Healing the anxious/ avoidant trap

The anxious avoidant trap is when an anxious and avoidant partner push each others' buttons and trigger each other into a negative spiral of relationship dissatisfaction.

Here are a few pointers of what each can do to meet their beloved in the middle.

Anxious partner:

  • Professional guidance

  • Seek emotional support outside the relationship

  • Learn to self soothe

  • Communicate needs in simple practical terms

  • Approach your partner calmly - avoid dramatic expressions of emotion

  • Gentle requests, not demands

  • Don't expect them to read between the lines. Tell them how you feel directly

  • Bond over a shared activity which doesn't feel emotionally exposing

  • Respect their space and privacy

  • Avoid blaming, seek to understand why it's difficult for them to do what's natural to you

  • Show appreciation for improvements

Avoidant partner:

  • Professional guidance

  • Practice being close despite the discomfort (baby steps if needed)

  • Get in touch with how you feel & communicate rather than shutting down

  • Realise the ways you have been dismissing the value of emotions and learn to appreciate them as useful

  • Reassure partner that you care/ love them

  • Don't try to fix them when they feel upset, just listen/ offer a hug

  • Ask your partner questions to show interest e.g. 'how was your day'

  • Inform your partner when you need me time instead of just disappearing

  • Avoid blaming, seek to understand why it's difficult for them to do what's natural to you

In order for an anxious-avoidant pairing to become a healthy, satisfying relationship, you both need to be willing to lean into the discomfort and committed to growth in the ways you relate to one another. The foundation of all of these steps is choosing empathy over judgement. Although something is difficult for us to witness the other person doing, it doesn't make them 'wrong'. Their actions make perfect sense from the past experiences they had and they are doing the best they can from their point of awareness. The healthy relationship comes from expanding our awareness to learn what life looks like from the other perspective and working with that instead of seeing the relationship as a vessel to get only our needs met. Sometimes one or both partners aren't ready to meet each other in the middle - it's okay to end the relationship if it's not the right fit for you too.

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