.
Other than that, just re-affirm daily to them that you care about them. You can’t force an avoider to open up or become more open to sharing with you, they have to move at their own pace.
Be careful not to fall in to the trap of “saving them”, however: https://lightwayofthinking.com/savior-save-them/
I care deeply for an avoider I’ve known over 3 yrs; I’ve seen him 5 times. He lives a 35 min. drive from me and I don’t naturally run into him (we ironically met on a dating site). If I v-mail, text or selfie him (once I mailed a funny greeting card) he’ll usually respond (always by text) but has only initiated contact twice, once suggesting a date he never followed through on and another that he did follow through on. I thought giving him space was wise so I make contact about every three months, sometimes just being friendly which he’ll reply to and sometimes mentioning getting together which he never takes me up on.
I thought/hoped that being consistently accepting, loving and patient with him would win him over (I just think the world of him in so many ways; I’m very attached) at least to the point where he’d pick up the phone once in awhile but it wasn’t. His “MO” hasn’t changed at all in 3+ years. He exclusively dated one gal for 5-6 months since I’ve met him but she ended it after noticing he was weaning her off (I actually talked to her) and then he told a mutual friend “she was rushing me; I felt rushed with her.”
The last time I saw him (9 mo. ago when he asked me to go to a brew pub soft opening with him), he seemed to have an epiphany and told me “I tend to isolate myself and I tend to make myself unavailable.” I thought maybe he was coming around. I even heard from a mutual friend that a few days later he was “speaking of you in glowing terms, thinking of taking it to the next level, getting more intimate.” I was so excited. However he never called and then six months later (3 mo. ago) I asked him out. He shocked the crap out of me by texting back, “To be clear, I am not interested in dating. You’re a fine fine lady but not a match for me.”
I kept my composure and asked if he wanted to maintain a friendship and he said “that would work.” But he doesn’t do any “maintaining,” just responding by text. I don’t know where to go from here: Contact him more than once every 3 mo. like I do now?, stick to every 3 mo.?, push to get together “as a friend?”, never mention getting together? mention his epiphany about isolating/making himself unavailable?, mention therapy? write a heartfelt letter? try to be humorous about it? I even have a collector’s glass I paid $1 for and haven’t given to him, could call him at work and let him know I was going to leave it on his windshield?
I really don’t want to walk away. I’m attached to him and for his sake I don’t think that would be good either. I talk to a therapist and she thinks after 3+ years the only thing that has a chance of letting me in more would be a traumatic event in his life (death of a loved one, forced retirement, an illness or injury). The gal who somehow had enough appeal to be let in for 5-6 months said, when I told her how patient and accepting I’ve been, “He’s a tough nut to crack.”
I really like this post, thank you for writing it! I’ve been an avoider for most of my life due to, I think, a very distant father and issues with blushing I had growing up (I always felt shameful) and I’m sure some other things that I haven’t quite figured out. I know this about myself and am really working on opening myself up to people and taking chances but it’s hard. On top of that my first real relationship was with a narcissist who absolutely devastated me and the progress I’d made in many ways. I’m thankful for that relationship because it taught me many things and brought me to God but it was still very difficult to recover from. You’ve inspired me to start the New Year off in therapy!
Hey Tricia, glad you enjoyed it and got something from it.
It sounds like you’re pretty self-aware of a lot of your issues, which will definitely help you find the things you need. I’ve found that letting out things I THINK are shameful out, and being in loving/trusting relationships (romantic or platonic, same or opposite sex) are the best way to start healing from this. But, you still need to constantly push yourself forward when you feel you are retreating. Like most anxiety-related issues, it is a constant battle. But with good people by your side and strength you can definitely do it.
Also learn to trust people – You’ll know if someone is good or not. Usually, people are OK listening to you and being there.
Good luck in therapy, and keep me posted on your journey!
Hi! I just want to say that this article is awesome. I’ve been searching and reading for a while some texts about fear of intimacy and stuff, but this one gave me the most of questions and made it clear for me. I’ve been dating a man for more then 3 years (long distance relationship) who has the fear of getting close to someone. He always played the “push and pull” thing. It was like he wanted me in his life and loved me, but pushed me from him and sabotaging the relationship at the same time. Unfortunately, I never saw the problem that big until the last time he broke up (it was the time I brought up some serious issues, like getting involved into a committed relationship. This is why I needed). I still love the man but I keep saying to myself that he is not able to change. I have a question though. How/What does the avoider feel after a brake up which he initiated (regarding the fact that he/she still loves the other person)?
Thank you 🙂
Hi Sandra, thanks for writing!
I’m glad you liked the article.
Unfortunately (speaking from personal experience), long distance is a form of avoidance because you can only have so much intimacy when you have a distance between you. I mean, texting and Skyping is nice, but it’s nowhere close to spending in person time. And if it’s long distance, you can only co-ordinate so many meets in different cities.
It sounds like you love him for sure. But, it also sounds like you want to MAKE HIM CHANGE. And you’re right in a way, he isn’t able to change… until he recognizes it’s a problem and is willing to work through it. Otherwise, he’ll most likely continue the pattern in all future relationships. I mentioned this in a reply above, but I will link this article again on saving people.
Again – you can take a horse to water (alert people about their issues) and offer to help them work through them, but you can’t make them change. You have to accept them as they are, and want to help them be better people.
I’m not really sure I understand your question completely because it’s pretty personal, and I can’t see in to the other person’s mind. It sounds like you’re asking me, “Does he still love me?“. I’m sure he does in some way, assuming you both didn’t break it off in a very argumentative way. I mean, I’m assuming that you both still care for each other and want the best for one another!
Did that answer your question? If not, maybe you can be a bit more specific about what you’d like to know :).
Thank you Noam. 🙂
No problem. Feel free to e-mail me if you have any other questions :).
This article definitely describes me as any time the relationship goes to being more intimate, I want to close up to them too much with a lot of time shutting them out. I also do a lot of holding too much in when they do something that hurts me, instead of opening up and discussing, I shut down by going quiet, passive-aggressive and withholding sex and touch. After the last relationship that I got out of recently, I am a lot worse now and never want to hear those words I love you by any man even though it would be nice to have some sort of relationship. That guy was more of a mental mess than I was with abandonment issues. I believe my problems stem from childhood and maybe even as an infant. My parents were good parents, good providers but never really showed us a loving side and frequently would say things to make us feel inferior or a failure. I have went out a few dates with guys since last breaking up from the serious relationship but the anxiety gets so bad that I need quite a few drinks just to relax and not shake in front of them. I have always recognized that I had fear of intimacy issues but having a hard time trying to work out of that way.
First off, it takes a lot of courage to write something like this and open up, so good on you for doing that. Asking for help and accepting your faults is the cornerstone of releasing shame and becoming OK with yourself.
Another thing that’s great is that you seem to have a lot of self-awareness – you know that you are doing these things and you don’t want to. That’s better than being completely blind to why you feel scared.
It honestly sounds to me like you should take some time off from dating and trying to force yourself in to intimacy and focus on getting help first in therapy. While you can slowly work on this with partners and dating, I think you’d benefit from some sort of outside help in working through some of your issues first. There’s no point in rushing in to dating if you have a lot of stuff going on upstairs and it’s really hurting you – especially if you feel like you NEED alcohol to relax.
Nobody’s perfect, but a good base will really set you up for being able to push through your fears, as well as communicating your issues openly to your partners, instead of sabotaging yourself and trying to attach to them/push them away.
This article was exactly what I have been searching for. Whenever I take those tests online I rate high in antisocial pd and I guess my childhood played a part. My mother ignored me unless I did what she said and didn’t respect my privacy. I don’t really trust anyone and always act. It’s so annoying to have to always lie to keep the peace. Usually I keep a smile on my face and only show laughter as an emotional expression. People are visibly surprised when I slip up and show anger sometimes. It’s nothing for me to play happy, mad, or sad since I have studied what those emotions are supposed to look like. But, I really feel nothing all the time. I can play people if I wanted to but, usually I only do it when there are no terrible consequences, like in a game or conversation.
I think I am a monster inside since I can just cut ties at will while normal people are bound like slaves to their attachments. Once I know what they like it would be nothing to me to pull the strings and control them like puppets. I only do it to help them though. The people I see often, to them I just act altruistic. Basically give them exactly what they want and leave. Otherwise I avoid human interaction since I am this way. I think the worst part about myself is the disgust I feel when they can’t seem to realize they are never in control of their actions. Only their attachments are. It’s shameful to think like that. They are just living how I wish I could to be honest, ignorant and happy. I guess I’m jealous. That’s silly.
I just can’t go back to feeling that weak again. It hurt way too much to lose what I loved in the blink of an eye. I didn’t even realize how much I liked her until it was too late. I’m positive that I was merely an ego boost since I was so desperate but, she was the first girl to ever treat me as more that a complete failure. I sat in my car and cried until there were no more tears and swore I’d never make that mistake again. That was 4 years ago. What better way to avoid making it than not to try anymore?
Anyway, is it even possible, with therapy, that a monster like myself can even go back?
Hey, my apologies for the late reply… A week sick will do things to you XD.
Your comment will struck me, especially your language. I feel like you just need a hug, as lame as it sounds, and someone telling you that you’re OK as you are.
You probably also need to do some crying to let out the emotions of sadness.
There are A LOT of points I could touch on in your post, but one main thing is that you say you are above other people who are almost enslaved to their attachments. You then talk about the girl you lost. I feel like you think people are stupid for getting attached to things because they can abandon you, and getting abandoned obviously hurts and sucks.
I touched on this a bit in my travel relationship article (see here), about how if all things will end, what’s the point of even doing them? So if all relationships end, and it hurts when they end, then why do it?
And I know how you feel. I remember my first serious girlfriend (breaking up with whom is why I wrote this article) I really held feelings back for, and I hated myself for doing it. But, with each relationship and becoming more OK with myself, I filtered less and was open more. Sure I still hold back, and that’s because sharing yourself is SCARY – because people can reject you – but it’s the only way to be. “I’m scared to open up and I hope you’ll accept me because it will suck if you don’t, but if you don’t then I guess I need to find someone else who does.” That’s the healthy way to view things. But it’s easier said than done and I still do need re-assurance because of my past, and because I’m HUMAN.
ANYBODY can start dating, but to be healthy in it you’ve got to do a lot of work and become OK with yourself first, at least reasonably so. In my current relationship I still need some support and can feel my non-acceptance coming up, but I communicate this and explain it and the woman is very accepting of me and it (which is one of the reasons why I love her so much). As trite as it sounds the saying goes: “If you can’t love yourself, how can anyone else love you?”
I would focus less on dating and more on definitely getting to therapy. I’d also stop using language and words like “monster” – that’s really going to re-inforce that you are ashamed of whom you are. If you aren’t taking care of yourself (healthy eating, sleep, etc.) and don’t have good friends get on assembling that part of your as well.
Maybe let me know some more specifics you’d like to know about and I can answer you. But from the sound of your writing, you could definitely benefit from therapy and yes, with hard work, you will have a good relationship. Therapy would probably be the first step since with a good therapist, things will start taking care of themselves (self-esteem goes up, you’ll want to take better care of yourself, and so on…).
Hello Noam/thank you for this insightful post. Please suspend moral judgment if possible, but I work with a wonderful man who seems to enact a push-pull dynamic with me on the job and I’d like your take. I wonder if these interactions are typical in non-romantic engagements as well.
We have no established romantic relationship with each other(we are both with other people/not happily on my part), yet through our mutual desire to know each other more, we have at times become quite vulnerable and sensitive to the other. We are attentive to each other, validating and we truly bring stability to each other. We handle conflict maturely. I feel at my best with him and I think he feels the same about me. People have commented about happy we each seem since meeting and although we’ve never touched or had an overtly romantic conversation, multiple people have commented that they believe we are in love. We’ve never talked about this.
He has told me he loves me, although he cushioned the statement with other phrases that could easily confuse the intent of his message. OTOH, his behavior suggest a deep attachment and caring and I’m almost certain he’d be there for me if I needed him. He has so far and i for him. The downside for me, besides our unavailability to each other, is that he pulls me in with intimacy and overt expressions of care “Im so grafetful for your support” “I’m so blessed to have you near” “you make me feel so happy when you’re happy” which I always reciprocate because I do feel these things about him and because he is genuinely important to me. But like clockwork, he withdraws and goes cold the next day making work interactions awkward. He’ll go so far as to flat out ignore me sometimes. He also occasionally throws mention to me about an ex or other friend girl who is there to support him as if trying to make me jealous.
Part of me wonders if this instability is due to our relationship status. The way we talk to each other is not *necessarily* romantic given our interest and social groups, although I wouldn’t hesitate to date him if we were single but I’m not sure the nature of his feelings. They feel intense and unpredictable to me and i.m unsure how to proceed. Our interactions generally bear incredibly beautiful fruit and lifts both of our spirits. It’s given me the strength to commit to leaving my abusive marriage knowing I’ll be OK no matter what. Why does he push for more and then withdraw for days or longer?
Hey Lori! I also apologize for the late reply… Again, a week of being sick *sigh*!
Why is there a problem with platonic love? I tell my friends all the time I love them. Turn that into a GOOD thing instead of an issue XD.
He could be doing this because in the moment he feels very strong intimate emotions, but then thinks he overdid it, so he has to break the tension but adding in a joke or swaying the conversation. Speaking as an introvert, every time I open up a lot I sometimes need a day from the person to collect my thoughts and then I come back to the person. I’ve done this several times in my current relationship.
I think it’s amazing you guys connect this way. But, I wonder if you two are dating other people then maybe you aren’t getting what you need in your intimate relationships so you then look for it outside. It sounds like that could be the case, and it can lead to issues – e.g. your partners beginning to feel disconnected to you.
If you’re really curious, just TALK to him. So many issues in all relationships can be cleared up by a bit of talking. Of course, it relies on people who are very self-aware, but just tell him you notice him doing X, and ask why he might do it. Re-assure him that you value him and love him, but notice this and tell him it hurts you/gets your anxiety up. It sounds to me like you just need re-assurance that stuff is OK here.
I just noticed and am a bit confused – you mentioned being divorced, but being with someone currently and not being happy? If you are with someone and not currently happy, I definitely think you are using this guy as emotional support and trying to develop an intimate relationship with him. This can lead to REALLY dangerous territory so be careful. You’re going to get frustrated because things can only go so far. Also, if he’s happy and you are truly his friend, you’ll let him get his deeply intimate needs met in the relationship, and not outside with someone he can only connect with so much.
That was a lot of information, but let me know if you have any questions!
God this post could be written about me, I’ve met this wonderful guy who initially was everything I was looking for, perhaps too soon after a failed 8 year relationship with someone who was emotionally unavailable and withheld intimacy from me, I have abandonment issues from my mum who ignored me everytime a new boyfriend came on the scene and as much as I can only remember key events the feeling a I have grown up with have been horrible and hard to place, I always seem to push people away because I assume they’ll leave me because I’m being difficult this push pull thing you talk of but obviously I’m wanting the intimacy it’s like self fulfilling prophecy no one has ever left I eventually leave them. I’m scared of everything and take the smallest of comments and internalise them resulting in me feeling worse and then swearing I’m not gonna open up again or talk about my feelings which helps no one, I just don’t trust people and I know that I’ve fed guys stuff they want to hear so I believe they do the same back, I don’t want to be needy so I never ask for anything because I don’t want to feel weak and pathetic. I just want stability but I’m not stable, I never feel understood which makes me feel frustrated. I can’t keep putting people through this but I don’t know how to communicate to the new guy so that he understands me and create that closeness in our relationship because I don’t want to lose him.
Brown in Daring Greatly kept pushing that vulnerability does NOT equal weakness – it equals strength.
You have self-awareness, that’s amazing. And I think you know as well as I do what you need to do. You have to tell your partners that you deal with these issues and that they’ll have to help you/keep you alert if you are going to far off the deep end. Good people who genuinely like you will stay and understand, or, tell you you are pushing too much too fast and ask you to slow down. Those that aren’t right for you will leave, and in that case, you should be grateful about them leaving sooner compared to getting attached to them.
Telling your partner about your issues is one of the MOST important things you can do and will generate huge amounts of intimacy. I used to be really scared of doing this, and still am to a certain extent, but seeing the reaction in myself to when people told me (e.g. I was impressed by their courage and wanted to help them, but NOT take responsibility) – I now do it consistently. e.g. “This is what I suffer from. This is why. I’ll act out certain times and I’ll need your help, but I want to grow and I trust you on this one.”
I know it’s scary and you don’t want to frighten someone off, but what’s better – someone who rejects you, or someone who accepts you 100% – flaws and fortunes?
Thank you for this article. I just got out of an 8-month relationship with a man. We had our fair share of differences and arguments. After each major argument, I would throw his key on the ground and break up with him. This happened at least a dozen times. Rather than really work things out, I ran. I’ve done this with several men over the last 15 years. My mom still runs when something is not going right in her life. I’m so afraid I’m taking on her tendencies and really need advice how to break this pattern. I’d love to find a great guy to settle down with. Problem is, each time there is the slightest conflict, I decide I don’t want to deal with it. My knee-jerk reaction is to run. Please help!
Hi JD, I’m glad you liked it :).
I’m going to repeat myself again and again – but you have the self-awareness and you know what you need to do (not run away), so the answer is simple: don’t. Of course, yes, I realize it’s more complex because you’re scared, you don’t want to get hurt, and so on. That’s OK. I’m not making light of that. I’m just saying you know how to solve this problem.
Once you start getting more serious with a guy tell him you have this pattern and ask him for his help in catching you if you start doing something like this. Make a conscious effort to push through your avoider tendencies and go for more intimacy… even if it means potential hurt on your end or being uncomfortable.
It’s worth it.
This “avoider mentality” was always below the surface for me but manifested itself very much in the here and know with a physical reaction to intimacy that was like someone turning off a light switch. So from the time I started dating at 15 until now (age 55) I have never been able to sustain intimacy and sexuality in the same relationship. I want to fall in love, and certainly do feel like I am in love, at did back when I was single. But after 3 or 4 sexual encounters I would suddenly lose all sexual desire for the woman and that would be that. I would never be able to get it back unless I moved on to someone new and then the cycle would repeat.
I explained it to myself by believing I was simply very easily bored sexually. And so this is how I carried on until I married at age 40. I was lonely and wanted a family but of course, the same thing happened with my wife while we were dating. But we had so many other things in common that we decided to marry anyway and seek therapy for the problem after the wedding.
And we did, for years. We went to 3 different sex therapists over 3 years. A marriage counselor, and then my wife gave up and said she didn’t want to go to anymore therapy because it wasn’t working. I myself carried on alone for another few years but no one had any answers.
This was over 20 years ago. We are still together but have never had sex. I simply cannot work up any sexual desire for her at all. It has been very lonely as you can imagine. One therapist, a psychiatrist theorized it was the physical and mental abuse I suffered as a child that has caused this. But many people have that kind of background but it doesn’t effect their sexual functioning.
That’s incredibly harsh, I can’t imagine there being no sex in the relationship. I’m sorry to hear that. Do you think you might have rushed in to things instead of trying to work out the issues before?
Biologically, men are wired for variety. Spread as much seed to different partners to increase the chance of having kids vs. women who are more wired for security (picking one really good partner because they have to carry a child for 9 months)… but yes, it can definitely be a huge mental block stopping commitment. There’s the thrill of the chase of new women, but there’s also the fear of going deeper with one person (speaking from experience). But the funny thing is if you find someone you can work through your issues with, the sex gets a lot better.
It sounds like because it’s been so long, you probably have a lot of incorrect and dysfunctional beliefs thinking that it is impossible to fix this issue or that your wife doesn’t want to have sex with you. I’d say it’s definitely more an issue you have to continually work on yourself with therapists to become comfortable.
But at the same time, you’ll have to lean on your partner for help.
Do you really feel absolutely no desire for sex?
I had to go back and see how I ended up on this page. I’d googled “passive aggressive blind side break up”. Going to be long…
I’m 9.5 out of what I thought was the best relationship ever, with the best guy ever. We’re both mid 40’s. Met online December 2013. I was married once, long term, have kids, but have been divorced for 5+ years. He was married twice, short term for both, has an adult son who lives away, and had left a 5-6 yr relationship a few months before we met. He lived with her for 5 years, but never sold his house. We met online. Both educated with careers and excited to meet each other.
I THOUGHT I’d met the nicest guy ever. In the almost 6 months we were together, I was treated well. He was caring, attentive, affectionate, responsible, everything good. We got along great! We NEVER argued, sex was good, seemed to be on the same page with religion, lifestyles, intellect. We both had some different interests and activities, and shared those things… I though.
We spent almost every weekend together (2 HR commute, and I was mainly the commuter, which was fine, no complaints.
I was constantly told how I was the best looking woman in the area, (small rural town), how lucky he was, how much he missed me when the weekends ended. I felt the same and couldn’t have been happier. I’d entered the relationship in a good emotional spot, but wow, now I KNOW what it REALLY means to be happy, like I’ve never been EVER before. I took my time to get to this point. I didn’t just fall in love in a few weeks. But eventually, I was hooked. BEST GUY EVER.
Roll back to last May. Sunday afternoon at his house, we’re starting dinner… He starts talking about all his summer weekend plans surrounding motorcycle stuff. He’d previously asked me to go with him. But something felt different now, so I asked, “lightly”, when am I going to see you because I’m not sure how to work with or around your schedule?
And then my world changed. He declared that I lived too far away, and that our relationship was not sustainable. What? Blind sided. He had NEVER said a word to me EVER about not being happy. I asked what the REAL reason was, and he told me I needed to think logically, not emotionally. I offered to drive up during the week, to move up there with him. No. He didn’t want a solution. I asked if there was someone else. No. What then? I felt like he’d become a different person. He became cold and distant, a person I didn’t at all know. I was scared and confused.
I stayed that night but can’t remember how the “conversation” ended. Things were “almost” seeming normal. We went to bed, had sex, but then I brought it up, in bed… What’s going on? And he again told me I lived too far away… Asked if I was mad. I sat up, and said no, im upset and feel like I don’t belong here. He eventually put his arm around me and got me to lay back down. He went to sleep. I cried all night, to myself.
In the morning, I asked if I could stay one more day. Sure! And then we had sex again. The best guy ever is back. So things are going to be okay I think. Right?
He went to work. I called on sick. When he came home, he took a nap, by himself, for the first time ever, because I’d kept him awake… I was a wreck. It was the weirdest 24 hours.
He then said these things among others:
I gave you all my free time.
If I could do two things, I’d ride motorcycles and spend time with you.
I don’t want to be a bad host.
Sometimes, this is what happens in dating.
This whole relationship has been a vacation.
I feel like I’m living a lifestyle that isn’t mine.
I hate coming home to an empty house.
I’m nowhere NEAR having anyone move in with me.
I’m still f-d up from my last relationship.
When I pressed him, he said he didn’t know if he’d be happy with me long term, that I was more social and relaxed than he is.
I asked him, what about the vacation you said you wanted to take me on? He replied that well, THAT would have been when it was cold out. No, I said. You asked me JUST 3 weeks ago. He then told me usually his timeoff would be spent staining his deck.
When I stated that he’d never mentioned the distance, he lied and said “yes I have.” But he had never expressed one negative thought to me ever. WHO IS THIS PERSON I AM WITH?
I left the next morning and never saw him again. Over the next 2 weeks we talked twice on the phone. And texted a little. He told me all the things he liked about me: you make me laugh and smile, you’re smart, you’re sexy…
Three times he told me he hadn’t given up and that we needed to talk in person. Two weeks later, after complete silence, and after getting a potentially scary medical diagnosis, I reached out to him. He responded that he wanted to know what was going on, couldn’t commit and was dating someone else. For my sake, he wishes he could tell me where he’s be down the road, so for now, we both needed to move on. I broke down like never before and didn’t respond for two months.
Then I wrote a letter and mailed it. He emailed back a week later and acknowledged again all the things he’d said about me are true, and that sometimes people can get along great but it doesn’t mean it’s forever. That his life with me was GREAT, but that’s not the REAL him. (what?)
NOW … He doesn’t drink, eat in restaurants, watch tv…
A few more exchanges, and now I’ve become critical and chastising, and accusing him of things… I was so upset but have never had pure anger. He told me he still cares, misses me, and hopes to see me again and that I should contact him when I change my frame of mind… I send a final reply that he needs to be the one to get in touch if he misses me like I miss him (of course I detailed what that meant). Almost six months later, and I’ve never heard from him again.
I’ve researched why people break up. I HAVE NO IDEA still what happened. From my perspective, there was mutual attraction and compatibility. No fighting. No “event” or tangible obstacles. And don’t most people, when “things are good” put effort into finding a solution? I was 100% willing. I guess he was at 0. And I know I can’t change how he thinks, feels, and acts. But I wanted honesty.
So I live in a world filled with cognitive dissonance. How could he have “faked” liking me even that last weekend we were together… laughing, sleeping together all entwined… Two weeks earlier he had kissed me up and down my arm at night, held my hand in the car as we took a long drive…
So is he
a. Best guy ever, that just didn’t like me enough and I’m over sensitive? (could best guy ever really walk away like that and NEVER see me again )
b. Commitment phobe that is scared of real intimacy and just shut down?
c. A (covert) narcissist who is just selfish and got companionship and sex?
d. A sociopath that purposefully targeted me, never really cared, and enjoyed destroying me?
I may never know. But I still don’t know how two people can spend almost 6 months together, get along SOO well (he admits to that), make plans, and one person can just disappear. So for me, six months of therapy for the first time ever and still going. (grief, trauma, trust) Still absolutely devastated. I have read hundreds of articles and books and just want to feel “normal” again. No matter who he REALLY is, the passive aggressive blind side proved to be the ultimate betrayal of my trust.
Thank you for listening…
I feel like in dating we try to ask a lot of questions to avoid being hurt by some sometimes simple conclusions. E.g. the person didn’t want us. But the thing is as much as someone can try and let us in when they are dealing with internal issues, like being an avoider, we may never know unless they are HYPER aware of their own motivations and past.
And people can change. I know you might not like me saying this, but perhaps this guy was hiding something and started dating someone else, so he lost interest in you. Perhaps he was an avoider and you triggered that. Perhaps he decided his mission of motorcycle travel was more important and he felt like you were tying him down, so that’s all he wanted to do.
There are too many variables in play to say for sure.
The mixed messages thing is pretty shitty though – saying you can’t be with someone but then texting them you want them is quite a hurtful lead on.
From this you could learn that:
a) If someone really says they can’t do something (be with you), I’d cut it off and move on (as much as it hurts/you like the feelings you have with them), because you know in the future getting strung along sucks WAY more.
b) Only be with someone who’s actions (wanting to travel/meet you, how much time they spend with you) matches their words (I miss you, I like you, I want to be with you).
It really sucks that you had something so good and kind of got slapped in the face (and had to go to therapy to boot to deal with it), but be happy you did have some good moments from your time with this guy (at least it sounds like it). Learn for the future in not accepting this type of behaviour, and when you’re ready, go find a guy that meets your standards and can give you the time, love, and affection you deserve… along with the fun sex ;).
I think the guy is caught between a rock and a hard place. He likes aspects of the relationship (most of it) but he’s dealing with two extremes: long distance commute, and coming home to an empty house OR (the alternative is his mind) one person moving to come live the other. He’s been divorced twice, and there is no telling how much hurt, distrust and negativity towards marriage he is harboring. I think he is assuming the relationship has two directions a) commute or b) one person moves and you move in together. I think you should confront him about this directly and see what he says. If there is a (c) that is agreeable to both of you, the relationship might have a chance. Sounds to me like he wants a casual “not live together” relationship that is just not so inconvenient. Perhaps he thought being 2 hours apart was the perfect balance… but it was just too far for him. Maybe the perfect relationship for him is… 30 minutes away? 45?
I’m divorced two years. I’d love to date, but in my gut I am thinking “Don’t ever move in with a woman and get a joint bank account. Ever. Again.”
Maybe he’s thinking the same thing, after two divorces himself. How much is he forking out for alimony and child support? Us men don’t get “cash and prizes” for leaving relationships! We get bills that last 20 years to pay.
Just offering a 40-something divorced man’s perspective here. Hopefully these guys are not as devastated as me and have a better outlook – but something tells me your guy there has been turned off BIG TIME about the whole common-law / marriage deal and he feels that this is the next step in the evolution of your relationship.
I would definitely see if it is this. Ask him why he assumes the relationship has to go that way specifically. He’s not okay with the distance. He’s not okay with one person moving so you two can live together. He thinks it’s one way or the other. What do you think? Where do YOU want it to go? DO both of you see it going to a place where both can be happy? Would one of you relocate to be closer but NOT move in? Is that worth it?
I’d say he doesn’t need to be diagnosed for specific personality disorders using online quizzes. Too much of that going on. I think he’s going through something a 40-something man with two divorces under his belt is going through… he’s not a bad person for having these feelings. But he’s holding his cards close to his chest and he played along knowing probably for quite some time that neither of the directions this relationship could take are going to be okay for him. And he didn’t discuss it with you, what YOU wanted, where YOU thought it would go and if there was a way it could “go” to a place that would meet both of your needs/desires.
He was not communicating with you and avoiding a serious potential roadblock in the relationship. His reasons for doing this aside, it’s a big big no no in a relationships and it explains perfectly the shock and hurt you felt during that 24 hour period.
My heart goes out to you. Thing is, as a man who right now thinks “never move in / no join accounts again. Ever.” I don’t even bother dating. If I came out with this in the beginning most women would be (rightly) running for the door. So I’m not dating (2 years post divorce). I see dating for me ending up in the situation you two are in right now. Maybe some guys don’t think that far ahead and loneliness makes them believe “it will all work itself out”.
With serious issues about commitment, it never just “works itself out”.
Best of luck to you.
Noam (and all the who can answer),
Hello there! I read your article regarding “Avoider Mentality” and saw myself in your words.
Long story short, I married my high school sweetheart… We had a child together and in 2009 we divorced due to his infidelity. Everything you described regarding hormonal reaction to a break up happened to me. I could not handle the concentration of pain! I burried myself in 2 jobs, started college (age 32), parented on autopilot, and participated in casual sex for a little over a year.
Halfway through college I met a man who was experiencing a new divorce and I reached out and helped him through it. Eventually we ended up a couple and mover in with each other. In 2012, my child’s Dad (my ex – husband) was killed. My current partner could not seem to bring himself to show sympathy, love, and support for myself and child during this grieving period….. Resentment grew.
In 2013, my partner and my 17 year old got into a verbal altercation. He pushed my child causing her to cut herself on the corner of our counter. I put both myself and my child into counseling ( thanks to employer benefits) until I figured out my finances to move.
December 2013, my partner pushed me and my child after another argument. The following day, I quit my job, packed my car, and moved in with my best friend 2 states away. 3 months later, my best friend took my car without asking as I slept and went binge drinking. I felt betrayed yet again.
I moved out of her home as soon as I found employment in my new state into a small apartment. I work and come home. My adult child is now working and the both of us still have trauma to work through. I am more willing to do the work where as my child is still unconsciously repressing.
I tried dating just one time and met a nice guy…after about 2 months, I found out he was married and dumped him.
You mentioned in your article relying on friends and family as pillars of support. I do not have any. My family has for the most part all past away. I’ve tried to make friends via online resources but no luck.
You also mentioned seek therapy….I’m in a season of my life where the financial strains do not yield opportunity to pay for therapy…. Including via ObamaCare.
I’m very smart, funny, kind hearted, and am finding my tenacity not overcome wilting. I miss adult socializing and would love to have a friend to learn on and hang out with. I have my child, yes….but a could both use good and kind people coming into our life.
Do you have any suggestions?
The stories I read are inspiring. Tragic, but really inspiring. You must be a really strong person to keep on going after all this, so I applaud you and hopefully, you are proud of yourself.
You definitely would benefit from good friends, therapy, and support, and I’m sorry that most of your family has passed away. Some other suggestions:
– If you are religious, talking to a priest, chancellor, Rabbi, etc.
– Looking up support groups for those who have been abandoned, abused, neglected, and so on.
– Joining online support forums to get support from others – there’s a bit of a non-human element to not being with someone, but it’s better than not having anything. Search for anything from anxiety, to depression support, to abuse support.
Friends are still worthwhile having. The only thing is that you have to be a bit careful not trying to lay EVERYTHING on them all at once. Meet people and go out with them for fun, and as the relationship goes a bit deeper, you can start talking about what you’ve been through. This will take some self-control, but if you vomit out your emotions, you may scare people away. You can meet people through anything you like to do on meetup.com. What hasn’t been working?
You and your child shouldn’t super rely on each other (speaking from experience it can create a really messed up co-dependent dynamic), but if you have no one else, be grateful you have her. You aren’t alone.
Also – focus on friends and getting support first. I would leave dating aside for now. Your emotional health is more important.
I hope these suggestions help you! Stay strong.
Your dedication to Jess at the end of your article made my eyes all wet. It’s really nice to see someone who has been able to understand the issues those with avoidant personalities face while still acknowledging their feelings for the other person. It seems as though there is someone out there, without the issue, who understands the ridiculous contradiction we live in.
I’m obviously assuming Jess was an avoider who you loved very much. (Sorry if I’m wrong!)
Hi Keli, thanks for telling me it moved you so much :).
Incorrect! Actually, I was the avoider. Well, she may have been too but it was mostly about me. I wrote this post after we broke up as a means of venting my own frustrations (and hopefully helping others, which thankfully, it has) of not being able to open up to her when I wanted to very badly – but was, and still am afraid sometimes of getting hurt. But of course, there is no good without bad in relationships. You get intimacy, but also can get hurt.
Thankfully over the course of time, and actually in a rather short amount of time, I’ve gotten FAR better at being open with people, especially women :).
I am not sure if i am an avoider but i am aware in my new relationship of some insecurities that i have due to an abandonment in a past relatiosnhip. We were moving in together and he just left, and never returned. I know that this was nothing that i did, but i definitely have some newfound abandonment issues that i am currently working through. My new boyfriend has been very understanding, but i do believe that i have pushed him away and now i am not totally sure how to fix this with him. I want to make it all go away and rebuild the intimacy that we have started off with. I want to bring him closer, not push him away with my questions and insecurity. Do you have any advice for me?
Talk, talk, talk. Relationships are ALL about communication (no, not just the sex). Explain what happened and that you may have avoider tendencies (and what that means) but you are trying to work through things and might need his help. Explain that you might be cold to him sometimes but it’s not your fault, you’re just a bit scared.
Hopefully, you will find that he wants to help you and accepts you as you are as you work through your issues. Go slow and things will begin to resolve themselves, as you see that someone really cares about you… even with a bit of avoider tendencies.
YES. Talk. Shame begets anxiety. It will come between you unless you share it. Then it’s something you’re together in.
Exactly – once shame is out in the open it can’t really hide and begins to erode. The tricky thing is taking that step to release it, even if you’re afraid of what someone else will say!
I am in love with an avoider. I wasn’t quite sure what to call him until after I read this article. We are in a long distance relationship and I always wondered why it was never as hard for him as it is for me, but now I know. This post describes him perfectly, we have had a lot of ups and downs because of this, he has also hurt me a lot. He hates deep conversations, it is like pulling teeth and when I tried to communicate this to him, he says he does not like to talk about deep things or changes the subject to something much lighter. He has gone through a lot in his childhood and past (the little that he has shared) and I see and have always seen how it has affected his life, but I did not know what to call it and did not know what to do about it. He has cheated and lied a lot. He always had this wall up and no matter what I did or said to try to get him to open up, nothing worked.
I finally realized that I could not change him and so we broke up. This is the condensed version. I am no longer angry with him but I do not feel that I can be with him after everything even though a part of me still wants him. I still love him and only wants his happiness, even if it is not with me. I want him to get better so that he can stop living behind this mask he is always hiding behind. I sent this article to him (he told me it describes him perfectly) and told him it was up to him to decide if he is ready to make a change. I do not know what role I should play in this, I want to be his friend and his supporter and the person he can be comfortable with, but even though I have let go of the anger, I am still hurt from the things he did while we were in a relationship.
I feel like he is not ready to be in a relationship, because he does not know how to love himself and stop hiding . I am willing to attempt to only be his friend because I am the person he claims he feels most comfortable around, but the feelings are still there for the both of us, so I don’t know how long we can be just friends. I love him, but I do not want to get hurt again if he is not serious about admitting his issues and taking steps to get better. He says that he is, but because of how many times he has lied it is hard to believe. What should I do? I do not want him to change for me, I want him to change for himself, but I don’t know how to separate my feelings too.
Just want to clarify – you say he cheated and lied a lot. In the past, or with you?
I don’t know about you but I have a zero tolerance policy for cheating in monogamous relationships. I really don’t care what the circumstances are, but people should be able to control themselves and if they can’t, I’m gone.
I think because you started to help him a bit, and because maybe he’s never opened up to anyone, or perhaps not to many people, he’s clinging to you. He likes that he feels more comfortable with you than anyone. And of course, you had a relationship, so there’s going to be mutual attraction.
But I think you need to keep your distance. It’s clear he’s not in the space right now to give you the emotional input you need, and if you stay there, he may just drag you down and keep you from finding someone who can give you more love and support. That’s blunt and honest truth, and for your benefit. No disrespect meant.
You know yourself best. Do you HONESTLY think you can just be friends and still support him, or will you always pine to be with him? You can still be there as a friend, but you’ll have to apply your own boundaries and say “No” to certain things and keep your distance. You both need to move on so that you can continue to grow, but it doesn’t mean you can’t support each other.
I would maintain some distance for 2-3 months just to let your emotions die down. Then objectively think if you can just be friends (see this article: http://markmanson.net/break-up). In the mean time don’t talk to each other so that you have time to re-invest both of your emotions into other things, and other people. It sounds like you both might be in a dysfunctional state where you’re still together emotionally, and that’s going to keep you from moving on.
Also if he compulsively cheated on you, I might wish him well and then move on. It sounds like you got extremely hurt, and nobody deserves that if they are willing to try and support someone.
You wouldn’t happen to live in NJ, would you?
Your article got me really thinking about a special man in my life. We met a year ago and become friends. We get along great are extremely attracted to eachother and went as far as to tell eachother how much we care. We have been intimate and have a great time together. Everyone can see how we feel, they saw it before we did. He was shy at first, but has opened up and become more comfortable as we have gotten to know eachother more. Trouble is his parents died, 3 years apart in his early 20s. He is in his mid 20s now. He is in the military as well and comes home every few weeks so we end up seeing eachother. He does the hot and cold thing, and has told me he pushes people away because he’s an asshole. Which he really isn’t, unless he’s being distant, but for the most part he is incredibly sweet and kind. I have tried talking to him about his parents but he doesn’t fully open up, it makes him uncomfortable a little it seems. I don’t know if he’s aware of what he is feeling most of the time. I’m one of the closest people to him (which is weird because I feel like sometimes he’s just pushes me away). He said he doesn’t trust people, they let you down. And that he has to be unattached to people because he’s always stationed away and leaves eventually. But got drunk only nights before and told me how lonely he was. I’m wondering if his behavior is somthing that will be permanent and he’s scarred, or if he is still in mourning ( 5 years later) and just needs to really open up and accept and recognize his emotions to heal. All I can be Is a friend, but it’s hard to put up a wall to not get hurt on my part and at the same time show a tender side so he feels comfortable to open up and really explore his emotions. I have told him how it hurts me when he pulls away. I know I can’t ” fix him” (he has to to be open to grow). But do I just offer my support and time, let him open up more and more so he can have that safe person? Or what?
That’s terrible. Both parents dying is going to REALLY hurt. You can’t push him and you have to give him time.
In the mid-20s I’d say we’re pretty independent from our parents, but I don’t even want to fathom how I’d feel if my parents suddenly passed away tomorrow. I’d be devastated. While it’s not traditional childhood abandonment, it’s still losing a huge supporting pillar of important people in your life.
I think a BIG mistake people make is consistently pushing people to open up. I made this mistake with my first serious girlfriend. She told me once that her Mom had passed away from a disease, and in an effort to force connection, I specifically asked about it one time while cuddling. It was out of the blue and made no sense.
The thing is as a more conscious and empathetic person, you have to be vulnerable and open up first about yourself, which in turn makes the other person more comfortable to open up about their feelings. Not like, “Oh when I was a kid I got bullied…. OK your turn tell me about your parents”, but just talking more about yourself. As you do this, the other person sees you trust them, so they will in turn grow warmer to trusting you.
It’s not nice to get hurt, but he sounds like a genuinely good person who cares about you and is aware of his actions, he’s just suffering from abandonment issues and doesn’t want people to pull away from him… Which is seen in his saying that “people will let you down”. That also seems familiar to me because with my abandonment issues, I used to say that a lot in therapy as well.
With flaws and issues, you have to accept the person as they are. You offer them help because you truly love them and want them to be a better person, but NOT so you can change them (i.e. I need to fix you because you’re broken and I can’t accept you as you are). That’s passive-aggressive and dysfunctional. So if you fundamentally can’t accept this guy with these issues (assuming they could never really be resolved), then that’s a problem.
If you’re OK with them and just want to help him, continue to offer your support and time, and maybe suggest he talk to a therapist or counsellor or someone similar – that person can really help him get over his abandonment issues, but you showing you can be there for him will definitely help as well. I think with such traumatic events though, he’ll need to see someone specifically about the problem to really heal.
Hello Noam, this article made me think about my last relationship. I think I am avoidant myself, although would say I have an ambivalent/disorganized attachment style. My ex seems to be rather ambivalent too. Both our parents divorced when we were young, I grew up with my dad, seeing my mum every second weekend. I missed her so much. His dad disappeared when he was 6, for many years until he was 16, he only saw him a couple of times. He was angry with his dad for many years, but says he is over it now. I believe we both have some deep grief inside which has led us to addictions etc. in the past and also having lots of sex with different people, trying to feel loved. (not in our relationship, we were both faithful) I’d like to share our relationship story and be grateful for your opinion:
We met online over a year ago. We live 6 hours drive apart. After talking online and on the phone for about a month he visited me. We hit it off straight away and became exclusive. We would only see each other about once a month, visiting each other. We talked on skype and texted a lot. I went home to Europe to see my family in August last year and we planned that after I am back that I would move to where he is living. This came about because I finished a counselling degree a year ago and there aren’t any jobs where I am living, but he lives in a big city with more job opportunities. Of course we also wanted to be closer to each other. I got very stressed out because I had to rent out my house, fix things on it first so I could do that, I had some bad news in Germany about my mum, thinking about starting in a new career without a support network of good friends, changes at work. Everything all at ones!! I tried to push through my anxiety. He found a house for us to rent and was all excited, and so was I. But then the rental fell through and I freaked out big time and then he freaked out. I think he got scared because at the time I was quite anxious and he said he doesn’t want me to move there just for him, if I’m going to hate it it’s not going to work. We both thought I might not be ready to move and said we should postpone and do it in the new year. Then two weeks before Christmas he broke up with me. He said he is not sure about his feelings and he feels disconnected even with himself. I was heartbroken. Then between Christmas and New Years he drove from where he was on holiday 1000km in one day just so he could see me. We had a shit time. When I asked him about it later he said it was shit because he knew that it was the ending. We stopped contact after that which was my wish, because I couldn’t get over him. Every few weeks he would send me a text though and since a month we text again regularly. A week ago he came and visited me over the weekend. We had a really good time like we used to. He said he is confused. He always dreamed of a girl like me. He said to me he can’t cope seeing his girlfriend only once a month, he doesn’t want to think “what if I was living there” because “What if” questions drive you insane (like you wrote in your article). He says we would see each other more often if we were nearer, but we are not. That the distance fucked it up. Could it be that he disconnected from himself because it got too painful? And then he broke up? My intuition has often been that he really wants to be with me, but he is scared of the relationship not working out. His ex had cheated on him and used him to get custody of her daughter back, so I would understand he is scared to get involved again. It’s like we are both attached and very attracted to each other and can’t let go. The difference between him and me is I know I love him and want to be with him, but he said he doesn’t love himself or anyone at the moment and feels like he is in a real spiritual crisis, feeling lonely and he has often felt like this in his life. I know during our relationship he sometimes felt guilty thinking I love him more than he loves me, although he would say “I love you” and he put as much effort into the relationship as I did. Sorry this is so long, I would really appreciate your opinion. Thanks for listening 🙂 Nadine
Hi Nadine, thanks for writing.
Hmm… OK a lot of stuff here.
I think the main things going on are a) problems in distance, and b) you both being avoidant in nature.
My opinion is that long distance relationships don’t really work, unless the distance is small and you can see each other weekly. This is what me and my last partner did most of the time (she was only about 2 hours away), and it worked. But if there’s a huge distance it’s going to cause a lot of issues.
Moreover, another complication with long distance relationships is because you see each other in LARGE sittings at once, the relationship moves far faster compared to if you were just going on a date and spending an hour or two here and there until you really knew each other (I’m going to write something about this). There’s always anticipation and excitement, but some things get missed sometimes in the person’s personality because of the excitement.
So I think for you two, distance caused friction.
But then your avoidant tendencies came out because when you were thinking of moving together he got scared. Obviously you were willing to re-locate (and you had job reasons too, which is good!), but it sounds to me that it’s more of an avoidant fear is his head (his mind is saying you’re getting close, versus being able to keep you at a distance through texts or KMs).
Because you’ve both been through divorce/absent parent situations, I’d recommend checking out therapy if you haven’t already to help you heal your abandonment issues. Other than that, you’re going to have to work together and be honest in re-assuring each other how much you care for one another despite avoidant issues, and so on.
You guys getting closer, in the same city, is rubbing up against the childhood fear of someone you love (e.g. one of your parents) leaving you again (if things wouldn’t work out), and it sounds like he’s more affected, but that’s probably causing most of the friction.
I’m not sure if you two need to NOT see each other (i.e. your wounds are so bad you shouldn’t be dating anyone and should focus on healing), but I think therapy is necessary and if you want to be together and it’s going to take some work. E.g., you might have to start by saying that you think he is trying to keep distance so he doesn’t get hurt… not in a know-it-all or antagonizing way, but in a caring “I want to be here for you” way, and see where the conversation goes. Don’t expect him to agree 100% right away, but see where your feelings take you.
Any other questions, just ask :).
The beginning of this article had me in tears because it was so on point with my emotions of avoidance and the fear of vulnerability. I am currently seeing a therapist to finally deal with my childhood abuse.
I guess my question is, do you have any advice on how to communicate these feelings with your partner?
I struggle with this because once any kind of serious conversation about our relationship or feelings are brought up I go silent. It’s like I cannot form words or sentences and I am overcome with fear. In my mind I become confused and the voice in my mind is screaming “say something!” But it feels like I literally can’t say what is happening in my brain. I can only imagine how frustrating this must be for my boyfriend.
Hi Haley, I’m happy you identified so much with this article, not so happy about the tears…
Good on you for seeing a therapist. Probably one of the best decisions I ever made was to go to therapy (and pay for additional sessions after my University-provided ones ran out).
I totally understand what you mean. Previously I was SUPER scared to say anything to piss my partner off, or that might make them hate me. I still feel that at times with people, because I’m a “nice guy” by nature, so I don’t like it when people are upset or not 100% happy with me.
The avoider mentality comes from the belief that if you show yourself truly (feelings, desires, personality, etc.), someone will say you suck, run away, and abandon you. Having a trusting and loving partner is essential to combat this. I’m guessing this is the case for you, so telling them about your fears, and avoidant tendencies is a good start. Also, telling them you need a lot of re-assurance so that no matter what you say, they will still love, respect and care for you.
Avoiders are afraid people will leave them if they show themselves, so this is one way to get that fear smaller. Of course, just words with no action won’t help. But if your boyfriend really cares about you, you’ll feel it in his tone and also, maybe ask for a hug or a hold :). Tell them you need help and want to share what’s going on and you’re just scared (because you think they’ll run away).
Some people need a lot of re-assurance to open up, and that’s OK. We’re not perfect. Communication is ESSENTIAL to keep getting over this.
Having a loving person is one of the best ways to heal being an avoider (on a personal note, just wrote about this: https://lightwayofthinking.com/why-getting-girlfriend-boyfriend-can-change-your-life/).
Second, in general, it’s good that you know what’s going on, but it’s going to take you time to talk about your feelings openly. You’ve had experiences that have made you super scared of people leaving you if you share yourself genuinely, so keep going in baby steps and with time (and with healing in therapy), you will become more at ease with this. Some of the strongest people I know get EXTREMELY scared still with deeper emotional conversations. And again, I also do as well. I am conscious of it, and fight it, but I know I’m always going to be a bit scared.
And you start practicing this everywhere. If your friend does something you don’t like, say it. Don’t agree with something at work? Voice your opinion. By doing this, you train yourself in bite sized steps to be honest about who you are, and how you feel.
Hope that helps! If you need any more clarification, just ask me!!
Does growing up in a household where the parents were divorced or had a terrible marriage contribute to an avoider/ fear of intimacy mentality? If so, how does this person view getting into a serious relationship? Are they terrified their relationships will turn out the same? How could we help them get past this?
Hi David. Yes this would definitely contribute to a fear of intimacy… almost anything involving our parents forms our views and issues with our own relationships we try to create.
In terms of how they view it, it depends. If the parents are divorced the child might think that love is pointless as it might will end with separation, why bother? Moreover if the child only got to see one parent more so than the other, that’s going to leave a mark as well, e.g. issues relating with whichever sex, or loss of intimacy if it’s the opposite sex parent of the child’s.
There’s no one answer to how to help them. As I keep stressing in my answers and the article, there are guide lines and common helpful items (therapy, communicating certain issues to your partners, becoming more “self-loving”), but there is no cure all answer to the avoider mentality. It’s a slow process you, your partners, and your support network are involved in, and the change happens (IF YOU WORK ON IT) over time.
I think that’s the hardest part of any form of self-improvement nobody likes to hear – change will take time and it might suck for a long while. Stick through it though, rewards (e.g. loving relationships) are so worth it.
Thank you for this article, it describes a lot how I feel. It is always good to know that we are not alone.
My situation is a little bit hard to describe, but i will try haha.
I have been friends with this guy for 3 years now, I didn’t have any feelings for him until the middle of last year. We started to talk more and more, and my feelings for him started to grow. Every time I saw him I would feel so in love, I felt so happy every time I was around him. I was sure he liked me, and wanted him to tell me, so we could be in a relationship! The thought of was together was just perfect and beautiful. Until that finally happened.. In October he told me he liked me (through Facebook, he said he just couldn’t wait any longer), he told me he was in love with me since we first met. He said he would like for us to become more than friends, but we could start slow to get to know each other better etc.. and he wanted to know if that was mutual.
I was so over the moon, I was truly happy! I told him I liked him back and that it was mutual.. We then decided to meet up, and so we did 2 days after. We were talking and everything was fine, but suddenly I felt deeply anxious as if a wave of reality was rushing through my body, similar feeling of when you see that you’ve failed a important exam, I remember feeling very uncomfortable and wanted to go home so badly. I looked at him and I felt no attraction to him whatsoever, which made me feel even more anxious because first, I’ve already told him I liked him I couldn’t just say ‘oh actually, I don’t think I like you anymore.. no specific reason’ , and second I knew I was so in love with him why was I feeling like this?. During the following weeks I was always very tense around him, and pushed him away as much as I could. He obviously noticed it and asked me what was going on, and if I changed my mind etc.. I told him that I wasn’t sure about my feelings anymore and that I needed time.. I tried to explain him something that I couldn’t understand it myself. I didn’t want to lose him, but it was relieving. He said it was ok and that he wanted distance until I decided something. He said it would be better for the both of us.
We didn’t talk for many weeks, I missed him so much, I missed talking to him and knowing what he was doing. I felt I was in love with him again, but then I was afraid that the same thing would happen. I was searching the internet about this and I saw that other people experienced similar things, all because of fear of intimacy and love.
I took the courage to talk to him about that. He said he was glad that I told him, he said he was thinking of going to another country to work but nothing in what he said showed that he still liked me. So in that night I had my first anxiety attack, I was shaking I couldn’t eat, I felt nauseous and other physical symptoms. I thought ‘that is it he doesn’t like me anymore, what have I done. I need to forget him, it’s ok I’ll find someone else…’ all this thoughts rushed through my mind, but nothing seemed to calm me. The next day was terrible, I woke up shaking, I had to throw up and felt horrible. I got a text from him, and we started talking more and more, and I realized that he still liked me. That however, didn’t stop my anxiety, the thought of him going to another country was not pleasing. I had anxiety for several days, if not weeks. Specially when I knew I was going to see him. My anxiety started to ease when we started to become close again. I decided to start therapy, and I am at the moment doing it. He is now in another country working and thinking of coming back in the end of the year. We are very close and talk to each other almost every day. I know I like him, and maybe even love him but this fear is pushing me back. When I talk to him on facebook, everything looks fine but sometimes when we Skype I don’t feel very attracted to him. I start to notice all his flaws not only physically but in his personally too, things that I didn’t mind before. As if anything he did or said was annoying. Sometimes I feel so in love with him, but there are times just thinking of us together makes me anxious. Once I felt he was ignoring me because he didn’t reply to my text, so I felt very anxious I couldn’t even eat properly. Which ended up not being anything, he didn’t reply because he was very busy working not because he was ignoring me.
I’m so confused with this roller coaster of feelings, now I’m not sure if I truly like him or it’s just the fear that is very convincing. What if when he comes back and it all starts again. I don’t know if I’ll be able to get into a relationship even though I don’t feel like I love the person I’m with.
I had a happy childhood and my parents always showed affection to each other and to me. So I don’t really understand why this is happening to me.
Thank you so much for your time Noam 🙂
p.s- I’m sorry about my English, it isn’t my first language haha
Did you ever meet the guy in person before now? It sounds like you had a “Facebook” relationship before meeting. So you had all these feelings built up and you had all this excitement. You probably built up stuff in your mind and then when you met in person maybe some of your assumptions of awesomeness were not true (e.g. you painted a certain picture of this guy from your online chatting).
Sorry to hear about the terrible anxiety attacks :s. I’ve definitely felt the same way about texting, it’s a characteristic of an anxious attachment type (http://markmanson.net/attachment-theory)-Assuming that things are going wrong but actually, everything is fine/the person is just busy. Sounds like you may be anxious-avoidant (see below, you might not be an avoider…).
In terms of the guy, I like to suggest a technique from the book, Decisive, called “Ooching”. Should you want to have a relationship with him, you need to be in the same place for an extended period of time (but not together attached at the hip 24/7), in the flesh, to see how everything goes when he comes back. Facebook is not how you build a relationship.
And as for flaws, as I mentioned in an answer above, everybody’s got ’em. I mean, I overthink and I get anxious, but now I accept that much more. My last partner found it cute and adorable (wtf haha?!) and it’s a point Mark Manson makes – The point is NOT to find a partner without flaws, but flaws we can tolerate or that make us like the person even more.
It’s true, a symptom of the avoider mentality is to nitpick at flaws to keep people away. It’s good you started therapy which should help.
To me you COULD be avoidant (or anxious-avoidant), or just really nervous with a guy you like who now is in front of you instead of in front of a screen, which is a distance barrier as well as an emotional one (you can keep them at arm’s reach). There are many more questions needed:
– How many serious relationships have you had?
– How many partners?
– Has everything usually gone well?
I think therapy will help you (mostly with your anxiety – actually throwing up over this isn’t normal), but otherwise without more info, you’ll just have to keep that open line of communication and try things with this guy. If this is a pattern that has happened in the past, I’d say it’s avoider behaviour. If you haven’t had many relationships, you don’t have enough data to make a conclusion!
So Ooch into this relationship, keep working on yourself in therapy, communicate, and see what happens.
Thank you for your reply! 🙂
Sorry, I think I didn’t explain it very well (haha) . Yes, I met him in person. In 2012 I think, at a friends house but we only started being very close last year. I used to see him at least twice a week but what changed was that we started talking everyday on Facebook which made us closer, as we started to know each other more. That’s what I don’t understand, when I was around him (physically) I used to feel very happy and in love with him. However, when we were about to get into a relationship, BANG, anxiety!
Now he is working in another country (he is coming back at the end of the summer), which makes things more difficult, because that way I can’t “test” my feelings or try to be in a relationship even though fear says no.
The problem is that he is not here, so I can’t do that. And I don’t know how I will cope when he comes back, I’m scared that I might push him away again. I’m scared of having the full on feelings of anxiety all over again.
I’ve never been into a romantic relationship before, that may be on of the reasons that I’m anxious as I don’t know what to expect from it. Sometimes I feel like a relationship may take too much of my time, and make too many changes to may routine, but it’s very unconscious.. I don’t know if that makes sense.
I don’t know how I’ll take all this change without getting anxious specially when he comes back.
No problems :).
I actually just had to deal with traveling and relationships… What I’ve learned is that unfortunately, it’s best to move on unless there’s a very short travel period. So if he’s coming back in a few months I guess it’s up to you whether you’d rather wait for him, or find someone else potentially.
If you’ve never been in a romantic relationship before, the anxiety makes TOTAL sense. Don’t beat yourself up. You’re new to this and want it (good!), but you have to be patient – you don’t become comfortable with something new instantaneously.
From personal experience I can tell you the “I don’t have time for a relationship” is bullshit. Only because I tell myself that a lot. The truth in life is that you make time for whatever is important to you, e.g. you make time for work, friends, maybe a hobby, the gym… If it’s important enough, it will be given time and other less important things either will not be done, or will be postponed. You’re nervous and scared and your mind is trying to fling excuses at you. I’ve been there, I still am there, don’t worry. But don’t believe the thought. You want a relationship and that’s good.
If you think it’s not too long to wait, chat over Skype and such and try to keep things together. However, it is possible he’ll meet someone while travelling. He might also leave right away to another country after coming back and you have no control over that.
So again, your call if you’d like to wait or find someone else.
Whatever the case, I think getting a decent boyfriend will really help you start getting into the dating world/getting through your relationship anxiety. Don’t just go with whomever though (don’t rush). Find someone who seems kind, caring,… and is obviously sexy.
I keep re-reading this post as it’s one of the only things that helps me cope with a recent breakup with an avoidant – for the second time. We’re vastly different but compatible, and I love him so much it hurts. The first time we were together was for 14 months, and he blindsided me by saying he didn’t think we should see each other any more. This came during a time when I was greatly stressed and emotional about everything that had been going on at work, and I’m guessing he couldn’t handle what he perceived to be an emotional rollercoaster. During the four months we spent apart, I mourned the loss of him and our relationship. We ended up getting back together and during the initial conversation we had about doing so, we addressed his lack of communication and how we would be more open going forward (I have always been very upfront and honest about my feelings, good or bad).
During the first few months, things were better than they had EVER been. He told me that he really regretted not giving it everything he had the first time, and that he would never make that mistake again. Unfortunately, about 4-5 months into the second time around, I learned that I had breast cancer. He was very supportive – said “we” would get through this and that “we” were in it from the long-haul. He accompanied me to doctor’s appointments and I truly felt that he was my rock and we’d get through this. We continued to discuss the future, what we’d name our child if we ever had one and where we’d live. About eight weeks after chemo started, and though he admitted I was handling it better than he thought I would, he ended up leaving. It started by him saying he needed space to figure out “what he was doing” here, and he admitted that he know what he wanted. During this time of giving him space, I sent him this article and he said it resonated with him. He said he definitely feels like he avoids things are difficult, and he was the one to suggest that perhaps we go to counseling – that he thought it was a good idea. However, after getting the ball rolling, he backed out of going. He started to ignore me and it seems as if he shut down emotionally – COMPLETELY. I feel as though he used excuses: it was suddenly that he wasn’t sure if we were compatible or meant to be together. Everything else he mentioned was essentially what he thought I felt, etc. Since the breakup, he did text me on the morning of one chemo treatment wishing me good luck, but that’s it.
I’m devastated for many reasons, but can’t help but to hold onto a glimmer of hope. We still have yet to have a legitimate conversation which is upsetting as well as we ended things through TEXT! I feel as though after all we’ve been though, and after being closer than ever before, he literally vanished into thin air. To make matters worse, we work together. After the breakup, I’d see him in the office and he has literally DUCKED into a bathroom to avoid seeing me. He also went so far as to start parking his car as far away in the lot as possible. The logical side of me says to move on, but I love him and I’m struggling with this. He has done things to frustrate me but none of that changes how I feel about him. He doesn’t communicate, and like another posted mentioned, it is definitely like pulling teeth to get him to talk about anything “deep.” There are also several other things that he does that are sure signs of a fear of intimacy.
People keep saying that if I love him to let him go, and if it’s meant to be he will come back. But, I’ve already done that and he did come back, but now he’s gone again.
What do I do?
Hey Sheila. First off really sorry to hear about the cancer, I hope chemo is successful and you recover.
You say “We’re vastly different, but compatible”. Compatibility implies similarity… Also, the fact that you work together is definitely going to make things tough if you are on the rocks.
Honestly it sounds like he had a hard time dealing with the cancer thing (of course that’s obviously more your cross to bear) and since you weren’t actually married, with kids, etc., maybe he just decided that it was too much for him to handle a partner with cancer. That’s not being mean, just being honest.
Basically it seems like he’s been scared once, and now is scared again. He’s got to figure it out himself. You can try and get him to come back, or hope he works out his own fears and such and might come back to you. However you’ve got enough on your plate.
I would focus on getting healthier and move on to find a supportive partner. As much as you love and connect with him, there are TONS of other people out there. You won’t find someone who is identical, but you will find someone else.
After a year or more or dating (even if you broke up in the middle), I think text break up is pretty shitty and kind of cowardly, honestly.
Wow this really helped.
I just learned that my boyfriend has this problem, and I fear he’s going to push me away. But now I know a little bit about the issue I can work towards helping him. He’s convinced that I’ll give up on him and hurt him, and I keep on trying to get it through his head that I wont. It’s very frustrating, but i guess it’s worth it, for him.
Yes this is definitely a repeated story. A lot of re-assurance, love, and care is all you can really do unfortunately. You can help the avoider, and they need your help, but it’s up to them to get their brain and mind to see that people love them as they are.
I just got out of a confusing, short-lived relationship with someone who displayed a lot of avoider behaviors. I’ve been working on myself with the help of a therapist, but still lean more toward anxious in my relationships. The beginning was great with my ex, but within a short time, I felt her pulling away. She stopped having sex with me, wouldn’t kiss me as passionately, stopped cuddling with me (she’d actually sit on the other side of the room from where I was sitting) and acted like we weren’t together when we were out in public. Then, noticing how anxious I was feeling, told her what I needed to feel safe and secure in our relationship (sex once a week, more kissing and cuddling, respondes to flirty texts and talking on the phone at least once each day). I asked if she was available to meet my needs. She said yes, but it only lasted 3 days (and no, we didn’t have sex). It’d been a month with no sex at that time. I spoke with her about this, and was told she was afraid of going through pain like she did at the end of her last relationship. She also struggled to tell me anything she liked about being with me. I told her that if she didn’t want to be with me, to just break it off. She said she wasn’t saying that. I asked what she wanted. She said she didn’t know. I suggested taking some space. (I’m sympathetic, and care about her feelings/concerns, but I have needs and feelings, too). I left her place & she sent me a text about how all she was capable of was hurting people. I sent her an article about how hurtful indecision was. She responded with an e-mail saying she was walking away & hoped we could maintain some kind of friendship.
I waited a few days, and then responded to her message telling her I was angry, sad, confused and just upset. Also, that I could not be just a friend. We fought, she shut down & unfriended me on Facebook. I talked with her, and told her I wanted her to be happy. She said she was never going to be happy. She seemed to focus only on bad things and complaints I had about her pulling away. (Before she pulled away, I really enjoyed being with her and thought there was so much potential.) We then talked on the phone and the conversation ended with her asking me why I wanted to be with her. I told her. She said she was tired and needed sleep. I told her to call me when she had more energy. A few days later, I received a text from her saying she hoped I had a good weekend. (I was expecting a call from her over the weekend). I responded that I hoped she had a good weekend, too. She wrote back,’ I did thank you!!’
That was a few weeks ago. I still care about her. I know I should just let go, but reading this entry brought it all back. I kinda want to send this to her, but fear she might see it as disrespectful. I don’t know what to do. Maybe, it’s best to do nothing
Let her go.
Withholding sex, intimacy, etc. is not fair and you deserve better. She also seems like a bit of an emotional vampire, asking for your sympathy and validation. E.g. when you said you just wanted her to be happy, the response “I’ll never be happy” seems to just merit sympathy, given the other things that she did. See here: http://markmanson.net/are-you-an-emotional-vampire
I think you did well, especially having an anxious nature. E.g. saying “I want this in the relationship”. Of course, you can’t expect to get all your needs met, e.g., if it was something outlandish like having sex 5 times a day, every day. Moreover going forward, you can’t expect that even all your demands that you think are “reasonable”, like talking on the phone once a day, will be met. You’re trying to control your partner and get certain feelings in a relationship. Are you doing this because you need to know this person loves you all the time? You can’t deal with a bit of unknown?
A relationship is built on compromise. The person might do certain things for you out of love, but they won’t ever be perfect. Keep this in your mind moving forward.
But honestly with this girl, I’d say cut contact, process your feelings of mourning the relationship, and then once you are ready move on to someone healthier.
Keep working on yourself in therapy, and reflect on what you did right and wrong here to learn for the future, but be proud of sticking up for your needs.
Thanks for your response, Noam!
I recognize that people show love in all kinds of ways. When I asked my ex for what I wanted, it was at a point where I was feeling ready to end things. I didn’t like who I was becoming being with this person (ie an anxious mess). The mixed messages were becoming too much.
So, yes, I can deal with the unknown in relationships.
I hadn’t considered the emotional vampire possibility, but reading over the Mark Manson article – it makes sense.
I have concerns about why I tolerated as much as I did, but then again, I did speak up for myself, and the entire relationship lasted less than 3 months.
Contact has been cut, but unfortunately, we have mutual friends. I’m hopeful that by the time I see her again, I’m at the point where I don’t care whether we ever talk again.
I have just recently discovered that I am an avoider, a few days just before I read your wonderful article. It has helped place me in the right realm of thought and makes a lot of sense for me, i.e. past relationships and even current relationship. I really need your help with a few questions, I also have to admit that I am currently receiving counseling, and have been for the past 6 months now.
I am currently engaged to my partner, in which we became engaged rather quickly (under 3 months). I broke up with my ex before this current relationship, in the middle of the summer, and three months later rushed into an engagement (still in the honeymoon phase). My fiancé and I both wanted the engagement and routinely talked about marriage, kids, finances, religion, etc. right from the get-go. However, after less than 2 months of happy engagement status, I noticed myself pulling back, emotions, physical contact, cuddling, holding hands, even sex! I couldn’t figure out what it was, did I rush into the relationship, is it me? Is it her? What could be forcing me away!? I then had to look at my past relationships, the last 3 (including this one) are identical in nature. They all ended with me pulling away, emotionally and physically, looking for imperfections to justify my separation. I would even notice other women, and even cross the line at times in communication with these other women (never physically cheating, but emotionally, terrible I know). I always contributed this to “them” being the issue and not me…I would routinely feel they were clingy and always had to be around me. I recently told my fiancé the truth I uncovered about myself and that I honestly don’t know if we will work out any longer and that it’s going to be a long road ahead for me. She doesn’t get it and thinks I can choose what I want to do. It’s so difficult to be in a room with someone you feel that you love but you have no ability to want to touch, kiss, have sex with, anything.
I feel I had a decent childhood and received a ton of affection from my mom, not from my dad however, but he was still there just would never show emotions/intimacy to us kids or my mom for that matter. Could that be it, causing my avoidant behavior? I know I lacked a lot of self-confidence and ability to talk to women, I was a late bloomer to the dating game, but now am very confident to talk to any girl in any situation. I really want a relationship and I like to think of myself as a good person, who tries to always do well. I do notice that I have a very hard time breaking my daily routine, and even get anxiety if someone presents an activity/event that would break my normal routine. At this point, I have even found myself thinking about other women already, which is probably pulling me away even more so. I try to stop thinking about others but it is so hard to just shut off.
I REALLY need your advice/input on this. Do you feel it would be best to remove our wedding date and focus on growing myself? Do you think this relationship is salvageable? My personal thought is that for this to even have a chance of working we need to agree that we are no longer engaged, but together in a relationship, and start over from scratch (remove all commitments). Do you think that is a realistic idea? I’m crushing her and I hate this feeling but I cannot give her what she wants at this time (physical and emotional intimacy) and don’t know if I can in any quick fashion. Please help!
OK a lot here. I never preface my comments with this but I think it’s necessary here because it involves a marriage: I’m trying to help you as best I can, but I don’t know everything, I’m not perfect, and ultimately you need to choose what you should do and take responsibility for the potential consequences.
From what you tell me, you should NOT be getting married. And let me clarify, you broke up with someone, jumped into a new relationship, and then got engaged after 3 months?!
Waayyyyy too fast, this is not normal. Try moving in together after a year. MAYBE get engaged after 3+ years. Marriage is a life long commitment and if you’ve already felt emotions waning that’s a bad sign. You even identified yourself that you did this while being in the honeymoon phase, which was a bad call on your part.
On the thinking about other women part – thoughts can’t be controlled. Many people try to suppress thoughts and what you resist persists. Just because you think about other girls doesn’t mean you have to dwell on the thoughts for hours, masterbait to the girls, or go cheat on your girlfriend. You don’t control your thoughts, but you control the behaviour afterwards/what you do with them. Just because you think another girl is attractive doesn’t mean you are bad/need to go off and run along with them.
This is the same with anxiety. You can’t control anxious thoughts, but you can learn to not let them control you or get you obsessively worried.
It’s possible receiving TONS of affection from your Mom made you highly sensitive and dependent on women to continuously give you affection, which might be why you’ve become really good with them. But I couldn’t say without a super detailed psychological background of me interviewing you on a couch XD.
What I can say is you should definitely not be getting married. Whether you want to stay in this relationship is your call, but you entered into something on a rebound, and that’s never good.
Have you ever been single for long periods of time? Some people jump from relationship to relationship because they think they NEED one to be happy or be important. They don’t understand relationships are about two people who are good and whole themselves coming together to create something better/bigger. This could be the thing with your Mom coming into play that you feel you NEED that intimacy from women to be OK.
This is obviously nonsense – you’re fine just as you are, but girls are obviously very nice :).
If a pattern repeats itself with tons of different people (e.g. you wanting to always run away), look at the common denominator – you.
If you are never single and if you can be right now, I’d suggest trying for half a year to be single, not dating, and not even trying to get into a relationship. Girls aren’t going anywhere, but if you start being super co-dependent and ALWAYS needing a woman, that’s really going to hurt you down the line when you, for example, get into an argument over something important and feel you can’t disagree for fear of her being angry at you (e.g. removing her intimacy and affection for a period of time).
Take time to yourself, keep going to therapy, take part in things you like… and then come back. What fears came up over time (e.g. “I’ll never have anyone”, “I’ll always be alone)? Do you feel better?
Discuss this with your therapist first, but I honestly think given what you’ve told me, it could be the most healing/growth-worthy thing for you at this point when it comes to dating and women.
Good luck Rob!
Thank you for your truly insightful and detailed article. I think it’s wonderful that you have managed to push through and move giant steps in your own life in dealing with your own issues to be able to enjoy a more fulfilled life!
I too have recently been involved with a beautiful person who may well be an avoider. I have been pushed away very suddenly when things were going beautifully…. our connection is powerful and heavenly. I believe that she is aware of her fears, the avoider behavior, and the impact of previous relationships. She is a strong willed and resourceful lady. She has many friends, close family ties and young children (as do I) – all of whom provide love and companionship.
My question is one that was asked in a recent post but that you did not directly answer. … “In general, is it advisable to forward your article to an avoider, or is that just medelling and disrespectful”?
I have deep respect and compassion for the fear she has experienced in this regard. She was honest and strong enough to confront me with it person when she called off the relationship!
Thanks again and congrats on a fantastic website!
James, thank you so much for the compliments. It really means a lot to me and I’m glad you like what I do :). It’s definitely been a challenging journey that’s not over, but life is definitely getting better every day.
Ah this is true, I forgot to answer the question directly. Unfortunately, there is no clear cut answer (as is the case for many emotional issues). It depends:
a) Anything you try to give people should be to help them be better as people, not because you fundamentally don’t love them as they are/think they are flawed and you need to “fix” them – i.e. they need saving, or otherwise you won’t be happy. So if you wanted her to be better and happier, I think it would help (and offering to help her and talk to her).
b) HOWEVER you say she broke up with you. You should NOT be talking for a while to let emotions die down, otherwise you risk some murky middle-ground type stuff (Are we still together? Friends?…). It doesn’t matter if it’s a small text or something, I’d try to not talk as much as possible, for a good few months.
So if after a while you still think it could help her, send it. But again assuming you recently broke up, leave her for now. By the way you write I can tell you still have a lot of feelings for her, and any contact might make the break up pain worse, especially if she doesn’t return feelings of thanks (not saying she wouldn’t, but it’s better to wait).
I am so glad there are people like you on this world. You provide comfort and council and I wish to thank you personally for it.
My story is as follows:
I met a girl seven months ago. Fell in love. She was than freshly in love in an impossible combination (all her combinations and past affairs were such in a way), but kept a spot for me. I was decisive to win her over, thinking I can overcome everything to reach the woman I love.
Important note: She lived 6 hours drive than. (Now she lives over 1000 kilometers away.) We were texting very closely and constantly. We’ve been doing it all this time.
When she was closer, at start, we’ve spent a weekend together. My love grew, and I made her a big gesture, having people from 40 towns around the world write her name and take a photo in their town. After that gesture she fell in a 5 days long depression. I wanted to go again and see her, she was silent and distant. I decided to give her space. After that, having suffered a lot, she sent me cold messages and said – we can be only friends.
I did not give up. I could not give up. I kept the communication going for the next five months. And during that time made her big romantic gestures. Big, big, and very special. Gave her tenderness and closeness. In that time, she went back home, over 1000 kilometers away.
Last month, we decided to go on a road trip together. I convinced her on it. Planned everything and made it the perfect seven days. And, we got close, enjoyed romance. After the romantic high, after two days, third day, she was silent, fourth day mildly depressed. I felt tenderness from her side, but felt also she was suffocating it inside.
When we parted. I knew I had to see her again. She was still in the region, so I went there for two days. Made her one more big gesture of love (not cheap ones, custom designed ones). And that was a hit. She had let me in. I could feel love. Eyes locked, hand in hand, closeness, for the first time, strong, beautiful closeness.
She went back home. I bought the ticket to see her again in a month. Now, the story takes on a twist.
She was depressed again. I felt her slipping away. And I feared of it a lot. Than I did not realize she had such fear of intimacy. I’ve sent her warm emails, another beautiful gesture. Than she told me, a week after our return, she had met a guy who is interested in her. Described him as another, not impossible, but unimportant opportunity. I felt scared. Next day I bought tickets to see her sooner (this weekend), and told her of my plan to come and live in her town in the beginning of autumn. She continued to talk about meeting some other guy, and started to be distant.
I tried to make her jealous. Than she told me she had kissed with another guy (the first one she mentioned). I’ve passed through a sea of pain. I’ve sent her an completely honest message, asking if she was just making me jealous, or if she was with other men. But even if so, that I won’t give up on her.
She told me – ever since I mentioned coming in autumn, and buying the earlier ticket, she felt she needed distance from me. And that she thought she wanted me to tell her I found someone else. Even though she does not know how would she react on it. And that she thought she wanted same for her self. And that she had been more than once with that guy.
I told her I understand why she did it. That I expected it to happen, ever since the love high we had, that she will try to make it fall apart, and remove the ”threat” of something real. And she does see me as something real.
After that we did not talk. I know she does not want me to come, and that she is afraid, and pushing me away.
However, since than, I’ve talked a lot with my therapist, read a lot, a lot about the fear of intimacy and the avoiding type. And now I think understand her well.
I still see her as my ”Holy Grail”, and am willing to fight for it. But… I live far. I can not afford more trips than these two trips in May. one for two days – weekend. One for seven days mid month. And.. I know I need her to extend a hand if I am going to change my life and go there. Now, I think I realize she is not able to do it.
I plan to go there on Friday. And even though I think she will confront me with rejection and coldness, have a completely open conversation. When I realized the strength of her fear of intimacy, and what that fear really is (I have it as well, but much, much less), my anger, disappointment and hurt was replaced with understanding and a yet unsurfaced dose of sadness.
She would like me in her life. I know I mean something very special for her, and that she fell in love with me as well. And I know it is because we were, and are on the safe distance. And I feel sorry I don’t have the time, or resources to afford myself another seven months, or more in tender pursuit of her.
Please, if you can. Let me know what you think.
Best to you!
Hi Isthvan, thanks for the kinds words. I love to help people and do the best I can to give everyone benefits of what I’ve learned so they can hopefully improve and make relationships that are better, faster, and with less pain in the process. It makes me feel good :).
So you wrote in thinking this girl is an avoider.
I don’t think so, actually.
The problem is with you, unfortunately. This may be a bit harsh but listen please. This is for your own good:
You write as if this is a “fairy tale romance”, where stars align and everything is right. It sounds like a romance novel. You even talk about “winning her over”, as if you are some prince on a white horse, and you could not give up, and you gave her this collage of pictures…
Have you ever had any romantic relationships before?
What you are doing, borrowing terms from the men’s dating advice arena, reeks of 1) oneitis, and 2) neediness.
Oneitis means you believe this is the ONLY girl for you and you must convince her to love you.
Neediness means you value her perception of you over all else and will sacrifice everything so she will like you.
Both are incredibly unattractive.
A woman does not want a man who, after one meeting, sends her billions of romantic letters and can’t stop thinking about her. A woman wants a man who has his own life, takes care of himself, and invites her in so she can participate in the amazing things he does, she can help him, and so that they can create something amazing together.
Your interpretation of her being “an avoider” is her distancing herself from you smothering her. And when you “won her over”, she might have just wanted the amount of attention you were giving, which she promptly changed by making out with someone else and telling you.
She’s stringing you along, knowing you will keep following because you are so “in love”.
Isthvan – I’m not sure of your past, background, or how you view women, but this is not normal nor healthy. This is not how you should be approaching romantic relationships. Women are also not perfect, and not creatures to be “won over”. They like you or they don’t, and while there is some pushing sometimes, there is also a point where it’s not worth it.
Yes there is love and time when things seem amazing, but what you are doing is obsessive and probably to the point where you aren’t focusing on your own life.
You were probably looking for advice on how to help her with her “avoidance”, but I’d say you need to stop talking to her, and do serious investment in your own life before going after women. And then, do so without emotional vomit.
Read this, and particularly pay attention to the section on emotional vomit: http://markmanson.net/vulnerability
Good luck man, and let me know if you need some more help.
This article is wonderful, this is something I have dealt with since childhood as it stands now I’m in serious relationship attempt #3, the first 2 ended disastrously, the second ended in divorce and I have a 4 year old daughter from that marriage. I am desperately trying to work through these issues so I do not sabotage the relationship I am now in. I am with a wonderful man who is so very understanding and things were as close to perfection as they could be, until we moved in together 6 months ago. Now I am caught in a neverending anxiety attack, wondering what he is doing at all times, I become completely immobilized at work and in daily activities, I feel caged in and trapped by these new living arrangements I thought I was ready for and I believe that is why I have suddenly gone search crazy for any possible signs of dishonesty or unfaithfulness. And while he is a wonderfully patient and reassuring man I can feel his patience waning at times now. I don’t want to mess this up but trusting someone is all but impossible for me and I keep trying to find a means to “escape”. I feel like a lost cause and that no man an ever be truly faithful, based on my experiences have taught and what science says about over sexuality in men just being part of their DNA and that finding a man who can be devoted to just one woman forever or not viewing pornography is simply not logical.
Dreadfully sorry for poor typing, I was using my phone and autocorrect is rubbish sometimes.
Sounds like you have a lot of trust issues. Have you ever been cheated on before? That’s going to imprint itself on your psychological make up and make you distrusting of all men.
Also, are you currently or have you ever partaken in therapy?
Yeah it seems like you brain is just trying to sabotage you and find ways to cause you anxiety. Of course this is by definition what anxiety is – your brain playing tricks on you.
You are definitely over-generalizing about men, which is why I ask if you’ve ever been cheated on before. Not ALL men watch pornography (I gave it up over 2 years ago, and there are entire Reddit sub-forums dedicated to men getting off it/studies backing what it does to men). Also, we’re all sexual, guys and girls. I don’t know what you mean by over-sexual, but tons of guys who have fucked lots of girls in the past are more than happy to become monogamous if a girl ticks all the boxes. Also, lots of girls love to fuck different men and have no interest in committing into a monogamous relationship.
You should be going to therapy to work out your trust issues, and if you’ve had any bad experiences in the past come clean to your current BF so that he knows what’s going on. Otherwise, he might assume you ARE just making problems for no reason, or he’s doing something wrong.
Again – communication, therapy, self-love and -acceptance, and working with a loving partner are the solutions to the avoider mentality.
This is an article is something I wish I had read months or years ago and very insightful and so helpful.
My fiancée and I broke up about 8 months ago. We dated when we were 16 and broke up and were friends for over 10 years after. Since I have known him, he has displayed hot and cold behaviour during our friendship that I did not trust.
In our late 20’s we grew close and our friendship turned into much more. It was always happy and relaxed and effortless and I felt such a deep connection with him and him with me.
He seemed 100% committed and in love as I was.
After the initial first months, he began to withdraw, withholding sex, intimacy, we talked and he confessed that this had happened in previous relationships. He had previous to my knowledge blamed his exes saying that they had withheld sex, were jealous or emotional. He was distraught and we decided we wanted to work at things and stay together.
This continued for two years. He became increasingly distressed at my attempts to talk about it. Feeling hurt and upset and despite his reassurances, it affected my self esteem and created distance between us. When it was apparent that talking was making him distance himself further and he got angry and he wanted space, I packed my things and left. He was clearly upset but talking was achieving nothing.
We only resolved this when he believed he had lost me and wanted to resolve it by talking.
I moved back in, only to discover, he had been flirting with other women he knew before and during our split, rather than resolving the issues we had. He assured me it was merely to make himself feel better and that due to online messaging, it could never and was never intentioned to be intimate. I almost left again but we worked it through and the relationship improved somewhat, we grew together again and we got engaged after another year together.
However, he then took a job where he has to work offshore and I encouraged his efforts because I loved him. Gradually over time, I found that he would still withhold sex, become involved in personal interests and spend less time with me. Combined with his working offshore for a month, versus being home a month, I began to see this as another form of distancing himself. Throughout he always was loving.
We had made plans to start trying for a family. Shortly after our engagement I fell pregnant. I lost the baby 3 months later. My fiancée was working away for a month directly after. Although he was initially loving and supportive , I felt isolated, lonely and gradually slipped into a mild depression the next few months after.
My fiancée with whom I’d always been close with, shut down, was never home in the months home between the months away. if he was home, he was preoccupied. I tried talking to him and when that made it worse, I suggested space or to focus on myself becoming whole and happy again rather than trying to talk or fix our issues constantly, he unleashed anger and frustration. He ended things .
The break up its self was awful. He hurled abuse and blame at me for a long month, was hot and cold, told me he loved but, didn’t want to lose me but didn’t want to try anymore.
I eventually found the courage to tell him that if we couldn’t work it out, that I wouldn’t be strung along. He wanted me to wait for him.
After some bad hot and cold behaviour, after having moved out only 4 days, I went round to our old house, only to catch him out and find another woman.
Since then it’s been 8 months. He had tried several times to want to keep in touch or be friends and I told him I couldn’t. Whenever I was done and finished with him, he would blow hot and pull on the heart strings. When I then tried to talk to him, he threw anger and blame at me and pushed me away further.
I always felt he had issues with intimacy and was somewhat emotionally available but it’s only now I see that it is something he cannot and is not willing to change and no contact is the only way.
He responds to this with anger and blocking. It all makes me feel extremely sad even now as for a long time, I believed the fault was with me for being too emotional or not fun enough or trying to talk to him.
I do question whether I was trying to save him, what made me stay so long and whether this was always doomed. I know I stated because I cared and lived him. He has done and said all manner of things to push me away, only to take them back. Eventually I guess, you have to realise that it is a choice. He chose this and that I cannot control or influence his feelings, choices or decisions but rather make one for myself. Allow this to continue and be hurt in the process or walk away and let go. Any insight or comments Noam would be greatly appreciated, as this has all been so hard to even comprehend.
Thank you again for your article x
I’m really sorry to hear about that – sounds like you got led on for a long time, and had a lot of shit to deal with as well. Seems like he was really stringing you along and enjoying the happy/relationship emotions when he had checked out already, e.g. moving on so fast.
No contact is definitely what you should do – as much as you probably still love this guy a bit, he seems toxic and not a good person to go into an intimate relationship with… of any form (even if you were just close friends).
Maybe you were trying to save him, maybe you really wanted to make it work, maybe you were scared you couldn’t find someone else… But you definitely deserve better, and that’s the main thing you should focus on. So go find someone who treats you well.
The problem in a relationship is that sometimes, people believe problems that arise are all their fault (e.g. you say “I’m not fun enough”, “I tried to talk to him too much”) but it’s two people and that means the other person is at least partially responsible. Here, the other person is VERY responsible for what was going on.
For the future you now know to look for someone who can spend time/wants to spend time with you. You also know that if something like this happens again, you need to bring up the issue early on, and if you see a similar pattern you need to leave. You accept people as they are, and if they can’t be intimate/don’t want to change for their own good, leave.
Take a GOOD amount of time to yourself before you start dating again. Invest in yourself, your hobbies, your friends, and your family and don’t feel pressured to get back out there until you are excited to find someone else. You’ll definitely be scared that this situation will happen again (your mind is going to play tricks on you), but the desire to connect and fun of meeting people should overcome that if you are ready.
Hopefully you’ve been getting support from friends and family, but down the line if intimacy seems tough, you should go through some sort of therapy to help with intimacy and trust issues.
Thanks for sharing and best of luck, Sabrina.
I am writing to you all the way from South Africa, having seen this link posted on a dear friend’s Facebook page. Needless to say it left him “shocked” as it touched a nerve, and reminded me why I quit singing and writing — because both are so deeply involved and became just too unbearable.
While my friend has a tendency to fight, I have a tendency to withdraw (flight), but also because I have learned that sometimes it is best not to defend yourself and to let your actions speak. I also tend to carry my heart on my sleeves and sometimes feel that I have revealed my hand too soon. But I’d much rather wanted a relationship build on trust than to be resented that I wasn’t upfront from the word go.
I LOVE THIS ARTICLE SO MUCH DESPITE THE NERVES IT TOUCHED!
I particularly love this which you wrote: “I wish you nothing but peace and the best in the future, and know that you will find the happiness that you are looking for. My love for you will never change.”
Hey Shane, glad you enjoyed. Cheers from Vietnam!
First of all I have to thank you very much, you are a generous person for taking so much time for us and responding to each entry. And it is probably no coincidence that I found your article because it is full of the exact wisdom I need right now.
I have been trying to make sense of a sudden breakup 3 weeks ago and read your article every couple of days to stay sane!
We are both in our early forties and met online. From the first date we connected on a very deep level that was new to both us. He drove the relationship forward and after a few months spoke of love and how I was the one he had been waiting for and how I completed him. He would send several texts a day saying how much he missed me and missed being close to me. It wasn’t just the words, his actions spoke volumes as well. I always had planning priority and he was always happily arranging for me to meet up with his friends and family. He was very much into commitment and hated me saying we were just ‘dating’. He had been in a 12-year relationship (chunks of it long-distance) before me. We live in different cities (1 h apart) and texted a couple of times an hour, saw each other at weekends and phoned maybe once a week.
He has very distant parents who are in a loveless marriage and whom he never really connected with. As a sensitive person he has always wanted their appreciation. After I met them, they (separately) commented favourably about me, which was apparently rare and made him so happy and proud.
I told him I could finally relax with him, that I loved him and was looking forward to our future together, after being single for 6 years.
So for 5 1/2 months we experienced sheer bliss. We went on two shorter trips away and last month spent 2 weeks on a longer holiday overseas, after which he told me he loved me even more and spoke of moving in together. A weekend after that we booked our next trip away and I brought up the subject of having children: I have never had a clear opinion on this and wanted to let him know that the option is there should he want it. He was adamantly against having kids, which I am OK with too and I said we could always re-visit this topic again later if we wanted to, that I was confused about it anyway – topic closed for now, or so I thought.
For a few days everything was fine on his side, although I withdrew slightly because his reaction to our conversation was quite direct and I had never experienced him like that .Then after an evening out with an old friend, wham: in a text he questioned our relationship, said we weren’t headed in the same direction, he blamed me for making our relationship too concrete and serious yet he was the one driving it all along. He refused to talk about it and asked I did not visit that weekend as planned. A couple of excruciating days later with no contact he broke up via text. I summarised my viewpoint on the kids topic in a text, so that he had it black on white. But he turned into a completely different person, during one brief phone call his voice was even different and he sounded like a victim.
He said this change of heart had come as a surprise to him as well. I have refrained from any begging, trying to reason or showing my anger, but instead told him that I loved him, that he had completely misunderstood me, and I sent back his stuff and house key via post without a message, and have not contacted him since.
I realise that on the one hand this is what he has asked for, but can’t help thinking my sending his stuff back immediately, deleting our iphone calendar, unfriending him on FB (which I needed to do to not be reminded of him and to process this shock) etc. may have somehow confirmed his fears of abandonment? Only yesterday did he send my key back in an empty envelope which feels a bit like retaliation.
When we did talk that one time before he broke up and in his last texts I sensed passive-aggressiveness, so I don’t think there is much point in trying to reason with him, especially since he refuses to communicate and talk through this. He has pushed me away and not given us any opportunity to talk.
Apart from accepting his decision (leaving him be), I do not know what else to do. Will he snap out of this weird mode he is in? Deep down I firmly believe he knows we are meant to be together but that something else has overcome him that he can’t deal with and he is avoiding everything. I would actually be willing to work through this but will definitely never try to ‘save’ him – been there, done that …
Thank you, Swissy.
You’re welcome, always nice to be appreciated :).
Distant parents/an emotionless marriage will probably make someone either a) want to connect faster (because they didn’t get love/emotions growing up and think their parents should have showed love to each other more, so they’re trying to make up for it in their own lives), or b) make them distance themselves because from watching their parents and not receiving love, they think this is the norm. Sounds like he is more in category A.
Kind of weird though. It could be that he started to think that HE was moving things too fast, and picked something small to end the relationship over… Doesn’t seem to me like you said anything wrong, unless he really mis-interpreted things (everyone’s human). But since you explained yourself, not sure if that’s could be the case.
I think this is something he needs to snap out of. Pushing him/trying to talk to him will only push him away further. I would set a time you’re willing to wait (if you still want to keep the option open of continuing the relationship), but after that point, assume the relationship is over and move on. I’d keep the window short because nobody likes being in limbo.
But yes, don’t try to save him. Waste of energy, waste of time. It won’t work, especially if someone has their own mental issues. If he won’t talk to you/try to work things out with you, it’s best to let him come to things on his own terms, or to find someone else where things can be healthy.
My goodness, the internet is an amazing place. I say this as I’m writing all the way from Uganda! thank you so much for this blog. I read a comment by ‘Syn’ which you responded to and which I could totally relate with. I’m 25 and about 5 weeks ago, I caught my now-ex of 3 months cheating on me. A few weeks prior, I had asked that I wanted more from the relationship in terms of spending more time together (he’s 33, a workaholic and alcoholic in recovery, 11 years sober); to which he told me that as much as he wanted to, his addictive personality didn’t allow him not to be engrossed in a particular thing, and at that point in time, his work was all he had.
He only met his father 3 years ago after moving back to Uganda from the States. His father lied to his mom that he would leave his current wife for her which he never did. He was never in his life and also had a really bad relationship 3 years ago.
He tells me a lot that he’s a “jaded cynic” and that prior to me, he blocked out emotion and that I made him ‘feel’ again.
I get that it was only 3 months but I still love this man. The worst bit is that he’s now with the girl he cheated on me with but says that he needs a ‘distraction’ and hasn’t fully processed what happened between us. He seems happier, like they are on the same page with this girl:- but he says he most certainly regrets not being ’emotionally available’ for us at this time.
I want us to still be friends as I know he doesn’t have many here in Uganda, he says that aside from his sponsor, I’m one of the only people he can open up to. I really would like to help him but I have cut off contact for a few days now. It hurts me so bad that he’s throwing our relationship away. I’m angry that he can’t work through it all. Could our love never be enough for the avoider to work through his issues? He says that he’s so guilty for having ‘sabotaged’ our relationship and a good person like me. This he says gave him a ‘spiritual awakening’ and he’s now more involved in AA more than ever.
Is this all B.S? Deep down, I wonder why he can’t agree to work through his issues if he claims to love me at this point in time. And I know he does. Will he ever come around? I’m in pain, I wish all the pain would go away.
How do I move on? I feel like I get him like no other. Thanks
If anyone ever asks if LWOT is international I’ll just point to this post XD.
Empress, I smell bullshit. A very common piece of advice that is passed around is to judge someone NOT by their words, but by their actions. Anybody can make up words, but actions don’t lie.
He SAYS he regrets things, he still talks to you… yet he cheated on you and he decided to be with another girl.
I’m sorry but this isn’t too difficult – he knows you want to be with him right now and he’s using you emotionally for validation.
I know you’re in love with him, so that’s why it hurts and you’d LIKE to be friends – but c’mon, this guy cheated on you. Do you REALLY want to be friends with him? Have self-respect to NOT be around someone who did something like that!
Cut all contact and move on. Embrace your pain and know it’ll go away (if you don’t push it away, you have to mourn the ending of the relationship and process things). This is not a good person to be around. Grieve the relationship and then when you’re ready, find someone who is good for you. I’m not saying it wasn’t good during, and he might have a lot of good in him… but he hurt you, and you shouldn’t put up with it further.
If you keep talking to him, you’re rewarding his bad behaviour and you’re just going to keep feeling hurt when you see him with someone else.
Thank you for the great article. It resonated deeply with me and I recognise myself as having an avoident attachment style, no doubt due to childhood issues.
Whilst I have done a lot of work on myself and felt that I had dealt with my issues, I realise, when tested somewhat recently by the prospect of a potential relationship that I still have a way to go…which is both difficult to face and humbling.
I was wondering if you could please offer some insight on my situation . I started seeing someone after years of being single and rarely dating. Prior to this I had an 11 year relationship with the father of my child who left for another woman. I was devastated at the time and it took me years to get over it but also, in a way, as odd as it may sound, I can understand it as on reflection, I am sure I was emotionally unavailable in this relationship also and have to take ownership of other issues..I certainly wasn’t faultless.
Back to the guy I was seeing, we met online and talked for months before meeting (i suspect that perhaps we both have some avoidance issues) and after both of us finally agreeing to meet up, he pulled out at the last moment. This made me retreat, made him more persistent and eventually I was persuaded again to meet the following week.
We met..instant chemistry, he was charming, intelligent, worldly, said all the right things..the date went amazing, he stayed the night..(we never slept together, nor throughout our time together) and spent the whole next day together.
We continued to see each other over the next few months, there was some push pull, probably on both parts, and I did also notice a few red flags with him such as one time on a date, he commented on a child’s appearance (haircut) in an insulting manner, perhaps an attempt at humour, but It did make me a little unsettled. Another time on a date, he asked if I had been even running/working out, when I replied no, he replied “I can tell” (I am not overweight at all and would be described slim body type) he later said he was joking and he just likes teasing me. But this also didn’t sit well. Early on in one of our encounters, he kept insisting that he trusts me, and kept asking me “don’t you trust me.” At this stage, we didn’t really know each other well and I asked him why would I trust him and why would he trust me considering trust takes time to build and we don’t really know each other. He didn’t speak to me for several days after this.
Another time early on in the relationship after meeting up only once at this stage and after a bout of push pull behaviour and me respectfully telling him, it’s not going to work, (probably stemming from my fear and overwhelm at my level of attachment to him also) he claimed he was in love with me, which if I’m honest, I loved hearing but a part of me questioned it being real.
When I had decided I wanted to stop it going further, due to these red flags and truth be told, also being overwhelmed and scared of my attraction/feeling for him, I told him that I would like to leave it. He responded by saying, he’s not going to stop texting and I can ignore him if I like but he’s not going to go away. I never felt threatened by him
And he only text but he did keep texting and kept it up for over a year and only stopped about 6 months ago when I told him to leave me alone.
The thing is, I am not faultless in this and at times, I didn’t give it a chance to develop, I occasionally gave in to his constant texts by replying and re engaging. part of me wanted to pursue it, whilst another part was scared to get close to him, another part was worried about the red flags, another part of me thinks I am being too sensitive about these and then there is another part of me, I am sure, as much as I do not like to admit, was ego driven. Enjoying validation.
I’m sorry for being so long winded but the truth is,I still think about him and I suppose I battle between awareness of my avoidant attachment style and alertness to the red flag I mentioned earlier.
I wonder do you think I was too sensitive with these issues and just used them as an excuse to run away or do you think I was right to question them? I am far from perfect but I guess my awareness of my avoidant attachment style can also bring self doubt as to my real motives for exiting the relationship also.
Thank you so much for any insight you may offer. :-))
On first glance I think you were just looking for reasons to leave. Commenting on a child’s appearance in an insulting manner might be rude, sure, or a jerk thing to do… but it’s not a red flag. A red flag is something like someone being physically abusive.
The teasing either sounds like he’s trying to get a reaction out of you, or he does genuinely like teasing you and means it light-heartedly. Of course if you don’t like it, you simply tell him to stop.
It sounds like he was using some means to offput/not admit his own emotions for you (e.g. the teasing), and you were also scared.
Sensitivity is tough. I mean depending on the day, sometimes I’m super sensitive because of my past with bullying, some days I couldn’t give two shits. The point is patterns and reasons – For example, a girl I went on a date with recently said “your belly is fat”. But, she’s foreign, doesn’t really know much English, and when I asked her about it she genuinely said “I care about you, I just want you to take care of yourself”. An English speaker would have said “You carry all your weight in your belly”, which is probably true XD.
But the point is the reason was genuine care, not wanting to tear me down. And she doesn’t do it super often. For you, it seemed like this guy did it just to yank on your chain, and not well (most guys know a woman’s weight is a SUPER sensitive issue).
For my first girlfriend I was EXTREMELY sensitive and I remember a lot of what she said irked me. But again, I had far lower self-esteem back then and couldn’t process criticism well.
So while this guy wasn’t perfect, I think you nit-picked because of avoidance which came in the form of over-sensitivity and accepting bad behaviour instead of setting boundaries (“I don’t like those jokes you make, please stop.”). It all comes from you building up your self-esteem to when and if someone does something you don’t like or don’t agree with, you say stop, or find someone else.
I am coming to terms with the fact that I am an avoider and it plain sucks . Due to my avoider mentality I am on the cusp of losing a friendship with a woman that I love dearly . I have known her for 4 and a half years and she has really been an open book in many respects while I have not . This is something that I am not proud of as I did and do genuinely care for her and her 2 children. I feel that I wouldn’t let myself be to open in thinking that by doing so it would ease the pain of when things went sour . For some reason I do this with so many of my friendships . There are other circumstances out there that are hindering our friendship as well but out of fairness to her I will not bring up the specifics only to say that I believe we both feel a sense of betrayal with each other. She feels betrayed by me being so avoidant and a closed book ( rightfully so ) and I betrayed by some of the choices she has made over the last 7 or 8 months that I and her parents feel are a danger to her and her children. Basically I just recognize now after all this that I need to stop being so avoidant and let people in . Any advice for how to fix my desires to be avoidant would be greatly appreciated. As for my friend and I, I just truely do wish the best for her but am also mourning the loss . Thanks for your time , this article really seemed to tell me a lot about myself.
Hey Greg, glad it helped.
First it sucks, but then it’s an annoying thorn you can step aside because you are conscious of it, can say “Oh, there it is again”, and proceed anyways but telling yourself how things are all in your head.
There is no quick fix for being an avoider, only slow process on opening up in bite sizes to people who are close to you (e.g. friends), or trusted people (e.g. therapists). Then over time, you learn that it’s OK and feels good to connect, and you can keep on going.
I enjoyed this article and it resonates with me.
I’m young and I’ve never been hurt before or had a relationship, I have had sex and I was completely in control and happy with how that went as I only wanted it to be a one time thing. I go out often and meet people in bars and clubs who I will kiss, but then never meet again. They take my number or I take there’s but I won’t contact them and if they contact me I make my excuses as to why I can’t see them, I get obsessed with cutting it short.
They’re often a few years older and I have a few hang ups, I don’t want to get hurt, I’m not that confident with my body, I don’t feel like I have an established life, I feel like a bit of a mess etc and even though they are attractive, funny etc I always end up convincing myself that I’m better off if I don’t see them again and they’d be better if they found someone else.
I have a loving family, two parents still married and on the outside I often come across as confident. I don’t know where these feelings stem from as it always leads to people believing that I’ve been hurt in the past and that I should give them a chance. I know that getting hurt is inevitable and I want to eventually have a relationship, a marriage in the future etc and I wonder if I would be better meeting someone at a more neutral setting like work or through friends etc and if I would feel differently then? I don’t know.
Also I am seeing a psychiatrist for issues surrounding procrastination and depression.
I appreciate any help, and think what you’re doing is incredibly inspirational.
Thank you for your kind words :).
OK so you aren’t sure where the fears are coming from, but you are seeing a therapist for procrastination and depression? So there must be something there.
This is actually an eerily similar story to the last girl I dated seriously – She told me she’d make out with guys in clubs, but then never pursue them or not respond to their texts. But I got through to her (YES! XD). For her, she was very emotionally aware and knew it was from a fear of abandonment, however. There are more details but I won’t go into that here, but in you saying “I DON’T WANT TO GET HURT“, that’s actually abandonment as well.
There could be many other things going on also – You could have a belief that you consider guys in clubs fun, but not the type you’d go on a second date with. But, since you say you aren’t that confident with your body, you feel like you are a bit of a mess etc…. I don’t think WHERE you meet guys is going to change anything, it’s all on YOU and how you view yourself. Perhaps in the club, when alcohol is involved, you can be a bit freer from any hang ups, but when alcohol is out of the picture and the guy wants to meet more, you can’t get past your insecurities.
Everyone has insecurities, and dating brings them out. It’s OK and it’s normal. At least you’re aware of them… most people just pass them on to their partners.
My recommendation to you is to focus more on making yourself feel good/taking care of the depression, and THEN getting out to dating. If you don’t feel confident, dating isn’t going to help, it might even make it worse. I’m not saying give up forever, but take away the validation you might be getting from the make outs, work on feeling good about yourself, then go back out there and find a guy who says “Fuck, this chick is sexy and confident”.
You’ll never be perfect though so you’ll eventually have to plunge in before feeling 100% confident (no such thing), but I think some time working on your confidence in isolation and figuring out all the reasons WHY you are a good catch will help. Maybe set a time limit of a few months or ask your therapist for his/her advice.
People used to say the same thing to me (e.g. confident outside, but I was and still at times and scared inside), so I know it can be frustrating. But all confidence comes from beliefs on the inside and how you feel about you, that’s then translated to how you act with people.
Let me know if this cleared things up.
I think it’s by no mistake I stumbled upon this article for I am definitely a person with “Avoider Mentality.” I am like this with all areas of life. After reading the comments I noticed most if not all of them were questions about dealing with a current relationship or of how to save avoiders.
What if a person is so far gone as an avoider that they don’t have any relationships at all? I am one of these types. I am celibate for long periods of time in between partners. (At least 6 months and the longest over 2 1/2 years.) I am extremely picky and shallow about looks/physicality and not attracted to very many men. When I am, they are usually married or even gay. Always Unavailable. Sadly if they are taken I will still pursue them and in fact like the idea of not getting attached (so I can’t get hurt.) Which I do realize is hypocritical because I claim that I hate men because they are all cheaters, I will never trust one and yet I’m the one they cheat with. Double standard I know. This has been an on going repetitive cycle for almost 10 years now. I’ve only had 1 real relationship which was over 5 years ago lasted only 6 months and was never acknowledged as being monogamous or committed by that man. Up until now I’ve drank and smoked myself numb to all of my feelings and truth. But I am currently 7 months sober and forced to feel and think clearly about this issue and all that led up to it. I’m not a victim. I’ve made plenty of selfish decisions and probably will continue to do so. I try to fool myself and others that because I’m usually celibate, place high standards on men, make them prove how much they want me for a certain length of time; That I’m a “good girl” with self respect. But when it’s all over and done which is usually very quickly I don’t feel the self empowerment that a Strong Man eating Woman Should feel. Does everybody use everybody?
In your article you say that Avoiders run from intimacy but crave it at the same time. I truly feel fear and anxiety at the thought of cuddling, hand holding, or eye contact sex. But I think the fact that I cannot have a stable relationship makes me feel unlovable and a failure. Making me crave the confirmation of knowing if it’s possible? Am I capable? And yet conversely I am truly afraid of meeting someone who is good because I think I am too young and inexperienced to settle and would cheat if I had opportunities. Which is hilarious because I’m single and not having sex. As you can see nothing makes sense and I am a mess full of contradictory thoughts and confusion.
Hey. Yes there’s a lot and back and forth but let me try and help you:
There’s definitely hope for people who haven’t had much in the way of relationships. For example, after high school experiences (15) I was scared of girls and didn’t have another date until I was 23, talk about avoidance. I mean I kissed a few in undergrad but wow, just writing that out made me stop for a moment to ponder. I missed out on A LOT of time with girls, but now that I’m dating regularly, I’m so happy I got over a lot of my issues. I’m not perfect, but I can definitely hold relationships.
Your avoidance is coming up in the form of choosing unavailable partners. Instead of picking someone who can truly be with you, you are trying to pick people who will NEVER be interested (gay) or are taken. Doesn’t it make sense and wouldn’t it be easier to not convince people that they HAVE to be with you?
The other problem is this cheating thing and thinking that all men are cheaters. One, stop being the person they cheat with. If you want to break the stereotype and feel like you are valued, don’t do this to yourself. Second, not all men are cheaters, this is population bias (assuming a small number represent the entire group – a handful of guys do not make up the millions on the Earth) – bad guys, guys who lie, or guys who are unhappy with their current partners cheat, just as women would. Loyal guys or girls, or people that are happy or willing to work through their issues will not cheat. They value their relationships and the other person to much.
We all have needs so we “use” each other, but not in the negative sense. Hopefully we give each other part in part, e.g., time, sexual pleasure, support, and so on.
The funny (or sad) thing is that meeting someone good would MAKE you feel loved, successful, and supported. Running from cheater to cheater will not, because you will always be the “second choice”.
I would recommend you stop all forms of dating and pursue therapy to get your relationship dynamic issues and thoughts sorted out, and then once you are in a better place, begin dating men – men who are SINGLE, STRAIGHT, AND AVAILABLE.
Until you do that, you’re just going to re-inforce your negative beliefs. Let’s break that cycle.
I have never written on a comment board for anything like this, but your explanation of the avoider mentality was fascinating to me – it rang so true thinking about someone I recently stopped dating. I see that you have responded to other commenters, so I’m hoping you can give me some of your input 🙂
I dated a 28-year-old guy who lives in LA (I live in SF) for the last seven months. I was a bit worried about starting something long distance, but we hit it off, he did all of the right things to pursue me, and we kept having so much fun together (hey, why stop a good thing?). As I reflect back on those months, there is no doubt we became really close. We visited each other quite a bit and rarely ever went a day without some form of communication. However, I often felt that emotionally, he would keep me at arm’s length. I can’t explain to you all of the details of our relationship in a comment, but to me, your article describes him to a tee.
While the beginning of our relationship was wonderful (honeymoon phase), once things started to progress, his fears/doubts derailed his ability to truly commit. I tried to be understanding and patient (although I also felt hurt and thought he may be doubting his feelings for me), but by the end of the last few weeks, I became internally resentful and exhausted of the push/pull: his breakthroughs of intimacy and closeness, only to regress to distancing
Everything reached its climax when we agreed to take two days of no contact to give each other space and process how we feel and what we really want. I knew deep down that if things didn’t change soon, that I would have to break it off, but I wasn’t ready to give up on him yet. I went into our conversation, cautious but optimistic. To summarize our final convo, he told me that the last two days of space were really good for him because it gave him time to analyze his feelings. He said that not being able to talk to me made him miss me and made him realize that he could lose me. Despite that, he said he still feels confused, doesn’t know what he wants, and doesn’t think it is fair to me and that I shouldn’t be so understanding. He also said that he didn’t think I’d be happy in a long distance relationship. At this point, I didn’t feel like I could fight for him anymore. I told him that it makes me sad, but we should just be friends. He agreed which was very painful for me. At this point, I asked the classic “did you ever really feel anything” question, to which he said the feelings were very real and how whenever he sees a beautiful photo or reads something funny, I’m the first person that comes to his mind and wants to tell. I told him that you don’t let someone go because you are scared, and he said that you can.
Here is my question: How do you differentiate between someone who has an avoider mentality versus someone who doesn’t have strong enough feelings for you? Can you ever really know?
When I read your article, I was amazed at how much it sounds like him. As much sense as your article makes, as a woman (maybe it’s a societal thing) it is hard to believe that someone could be too scared to try being with you if they felt strongly enough for you. I have fears (fear of abandonment) but I don’t let them stop me from trying. It seems like he went into our last phone call with his mind already made up. But he couldn’t get himself to be the one to end it – he made me do it. He says he cares but that he is too afraid. But then I think he said those things because it was the easiest way for him to let me down and not come off as the bad guy.
How do you know which is which?!
Well I’m glad I took your comment board virginity ;).
OK OK in all seriousness, sorry to hear about the break up. And it’s going to be hard for you to understand if you yourself aren’t an avoider. That’s how fears and anxieties work. For example, someone who loves doing live music performances isn’t really going to understand (unless they are a good empath or have conquered their fears previously), why someone is scared of going on stage – it makes no sense to them. They focus on the fun, the other person focuses on the fear.
It’s the same with relationships. I used to be pulled in the direction of the fears of being rejected, judged, and criticized. I felt like I would be hurt and so, I ran away. Again, even today I’m still not perfect, but now I focus on the positives of sex, connection, slow moments together, laughing, and so on, which transcend my fears – or, I deem them as worth conquering. “Bravery is feeling the fear, the doubt, the insecurity, and deciding that something else is more important” (Mark Manson).
On being an avoider versus strong enough feelings – also incredibly difficult. If someone is emotionally aware, then they know what’s going on inside. For example – I can now feel if I am AFRAID of connecting deeper, or don’t desire too… but it’s because I can hear thoughts and I can feel inside when I’m being pulled to run away. It’s less on you, and more on the other person.
But it’s all in communication. You can try talking to them and asking honestly (as you did), but if they can’t get past it, then you have to accept the limit and maybe it’s not meant to be – as much as it hurts. Hopefully in the future they work on themselves so they can push past it.
We’re all afraid of deep connection, but we all really want it as well. It’s just a question of how much we’ve pushed past it, and how OK we are with our emotions.
I’m back! Thanks for your response last time. I find your article and feedback really interesting 🙂 I have a follow-up from my last comment, and want to ask your opinion again! (I’m kinda embarrassed to send such a long comment, but thank you for listening.)
After I sent you a comment last time, he and I had been on no contact. I had accepted him not wanting to continue seeing each other, as confusing and sad as it was. Three weeks passed, and i received a hand-written letter from him. He said, “I miss you so so much,” “I can’t bare to think you don’t know how I feel,” “You’re so special,” I want to continue getting to know you,” “I realized i’m not scared, I’m just tired because i spent years on the wrong relationship and now i’m hesitant to get into one,” “but i feel cosmically connected to you,” “even if we can’t agree on what we want out of this, we became best friends, can we at least keep that in tact?” (Those were a lot of snippets…sorry). He wasn’t explicitly asking for me back. He was still confused. But many of the emotional words he used made me think that the door wasn’t closed between us, and it (unfortunately) gave me hope that he just needed to sort through his feelings and issues, and that maybe he would come around.
I responded to him and thanked him for the letter. I told him that I don’t want to be just friends right now, but all i’ve wanted is to get to know him better, so the door is open for that and i’d be happy to hear from him, but that we should give each other a little distance. I said that he put up roadblocks between us and that they aren’t something I can break down. I also agreed that we formed an amazing friendship and that i’m sure we’ll be in each others’ lives.
He responded and said that he knows he put up roadblocks, and that he’s realized he’s been pushing away people he’s cared about for years and that he’s genuinely trying to figure this part out about himself. He said he is trying to focus on what he needs/wants and what love means to him.
Shortly after this exchange, he sends me a text with an inside joke. I was very cautious at this point and didn’t want to end up hurt again (after all he ended things last time). Over the course of two months, i initiated contact twice. He reached out many times. It was short contact, only little texts, but it went from once a week to almost daily at one point. He would send me a song, an inside joke, ask me about work, etc. All friendly contact. Admittedly, i tried to not analyze his contact to death, because at the end of the day, he wasn’t asking to reconcile. BUT, it left me incredibly confused and unable to move on and let go of feelings, because it appeared that he was thinking about me a lot and that he might come around. I also couldn’t wrap my mind around him just wanting to be friends.
Finally, we ended up hanging out twice for several hours each time. We had a lot of fun, but again platonic. By the end of this, I realized that all of the contact and lingering confusion was making me sad. I was sad that things werent the same, and that i was unable to move on, stuck in a place of wishing things would work out. Finally I confronted him and asked what he wants, and he said “friendship.” Ouch. I explained why i was confused (the words used in his letter and continuing to hear from him after-the-fact). He seemed surprised and said he thought the two months of texting were the distance, and that he was really happy we were becoming friends again. He went on to question why we can’t be friends…he said we were so close, why lose that…why does a relationship have to place more value over friendship, etc. I told him it wasn’t fair to me (the one who got dumped), to get a letter like that and to continue hearing from him when all he wants is friendship. I also asked how he could feel “cosmically connected” to me and just walk away. I asked him a lot of “whys and hows” (which now i feel embarrassed about since 3 months had passed since our breakup). He said he doesn’t want to be in a relationship with anyone right now. We agreed to cut contact, and that if i ever want to be friends, it’s up to me to get in touch.
Here is where i lost my cool – after the phone call i was really angry. Although I could see how his personality relates to the “avoider mentality” I just couldn’t wrap my mind around it. I started to question all of his words up until that point. Maybe he used the letter as a way to feel less guilt for ending the relationship (a cop-out). Maybe he used me. How selfish he was to try to be friends after dumping me, etc. etc. I was upset for feeling rejected AGAIN, 3 months later. I fired off a text that said, “You weren’t a good friend to me. I was the good friend to you.” I obviously didn’t hear back and regretted it the next day. I should have taken the high road, and that was probably the only mean thing i’ve ever said to him. I sent another text the next morning, saying i didn’t mean it, i was frustrated, and that we did build a great friendship and maybe we can get there, but i need time. He didn’t respond to that either. I guess i’m not surprised since he knew he needed to cut contact, but i HATE that we ended on that note.
Anyways, i know i just wrote a novel, and i’ve learned a lot from this. I should have walked away from the whole thing, you can’t change someone, but i was sympathetic to the “intimacy issues” he claimed. My quesiton ties back to my last comment of how do you really know if it is emotional detachment or just someone being selfish while just not being into you that way enough. Even though I believe he was insensitive, the crazy part is i feel guilty for even having initiated an emotional conversation/outburst, because at the end of the day, he DID tell me he was working on himself.
Am I being too hard on myself? Do you think his behavior is the “avoider mentality?” Can you relate at all? Or is he just not self-aware and couldn’t bare to hurt my feelings or be honest enough so he made excuses to soften the blow, which inevitably hurt me more.
These are probably impossible questions to answer that i’ll never get to the bottom of, and at least now I can move on! I’m just very interested if you have a take on this 🙂
One more thing. Is the avoider mentality only about the fear of being rejected, judged or criticized? I think he should know by now that i don’t judge or criticize him, i support him. Can the fear boil down to the fear of a enduring relationship because he sees them as hard work, stress and pain? He has blamed a lot of his emotions on two failed relationships. He wasn’t dumped, but he spent years working on them and wanting them to work, but realized it wasn’t the relationship he wanted, so then became jaded and uncertain about relationships altogether.
Hey! See my e-mail to you.
This article was both incredibly relieving and deeply troubling all at the same time. I’ve been fighting this attachment issue my entire adult life, trying to overcome a string of horrific foster homes and more recently, the failing of an 11 year marriage. I’ve been reluctantly divorced for several years, and never thought I’d seriously date again.
I was celibate for three years (there is extensive sexual abuse in my past as well as physical and emotional neglect, I carry physical scars from abuse, and I have had a 10 year military career all to recover from) and became so intensely lonely that I was -and help me this is humiliating- hugging into the corners of the walls in my small apartment, pretending that my own reflected body heat was someone else offering me comfort. That’s pathetic in the extreme, but that’s where I was.
And then I met this beautiful, wonderful man. A man who, as I sit and type this, I am dreading seeing walk through the door.
We dated for two years. He is so loving to my children, so thoughtful and a complete diversion from the sort of person I was with (my high school sweetheart who I married at 19) which is absolutely a Good Thing. So, I dated the man I’m with for a year and then, when I lost my job, I broke things off with no warning. I hurt him terribly, but I was able to walk away without thinking about him much. I had to move, and I was in a panic over money, and I just shut down to the point it used to make me worried I was a sociopath or the like. This man kindly stuck with me, checking in on me month after month, and I slowly grew to miss him. We got back together after a few months, and now we’ve taken the relationship to the next level. I moved in with my children at the blessing of my therapist.
So, we’ve been here two weeks. Three weeks ago I would have sworn I was in love and doing the right thing. Today, I’m here sobbing over this article and standing at the foot of massive mental mountains I thought I’d climbed in my years of intense therapy, but apparently haven’t. Let me explain. We had a great physical relationship, and I felt safe -even with the lights on!- and now I don’t want him to touch me AT ALL. I find myself hating all the little quirks I loved a few weeks ago. I can feel myself shutting down, I daydream about ways to get out and we JUST got here. I don’t want to feel like this! I know it’s happening, I know it’s overwhelmingly more than likely my emotional damage, I know the urge to run is based off fear, but I can’t seem to stop it! I have told him about my attachment issues, which was terrifying to do, but he was kind and supportive about it. I asked for daily help to reassure me we are alright, but I still don’t feel like anything more than an annoyance and a pest. He likes to be quiet most of the time, and it makes me turn in side out with anxiety that his silence is anger with me, even though he’s assured me it’s not. I know I’m the problem, and I can’t seem to stop! I know it’s a long shot, but if you have any insight, or just some encouragement, I’d love the feedback. I’m acutely aware of my own behavior and want to stop feeling like I’d be more comfortable with the walls again!
Hey Paige, that’s a very strong story and it sounds like you’ve definitely had your share of troubles in life. It’s amazing that you are even able to get back to being in relationships.
But this is the thing – you’re taking HUGE steps. E.g. if you have had a history of physical abuse, you had a HUGE 11 year relationship end, and all this… you can’t expect perfection. It’s unfair to yourself.
Moving in together is going to cause anxiety. It’s natural. It’s going to be even worse if you have a troubled past, a family, and all that.
You’re doing the right stuff – You’re in therapy. You’ve communicated your issues. You are pushing through your anxiety… I think you’re just really expecting yourself to be 100% comfortable too quickly after a lot that’s happened in your life.
If you are more anxious than he is (which sounds like is the case), of course you’re going to feel weird and like a pest asking for re-assurance. But has he ever said that he doesn’t like doing it? Does he smile while he does it? Maybe he likes making you feel better. Maybe, because you’ve told him WHY you need it, he understands why you need that re-assurance.
It sounds like you have been and are in a lot of pain, but I think you’re doing everything right. All you can do is accept the fear to run away, communicate with your partner, keep talking in therapy, and keep pushing forward.
Again – there is no one-step cure for the avoider mentality or troubling emotions. There is only acceptance and taking the right steps and being open with your partner as to why you feel a certain way. If they love you and if you’re right for each other, you’ll work through it together.
Good luck and stay strong :).
This article hits close to home for me. I have been with my avoidant for 5.5 years. He has broken up with me 5 or so times. This year has been the worst. We booked about 2 months ago to go away to South America, he left last week, I wasn’t leaving until August because of work. I haven’t heard from him in 5 days. I knew that something was wrong. I got a text last night saying, he is having the time of his life and doesn’t want me to come over and meet him because i will ruin it.
I am all out of chances. I have been putting up with this since i was 17 years old. I am now 23. To complete matters even more, I am an anxious ambivalent and he is a fearful avoidant. We always get back together, but how do I make sure I don’t this time? I love him more than anything. But he has treated me so badly over the years. He cheated on me this year, with prostitutes! Then didn’t tell me. I found out on his email. He only ever wants me when I walk away and a few weeks/months later he realises that I am gone. I can’t handle the anxiety anymore. The things I want and need from a partner he hasn’t provided to me. I am fearful of abandonment and all he has ever shown me is abandonment. He has no insight into his avoidant personality. I move closer to him he pulls away. He does it with friends as well. He has cut them all off as well. I believe he wants a close relationship but then can’t handle it. He says to me, that he always has to be at arms length otherwise he feels like he is losing himself. I have severe separation anxiety which is what makes me go back. I know I am not asking many questions, I just feel the need to get this off my chest and for anyone out there who has dealt with an avoidant person before, I am here for you. We all need to stick together. I need all the help I can get. I miss him so much already.
Please tell me I will move on and I will be ok. It is just my anxiety flaring up but in the long run I will not regret this decision.
He probably doesn’t even care at this point. He will off sleeping with others and not even think of me. When I have looked after him for years.
Anyway, any insight would be helpful 🙂
Thankyou for reading
Dump the asshole.
Seriously, he’s cheated on you, he told you to fuck off when he’s on a trip because he’s having “too much fun and you’ll ruin it if you’re there”, and you’ve spent 5.5 years with him?
You’ll fine someone WAY better who treats you right.
But I also want you to take responsibility here – You chose to go back every time. So while it’s his fault for putting out bad behavior, it’s also your fault for sub-consciously telling him “No matter what you do, I’ll come back”. I tell you this because it’s never 100% the other person’s fault, at least in the context of maintaining a relationship.
So in the future – with any bad behavior, learn to walk away. Have self-esteem and self-respect.
But I assure you that you’ll get over him, you’ll find a better guy, and you will feel better. In fact, after you get over him, you’ll feel so much better because you have no more anxiety worrying about the shit that he’s doing.
You’re in your 20s. Go date a bunch of awesome guys :).
Thanks so much for that article and the kind words to fellow posters.
It has literally taken me decades to see that it is me preventing close relationships – and nobody else (well, that’s not totally true, because I tend to crush on people like me – but not always).
Yes, it is family trauma blabla (I am so tired of it). Yes, I’ve done the therapy thing.
– and I am devastated.
In fact it had not been that way. I had come to the conclusion, that because I can’t handle close relationships, I am just gonna stay alone for the rest of my life. I was okay with that. I felt I know what to do with my life and I don’t fall in love easily. I was happy. At least as happy as you can be if you are like me.
Well, I started some full time further education – and here we go again. I became friends with someone, who I thought was gay, so I did not find it, surprising that he complimented me (I thought he was into fashion), that he stuck around, etc. He’s a good listener and I am chatty and sociable (you would never think that I have a problem!).
And suddenly I felt stripped bare, I said to him “you make me say all these things about myself …” which did not go down well with him. It was almost automatic. I wanted to break off the friendship, at the same time I was inconsolable. I am still confused whether he is gay or not, because he acts like someone who is interested in me.
Anyway, it is almost as if I am on autopilot. I am scared to death. I absolutely adore him. I am mortified, I could lose him. What happened so far is completely beautiful and romantic. But I get all those negative fantasies in which he is about to seriously hurt me. Which is not very realistic. Unless, well unless, I push him away and that’s exactly what’s happening.
Well, what can you say? Eat pray sleep.
I wished I could take a happy pill and that’s it. But then I would not be myself. And I am pretty sure he loves me for who I am. The person he got to know in the past two months.
And it became quite hard to be that person now, because I am so apprehensive and some kind of dark demons or mental illness has taken over …
I think we are both apprehensive now.
It sounds to me like you haven’t worked through all your issues and you can still benefit from more therapy.
As scary as it is, there is an obvious way to find out if he’s gay or not… ask him!
Also anxiety and our brains play a lot of tricks on us. You THINK it didn’t go so well – the conversation, you think he might react negatively and so on… but you honestly have no idea.
Again – the only way out of this conundrum is to realize that sticking your neck out is hard, but it is actually the bravest thing you can do and communicate with him.
If you are happy being friends, awesome. If you want something more, you tell him that and see what he says and accept whatever happens – it’s better than never knowing.
But I understand, it’s hard and it sucks. And accepting that you will always be alone is not the way out of being an avoider. Accepting you have some fears but you can learn to work with them is…
Either way, I really don’t think you never want to date/have relationships and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t work on your fears so you can have them! They are some of the most beautiful moments in life, even if sometimes they cause more heartache at first.
Great article and responses. One thing I experience with my boyfriend of six years ( live together for past two years) is the push away tool of negative cutting remarks. If I say anything positive about us or the relationship he immediately comes back with a sarcastic negative comment. IE “It’s so nice we’re together ” his comment would be “for you maybe” or “I love that shirt on you, you look so cute today” ” then I won’t wear it again”.
He says these things with a little smile and says he’s just being funny. If I get sad or bothered in any way he accuses me of being too sensitive and to lighten up. But it is consistent and constant and no positives are ever thrown into the mix.
The only way to avoid them is for me to never express any positive feelings about him, my love , or the relationship. I am an expressive person and love being in love and being loving so this feels empty and cold to me.
Not sure if it is appropriate to tel him this way of always saying something negative hurts me so I would like him to stop. I think if he stopped, his anxiety would go through the roof.
He has also used withdrawing sexual affection as a tool so there is no sex at all. I think the last time we were intimate was about a year ago and I initiated it. Before that it was sporadic and he finally just made a decision to stop completely, saying he”didn’t want to mislead me” ie have me thinking we were close, he wanted to be close etc.
We dated some in high school then went our separate ways and ran into each other 32 years later , started seeing each other and now been together for a little over 6 years, so we’re not spring chickens. And yes, from all accounts he has been this way in all his relationships although par for the course he really won’t talk about his past relationships much . He was married once for 3 years ( she left him) after having dated her for five, living together for 3 prior to marriage,; had a 3 yr, 10 yr,( got engaged, she called it off) and 2 year relationship after that prior to us getting together.
I’ve tried to be supportive of his anxiety and fears and be understanding. He doesn’t want to break up , move out etc and he says that should show me he loves me. He is very affectionate but only in a cuddly way, never in a sexual way.
I realize this is a sucky way to live, but no day seems like a good day to end things and disrupt my life or his and go through the pain of a break up. We have fun and enjoy each other but I do have an over riding sadness and emptiness deep inside
Oh well not much can be done I guess, and I have been to counseling during our relationship, but I’m still here. Guess until I get the courage to go through the pain of ending a relationship once again ( I was married once for 8 years and another for 20) nothing will change for me. Thanks for listening and any tips about how to ask him to stop making his negative remarks would be helpful. However, I do realize if that push away coping tool is no longer available he may use something different to feel he is keeping us at a “safe” distance 🙁
Hey Janell glad you liked it!
Speaking from experience as a guy, and as an avoider, love-y feelings can be uncomfortable. He could be using those remarks as a way to diffuse the situation. Or, perhaps he feels you are over-emoting and it’s too much. I know some couples who love doing very cute-sy things, others hate it, and what one person thinks is too much another thinks is fine.
Everyone is different, and again the ONLY solution is communication to say why you are doing what you are doing, and let him know how you feel when he does X or Y.
And it’s true, maybe if you tell him to stop his anxiety will sky-rocket. But maybe you two just need to work out how to show that you love each other in different ways, or you need to come to a compromise somehow on showing affection.
This sounds overly-logical, but talking it out gets rid of the ambiguity and makes everyone happier! I don’t know why people think there’s supposed to be unspoken agreements in relationships and everything should just “work”. Longer term, deeper relationships take more effort… but if you’re with the right person it should be relatively easy to discuss things.
The sex item is a bigger issue – nobody should ever withhold sex (assuming both people do indeed want it).
Honestly you’ve pretty much told me you know what you need to do (you want to break up), because you aren’t getting the attention and affection you want or deserve. You’re just scared you won’t find someone else, and I can’t understand from a first person point-of-view (I’ve never been married and I’m still in my 20s), but I definitely understand the fear of never finding anyone else – I’ve been through it before.
I think your worry of being alone is keeping you from moving on to a healthier relationship – this is dangerous and unfair to yourself.
Would you rather be single, and much happier and not trying to force a relationship to work, while having time to pursue other people? Or, would you rather struggle to try and change this person, twisting him to do what you want?
You can only love someone as they are, and help them change if THEY want to – not because you think they need to.
Again I think you know the answer here, I hope you can move on, and know that you’ll be OK no matter what.
Thank you for your article. It was a great read. I was not an avoider but have become one since the past year. I was married to the love of my life for 7 years. We had a wonderful marriage. A year ago, she told me that in the past few months before that time, she was increasingly seeing more and more flaws in my personality and had come to the conclusion that she wanted to be single again. She was tired of me, of married life and just wanted a change. Despite my efforts to talk to her and suggest that we could go to counselling to resolve the issues she mentioned, she was set on leaving and thus we separated. We are now divorced.
I have gone to counselling myself and that has been helpful but the emotionally hurt and the financial difficulties that the divorce created for me have led me to a place where I don’t trust any woman any more. And that I know is unfortunate because I love women. Sadly, I now feel that if I trust someone again, they too, after some years, will get bored and tired of me and will leave, thus hurting me again. Now, I know that there is always risk involved in relationships, as you mentioned in your article too, but I feel that many people just don’t have the commitment to face the challenges that long-term relationships or marriage bring with them. Women have high expectations of me and I try my best to meet those expectations but truth of it is, I am who I am, in the end, if someone wants me to significantly change my personality, like my ex-wife did, I just can’t do it. Even though she always told me that she accepted me as I am, in the end, she revealed that she actually didn’t and was waiting for me to change. I know I am generalizing, but I feel other women will probably want me to change too, eventually.
This will sound bad, but this is my emotional state now. For the foreseeable future (I don’t say forever), I have decided to avoid relationships all together. I know that my life is incomplete this way, but at least I avoid the pain and suffering that will inevitably come after some time in each relationship. I am someone who loves deeply, who is romantic, and who has a strong sense of commitment, but sadly, I feel that most people’s commitment is not to me, the person, but to the good time that I can provide, and once they get tired of that, they will leave.
As you said, I crave intimacy and love, but I want to avoid them because in the end, I will be left in the same state where I started: craving intimacy and love.
Would really appreciate your opinion.
Hey Brandon, your welcome and I feel for you.
Many things here:
First, as you mention, assuming all women are like that is a population bias (assuming one person represents the MILLIONS of women on the Earth). For example, I thought that because my first two girlfriends in high school were suicidal and unstable, ALL women are unstable. Lesson after a few girls and some years: everyone has baggage, that’s unavoidable, but that doesn’t mean it’s very hardcore or that they’ll push it on you. In fact, most of them (and people in general), just need a bit of re-assurance, help, and empathy saying “It’s OK”, because… it is. Everyone gets scrapes in life.
Second, you are blaming yourself 100%. What if SHE became an avoider and started picking at your flaws as a reason to get out of the marriage? What if she was making up something and just decided she wanted to leave and be single (not to be rude to your marriage, I’m just showing you there are many possibilities). It’s never always YOUR fault, even if the person says they are doing something because of you. They are doing something because of you BASED on their values and beliefs and past. Think about this.
Third, sounds like you are suffering a bit from Nice Guy Syndrome. While you might feel that people only care about the times you can bring, that’s only partially correct. More accurately, people care about who you are as a person and if you are a good person you bring about certain times. The person brings the times and feelings, and the person, while evolving over time, is still the person creating the times.
In all of this you know a lot of what’s going on, and just because you feel a certain way right now, doesn’t mean you’ll feel the same way forever. This was a LONG time with someone (you were married for 7 years!!) and it will take you a while before you are ready again to be in a relationship. Don’t rush it and be OK accepting the pain of feeling alone for now.
Be with friends and family. Get more involved in hobbies. Stay in counselling, and I’m sure that in the future, you will be ready for women again.
I am writing to you after sabotaging a date I had with a man I have been trying to date for maybe two months. We met online, wrote for a few times, then met in person and had immediate chemistry. He has a great smile, he is charming, a little on the nerdy side, but very personable. I am comfortable around him for the most part, until he touches me.
He gives me this look of glazed eyes whenever he stares at me, and he makes a constant effort to touch me at some time, whether it is lean in to rest his head on my head or shoulder, or place his hands around my waist or rest on my hip. I dread saying good bye after a date because he gives me that look and I feel obligated to kiss him. I hate kissing him, I feel like it is forced, and I feel myself always wanting to run. I tie it all down to he is pathetically clingy, and moving too fast, but I can’t gauge if it is me making reasons to run, or if he does in fact have an issue.
Some history: This is my 1st boyfriend ever in life, I am 31 years old. I did date a girl briefly for three months, but we were never intimate. My sexual history consists of one night stands, or a game of manipulation with a married swinging couple, but all together I have only had sex 4 times in my entire life. Sex with women feels a lot safer to me, but sex with men terrifies me. It’s almost as if I am being used. I am ex military, and a lot of the sexual harassment that went on in there, the conspiracies and false allegations that led to my medical discharge I feel like I was rejected without being heard, or even healed, and I find myself allowing the same patterns of sexual harassment to happen in my work places. It has created an intensely damaged person, and I want out. My mother is ferociously promiscuous, always has been since my childhood, and my father is MIA. Quite often then men she brought in and out would try to make passes at me. I know for a fact all of these attributes led to my current issues. I don’t know how I can ever get better from all of this.
Where I am now: I signed up for online dating to try and force myself to get over my intimacy issues. I am thirty, and I don’t want to deny myself the happiness I know can happen. With the man I am dating now I told him a week ago that I have intimacy issues, and although he was understanding, and admitted that he thought we were on the same page, and he does want to be physical with me some day ( and will wait), I feel like he is only going to keep working on what I do allow, he seemed to last night, which is why I opted not to stay the night, and canceled this morning. I don’t know much about his dating history other than he isn’t that experienced, but I truly don’t know much about any of the dating world period. I wasn’t expecting to meet someone I liked so much before I got the help I so obviously need. Around the time all of this happened I am meeting up with a rep from the VA who is working on my case with the military on PTSD and MST. I feel as if I am forcing this relationship before I got the help from this therapist, with whom I will see in a week or two.
I know this is all over the place and perhaps precise in specific areas, but my question is this: Should I stay with him and try to work it out even though I need to seek help? Or should I call it off, and concentrate more on this help, then get back to him? I feel like he deserves someone willing to move at his pace. He’s extremely affectionate and it only gets worst every time I see him. We live an hour away from the other and see each other once to 2 times a week, depending. I’m just lost, and confused with how all of this works.
You’ve been through a lot. You need to work these things out BEFORE dating.
I appreciate the strength it takes to “throw yourself into dating to get over intimacy issues”, but the whole “jump into the pool and learn how to swim” is a not the smartest way to deal with anxiety, particularly with intimacy issues.
So you are bisexual? Or, have you ever considered that maybe you just prefer women and it feels better? It could be because of the trauma in your past, but it is a possibility.
An absent father, seeing your Mom being promiscuous, and the sexual abuse in the military (God, really sorry to hear that) is definitely going to get into your relationships. You’ve learned that guys aren’t around and casual encounters keep feelings at bay so you’ll never get hurt, because if people get close, they can do something bad to you.
Again – stop dating completely – explain to this guy why (so that he knows it’s not something he did wrong), be patient, and work through your past. You might be single for a while, but it’s better than creating dysfunctional and ultimately unfulfilling relationships. Get as much therapy and support as you can.
If you do not take care of these issues first, they will bleed into your relationships and you may never be able to hold down a long-term/stable/loving relationship with a good guy.
You will probably attract guys who are broken, who also withhold intimacy, or worse… attract men who repeat the cycle of intimacy you are used to – being absent and violent.
Wish you the best, and keep me updated as to how you are doing.
After reading your post I believe I am in love with an avoider. I’ve known him over twenty years not as close friends but acquaintances, and we have only been dating for the last 18 months. It has been quite the best relationship I have ever been involved in. We saw each other almost every weekend and spent the holidays together. We said good morning and good night every day. That is until three weeks ago, when I asked him to tell me how he feels about me, he’s been pulling away and keeps very busy, almost like he’s running from something. He always asked me why I love him after I tell him I love him. I try to explain it to him but it’s a very difficult thing to do as the reasons don’t always sound believable. Love is different for everyone and for each relationship. I told him that I needed to hear how he felt about me, even if he wasn’t sure. I felt his past relationship was standing between us in that he is still harboring pain, but he refuses to accept that and said that it was a bad experience and it has just become part of him as a bad decision he made. It literally felt as if a wall had coming slamming down between us. He says he enjoys our time together, and enjoys my company but he doesn’t see the man I do and doesn’t feel the same as I do. He doesn’t see us going forward. We are on a “break” while he’s trying to figure out what to do. He’s completely cut me out of his life. Which has been devastating to me since we spent so much of our time together. His parents broke up when he was just a child and his mother died horribly from complication to some medication she was on for cancer while he was still in his teens. I don’t think his Father was especially close to him and may have been mildly verbally abusive. It’s too bad I didn’t read your post before revealing my thoughts, but the damage has been done I suppose. I am giving him time and support to work out his feelings, but I feel he will not come back.
Unfortunately even if we’re aware of someone’s pain, we can’t always help them… even if it affects us.
To give you a similar recent story, I was dating a girl for around a month and a half and just stopped seeing her. It wasn’t anything too serious, but we reached an intimacy wall where, because of her past, she couldn’t go any further. I could see WHY she felt that way (she told me some of what had happened to her), but I couldn’t really get her to open up or understand why she was having issues. There wasn’t much I could do and because I need a certain level of intimacy too, it was best to let her go.
The same for you – Even if you now see why this might be happening, he’s got to work it out for himself. You can help, but maybe while being in a relationship, it’s too much for him and maybe you will both become angry at each other – him for being pushed too much, you for not getting enough attention and affection.
If he doesn’t come back, maybe some time in the future when he is more open you can try again. Maybe you are meant to find someone else who can be more open with you… It definitely sounds like he has a hard time believing he is lovable, which can come from the bad relationship, and divorce (better to not get too involved or things can go bad).
Hopefully he gets to therapy and gets the help he needs but for you, you might have to wait and then after waiting for a bit, move on to find someone who can give you what you need.
Nice reflection, I enjoyed reading it. It was somewhat comforting, but are you describing yourself in this article or someone close to you, or else?
Truth is, I recognized some aspect of my personality.
Even though I’m surrounded by really close friends, family, loving girlfriend, I feel that I’m alone in this world. Although, the loneliness I’m experiencing is not related to me deliberately willing to hide from others because I’m scared, but because they are not ready for it, and therefore I have to. In fact the expectations I have for humanity and the will to spread love to others is rarely matched by people I meet, worst it often scares them away. So I wear a mask in the day, and sometimes I take it off at night.
I have a huge power of empathy which is fed by my nightly hobby to get in people minds when they are a little vulnerable (alcohol, or other psychoactive products). I read people, so I can find answers to understand myself. But now that I have been doing so for a long time, I realize I have entered a pathway with no good ending, because the more I search the least I’m hoping to find a soulmate.
The quote from cloud atlas “what’s the ocean but a multiple amount of drops” summarizes pretty well the philosophy I’m living in. I’m trying to make this world a better place by every action I do, but it’s hard and is mentally exhausting, especially when you feel the power of the world against you.
When I look at people surrounding me and living in a dull world where when you ask them “What’s the greatest moment of your life so far?” Most of them have simply no idea. It’s like if humanity was already so deep that they could live they entire life at the surface of it without even realizing it.
“And life goes on and on and on, and still no one to accompany me on the road to a better place, believe me” – Andrea
Well I originally wrote the article describing myself after not being able to express my emotions to my girlfriend at the time, but it applies to everyone who is an avoider.
You could call it being an empath or an introvert. For me personally, I couldn’t care less about small talk and such, usually. I like talking to people about their past, hopes, dreams, and so on. I mean, I do like hearing things about what’s going on in someone’s life, but I only get really interested when they talk about their projects, what they’ve gone through, relationships, and so on. I do like letting go here and there with some fun-loving extraverts though :).
Most people won’t answer that question the first night you meet them – even under substances, unless you connect really well.
The truth is MANY people don’t spend time thinking about that. Many people are lost and not really guiding their lives in a certain direction, I mean, even people who THINK they are could be driven by something else.
Hence the point of the site – anxiety and depression are caused by not living in line with your actual core values and being able to express yourself – with people, work, and passions. Improving yourself can help with that, slowly but surely. i.e. learning to be open with others and how to go out and get what you want.
The first paragraph of your article made me cry and I continued to cry for the rest of it because I just related so much. I’ve never been in a “real” relationship because once someone started to show interest in me, I’d close them out and get really cold and distant. I’m 20 years old and I’ve always craved affection and had the desire to find someone special, but whenever someone would show interest in me, I’d run. I’ve hated myself for it because I know that I’m the only one standing in my way of finding a significant other and I felt like absolutely nobody around me understood what I was going through. Most of my friends have had significant relationships and have no problem with intimacy of any kind while I feel awkward around guys I find attractive or those who to make a move. I would imagine how a loving relationship would play out in my mind and I craved that so much I would sometimes even cry myself to sleep because I’ve never had that experience of someone loving me, but I never understood why I would always shy away from affection once the opportunity arose. I’ve never felt a “spark” or anything significant with anyone, even guys I thought I liked, and it made me feel like something was wrong with me.
I knew I wasn’t asexual or anything because I was interested in intimacy and I did desire it, so I felt like I was stuck in this middle grey area between being “normal” and being “asexual” because I knew I was neither. Growing up, I had a really good childhood and what I would consider to be a loving family, so I still don’t fully understand why I am an avoider when my childhood was full of plenty of love. The only thing I can think of is the fact that my teenage years were filled with low self-esteem and insecurities, but then again, I feel like a lot of people go through that and they are still completely fine with intimacy. And because I had nobody to talk to about this since nobody I know experiences it themselves, I have felt completely alone and unsure of what my actions and feelings all meant.
Reading this article really helped me because I’ve begun to lose faith in relationships altogether. I’d tell myself that I’d have to come to terms with the fact that I won’t ever find anybody because something was wrong with me – I’ve never had that intimate relationship with someone while everyone I know has experienced it at least once in their lives. I know that sounds really silly coming from someone as young as 20, and I’ve been told hundreds of times that I’m still so young and I will find someone. But deep down I knew that if I was automatically so defensive when it came to intimacy and love, I would never allow myself to open up and experience it which drives me crazy because I want to be able to. I’ve always been so jealous of those who can just get into relationships with no issues while I felt like I never get the opportunity because of my anxiety issues that I can’t seem to control no matter how badly I want to.
Sorry for all of the rambling, I’ve just never been able to express how I’ve felt about this before because I never realized that others go through the same thing. I didn’t expect to write this much. I just wanted to say thank you for writing this article. It has helped me understand my actions and emotions as an avoider, and I think it can really help me to work past it and finally find how to get what I’ve been wanting for so long but have been holding myself back from – a true, loving, intimate relationship.
Hey Zanna. OK so I won’t repeat the you’re young thing, that was the first thing I was going to say… but thanks for writing in. Here to help.
So if you don’t know some of my story, I had 2 high school girl friends who turned out to be suicidal. They are still alive, but I was scared off from girls at 15. I assumed they were crazy. Didn’t date anyone or have much in the way past kissing until 23, only losing my virginity when I was 24. I wouldn’t say my high school relationships qualified much as intimacy.
But in under 3 years, I’ve had many intimate relationships… not only with girls I’m dating, but with friends and with myself. E.g. I share myself and thoughts more openly than ever. I’m not perfect, but God the progress has been insane.
Honestly, maybe you don’t THINK other people are going through it but I assure you, they are. Maybe you have a more difficult time than most, but everyone has some issues with intimacy. For example – some of my friends can walk right up to girls no problem. For me, I always have a great deal of anxiety, no matter what. It’s worse when I haven’t done it for a while or when I’ve been at my computer all day, but in general, it’s just how I’m wired.
So we can moan and complain and tell ourselves we’re bad, or say “Oh man, I guess I have some problems with this. But I want this. So, I need to help myself :). What are some tools I can use?”. Comparison to people gets you nowhere and is completely unfair. I’m sure you have strengths other people are jealous of.
Your writing seems to be beating yourself up for not being able to get this relationship. Instead, let’s get you some help so you can actually get it:
a) Therapy for working through your intimacy issues
b) Consider taking a dating/intimacy course to help you with your issues: http://markmanson.net/courses/dating-relationships-course
c) The hard one… It will take you time to learn how to be kind to yourself, and slowly step into intimacy. You can do this by opening up to friends, family, a therapist and so on… Avoidance occurs in ALL relationships but in opening up and sharing emotions everywhere, you will be ready and feel better about pursuing things in dating.
Good luck and as hard as it sounds, try to be patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but once you start having success, the work will be worth it. Trust me.
Thank you for a great post, Noam. Even though I found your post during a random Google search for something else entirely, your description is spot on. I am an avoidant and I can recognise this in myself. I can also recognise some childhood experiences that may have contributed to this.
However, the major cause of my behaviour is an embarrassing disability that I have, which is not obvious to a casual observer, and can be hidden to some extent, but can’t be hidden forever in an intimate relationship. Basically, I have a bladder disfunction and must wear incontinence pads during the day (nights are ok). Like everyone, I desperately want love and approval and intimacy, but the embarrassment and shame of my disability prevents me from being open about this.
After being single for a number of years I have met someone that I connect strongly with, but I am avoiding pursuing the relationship because of the anxiety that it will inevitably cause me. The basic question that perpetually runs through my mind when I am in any relationship is: ‘What will happen when he finds out the truth about me?’ The answer I always give myself is: ‘He will be disgusted and I won’t be able to survive the depths of my shame’.
Noam, I am in my 40s and I am sick of being this way. I can’t change my disability. I considered suicide many times during my 20s and 30s when I fully realised that I was never going to be normal. I don’t often think that way now. I am playing with the idea of doing something completely different and just telling people about it. However, this is a) extremely scary! and b) obviously not something you would tell a potential partner on the first date. I am scared that I will shock or disgust people and despite me thinking that I might just be open about things, it is difficult to get rid of my feelings of shame. In addition, if I wait until I’ve known a potential partner for a month or two before telling them, then I risk getting hurt over and over again as I continue to be rejected.
I am completely at a loss, and though I have seen every medical specialist you can think of about this, none deal with the emotional side of this condition, and I can’t afford psychotherapy. I feel like I have enough self awareness to have a good attempt at working on this issue, but it is a massive issue and I don’t know what to do. Just wondering if you had any thoughts about people like me who sit outside the norm?
I agree that it might not be the best for a first date convo, but if someone really likes you they won’t give a shit (err… pardon the pun).
If you came right off the bat with that, I’m sure people would be a bit weirded out. But if after one date someone likes you and you explain it to them, they’d probably be OK with it. Sure, it might not be the MOST attractive thing, but eventually they will find out, so might as well tell them and see how they act.
If YOU are OK with it, they will be. If YOU are ashamed of it, they will be too. People feed off your own energy.
For example – I used to be deathly afraid (again pun), to tell people about my anxiety, depression, past problems with girls, current problems, etc… And sure, I don’t emotionally vomit things to people, but if someone asked me if I had anxiety I’d say yeah and it sucks, but I do the best I can. In fact, I also have a sensitive stomach (partially due to anxiety), so I do worry about running to the bathroom and the person getting weirded out.
In fact, I had a date a while ago where I spent pretty much 3/4 of it in the bathroom after eating something bad… or maybe normal and just MY stomach didn’t like it. But the girl understood when I explained things, and was OK with it. In fact, still seeing her now.
Before never talked about my problems. Now, I talk about things I go through like anxiety, workaholism, perfectionism, and so on… And you know what, that’s where the strongest and most fulfilling connections have been made. Show your rough edges.
Nobody is perfect and I totally understand why you are scared to talk about this – bodily functions and such can be extremely embarrasing when they aren’t working properly. Anxiety is less embarrassing because it’s internal, mostly. But a person has to like everything about you, so you might as well be upfront. I would explain, maybe after a coffee date: “Hey, I know this might sound weird, but I’ve had this problem all my life. It’s kind of embarrassing but just wanted you to know X, Y, Z…”. Explain how it might affect him and what it means for when you two hang out (e.g. you might have to excuse yourself periodically).
Hope that helps.
I was flicking through some of the comments, and noticed you mentioning that you didn’t date till you were 23 (minus high school stuff). Just curious, what changed? Did you just one day decide enough was enough and you were going to put yourself out there?
No matter how hard I try I can’t seem to make my situation simple.
I know what’s wrong with me and exactly where it stems from. Logically I can work through solutions in my head but the solutions never lead to the outcome of a stable relationship.
I’m 21, at uni, have been dating the past year, but always stop before it turns into anything remotely physical. I know from the outset that I’d never let it get that far, I know I’m leading them on, but I don’t feel too bad about that.
I have never had any wilful sexual experiences. When I was 19 I went back to a friends after a night out, intending a one night stand, but PTSD symptoms stopped me in my tracks. (I’m working on my reaction to touch in therapy atm, but i don’t think it’s ever going to be a simple therapy will fix it kind of situation. I think it needs more than that).
There was another on/off thing with a good friend. That one I actually regret not letting him in and forcing myself to actually try it. He was a great guy.
I’d like to think it’s as easy as tonight saying fuck it, I don’t care, just try it. But what’s the point when you know the outcome? Surely that’s daft?
It’s not like I could get the guy to help / be understanding about my intimacy issues, because that would require telling them about the past, and if I say a member of my family forced sex onto me from the age of 6/7 their natural reaction would be to ask who.
I’ve only ever told one therapist about it, I still live with the person who did it…
So to tell them who would require a hell of a lot of trust and probably never introducing him to a certain member of my family which is impossible if the relationship is intended to last.
And to not tell him who would just mean he would be guessing and generally be uncomfortable around all of my family.
So it’s easier to avoid. My therapist actually had me complete a form at the beginning. One section measured avoidance, I scored in the highest grade, so I’ve known for a while I avoid it all.
Plus generally I’m really not bothered about being alone. Sure, despite it all I still have a sex drive and occasionally my issues can get a bit annoying, but generally I’m okay with being alone.
I was flicking through some of the comments, and noticed you mentioning that you didn’t date till you were 23 (minus high school stuff). Just curious, what changed? Did you just one day decide enough was enough and you were going to put yourself out there?
I think it was a combination of a lot of things… Maybe my desire to fuck and connect with girls finally reached a peak after years of using porno instead, combined with keeping a lot of emotions inside and not really liking life. Everything kind of rolled into one quarter-life crisis haha. But yeah, eventually I got fed up, and while it was quite a twisty road, I eventually got out there.
Your entire post is full of self-limiting beliefs and what I call fortune telling in Mastery Of The Mind – you assume you know how things are going to be based on the past, which is ludicrous. Nobody knows how the future will be. No one. You can take the spiritual route and say “There is only the now”, or in general just say… yeah, you can’t predict anything that will happen.
Plus generally I’m really not bothered about being alone. Sure, despite it all I still have a sex drive and occasionally my issues can get a bit annoying, but generally I’m okay with being alone.
I call bullshit. If you really were OK with being alone you wouldn’t read articles like these, go to therapy to try and get help, or spend time talking about what you’re going through and asking for advice.
I’m 21, at uni, have been dating the past year, but always stop before it turns into anything remotely physical. I know from the outset that I’d never let it get that far…
First instance of fortune telling. Just because you’ve stopped it before, doesn’t mean you’ll ALWAYS stop it… unless you make yourself do it and believe you always will.
It’s not like I could get the guy to help / be understanding about my intimacy issues, because that would require telling them about the past, and if I say a member of my family forced sex onto me from the age of 6/7 their natural reaction would be to ask who. I’ve only ever told one therapist about it, I still live with the person who did it…
Says who? Why can’t a guy be understanding? And he’d probably have the same reaction I have: WHY ARE YOU STILL LIVING WITH THAT PERSON?! If you are 21 you are old enough to move out. Get out!!
I think in therapy you will probably use progressive desensitization to get used to touch. E.g. just expecting to fuck after 30 minutes isn’t realistic, but being first comfortable with a handshake, then touching the arm, then holding hands, etc.etc. step by step is.
Hopefully I’ve illuminated some of your assumptions and therapy will help you work through this. But the progressive touching will definitely help and be my recommendation alongside it. For example, say on the first coffee date you will work to let a guy touch your arm and kiss you on a cheek (assuming he makes those moves :p). The next one, hold your hand and kiss you, and so on…
However, you SHOULD be up front that you went through some trauma in the past (you don’t have to give full details) and while you will want to have sex it will take a while to be comfortable. This way he doesn’t think he’s doing something wrong and knows that you still like him and genuinely want him.
I’m dating a man who is clearly an avoider. We have been dating exclusively for 8 months and even though he has made it clear he is not and will not be dating or sleeping with anyone else, we are not making the relationship official. He admits to pushing me away and flat out refuses to admit how much he actually feels for me. He once went to far as to tell me that what he feels might be love, but he’s not going to say that.
I feel like I have a clear idea what he is going through, though I don’t know the root cause yet. I believe that he loves me by the way he treats me and is intimate with me in all the other ways. He just can’t use the words. I think because it makes it real and that terrifies him.
My biggest question is beyond being patient and understanding, is there a way to help someone like this feel more comfortable opening up? I try to share and be vulnerable myself in the hopes that it shows that i trust him and that maybe he will feel the same as time goes on.
Make sure you aren’t sharing and being vulnerable JUST to make him open up. I know this sounds weird because I advocate doing that to help people, but if you do it solely for the purpose of getting him to commit or open up, it defeats the purpose of openness and intimacy. It’s backhanded because it has ulterior motives.
But unfortunately, there’s not much you can do. Again – accept people as they are, or leave out of love. If you think eventually he will open up, then great. But he has to take that step and maybe he’s reached the limit of the intimacy at this point in his life.
In times when people are a bit too scared to go further, only their own experiences, work (through books) and some professional help can get them to push through.
Assume he will be like this for the next 6-12 months, and ask yourself if you would be OK with that, or prefer a partner who you could be monogamous and 100% open with. Consider if he’d be like this for the next 1-3 years.
I also think I fell in love with an avoider. We met when i was in a break from a relationship and he knew the situation. He said he was ok with it but he didnt want to know anything about it.
We had an amazing time together, although because of the situation we were never an official couple. We were going out for 2 months and then i decided to break up with my boyfriend once and for all. But the day i was going to do it, i found out my boyfriend had cancer. Long story short i ended things with my avoider to be able to take care of my exboyfriend ( he doesn’t have any family or even friends in the city we live) and I just didn’t want to put my avoider in a situation full of uncertainty, I knew he is very sensible and i actually did it thinking that this way and at this point it will be less painful for him. He then ignored me completely, not even a hi when i saw him in the street but 2 months later we started talking again .
My ex finished chemio about 2 weeks ago and im starting to get my life back but everytime i try to get a bit closer to my avoider, he pulls back and ignores me for 2-4 days then starts talking to me again.
So I don’t know what to do, i dont know how to get closer and all his pulling back is hurting me too. I want my avoider back in my life but is so hard to reach him after the pain i must have caused him. Probably he is scared of me 🙁
Honestly I don’t believe in “breaks” – either you are together or not. Break means that you don’t really get enough from the relationship and need to find it elsewhere.
You never could “end” things with the avoider since you were never really “together”. As you said, never official and you were on break. But use your empathy skills and think how it feels on his end. What you’ve told him:
I’m not really with someone but kinda so let’s hang out and I’ll see if you’re better, and maybe if that’s the case we can be together, but my Ex now his cancer so I can’t be with you at all.
If you broke up with your ex, why can’t you be with the avoider? I don’t understand. Unless you are not completely over your ex and can’t separate past emotions of romance…
For the ex, unless you wanted to be romantically involved, I would have helped him get the help he needs (e.g. hired help), but not stick around. I’m not saying this so that you are un caring, in fact, you care a lot because you want to look after him. But, if you start being around him all the time, your feelings will drum up again and you’ll feel like you are dating, unless this is what you want. After a relationship ends, you need some time to let the emotions die down.
I think you’ll have to take this as a learning lesson – nobody likes being the second choice and even though you were honest with him from the get go, it wasn’t honesty in terms of dating multiple people (polyamory), it was honesty in terms of wanting something deep but keeping him in limbo. The mixed signals probably hurt him and he doesn’t want anything further, because he probably feels rejected when you chose your ex over him.
I don’t think he’s an avoider, I think he’s human.
Thank you very much for the article, it is very accurate in many ways.
Now here is a challenge for you – what are the chances of two avoiders to maintain any kind of relationship?
I have a good friend, which is my true soul mate. But often we find ourselves in a situation which at some point when there is a conflict (even the most minor one), he pulls away and completly ignores me, and I get panic attacks and drive myself crazy.
He is the kind of guy who is having a very hard time talking about emotions. I can see the horror in his face if it seems like I am going to say something personal about us or about how much he means to me. He has his own way of showing me how much I mean to him, like dedicating songs, and all kind of gestures, but he will never come out and say it.
He is also talking about himself like he has no confident issues at all, and he seems really strong on the surface, but I a convinced that he is actually very insecure.
He will also never admit that he is an avoider. When he ignored me once (for a whole month!), I tried to confront him about it, but he said he was just busy, and acted like I am making a big deal out of nothing. When everything is ok. he is answering my texts and calls right away, but when it’s not – it can take days or even weeks… so it is pretty clear that this is not just in my head.
What should I do? I love him deeply and want him to be a part of my life forever. But the pain that I am feeling when he pulls away is really too hard to take.
If you two are “just friends” then there’s no reason why he has to be super close to you. In fact, you describing yourself going into panic attacks and your language “…want him to be a part of my life forever”, “soul mate” is moving towards the obsession phase and the anxious style of attachment – e.g. you need constant re-assurance otherwise you go nuts/think everything is going to shit/the relationship is over.
Anxious attachment style types send avoiders running, because they want A LOT of intimacy, and that scares avoidant types. Just a heads up and something to look at!
Again – you haven’t told me you two are officially together. Do you think it’s possible he wants to put distance because he feels like you are obsessing too much when you two aren’t even dating?
However to answer your question, two avoiders can definitely maintain a relationship IF they acknowledge that they are both avoiders to each other, are self-aware of their emotions, and keep open communication.
For example: My last serious relationship was with a girl who had abandonment issues/was also kind of avoidant. Because she told me this early on (with a bit of coaxing on my part), I was able to understand was motivated her to do certain things. While I didn’t talk too much about actually being avoidant, I talked about my issues with workaholism, low self-esteem, thinking I was never good enough etc… and she reacted by making sure to speak my primary love language (compliments) a lot, so I always felt loved and wanted to give back.
In this sense we were both avoiders, but able to support each other. This was also the case when we outright said we needed space to think things through or had important stuff to do – It wasn’t the other person’s fault/something they did, we just wanted some alone time. And then we came back happier than ever.
So it’s quite possible, it just takes a great deal of trust, maturity, intimacy, and honesty (admitting our own emotional faults/deficiencies).
Again – I would look more at your attachment style though, that I think is the bigger issue here.
Thank you for such a great article. It really made me think. Also, I’ve read a lot of blogs, but I’ve NEVER read a blog before, where the author replies questions like this with such dedication, thought and concern. You seem like a very caring person 🙂
I’m not sure how I ended up on your page, but reading this article I felt like this is what I have experienced in my life. I’ve only had very few close relationships, but had a lot of casual encounters, even though I always felt like I really wanted a close intimate relationship, but when I met someone I liked I would always behave in an inappropriate manner, pushing them away.
My parents were both very consumed with their careers, when I was a child, and as an only child, my life was really lonely. I remember my parents fighting a lot, and when they split up, my dad just kind of left. I didn’t see him much for a long time after that. When I saw him I would always act verbally aggressive, lashing out, and be very defensive about anything he told me. I’ve gone through therapy for depression and worked a lot on my sense of self worth, and moving back in with my mom temporarily actually made me realize, him leaving had nothing to do with me. This actually made me almost instantaneously forgive my father and we have reconnected and went on a two week roadtrip together, just the two of us, to consolidate our reconnection. We have a great relation now, and it makes me very happy.
My last “long” relationship to a man was a disaster and ended very bad. I did not know about my own issues back then. But after much therapy, I felt I was ready to become close to someone, and hopefully I’ll be able to stop myself before I push someone I love away.
I met a wonderful guy some time ago. It was strange, because I never met anyone who reminded me so much of myself before. We have a lot in common, share values and interests and also our family dynamics and past seem very similar. I felt we really connected.
To most people I come off as a very strong and independent person, I guess I come off as very bright and straight forward and like I have a lot of self confidence. I’ve also been told I’m attractive and beautiful. I don’t really feel this myself though, and always get surprised when men approach me. This man I met told me he thought I was a very strong and independent woman, and I kind of radiated that I don’t need a man. Inside I feel like I’m very sensitive, and when I like someone I’m scared I’m not good enough.
He has a facade as well that seems very confident and sometimes like he doesn’t care what others think or he doesn’t need anyone, but he also seems guarded about people getting to see the real him. He was always very nervous when we were together, also about trying to kiss me and stuff like that. He told me he was very sensitive, and if I hurt him he would cry when he was alone. He’s told me bits and pieces that made me think he’s been in a relationship with someone who was very emotionally abusive. Often when I payed him compliments, he would think I was joking, and if he understood I was paying him a compliment he would get very surprised. He also sometimes thought I would do something mean to him, and I wondered what he had experienced since he thought that ANYONE would ever do such a thing to him.
He’s also told me that people judge him for being the person he is, and he has no idea what it is he’s doing wrong, since he’s just being himself, and some people really don’t like it. He’s got adhd, and I think this might have given him trouble in his past. Sometimes he would act in a bad way towards me when we were together, but when I didn’t get angry or leave, he would change and become very loving. I’m no psycologist, but I think he was subcontiously testing if I would just run for the door as soon as he didn’t measure up, or something like that.
But things were progressing, very slowly, and we were getting closer. I was scared, and I could tell he was scared as well. I was very open from the beginning about myself (not about being scared though), and he graduately opened up more. One time he was asking me to come visit him at his place of work, and he actually huddled himself together in a very closed body-position, almost like he was physically preparing himself to be rejected and put down, and we’d just been kissing.
At some point we didn’t have any opportunity to see each other for some time, due to outer circumstances, but we stayed in touch through the phone. He was very busy working during that time and taking exams, and at one point I hadn’t heard from him in a few days, I was out with friends and got too drunk because I was anxious and didn’t keep track of how much I had to drink (I’m very small and have very low tolerance), and all my fears and insecurities came out, and I freaked out on him on the phone, accusing him of being unfair to me and stuff like that. He appologized, and I didn’t hear from him in a while after that, where he then appologized again, and said it was propably just a bad idea to keep seeing each other.
I didn’t want to overstep his boundaries or be pushy, so I accepted this and just said I thought it was a shame and I thought he was a nice guy. My gut feeling told me, this was a person who didn’t believe he was able to ever be good enough in a relationship and that he would just end up messing everything up because of how he is, and that it was better to just end it instead of risking eventually and inevitably getting dumped and hurt.
I was thinking about him a lot after that, and at some point we actually by chance met again in the street. I was so surprised but really happy to see him. He also seemed really happy to see me, and he actually asked me if I wanted to get together at some point. I said yes but had no idea what to expect from this. When we met he was very cocky at first, but after then he just seemed nervous. I still hadn’t gotten over the surprise of actually meeting him, so when he all of a sudden kissed me, I got so surprised, I actually totally backed out and pushed him away, saying “hey, you can’t just show up again and then expect I want this”. I really did want to kiss him, but I guess all my defenses got up, and I went on the old auto-pilot, afraid of being taken advantage of and I would just get hurt. We did kiss after that, but the whole thing was just awkward then, and I guess I seemed like I wasn’t really that into him, and he seemed very guarded. I was just so surprised by the whole situation, I couldn’t act right.
Later that day he texted me and said he was sorry for being too much, and that he hoped I didn’t just think he was a jerk now. I was still very confused about what even happened, and just responded in a joking way not really explaining what had actually happened from my side of the story. I didn’t hear from him then. Some days later I asked him if he wanted to get together, but he came up with an excuse, I answered very nicely and inviting, and he asked if we could get together after his vacation, I said yes. He’s been back 5 days now, but I haven’t heard anything. I texted him the other day, but he hasn’t answered.
My gut feeling tells me he’s really embarrassed about the last time we saw each other, and probably also doubts my intentions towards him, and also again feels like he’ll just mess things up. But my fear says he just isn’t that in to me.
I’m not sure how to handle the situation, if I should just come clean with what happened with me that day, how I froze and just saw myself reacting in a completely different way than what I actually felt, how I feel he’s a great guy and not in any way a jerk and how I’ve felt that I liked him better the more I got to know him, and how I feel we have a lot in common and I would very much like to see him again.
Or if I should just let him be, and accept the situation, and just hope he’ll come to me, if he feels ready. Or if I should just try and find someone with less issues, who can be a steady weightpost against all my own issues. I really like this guy, and I’ve never before met anyone who reminds me so much of myself, but I’m also scared this could completely blow up.
I hope you can give me some advice, but realize it’s difficult to advice strangers on their personal relations. Other than that, I’d just like to say thank you for listening 🙂
Thanks Katy :).
It’s the intimacy wall again – sometimes we just reach a limit on how far we can go with certain people and it’s tough to push through the emotional barriers, even while going to therapy.
You could come clean to him, but it kind of seems to me like you two aren’t meshing well and it’d probably be far less effort and stress on your part to find someone who has less issues. I mean, it’s not mean, you’re being selfish in a good way (wanting the best you can get), and as well, you are letting him improve on himself for someone else.
I think it’d be best to find someone who’s a better match for you and where intimacy is not as big of a deal – you’ll be a lot happier and less stressed out that way.
After a year and a half in a happy relationship with my boyfriend he seemed to be growing distant. I internalized and felt that it had to be me. I tried harder to be what I thought he needed but I felt like he resented me and I in turn began to resent him. We weren’t communicating very well if at all, but continued going through the motions.
He had gone on a trip with friends for a few days and told me he’d return in 3 days. I sent him off and went about my life. I came home from work after 2 days and found all his things there. He had come home and didn’t say a word to me. I immediately felt an overwhelming sense of disappointment. He’d be the first one I’d call if I got home. Why didn’t he feel the same?? I knew where he was ( at a bar) and I had planned on meeting friends there anyway so I went to see him. He was talking so I said hi and sat down bar. His friend left and I moved to sit with him. We talked about the trip and everything was fine. He asked if I wanted to go get dinner and I agreed so we left.
When I asked why he didn’t tell me he was home he replied it just wasn’t part of his consciousness at that moment. I had texted him earlier that morning “miss you.” I reiterated the sentiment on our walk home and he replied ” I got that from your text.” When I asked why he didn’t respond he answered “why would I?” Wow. That was the straw that broke the camels back. I had poured everything I had into this relationship and that’s how he felt? We went home instead of dinner and as I laid next to him I was crying. He became enraged and yelled ” this is why I didn’t call you! What do you want from me?” I responded with “nothing” and I left.
We didn’t speak for 2 days and then I reached out and asked if we could talk. He agreed so we did. “He claims he loves me and will do anything to not lose me but he doesn’t want to be in a relationship. If I want to be part of his life I can only do so as a friend. That means that we both have to deal with the other being with other people. Which will be hard. Really hard!” I asked if you didn’t want to be in a relationship why would you need to see other people? He replied ” what I can’t have friends?” Of course I want him to have friends but what does that mean? Talking, watching movies, hanging out or something else? I asked him about sex and he said ” I don’t know it’s never come up.” While we were together he seemed to have problems with ED. I’d never hurt him by saying anything about it so we would hold each other.
I love him dearly and I can’t stop thinking about him. He called last night and asked to go to dinner so I did. It was fine, we laughed and had a good time. When we walked home he stopped at the entrance turned to me and said ” thanks dear have a good night” then we kissed a few times and I was on my way. I’d love to remain part of his life and I love him even if it’s not truly reciprocated but is it worth it? I feel tortured that he wants me around but doesn’t want me. We had vacation plans set and he still wants to go. How do I deal with that?
I read this article and felt like huh. This is him without the complete running away part. Is there any way I can help him? I want to but not at the expense of my happiness. He’s a wonderful man who’s been dealt a really shitty hand at life thus far. I feel like if I abandon him as a friend that it will just confirm what he fears the most. I’m afraid I’m not strong enough to continue seeing him and keeping things platonic however.
Not so sure he’s super avoidant…
The entire trip thing, expecting a text back RIGHT when he came back, needing a response back to “miss you”…. that’s all based on stuff YOU want and you expect in intimacy. It does not mean that because he doesn’t do those things that he doesn’t care, it just means he doesn’t express himself in the same way you want.
Instead, you could communicate “Hey, I know this might be a lot to ask but I really like it/it makes me feel loved when you X,Y,Z…”, which could be for example saying “Miss you” back to a text. If we really love someone we’ll make concessions to do things even if they seem a bit out of our comfort zone.
But it’s unfair to assume he HAS to text back, and totally inappropriate to break down because of that. What’s really going on is that he’s not expressing intimacy in the way you want him to, or in the amount… and you believe he’s an avoider, whereas maybe his “scale” of intimacy is just different than yours.
On the friends thing, I guess that’s something you two have to decide. If he only wants to be friends, he’s being straightfoward, and honest. Be glad you know someone like that. You can’t change him.
You can only accept his choice, he’s a free man, and he can do what he wants. It might hurt, but that’s the reality of the situation, and you’re probably just having a hard time coming to terms with it, which is totally OK.
For the future, maybe examine if the intimacy stuff you needed could have been better communicated to your partner, or maybe it pushed them away, and improve for next time. But pushing harder to get him back is only going to push him away more.
Love this article, I’m a bit late to the party.
I was in I guess what you would call a “geographically impossible” relationship until he broke things off (for the second time) this past weekend. We’ve been together for 1 year, long distance for 6 months of it. I think we’re both avoidant. Mine manifests as sexual avoidance. I won’t go into it but I have huge self-esteem issues and have a lot of trouble having sex with men that I care about (someone about fear of disappointing them I suspect). Yes, I need therapy and I definitely plan on it. Anyway of course I came to care about this man and he told me within a month or so when I told him that I really liked him “yeah I like you too but it won’t go beyond like”. So I told him to get lost basically because I was interested in something more. He apologised and said he has a hard time expressing himself and we got back together. Fast forward a few months and we’d been fighting a fair bit (mainly my insecurities) and I had a feeling he was attracted to a mutual friend. I was right and the day before my final university exam he dumped me and said he just wasn’t romantically attracted to me anymore but at the same time said he was confused because he had feelings for both me and this other girl and that he doesn’t do that. He is very closed emotionally, more so than I’ve ever encountered and was incredibly screwed up by being dumped in a cold way by his previous ex. He said he never dealt with it because he had exams so he put it in a box and now pushes people away. Anyway we reconnected a month later (I’m a glutton for punishment) and had a perfect few months before going long distance. I went to see him in his home country 5 months after that and that whole period was great but now he says he’s stressed at work and can’t do the romantic part anymore. I did understand because I’m realistic and I know long distance wouldn’t work for us but now even though he dumped me, he’s saying he doesn’t think he can be just friends. He said he’s overwhelmed, everything is too much (he’s very stressed at work, and working 15hrs/day) and that he needs a break to ‘pull himself together’. I’ve never heard about a guy dumping someone then asking for a break to decide if friendship is possible… I mean I’m sure I look like an idiot for accepting this kind of treatment but we have SO much fun together. And I saw a side to him particularly when I was in his country that touched me deeply – at one point I was ill and throwing up and he was so upset to see me in pain. He just kept saying how sorry he was and rubbing my back, cleaning up after me.
I don’t care about the loss of the romantic relationship but to lose him as a friend would be horrible. I do understand that with friendship there would be a huge downgrade in communication (we’ve talked every day for 1 year now). I’m going to give him the space because I do talk a lot and am very highly communicative. He said he’s just not used to that level of communication and overthinks all sorts of messages I’ve sent him. I frequently tell my friends I miss them and he read this as me being too attached to him like I want his babies or something. He did say he still has feelings for me but less than when I was there and that it seems like ages since he saw me (only been 6 weeks). I could go on without him, I’m not as heartbroken as the first time he dumped me but he’s hilarious I don’t want to lose our banter. I tend to think his avoidance relates back to his ex and the dumping (which was quite brutal after hearing the details). He says he’s not normal and that he holds a part of him back and can’t let go and really just struggles to find words for his emotions, beyond what is normal for a man. He gets so frustrated not being able to express himself. I do have a feeling he’s met someone at work though and that’s at least part of the reason why the sudden change. We were find a few days before and then it came very suddenly and last time he dumped me for another girl (who ended up not being interested).
Sorry I’ll all over the place. Just not sure what to do… Many thanks for this blog!
Hey Declana (cool name, first time I’ve heard it!):
I would highly suggest cutting ties completely for a while. From my experience, I was REALLY heavily involved with someone and tried to be friends to quickly… and that led to semi-long-distance trying to be together but not really and hold back feelings but not, leading to the girl getting pissed off and cutting off all communication.
Romantic feelings need time to heal, and sometimes a friendship isn’t even possible because the connection is so deep.
It definitely sounds like you two shouldn’t be together in a romance, but I’d give it a year and until you’re involved with someone else before opening up this door. Otherwise you might end up distraught in limbo – friends/dating but not really, and you won’t be able to move on.
There may be avoidant excuses on both sides, but I think the main point is that you two don’t work together, and even though you really like him, you need separation for your own good. Otherwise, again, you risk not being able to invest in someone else emotionally and being in limbo for months or potentially years.
Okay fine, bad wording on my part. It’s not that I’m okay with being alone. It’s that if there’s two options 1) be alone and avoid all the shit or 2) actually try for it and deal with the stuff it brings up, and I’ve tried the second one enough times to be in incredibly embarrassing situations then I can kind of accept option 1. There are worse things in the world. At least for now option 1) is fine until something else changes to make me think I should try again.
As for the fortune telling. Yeah I do make myself stop and I do believe I always will. Even if I’m totally wasted and am completely up for it I still manage to stop it.
Yeah that’s not exactly understanding. I’m at uni. During the holidays I have to be at home to work without paying rent so that I can pay for the degree. His permanent home is the same as mine. There’s only so many choices in that. The only way out of it is to tell my family what he did. And that risks losing my whole family. Plus despite everything he’s still family. And there’s love there as well as hate. It’s not black and white and I don’t expect people to get it. The assumption that I’m fucked up for still having anything to do with him will just make me defensive and then want to get the hell away from that person, so if that’s understanding that doesn’t help either.
Yeah the touch thing isn’t that bad. Handshakes, kissing, holding hands is all totally fine. It’s just hands on me between waist and probably knees. Just on my waist in fact is the worst. 3 years trying to move past that point and I still can’t though. I have tried on that one! That’s the reason I finally told someone to try to get help. If I could change it I would.
Thanks for the reply.
Hey S, sorry if I was a bit blunt in my last reply. Read it over and it seemed a bit more action-oriented vs. understanding based. Let’s combine:
So on your first point, yeah that’s why most people don’t try to push past their barriers or they accept mediocre situations. Cue the trite “change is hard and takes big balls” quote. It can bring up A LOT of repressed emotional pain and make you question a lot of assumptions. For example, I had to ball my eyes out in therapy when I got pushed into issues of self-worth and do I love myself? How much pain I felt being bullied and told I was bad for years. And then with girls, it’s been very hard to input the belief that I am worthy of love because of all the past nonsense. It’s been quite painful but it’s been worth it. Still a work in progress.
Depending on what we’ve been through it can be less / more painful than another person, but yeah, it’s going to hurt. So the only way to do it is baby steps and looking on progress: If you, for example, could never tolerate ANY touch, and now can tolerate hand holding and kissing… that’s progress and worth celebration. But it’s going to take a long time and you’ll need support and assurance to keep working through things.
On the home situation: Hmm, I see. So you aren’t home all the time though?
Not saying you are fucked up for wanting to have anything to do with him, if that’s what you thought. Kind of hard to get a lot across via text! What I mean is that for your own health and well-being I’d want you to move away from him. Or, if that’s not an option, try to limit your contact with him as much as possible. Spend as much time as you can out of the house and so on…
I also thought everyone knew what happened. I guess it’s up to you if you’d want to tell people. On one hand, it could cause huge rifts as you said. On the other, it might result in A LOT of resentment, anger, and possibly violence down the line if you don’t address it. I really don’t know. It’s a tough situation to be in and I don’t envy your situation, and I understand it sucks. All I can say is to get through the issue, expression in therapy and getting through the emotions is DEFINITELY necessary – talking to someone who is safe and sworn to privacy will really help, because you know they’ll never blab to anyone.
Ah so that’s awesome regarding kissing being fine! I guess for touch it’s when you feel it’s REALLY going sexual that it scares you. Again, I think for this it’ll have to be a combination of:
1. Talk therapy to work through the emotional issues
2. Progressively desensitizing yourself to touch to seeing that nothing bad will happen (date by date either more intimate touching, clothes off, etc.)
3. Telling whomever you date up front so they know what’s up
Also to make sure you date good people, probably sticking with introductions through family and friends… something where you’ll feel comfortable. Forget about hook ups because you take big risks there and it will make abandonment etc. issues probably worse, versus a loving and understanding person who can heal you once over.
But again, you can’t 100% rely on your partner so aggressively working in therapy will do loads.
Hope that helps more, good luck, S :).
Great article. First and foremost is the lastmost–I wept when I read the dedication at the end.
I recently had a very short relationship (just a few dates) with an Avoider who seemed to have realized it and cut the whole thing short to protect both herself and me. What was really discouraging was that I have done the same because I am as well, and having recognized much of her in me I felt a strong attraction to her I guess because I thought she of all people would understand and perhaps we could be right for one another.
The whole short thing left me feeling even more abandoned and sad about who I am perhaps moreso than me bailing on a longer relationship because for a moment I thought it was viable. Is it even possible for two Avoiders to be together, or is that a recipe for disaster?
Thanks Josh :).
I answered this in a comment to JoNa who posted on July 25th/2015, so I’ll quote my response:
…two avoiders can definitely maintain a relationship IF they acknowledge that they are both avoiders to each other, are self-aware of their emotions, and keep open communication.
For example: My last serious relationship was with a girl who had abandonment issues/was also kind of avoidant. Because she told me this early on (with a bit of coaxing on my part), I was able to understand was motivated her to do certain things. While I didn’t talk too much about actually being avoidant, I talked about my issues with workaholism, low self-esteem, thinking I was never good enough etc… and she reacted by making sure to speak my primary love language (compliments) a lot, so I always felt loved and wanted to give back.
In this sense we were both avoiders, but able to support each other. This was also the case when we outright said we needed space to think things through or had important stuff to do – It wasn’t the other person’s fault/something they did, we just wanted some alone time. And then we came back happier than ever.
So it’s quite possible, it just takes a great deal of trust, maturity, intimacy, and honesty (admitting our own emotional faults/deficiencies).
Great article. Reading it I really feel like a lot of it relates to me. I already knew I have intimacy issues but I hadn’t come across the term “avoider” before.
I’m 31 and I’ve never been in a relationship. It’s something I really want but I’m also scared. And the older I get, the more I feel embarrassed about it. I’m afraid of being hurt and people judging me. I also have depression, OCD and anxiety which can make it harder for getting out there and meeting people.
Some of my issues probably relate to childhood. When I was little I lived abroad with my parents but my dad was controlling of my mum and didn’t always treat her very nicely. She left him when I was 4 and came back home to the UK with me (ran away basically). I haven’t seen him since, just occasional contact by phone, letters etc. At school I had crushes on boys but that was all. I was bullied at middle school. More recently I had strong feelings for someone who I didn’t really know. I felt like I loved him but it was one sided and, since we didn’t speak, more like a fantasy. I know I am capable of feeling that way but have trouble with mutual attraction, finding someone where we both feel the same way.
In recent years I’ve been trying to make male friends online since I don’t socialise with men a lot and it was easier for me to do it that way. A few years ago I met up with one of them twice but then I went through a bad time and I couldn’t cope with meeting up again. I tend to push people away. I have another online male friend at the moment and haven’t pushed him away, although sometimes I get scared.
Do you have any advice? I’ve been to therapy in the past for other issues but find it awkward and hard talking about myself. I find it easier to write about my feelings. I think talking to men in person more might help. I socialise with one man a lot but he’s gay, so I probably find it easier because I don’t consider him a “threat”. I think I’m a bit scared of (straight) men, people in general but probably men more. This has turned into a long comment! Thanks for reading. 🙂
P.S. Sorry, I forgot to mention that I also had trouble with friendships at school. Two of my best friends turned on me, for no reason that I knew of and it really hurt, especially the second one.
You know I was super embarrassed for still being a virgin and only lost it when I was 24 (kids lose it when they’re like, what, 11 these days???). But I realize now it was only a big deal in my head and because society pushes sex. Now in less than 3 years I’ve probably had more dating experience that many have had their entire lives, but I still think I could be pushing myself more – really want to find a loving girlfriend as of late.
So – it only means something if you THINK it’s embarrassing. You’re only too late if you’re dead, and since you wrote this, plenty of time… if you start taking action and chatting up cute guys ;).
So the absence of Dad, the best friends turning on you… that’s going to make you scared of trusting people and letting them close to you (because they’ll just stab you in the back or abandon you, at least, that’s what your amygdala/brain is telling you).
Therapy will DEFINITELY help you. But hey, if you find writing helps more, why not start there? I know there are plenty of therapy forums (paid/un-paid online) where you can talk to people. I think you’ll have to talk in person eventually, but this can at least step you in to that. Talking and letting things go is ESSENTIAL. Just do some Googling to find some options.
Again, as I usually say, baby steps. So if you’ve never had a relationship (have you ever had sex, been on dates though?), you’ll need to start somewhere. E.g. to get into a relationship, you need to go on dates. So you’ll need to work on getting over that social anxiety and introducing yourself.
Try this specific article I wrote: How To Confidently Approach Men
Also to heal the abandonment issues, other than therapy, finding amazing trust worthy friends you can open up to is essential. It will tell your brain “People are there for me, and love me. I have support.”, and un-do a lot of the bad. Do you have good friends at the moment?
Also – sent you an e-mail. Please check it.
Hey Noam, thanks for your reply. I’ll check out the link you posted.
Thanks for your email as well. I’ll write more there. 🙂
This is an excellent article… an avoider in a relationship can seal it’s fate. I used to avoid intimacy in relationships, my last relationship being 12 years (married 6). Now, two years divorced, I am simply avoiding relationships! The boundaries I have now (no living together) really isn’t going to work for the vast majority of women who seem to want the “full meal relationship deal”.
I think for me, until I work a lot of these things out and my fears about relationships and what they cost a person, it’s better for me to avoid relationships rather than avoid intimacy within them. The latter is simply not fair – especially when the other person is open to intimacy and available. My ex-wife also had intimacy issues and we did this very strange push/pull dance with eachother until one day there were too many “pushes” and not enough “pulls” and we were too far apart and she decided to pull the plug. (Myself, I may have stayed in that damaged relationship indefinitely because I prefer avoiding and staying in dysfunction rather than mixing things up and fixing them or mixing things up by just quitting. My parents taught us kids that suffering withing the marriage is perfectly okay. You don’t need to fix the problems, and you don’t need to leave. Not a very good example, really.)
Well I would argue that saying “I’m just going to avoid relationships” is the largest form of avoidance. It’s throwing the baby out with the bath water and engaging in what Chip and Dan Heath call “Yes or No” type thinking – e.g. it’s not like you have to have PERFECT intimacy or no relationships…
In fact we’re all improving in everything: business, relationships, communication, sex, football… If we said “I’m only going to do X when I’m REALLY good at it”, nothing would ever happen.
Just pointing it out because it’s a semi-clever avoidance tactic your monkey mind is using. It’s probably some hurt from the divorce and seeing how your parents acted, and that’s OK. Nobody is perfect.
Instead to move forward though, why not try this: It’s awesome that you’re self-aware of these issues. SO – go date if you want, and TELL THE WOMEN YOU HAVE THESE ISSUES AND WOULD LIKE THEIR HELP. Depending on how severe you think the issues are you could also pursue therapy, up to you, but if you tell them you have these issues they’ll be more understanding and try to help. Maybe they’ll try and give you more affection. Maybe you can talk about needing space here and there, and so on.
You’ll have to deal with feelings of fear and such when they get closer and try to force yourself to open up more bit-by-bit, baby steps, but it’s better than never having any intimacy at all in my opinion.
Life’s too short to be alone, man.
Well… I tried dating back in October and November. I felt very alone, so this is what I did – I got an online dating profile (shortly after the time of my last post actually) and went on a number of dates. It was as if I went through this sort of dating “process”. I was very anxious about going – and I found it strange how relieved I was when a few of the dates cancelled. (It seems some people have dates and also backup dates these days…) The dates I did go on were sort of painful – I was just going through the motions. I would thank my date for a nice evening and then contact would wane, because I didn’t show interest in a second date or even maintaining contact. It wasn’t because my dates were unattractive to me, but I cant say for sure if they were attracted to me. I tend to have very poor intuition when it comes to women. Anyways, I finally had to face the reality of what I was doing.
I think I just wanted sex and was serial dating hoping to find someone wanting the same thing. Here comes the trouble. I have sexual issues which would require me to be in an intimate relationship where my partner would be understanding of my particular problem(s) and “work with me” and help me get my sexual health back (tall order)! But, I am extremely adverse to an intimate relationship because for me, I feel that being in a relationship requires giving up way too much control over my life and there is too much risk of things ending badly bringing terrible loss and pain.
I have a new therapist now and she is female (all my previous therapists have been male). Perhaps she can help me. The longer I go without sex or intimacy the closer to zero my libido is getting and although it’s kind of scary to be losing that part of myself, it’s a very troublesome part – and I totally understand why some people just become single and celibate.
I’m about to “reconnect” with someone who has told me she has intimacy issues. (We dated for a month or so, and she split saying God told her I wasn’t the one.) I’ve purposely waited, prayed, and have done my research on the intimacy thing out of respect for her and knowledge and understanding for myself.
This seems to be a potentially awesome relationship, with laughter, affection, common interests, and deep conversations. However, like your article explains, after days we seemed to get closer, she would “pull/push away.” We would typically work through that, until she pulled the trump/God card on me. Now, after reaching out to her, she’s willing to talk.
I guess my question is: Do I bring this intimacy stuff up to her, or would it be like I’m judging her? I feel unsure as what to do to make her feel safe and letting her know she can be vulnerable here, because when she’s had those feelings of vulnerability in the past, I think she felt “out of control” and distanced herself. How can I be the man she needs so I can be with the woman I want?
Hey D, tough question but you also kind of answered it yourself…
You need to bring it up as otherwise, it might ruin the relationship, or you’ll become passive-aggressive (even if you don’t mean to), versus “clearing the air”.
But in doing so, you explain that you aren’t doing this to hurt her, judge her, or anything like that. You’re doing it because you want to connect more with her, and feel pushed away when she does what she does. She’ll probably feel a bit judged and hurt no matter what, because even if you are being kind you are criticizing her a bit, and that’s why you need to re-assure her.
Everyone is entitled to their own emotions. The challenge in difficult conversations is for people to realize how they feel and express it without saying that the OTHER PERSON IS AT FAULT.
So here, you could say “When you do X it makes me feel Y”, not “You suck for doing X because I always feel Y, so stop being stupid and change”.
The healthier version brings about connection, understanding, and hopefully some realizations for both of you.
Honest communication without blame.
I also really enjoyed the article. I am on the “receiving end” of an avoider who pushes me away when his attachment becomes too strong for his comfort level. We both declare being attached to each other. I am comfortable with it but it is a source of fear for him (which he can articulate).
When he goes into ‘fear mode’ he also is quick to list my faults as is to say “well i really don’t like you anyway.” He says he “loves” me and I love him too. but this push-pull is doing my head in. I have been in abusive relationships and have had lots of counselling. so i can identify that i can accept this sort of behaviour because of my (past?) issues of low self-worth. But i now feel loving myself and loving him are not compatible.
so my question is – what to do ? He just told me for the third time he just wants “to be friends” (his idea is we continue to hang out but no intimacy). i responded that he could not cherry pick and ended the relationship. However i am wondering if i did the right thing…
I have said to him in the past that either we work through it together (me supporting him but he has to be open, which he is.) however when he brings up his fear (which i can feel is building) his decision to retreat/change the dynamic is already made up. I do feel he does not want to lose me. we have talked about our plans to grow old together – but the fear now is engulfing him ! what to do ?
many thanks Suzanne
So we can be with avoiders if we sense what they are doing, explain to them how it makes us feel, say we are there for them… but only they can decide to do something about it/push through. In fact, many people aren’t emotionally aware enough to call each other on their bullshit…
As in, if a man or woman hasn’t been in a really open relationship, or they have a lot of blockages, they won’t really be able to tell when there are walls up, so everything might just continue even if something’s wrong.
So if you sense something (excellent), and he denies it or chooses to ignore it, it’s always going to be a thorn in your side and you’ll begin to get annoyed in the relationship. You’ll find passive-aggressive ways to act out because you aren’t getting the intimacy met that you desire and deserve.
And, because you’ve had a history of abusive relationships, you should definitely be focusing on you and self-love, and not tolerating crappy behaviour. Find someone who treats you well and can give you the love and support you need.
So you tell him about what he does and how it makes you feel WITHOUT BLAME. As I’ve mentioned before it is key when discussing these sensitive topics to explain that the person him/herself isn’t bad (this would be shaming them), but say that they may not realize what their actions are doing to other people. Explain that you love him, but honestly if you can’t work through it, you’ll have to stay broken up because it hurts you… listing your faults is pretty sucky. Sounds like a huge defense to me, just meant to push you away.
He’ll either decide to work with you or on himself/with a therapist to push through, or it’ll be the end and you’ll both move on.
No friends – at least not for a long time, you wouldn’t be able to separate the emotions.
We can only help each other so much, unfortunately :(. Tragedy of the avoider mentality.
I was wondering if you could help shed some light on my situation. I have been seeing my boyfriend for a year and we have had some ups and downs in our relationship. The downs have come from him not keeping his work, being late, etc.
However he has a habit of giving me the silent treatment when he feels he is in a confrontation situation. I am wondering if this is avoidance.
He previously stopped talking to me for sometimes days and once over 2.5 weeks when I found out he had been lying about something quite major.
Since then things have been going well for us and I have been more involved with his family and we have talked marriage etc. he says he loves me and wants a future.
However a few weeks ago I broached the subject of “lack of intimacy” between us and he went silent and said he would plan some alone time for us. We have never been fully intimidate and I don’t think I handled the conversation well, as I was feeling sensitive that he wasn’t attracted to me.
After that things were going fine, until a few days later I made a small sarcastic comment about not meeting up. I explained that I was just looking forward to seeing him.
I got a couple of angry text messages from him, and I decided to give him some space for a couple of days after apologising .
I tried on a few occasions after that to start up communication and for 10 days all I got was silence. I then reacted and said I love you, but find the silence hurtful, if you need space that’s fine and you just need to say so, but if I don’t hear from you within the next day I will assume we are over.
That was over 3 weeks ago, and it feels like it is over as there has been no contact. But I feel he is avoiding confrontation, even though I just want to talk and not argue. After every silence when he does eventually come to talk we resolve things calmly and talk normally… This time feels like the end as it has been so long and I don’t even really know what I did wrong. I feel like I have been ghosted…
Hey Siobhan. Sorry for the late response to I what I assume was an of the moment situation, I do my best to respond to everything in time.
It sounds to me like he withdraws as a defense. Also, I think it’s unfair that if HE does something wrong, and when you approach him in an adult manner, he just doesn’t want to talk. That’s actually very childish. It’s understandable and again, a common defense, but it doesn’t make it right.
If you’ve expressed very simply that what he does hurts you, but he doesn’t respond and he doesn’t change, then assume he’ll always carry out this behavior and honestly, I’d find someone who can handle constructive confrontation and criticism (e.g. I’m telling you this so we can make our relationship better). You’ll be happier in the long run.
Thanks for your article and expressing your own vulnerability. And thank you for replying to so many of your readers’ emails!
Here’s my story, any light you can shed on it would be helpful during this very difficult time.
My boyfriend and I recently broke up after he claimed he needed some space, then when put on the spot admitted that he wasn’t in love with me anymore. Up until that day I had felt very deeply loved and accepted by him and this came completely out of the blue. By his own admission I was the perfect girl for him and we were magic in the beginning (we both thought we were ‘soulmates’ after years of not believing in soulmates) but he didn’t know why he was feeling this way and had been for months (I had NO idea and there was no fighting to hint at it either). He wanted to take an extended, indefinite break so we could both grow and heal, but I insisted that breaking up would be the better thing to do since he no longer ‘knew’ if he loved me which meant he obviously didn’t.
The only reason I’m second guessing this is he has every sign of FOI. First of all he’s 40 and has never had a relationship that’s lasted more than a year. I’ll give you one guess as to how long we were together (nearly to the DAY) when we broke up…
As a child his father treated him badly, occasionally hit him, then abandoned his family for another when he was in his mid teens. Then when he was 19 his bipolar mother passed away suddenly. There were hints that at some point he was molested but when questioned he snapped that he didn’t want to talk about it. Years later he was left abruptly by the most serious girlfriend he had before me. It all adds up. I think anyone would be terrified of loss after all that. I can only imagine the walls he had to put up just to survive.
I love him very much and don’t know what to do. Do I let him go or try reach out and let him know I’m here to help him through this? If so, after how long (it’s been a month)? do I contact him at all or wait until he’s ready to contact me? OR, is it highly possible that he truly doesn’t love me anymore and FOI has nothing to do with it and I should leave him be?
Thanks for your help, I look forward to hearing back.
All that stuff he’s been through digs a HUGE abandonment fear into his brain and he’s definitely going to be afraid of getting left behind. He would also rather do the running away versus being ran away from (the abandoner vs. the abandoned).
Unfortunately, it’s another case of trying to help them, but you can’t really control them.
I mean, you can explain what you think is going on, offer to be there for him and re-assure him that you’re not judging him and you love him, you want to help him. But tragically, he has to make the call to move forward or not. And once he does, it’s on you to not push, to accept his decision either way, and to hope he works through it somehow in the future if not with you
I’d recommend a long time before contact otherwise you two will still be emotionally linked. As Mark Manson says, a friendship will naturally sprout up most likely if it’s meant to be there and was there from the start, and it might take you two moving on to new relationships before it happens.
I cannot say how much I appreciate this site you have created because I struggle with most of the issues that you address. With that said, I was hoping you may have some insight on what I should do about a male friend of mine.
I have known this man for more than 15 years. There is no question that we are attached to each other, but I have always feared that I shouldn’t get too close to him. We have corresponded forever but in the past year we have gotten closer… he has become more open and gives me a lot of attention. Granted this is mostly in text form. He tries to convince me that I am special and talks of all the things he wants us to do but has never managed to. He’s asked me out but one of us always backs out. And yes, I also have avoider tendencies, but I realize them. I guess this is why he likes me… he can use my unavailability as an excuse. The only way we can manage to get together is if we have drinks with friends and then something always happens. The two of us have engaged in a push-pull relationship for some time (again, years). Recently I had become frustrated with the situation. So I offered him no strings sex so that he might end his sexual fixation with me and leave me alone. He disappeared, but resurfaced a few days later (seems to improve all the time). I thought sex was what he wanted. Wouldn’t most men take a woman up on that offer? So I decided to address the problem in a kind letter. I let him know I don’t judge and I’ll always listen if he needs me to (he had recently told me he had very few good childhood memories). No word for a couple weeks. Then he responds with this list of things he wishes I would do… things a girlfriend would do. So I reminded him that we are friends.
I told him he needs to stop texting if he doesn’t want me to get attached. He continues to text me everyday, usually a good morning and how was your day. I care deeply about him and I am fairly sure he cares about me. He says he’s attracted and in 15 years has never mentioned another women to me. So, my question is (since I’m unsure that he is aware of what he does) Is he using me? Should I continue to give him what he needs as far as our fantasy courtship or am I only enabling him? I have been very patient…. I don’t freak out when he becomes distant and I try to be a good friend because I truly understand about experiencing trauma at a young age. I want him to be happy and I feel like he wants closeness. I know I cannot fix him… but I think maybe we can help each other because in some ways we already have.
Eventually we will hook up again and I am worried about the aftermath now that we are emotionally much more connected. I am convinced he will hurt me badly, because he already does, but I have become used to the degree of dysfunction between us. Any thoughts… should I retreat again? I’m scared because I feel more attached to him each passing day and I would hate to lose his friendship. sometimes I feel stupid for not cutting him off… I’d probably have to get a new new number because he always comes back.
Thank you again for your insights and honesty.
I’m really confused: If you just want to be friends, why did you “give” him sex? If a guy wants to be with you, don’t you think that if you “gave” him sex he’d assume you two could be closer, and that you want some form of a relationship, whether more casual or not? In fact, if you knew he wanted something more, you were actually very unfair having sex with him, if you were just trying to get him off your back.
Are you friend zoning him (you don’t want him as more than a friend), or are you interested but scared? There’s so much at play here I’m not even sure what to tell you.
Why do you know you will eventually hook up again? Says who? If you don’t want to, why does it HAVE to happen?
It seems to me like you are being indecisive. Perhaps you like that he wants you, and maybe you can see him as more… or maybe you don’t. You both need to have a talk and decide. Actually first, YOU need to decide.
If you don’t like the push/pull nonsense, be firm with him, no more flirting or sex, and stay friends. Explain it to him.
If you want to see how things could be like, actually give the relationship a shot.
Being in limbo is hurting both of you and will piss you both off… and also waste time you two could be meeting other people! In fact, if you aren’t careful, he could become upset pretty soon and end friendship because of your OWN push/pull stuff, especially since you had sex once.
I have been searching the whole internet for something that described me and I stumbled onto your description. I totally relate to this Ive been in a loveless/sexless marriage for 18 years 13 of it without any intimacy thought it was my fault he wasn’t interested but turns out it was or his issue which is a different topic . I know you’re wondering why stay married well I lost my mom, his dad and my grandmother in 2004 and my oldest brother the following year also took in my deceased brother 17yr son my nephew who needed some stabilitythe same year so I had a 5 year old daughtet and now this 17 year old to raise somehow w the same rules. Fast forward he is an veteran of the Marines and works for the railroad and my daughter is a freshman in high school. I have stayed married due to financial reasons but recently I have met someone from my high school. He and I clicked I had no intentions of falling for him since I know I am this horrible person who has cheated on my “husband” with fwb no emotional contact just sex. So I met this guy and he’s totally different than Any man he cares and loves me. I have now started the divorce papers even before this guy I know it was time however he is the real deal so we had planned on meeting and yes he lives in another state which we have discussed and again I know long distance relationships are tough enough but you throw physical contact in and it scares the hell out of me. I’ve been the alpha or in control of everything thus far not by choice but pushed in it to now m vulnerability and scared of the connection with someone through physical contact. Before I could push my feelings aside and get the satisfaction of the sex but now I’m scared to let this man in and love me because of all my deep unsurfaced scars and he knows that my emotional state is unstable for that next stage but he’s willing to stick it out . so I’m gradually learning baby steps to letting the past go and realize I deserve love and that its okay .I hope with your book I’ll be able to knock my wall down and let him in because for the first time in my life I see a future with someone that loves me for me. Scary as it seems it also very exciting. Thank you for helping realize what and how to reprogram me and sorry this was so lengthy.
Your article really struck a chord with me and a current dating situation that I just called quits on last night. The description fits him perfectly. He’s a good guy, treats me well when we are together, but as soon as we get closer he starts pushing me away and disappearing. A couple months in things weren’t progressing physically and I got upset and asked if he wasn’t interested in me romantically and just wanted to be friends. I asked him how long since his last relationship and he freaked out spouting “I don’t do relationships!” This was news to me as we’d been slowly getting to know each other and I thought we were on the same page.. as he had said exactly that in the past. I had been clear I’m not looking for casual and he had already asked me to be exclusive prior to this conversation. We ended up having a tiff about it and basically ending things. I kept in contact though because I really liked him and hoped he’d see that commitment with me isn’t that scary since I don’t want marriage or children. After a month we got back together with the caveat that I stop talking about relationships. I admit I fell into the “potential vs. reality” in hoping he’d eventually see I’m worth taking a risk.
We were still exclusive, but even though we live 1.5 miles away from each other, I rarely saw him. We had a month within our 7 months thing where we were seeing each other and talking regularly. Then things at work got stressful as he was waiting to hear about a possible transfer – locally or possibly 8 hours away. I supported him through it but he started distancing himself. We had gotten closer and he told me I scared him. But then started blaming his distance on job stress. I tried to walk away asking if he really can’t see himself having something real, then say it now while we’re still on good terms. He asked me to wait a week til he heard about the job after his vacation. That’s another thing. He doesn’t talk to me when he’s out of town. Which is a lot. He says it’s one of the reasons he doesn’t want a relationship.. because he can’t do daily upkeep. He’s basically told me a zillion times how scared feelings make him and how he knows his actions send mixed messages.. Hanging out with me to just hang out.. cuddling me and saying he didn’t want me to leave. Yet he never introduced me to any friends or wanted to meet mine. So he gets the transfer locally.. great! But nothing changes.. in fact he’s even more distant. And the more I ask if he could stop pushing me away, the more he does. We’ve talked about fears making our decisions for us, but he always has another reason he can’t commit to a serious relationship. Now that there’s no chance of him moving away, it’s “I don’t want seriousness. But we can be hook up and hikeing buddies!” He was even fine with me dating others while still seeing him, but I know myself well enough to know I can’t do that.
I sent him your article because it’s so right on.. but I’m guessing you’ll agree if he doesn’t actually *want* to work on it, there’s no place for me here. When we were having our mixed messages conversation he said “I guess if I ever decide I do want a relationship, I’ll have to work on that.” If he would only give me a little bit of willingness to try, I am the most patient with people working on themselves as I’ve worked plenty on myself. But I had to walk away for my own self respect as I just see this continuing indefinitely with me having all these feelings and him keeping me at arm’s length.
Thanks for your article. After a particularly difficult few months I wonder if my partner is an avoider (though this is something I would never have considered a while back)
My partner left his wife for us to be together. Something I am not proud of, but we fell in love and we both felt an easy connection the day we met at work as colleagues (9 months before anything happened between us). My partner had been with his wife since the age of 20, so thirteen years, and married for 7. When we got together we were inseparable, I have never been with someone who made me feel so good about myself. He constantly told me how he had never felt this way, I was the one and the most beautiful women he has met. He said it had made him question his relationship with his wife and that even from the beginning they had never been the way we were.
I knew he had a troubled background as his parents had split and got back together multiple times before the final split when he was 14 and at 16 his mum has kicked him out. He had always relied on himself since then and said he didn’t trust people as they always let you down.
So, we were planning to move in together when I found out he had been going back to his ex wife’s house and stopping over to see his child, the days he didn’t see me. All this time he was telling me he was taking his child to his dad’s house. We had a huge falling out (as at this point his ex wife did not know about me) I demanded he tell her and I was angry, really angry with him for not being honest.
So, he told his ex wife and the following week we said would speak about why he could not just tell me that he wanted to stop over to see his child. That week I admit I backed off slightly as I felt hurt. He text me and said he felt i no longer loved him, which wasn’t the case. Yet when we spoke he then told me he was unsure about us. I was gobsmacked. This was the man telling me he had never loved anyone like me, now backing off. Everything he said felt like excuses, that the times we had gone out drinking together meant maybe we were more friends than partners. Why did we not have sex the night we stayed in a fancy hotel (the night that we had a huge dinner and wine and then just felt tired after then going in the hot tub after eating and drinking too much). I was devastated.
He left my house that day and all that week kept in contact saying he felt confused. He didn’t know if he was a good or bad person for not being upfront with me. He has kept in touch through what he feels was then a breakdown. After which he told me he had a breakdown when his parents split and tried to kill himself.
So, we are four months down the line. He has distanced himself in all this time and started counselling and is on anti depressants. He has told me throughout that he loves me and I am the most amazing person he has ever met. I am still hanging in there as can’t give up on what we had which was so special.
I don’t ask what is discussed in his therapy but lately he has opened up and said that maybe he got together with his ex as due to the upheaval in his childhood he needed security and so he took the first offer he got. He is discussing if his marriage was a lie and just a deeper need he had and that he feels his ex wife never knew the real him. Does this sound like he backed off from me as he was scared I would reject him following our conflict?
Would appreciate your insight. I don’t want to give up on him as we were perfect together big it’s been a long hard last four months
This is a wonderful article. We all thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions.
Can I also bother you with my sad story? Two years ago a met a colleague that was very interested in me. Back then I was depressed and in denial of meeting new people. I was completely alone. He approached me and with the time he made me feel very comfortable around him. He was in a relationship for ten years but he didn’t seem happy at all. After a while he broke up with his girlfriend that adores him and started spending more time with me. In general, he was very nice to me, texting, phoning, taking me out. He was very nice to me. He kept telling me that I’m very special to him, that I’m the only person that gets him, that he admires me too much, that I’m so wonderful that I’m dangerous and that he liked me from the very first moment he saw me. At the same time and seeing me being depressed since I was still in pain due to another guy, he told me that his first girlfriend really hurt him. When he was 18 years old, he moved to another city to be with her, he left his studies and pretty much everything he had for her. Unfortunately, she treated him very badly, she cheated on him several times and she abandoned him. That hurt him a lot and given the fact that he was by himself in the new city, this must have been a very painful experience.
A couple of years after that, she met a new girl and he spent day and night with her but without calling her his girlfriend. She liked her a lot, but couldn’t “commit” to her, (although he was fully committed). After two years, this girl fell in love with another guy and left him. As he said he felt even more broken.
Then he met his ex-girlfriend that is a very nice person and I believe she had no previous sex experiences. He once cheated on her but she forgave him and they lived happily ever after. Until he met me.
With the time we were coming closer but he kept talking about feeling hurt, confused, guilty etc. and thus it was difficult for him to be with me. I understand now that he was never honest to me about the real reason, because sometimes he was telling me that he didn’t feel “clear” from his past and others that he was terrified of me. (I think he also meant of my ex – he knows that I love my ex and that he wants to have me back, but we never spoke of him).
In the meantime, I could see him getting extremely jealous, but I was so confused that I didn’t know what to believe. His actions made me feel secure, but his words were telling me completely the opposite. He was texting me in the middle of the night, he used words like “pain” and “hurting”, he made me feel that he was in love and then the next thing I knew was that because of some big issues that he has, we couldn’t be together. So I told him that I didn’t want to have anything casual and that he should make a decision. I also offered him my friendship but by the time I did that he decided that he would like to give himself a chance and try to beat his fears.
We had a great time for 2 months when I left for holidays. In the beginning we were talking and texting all the time but after a while it became difficult due to the time difference. I couldn’t phone him for a couple of days and this is when I realised that he became acting cold. But I didn’t know why…I couldn’t have thought that this would be the reason.
When I came back he told me that he doesn’t want to be in a relationship with me because he can’t trust me. I yelled at him a lot, sent him to hell and told him that he shouldn’t play with people that are depressed. He felt very bad, he said that he didn’t want to hurt me etc. Then we stopped talking and even though I have been through very difficult situations, including a family loss, he didn’t try to see me. (we don’t’ work together any more) Just a few cold texts out of interest.
Today, an ex-colleague told me that he was asking about me. I know he is very lonely and goes through some career problems. Even though he has hurt me so badly, I found the courage to contact him and asked him to meet me, but he said that this will be painful for him and that he cares about me and wants me to go on with my life. Even though he says that, the only thing I hear is a scream for help and I’d very much like to help him since I really love him but I don’t know how. Today he told me that the things that hurt him keep hurting him, but I don’t know what he refers to. I think he just means that he feels so afraid and weak that hurts. I can imagine that he is touch with his ex since he had always used her as his safety net but this doesn’t cause me any pain. What causes pain to me that he deleted me after spending one and a half year trying to come closer to me.
FYI, he had a tough childhood with his parents being poor and him working from when he was a little kid. He had never had the chance to enjoy life. He’s rather a control freak, but I care a lot about him 🙁
Sorry for my long email… Your thoughts would be very helpful..
Hello, I found the article really interesting and stumbled upon it after realizing that my commitment phobic behavior may actually just be intimacy issues.
I’m not sure this article applies to me, but I did see a lot of my own behaviors in what you wrote. especially with the part of wanting a relationship to contupinue and work, but also, not.
To clarify, most of my relationships don’t last anymore than a few months, I’ve realized a lot is do with how much I travel, every year I am gone for a few months of the year, I have my heart in different places as I’ve moved away for work and study. once I leave the routine we’ve had and come back I normally realize or feel that it isn’t working, normally this comes down to not really feeling it. Sometimes I still feel totally in love with them but we don’t want the same thing, and I am on the other end.
However I do feel very emotionally close to some of my friends, I am emotionally open, I had depression since 13 and had a hard time expressing myself but since therapy and being surrounded by good people, I have opened up a lot and maintain my friendships.
I feel that I have a kind of in capability of maintaining romantic relationships, I normally find something wrong, but I do take risks, I want to feel connections and normally when we stop seeing each other I want to maintain a friendship, which I normally do.
I also have recently started being non monogamous as it allows me to have relationships with people without the pressure of having to see someone all the time, I am very selfish about my own time. I want to share it more but I like a lot to be on my own or with friends, the one risk you mentioned about introducing people to you friends was something I did recently and I changed a lot the way I felt about this person as I felt uncomfortable. I want to try to make this relationship work but I don’t know if I am doing it purely for the sake of it, I don’t feel like I am falling in love and I am not sure if I ever will but we do recognize that we have a connection so we are continuing it, I know if I ended it I wouldn’t feel so bad that we wouldn be romantic anymore but I would feel bad that I had ended yet another relationship. I am only recently starting to talk to my romantic interests about my issues, that I am someone wok puts up a lot of wall as and I know it is nesecary to have patience with me (or I will run in the other direction). Apart from this, I don’t know what to do as I feel myself again at the crossroads. I have found myself before in relationships that I didn’t want to be in and felt they just ‘happened’. I don’t want to lead people on, but I also don’t want to keep ending every relationship I’m in or finding some way to sabotage it. What do I do?
i had just started a relationship with a really great guy but today when he held my hand all i wanted to do was run away. I don’t know why? but i still took his hand and we walked around. the only thought that came to head was if someone was staring. I wish i knew if i was ready to be in a relationship or not. Today i was thinking to myself and thought that i was confusing fear over love. Is this a possible billty. I also want to tell him everything but not all the words come out. Like when i was talking to him today and i just wanted to focus on my work instead of him, or when he looks at me, i just turn away. it get harder to look him in the face for some reason. Oh please help me. – Molly <3
Have you dated a lot, and how long have you been in this relationship for? You say you just started, but does that mean a week, a month…?
First of all, I need to express the fact that you’ve replied to nearly all the comments you get back, which makes me tremendously warm inside.
Second, even as a young girl, I struggled with this type of mentality, doing things from typing out notes and notes of my own theory on my issues, to just ignoring the issues (like one with this mentality would), to trying and trying to push myself to go see a therapist, but being scared to death to even mention it to my parents, to ignoring it and going out with multiple times and utterly failing, ending up where I started, to wanting to move and run away in hopes to figure out what the hell was wrong with me, which retrospectively were mostly stupid ideas.
Within my lifespan that has revolved around this issue, I’ve had my fair share of guys who i knew weren’t, to put it gently, the classiest, or the most thoughtful, because i knew how they worked, what they wanted, and that they wouldn’t bother me after we were done. I had feelings for certain guys in between, but i picked them apart before anything actually happened between us, found even the smallest thing i didn’t like so i had a reason to shut them out and not deal with the vulnerability it came with. Granted, i dated one guy, which completely failed. We were literally “dating” for 3 weeks, in which 2 out of the 3 weeks one or the other of us were traveling. The day he got back from New York i cut things off. He was sweet about the whole thing, because i knew myself and warned him about this whole thing. When i told my best best friend, she even felt bad and lectured me on how i need to stop overthinking, in which i simply told her thats like stabbing someone in the leg and telling them ignorantly to stop bleeding. It’s not like i can control my brain.
I don’t know what I’m doing at all with my life right now to quite frankly. I runaway from most every problem that puts my vulnerability at risk, i do the nitpicking thing i mentioned early, i have this need to control every aspect of my life, and despite that I’m pretty indecisive, i have this thing with making eye contact that i can’t even look at someone when I’m ordering food, I fear rejection so bad it screws with my daily life. And those are the only issues in my life concerning THIS issue. I’m a real mess and I want to at least dart trying to fix myself, so I comment on this article, in hopes that you’ll have even the slightest advice on how to slowly start fixing myself.
I feel like i should tell you my current status, in that it is 5:30 am on Monday and that i haven’t slept all night because all these issues in my life are keeping me up constantly.
Thank you so much for this article, honestly i thought i was alone in this mess.
Hey CN, sorry for the late reply and thanks for writing in.
I sent you an e-mail so check it and let me know what you think!
Wow, given that this post was two years ago I too am impressed by your continual response.
I hate to leave a long message and even express that I need help here, but I don’t quite know what to do…
This article describes me well, the girl I previously dated about 6 months ago came to the conclusion that I was an avoider. Which, shockingly I had not been aware of until then. I was only aware that there was some deep seated issue with me and I wasn’t able to be vulnerable or give myself fully to something/someone.
Looking back( I am 25 years now) when I was in high school and early college I dated a girl and put everything out there. I really held my heart out exposed to her. we ended up breaking up and I was demolished…
I can remember nights where I lay on the ground outside in pain and saying to myself that “I never want to feel this ever again.” And I didn’t because it has been the worst pain I felt in my 25 years. I even lost all desire for women for the next 3-4 years. I started doing drugs at that point and subconsciously was able to numb the pain by not feeling anything at all. I have been clean for 3 years.
2 years ago. I attempted one relationship with a beautiful girl who really is amazing, and after 3 months out of the blue one day told her I couldn’t date her anymore and 2 weeks later I moved halfway across the country. (She had no idea why and neither did I really) While there, I jumped into another relationship only weeks later where we dated only a month, 2 weeks of which I couldn’t even sit next to her or talk to her because she wanted to go very deep very fast. She also was beautiful and amazing. (Meanwhile idk what’s wrong with me except that I am internally conflicted.) Then I decide to break up with this girl and move back across the country because I think I like the girl I broke up with out of the blue!
Somehow after months of convincing and pursuing this girl she decides to give me another chance again. This time was 6 months ago where she introduced me to the fact that I may be avoidant. And as you may bet, I only lasted 1 month of dating this girl before sabatoging the relationship encouraging her to break it off with me.
That was 6 months ago and now I find myself wanting nothing more than to be able to talk to this very girl and be vulnerable with her.
I have the same problem with major decisions in my life, like working. I will always reject something before it can reject me. I have been going through the same cycle for the past 3 years of bouncing from one thing to the next fleeing everytime a difficult situation presents itself.
I do feel alone, there are many people that have been hurt by me, many people want friendship from me but I feel incapable to give it.
I feel like I don’t need anyone and I can take care of myself. People are not reliable so why rely on them.
I have no friendships that have stood the test of time.
It seems like everything I have really given myself to in life didn’t work out.
Am I even fit for a relationship, I feel messed up.
Thanks :). Although it can take me a while to get back I’m trying to answer everyone.
Everyone is fit for a relationship, they just might need to do some work to get there.
You’re very self aware of your patterns. There may be more here (childhood stuff), but you mentioned the first heartbreak you had which has set you up: You’re OK with dating but you worry if things go too deep a girl will hurt you again so you break things off first.
Being vulnerable is hard. Opening up is scary. We can get hurt but we can also experience amazing joy – it just goes with the territory.
Hopefully you don’t feel alone, because you can see how many other people are struggling with this.
I’m sure we can work talk about this more so if you want to, just send me an e-mail.
I seriously need some help here. To make a long story short, I’ve fallen in love with a textbook example of an avoidant and after about two months of becoming quite close, the honeymoon period seems to have worn off and now she’s gotten cold feet. As for some important details:
-It’s long distance
-She seems to have a good bit of the self-awareness that you’ve talked about, as she’s admitted that she tends to bottle up everything negative she feels, and has admitted that she is scared of what has developed between us.
-We got into a sort of push-pull situation just after valentine’s day.
To elaborate on the problem I’m currently facing:
So things were going very well up until just after valentine’s day. We were having a conversation (over text messaging) that was going very well, and suddenly she says she needs to go. I could tell she had some sort of anxiety about something, but I didn’t know what, and so I asked her. She didn’t respond for a while, then out of nowhere says “I’ll talk to you in like a week, don’t worry.” I tried again to ask what was up, and no answer. Skip forward about a few days, and she contacts me again, telling me she needs to talk seriously. She then begins to explain that she’s been having a lot of anxiety over realizing how serious things had gotten between us, and that she’s never actually been serious with someone before, and she’s terrified of it, and so on. Well, as things go on she basically is making it clear she’s trying to run away, justifying it by saying that she’s a terrible, uncaring person and that I’ll be happier off without her, and that the fewer people she’s close to the better because she’s such a bad person. However, she says that she “doesn’t know what we should do from here” and leaves it up to me. I chose to keep going with this instead of parting ways, however I should give her some space for awhile. after this, I left her alone for a few days until she contacted me again.
After this things have been… well, full of mixed signals. She doesn’t seem to put much effort into actually talking to me half the time, but the other half she seems oddly fine with having deep conversations about things like her childhood traumas, although admittedly she made a comment afterwards about feeling emotionally drained because she “never talks like this to anyone.” (Probably do to her being an avoidant)
What I’d like, really is some insight into what’s going on in her mind, as well as advice on how to help her. How do I bring it up to her that she’s an avoidant person? Is there a right and wrong time? What is she thinking now? How has this affected her feelings for me? (I honestly can’t tell if/how much she still wants me in her life) What, if anything, can I do to help her as well as sort out our relationship?
Also, if it’s not a bother, I’d prefer an e-mail response.
Thank you in advance,
Hey Ted, sent you an e-mail!
Thanks for the article. I’ve been dating a woman for over a year. When I first met her I told her I couldn’t date because I had a few personal issues I was dealing with. She broke down crying. Then after I got my crap together we started dating. It went pretty well for about 2 months. Then things went south. She started identifying various things in my life, circumstances and behaviors she couldn’t handle, constantly breaking down in conversation in tears, unable to speak. Most of these things were scheduling problems I was having with my ex-wife, which I’ve since resolved. Other issues/occurrences seemed almost random, like she was continually looking for ‘warning signs’, reasons to keep me at an emotional distance. These blow ups continued for the following months. Now, after over a year, we are mostly just supportive friends, I realize there is nothing I can do. We both have our own therapists. From what she has said hers is really trying to help her through her issues. She says things though about being judged by him etc that imply she isn’t really completely open to dealing with her issues. It has been a real struggle over the year. Sometimes she would blame me for the issues, like inviting her to something and having to cancel it, and other things that most other adults that are OK would be able to handle, but for a while there she was blaming herself for overreacting, often admitting she is confused and embarrassed by her behavior and how she reacts to these things. It eventually go to the point where any discussion we would have would inevitably end up with her going through her laundry list of ‘me doing horrible things’ that weren’t actually all that bad. She won’t let go of them. She admits she is constantly angry. She doesn’t give me credit for correcting my behaviors at all really. She throws labels on me like I can’t be trusted, I have too many issues, I don’t love myself enough (which I do). So she has been and continues to throw up roadblocks. She had dated for 15 years, never been married. Never has people sleep over at her apartment in those years. Most relationships were less than a couple months. Maybe two exceptions, one long term another maybe a year. The rest were all very short term. She tells me how capable she is of ‘walking away’ if she thinks she needs to. It’s generally been a tough experience. I wanted to love her but I feel like I was only able to get to a certain level. She brings up that the only ‘good times’ were the first two months. She still thinks this even after I try to explain that we didn’t really even know each other then. I guess I’m writing this for other people dealing with the same situation. I’ve spent a fair amount of time researching these things and I’m convinced she has a deep rooted fear of intimacy she has never dealt with, probably stemming from her crazy parent emotionally abusing her until she left for college. She tells me horrific stories about it. She cries all the time and I think that is probably a defense mechanism she clings to from childhood, crying probably protected her from further damage when the parent went into one of their ‘rages’. The thing that really sucks is that other than this basic problem she is such a wonderful, loving, caring, compassionate, smart, funny and beautiful person. But she’s stuck and hasn’t yet embraced the reality that all relationships have issues, and in our case, she is likely the one that isn’t capable. I don’t want to be let off scott free, I’m been busting my ass to be ‘better’, changing a lot of things, not ‘for her’ but things she has brought up that I hadn’t seen or realized before. My biggest concern at this point is pulling back so much that she puts all these issues back on the ‘ignore’ shelf and then thinks she is ok, until the next poor sap tries to date her. Seeing her in so much pain has been really hard on me. For the past two months we have pulled back and are not officially ‘undetermined’, we don’t even know what kind of relationship we have. We both agree we have issues to work on but she is still very much unable to let go of the idea that I’m as responsible for her problems, as she files things away this way because dealing with the reality is too difficult. I think until she can do that, she won’t make progress. I’m sort of a distraction and emotional scape goat, also a catalyst for her bubbling up emotional struggles, but she isn’t really taking complete responsibilities for them. Whew, a long sad email now that I read it. Everything I’ve read online gives advice to 1. stick with it, be patient, realize it could take years for someone to be ‘ok’ 2. realize you will only ever be friends with this person (at best) 3. Run away and do myself a favor. I feel like running away is a cop out and only solidifies her fears, and I’m not that kind of person. At this point, I don’t know what to do. I feel sorry for her, I want to help, I don’t know what to do, I wish I could really be in love with her, I want her to be at peace with herself. But I can’t make these things happen at all. So I’m just going to be the best friend I can be for her. But for me, it sucks, I have realized what I want isn’t possible and probably never will be. I feel like I have invested a lot, been super patient. I fear she is going to end up what she fears: old lady, never married and living with cats. Living in a fear bubble until she dies. That’s no way to live and I wish she could do something about it.
Hi there Noam,
I recognise now that my guy ‘friend’ is an avoider, but there are some hopes here that I hope you can talk about a bit to give me a bit of clarification.
I met him at work about 5 months ago and we connected through many many common beliefs, passions and spiritual ideas. There has always been a potent ‘vibe’ between us, I can just feel it and although we haven’t flirted (Well, I have a little), there seemed to be that knowing between us. In the last two weeks we haven’t met up alone as we both planned, due to his work commitments, but I got the feeling that there was something else wrong, like he suddenly announced he had meditation workshops on two nights a week instead of the one, so we didn’t meet then, and when I tried for another evening he’s say yes and then bail at the last minute. I was gentle with him about this but asked him straight by email, if he could tell me why and that I would not think less of him etc. He told me about his low self-esteem (he had mentioned this before to me but hadn’t elaborated) and how it stops him from accepting invites and things like that. I thought that a little strange but I gave him some space and then I wrote back the next day saying that it made me feel insecure too and could he please just be honest? I knew he would be and he replied back telling me he did this to his ex girlfriend as well, he sabotaged their relationship which was so perfect, and he couldn’t forgive himself. He went on a lot about how he feels about me, how much he appreciates me, loves me, trusts me….I am his closest friend and loves being with me and feels safe. I wrote back and told him I had feelings for him and that it was only fair to tell him as we were based on honesty. I said I would not initiate any sexual moves on him or do anything. He replied, worried, freaked out that he had ruined everything! I tried to reassure him that I am evolved enough to put my attraction to him down and focus on our friendship, but he sounded so sad and also angry with himself. He told me that sexual chemistry scared him, these feelings he has scare him and make him feel so insecure. He has been meditating more lately, so that bit was true, to try and find some peace with how he feels and that his mind is telling him the opposite to what his heart says. He is a very spiritual person and I think he is trying to move through with these issues, and I am so happy that he hasn’t run away from me, it means we can work on this together (whether it means we end up in a relationship or not). It killed me and made me cry when his blame went straight to himself not me as he kept asking if he had ruined us. I really want him to try and I know it’s up to him, I can’t really do it, but reassurance and giving him the freedom to talk things through is good, as I have read on here that you advise. Thank you!
Thank you for the article. I had google searched my problem and found nothing. But finally I found your article. It’s like an enlightment. Thank you. I thought I got such a disease… well, I love being alone and most of times feeling uncomfortable to be surrounded by people I know because when I have conversation with them and it’s getting deeper, I’ll push them away and stop talking, even act weirdly because I am afraid if they may know all things inside of me. I had stabbed on the back by friends of mine for a couple time so… that’s may be the reason I couldn’t talk about myself openly and having trouble to build a relation.
I do want to have such a relationship. But every time I get closer to a man and he seems to care a lot, I feel uncomfortable and leave him with no word or being so mean to him.
My mom and dad got divorced when I was about 7 yrs. old and my mom raised me alone so I had never been close to man. I had never had problem with talking to man or something but when we’re going into such dating and trying to build a relationship… it’s frightened me.
Hey I’m glad the article could help. Shoot me an e-mail if you need anything else.
This article has shone a very bright light on an issue I have avoided. I have been talking about this with my therapist. But you nailed it in this article. Thank you.
No problem Anthony, glad you enjoyed it.
I know this might seem to forward, but would you be open having to a phone conversation? You seem incredibly knowledgeable and I would like the chance to ask your advice about a girl I fell in love with over the summer. It would take only a few minutes of your time.
It’s a situation that is difficult to explain concisely with a wall of text (as is the nature of this disorder), but if not I understand I’ll respect your boundaries.
Hey Nick, sent you an e-mail.
I really want to thank you for writing this article. I always found it difficult to understand as to why I couldn’t ever open up to someone, whenever any sensitive issue would come up regarding my career or showing love, I always would shut down. I would go blank. and recently I don’t know why but I start crying! This puzzles me and has left me confused as to what i should do with my life.Honestly this is the first time I felt ‘understood’ by someone. Your advice would really mean a lot to me.
Hey Gargi – it’s really hard for me to give you advice without knowing you “in depth”. But, hopefully some of the other articles here will help give you some guidance of how you can start moving forward.
You can always email me if you have more specific questions. 🙂
Thank you so much for writing this article.
In my last relationship I was having some frequent anxiety during intimicay despite how much I cared for that person.
I finally became more aware of some of my fears after years of on and off relationships.
Reading this article was a major epiphany for me, it was as if I was reading about myself, being the avoider.
I do have a lot of fear since my first serious relationship almost 5 years ago. When we broke up, I was devastated and since then I’ve been running away from things that should make me happy and feel loved. I have long since forgiven myself and that person 5 years ago but I realize there still might need some deeper healing.
I’ve also been through some trauma as a child which comes up in my memories more often as I get older.
I’ve been considering therapy for the last year and a half now but reading this article is going to give me the final push to do so. There are a lot of things I need to open up about and there’s a new potential interest I have been taking to. I really don’t want to go through the same thing again of honeymoon phase and then running away.
Thank you so much again. This article alone has given me more insight and knowledge along with the strength to get better slowly.
No problem Krystal, glad it helped. 🙂
Wow! This article really hit the nail on my boyfriends mannerisms. His father died when he was a baby and his mother abandoned him. He doesn’t really know much about them or his fathers family at all. He has a very loving family though but doesn’t seem to realize this at all. He hurts everyone that he gets close to. He has a history of going from relationship to relationship and sometimes proposing marriage. He has proposed marriage to me but he has lied about so many things in our relationship that I am not sure how genuine it is. He is constantly rude and aggressive with my teenage daughter and becomes irritated immediately with her no matter she does. He recently lost his mother and has been worse than ever before. I have noticed patterns of him being drawn towards his old ways (where he would chat with different women at the same time with the intention of sexual gratification; whether physical or cybersex). He has also been pushing me away and avoiding any intimacy with me at all. He has been extremely passive aggressive with me and accuses me of being crazy when I confront him about it. I feel so torn apart but I love this man so much that I am just trying to understand him. My only concern is that I will try to understand only to be torn apart and left to pick up all the broken pieces of my life. I have broken up with him but he does the push and pull thing every time. So my question is; are there any positive outcomes for the person that stands by the avoider or is it best to leave them to deal with it themselves?
It sounds like he has a lot going on. List out all the things he’s doing, and ask, if he kept doing them forever, would you be OK with it? Would that feel good to you?
That should help you reach an answer.
I hope you still read and respond to these.. I also reached out on Facebook….as I am at my wits end here.. I am currently with a guy.. We have been on and off for 3 years now. He always seems to break up with me when something big happens for us.. Which has been moving in together. When we first met.. everything was perfect.. We were sexually active.. often.. We never had any issues what so ever… fast forward the relationship a few months.. I decide to get my own place and he mentioned about moving in as well. Probably 6 or 7 months after we started dating.. He helped me clean and move my stuff in.. we actually had sex twice there the weekend we were cleaning and moving.. then our mutual friends were helping us move the big furniture.. one made a comment “So whats at your house that we gotta bring over?” You could see the color in his face just disappear.. since that day he started withdrawling.. he would say he needed space.. the sexual intamacy started lessening and lessening. He had a hard time “finishing,” when we had sex.. it was like he would just shut down.. He broke up with me. Told me I deserved more.
He came back around.. we got back together.. the same things happened.. He told me he loved me but just couldn’t be with me… We were apart for 3 months.. in which case we still texted back and forth.. fighting.. insulting eachother.. confessing our love for eachother.. how he missed me and missed everything about me and us.. it took several attempts with talking to him to come back around.. and the fact that I was moving 500 miles away.. seemed to really wake him up.. He came back around 2 weeks before I moved.. I still went.. We had a long distance relationship for 6 months. He told me at this time that he wanted us to get married.. to have a big house. Told me no one would ever compare to me.. etc .. he poured his heart out to me while I was away.. and he made a few trips down.. one was a complete suprise.. but the sexual intamacy was always gone.. We’d start and within 2 min he was just silent and completely checked out.. his “member,” would go soft as well.. and every time we had sex it was the same thing over and over.. He goes from not knowing what’s going on to “I think your absolutely beautiful and sexy I just don’t have that desire for you anymore.”
Well.. I ended up moving back to PA and we got an apartment together. The whole time I was asking him if he was sure this is what he wanted.. he kept telling me yes. We got the apartment.. he starts withdrawling again….
Decides that he is going to break up with me when I ask him whats wrong.. tells me he loves me to death and he will never forgive himself for doing this .. but that it had to be done.. I left him.. He came back around.. said he wanted to figure things out… it’s a cycle.. Always a cycle
This time though he has been with me. Sleeping in my bed.. telling me he loves me.. but I found out that he was running all over the place behind my back trying to have random , no attachment sexual encounters… I know he slept with one female.. I saw their messages.. he asked what her fantasies were and they actually got a hotel room.. and the next day he came home to me… not knowing I knew.. then all of a sudden he wants us to be together again.. he said we will make it thru anything.. we even signed a lease for a house.. the sex is still non existent. I have been afraid to even try.. Even if he’d get aroused in the past and I would try to initiate it.. he would shut down completely. The look on his face every time.. just breaks my heart.. So this past weekend we were supposed to move all of our stuff to this house.. and bam .. an hour before it’s all set to happen.. he breaks up with me again. Saying I deserve better. And that I can’t see it now but one day I will be glad he let me go. Saying he just doesn’t feel attracted to me anymore… but he loves me more than anything.. and this isn’t fair.. idk why I can’t be intimate with you.. Why can’t you just hate me and make this all easier and move on? Etc etc….
I didn’t leave. I want us to figure this out. It breaks my heart. He has begged me to never leave him before.. he made me promise that I wouldn’t give up.. Why is it okay for him to give up? Why is ot okay for him to throw the love of his life away.. He has told me that is has nothing to do with me.. physically or anything.. Why can he have sex with random people.. or even talk about it with them.. but with me.. the one person he loves more than anything… He can’t. And he can’t figure out why….
Great article, you’re very articulate.
Thank you for sharing your wisdom with the world.
Do you have some pointers on how to bring up difficult topics? I suspect my boyfriend (of 4 months) has Avoidant Personality Disorder coupled with shyness. I’ve allowed him some space to lead us in the relationship and I have not wanted to cause him grief. I struggle with his avoidance bahaviour because I am extroverted, direct, self-confident and impatient. (We’re not intimate yet.) So I would love to know how to support and care for him, to get closer to him, without scaring him off.
I read your article and found that much of what you said resonated with how I feel in regards to relationships. Do you think we can speak over email? You seem knowledgeable in this field of life and I could definitely use some help with issues I have been having with intimate relationship development.
P.S Thanks for such an insightful article.
Hi – I don’t do 1-on-1 consultations anymore, but hope these articles will help you out. 🙂
No advice needed, just wanted to say you’re so awesome for responding to all of these people Noam!! I came across this article for more info and I was so touched by how much you care about people. You rock.
Did you dedicate this article to a Jess you know/knew? I read this and my heart sank as soon as I got to the dedication and wondered who wrote this about me. I am shocked though I do realize how common the name is.
Yes – it was an ex of mine back when I was really bad at holding back my emotions in relationships.
I really appreciate this article, although I have recently become aware of the true nature of my intimacy issues this article was tough to read. I felt like I got punched in the gut.
I think I’m really just looking for advice and lots of encouragement on this issue. I’m going through a really rough time filled with anxiety, shame, embarrassment, and a general deep disliking of myself. I grew up with a very abusive father, a mother who pushed everything under the rug and ignored our cries for help, and on top of that I was sexually assaulted 2 years ago. I feel my life has just went downhill from there. I will say that since my dad moved out and I no longer have contact with him, my mom has changed a lot and our relationship has become stronger. She is actually getting remarried soon to an amazing guy I’ve come to look at as a father figure. I’ve been in therapy from a very young age and I’d say I am pretty self aware, although of course there are still things that I struggle to face when it comes to this issue. I have a lot of repressed emotions and I find it extremely hard to express them. They tend to show up in my relationships as passive aggressiveness, withholding physical touch and sex, pulling away from people, and blaming and finding fault with others. Ive pulled away and made myself unavailable to men who want to have intimate relationships with me. For a few years I used sex to fill my intimacy needs becuse it was safe, but then would get attached and hurt when I found out these guys were seeing other people, while still never actually showing my feelings of attachment. That all came to a hault when I was assaulted.
I have a best friend who is in a relationship with a guy, but has really strong romantic feelings for me as well. We’re all really good friends and I’ve known her for 9 years, way before she met her current boyfriend. When we met at the time my parents weren’t divorced yet and my friend and her mom were basically a huge catalyst and a wake up call for my mom to finally listen to us and face the abuse we were living with. A few years later I ended up severing our friendship and for the longest time I didn’t really understand why. I felt a strong need to and I had these emotions coming up that I just couldn’t understand. I ended up contacting her and we’ve been good friends again for around 4 or 5 years now.
Basically, shes told me that she’s had feelings for me ever since we were young and I’m just not sure that I’m capable of experiencing that type of strong love and connection with someone. She doesn’t want to be in an actual relationship with me, she’s happy with the guy she’s with, but she wants our relationship to be more deep and intimate. I pull away from her and have a hard time admitting to myself what I’m feeling. I’ve always felt that our relationship was really special and have sincerely regretted pulling away from her when we were younger, it hurt her deeply and now I feel it’s even harder to get the friendship back that we used to have. We were inseparable and always had such a good time together. Now i feel my insecurities and issues are making this relationship miserable. It’s gotten to the point where anytime she asks to hang out alone I get this intense anxiety and our relationship has become so uncomfortable for me. I feel like I can’t see past my fear, so I can’t even imagine being in a more open, deep, and physically intimate relationship with her. I’m scared that she’s going to get tired of waiting for me to change and I’ll end up losing what we have all together.
Beyond this relationship, eventually Ive always wanted to get married and have children and it just seems impossible for me to share intimacy with anyone. I know I have some really deep hurts that I have to face and at this point, I’ve been in therapy for so long and I still feel I don’t know how to express any grief and anger about what I’ve gone through. This feels so difficult and although I’ve expressed some of my struggles to my friends, I’m scared that if I show them all my hurt they’ll feel I’m becoming too much of a burden or emotional mess for them to be around. Does it get better from here?
I gave the list of 20 questions to my ex-boyfriend. He answered yes to 15/20 of he questions, all but confirming what I had suspected but was never able to accurately articulate after coming across your website. And honestly, it just makes me sad. The break up was sudden and for what I could tell, no real reason—-at the time. He was just pushing me away.
But it’s Sad that he’s almost 40 and has never been able to sustain a REAL long term relationship. And while we are NOW in contact again, and will be coming into each other’s a lot more now (work-related move), it makes me wonder, what do I do next?
He’s now acknowledged that he has this issues, should I wait for him to change? Should I help him or encourage him to go to therapy?