It is now going a week, you call, text and would have overextended yourself to reconcile with the one you love. In your mind, it is a simple misunderstanding, but to your partner, they are hurt beyond measure, the silent treatment is a weapon some persons use to make their point, a very passive-aggressive reaction to fear, so the question is how do you respond to this behaviour.
If you pursue people who need space, they will likely run even faster or turn and fight. When avoidant partners withdraw, let them. It may be painful to let them go temporarily but pursuing them is likely to make it take even longer before they come back around.
Don’t take it personally
Avoidant partners seek distance out of self-protection. They fear a loss of self. It is never about you. If an avoidant partner seems overly critical of you, you don’t have to take it on. Remember, your partner is likely self-critical as well, this is probably very hard to detect as we are programmed to be defensive when criticized but observe the trend and respond accordingly.
Don’t Complain, just ask for what you want calmly
Complaints are desires and longings in disguise. Few of us like it when someone complains about us. Most of us are more responsive when someone we care about voices what they desire.
Focus on positive actions
When an avoidant partner does something you like, let them know. Talk about what you value in the relationship and what is working. This can balance an avoidant partner’s tendency to focus on the negative.
The art of listening is an action we all struggle with when it comes on to feelings, we all want to be heard, but if you want solutions, it is always best to listen first. Be open to hearing about your partner’s feelings and issues, however, they are expressed. Be kind and compassionate. Listen to understand, not to fix a problem.
Be consistent with being kind
Avoidant partners expect to be disappointed. That makes it all the more important that you do what you say. We tend to reward good deeds and punish bad deeds, but I think it would be good if your partner got consistent kindness even when they are not being too considerate to you.
Recognize that your partner’s pace may be slower than yours but that does not necessarily mean your partner does not want to be with you. If you are someone who is always ready to solve it, fix it or pray over it before the sun goes down, then it is going to be difficult to understand a partner who can go a week without saying very much.
Cultivate your own passion
No partner can fulfil all your needs. Have your own friends and activities. When avoidant partners see that you are self-sufficient and doing things without them, it may paradoxically draw them to you because they can have less fear that you will become overly dependent on them.
You may have different expectations.
Your avoidant partner may have a fantasy of a perfect mate who meets all of his or her needs. You may have a fantasy of a perfect relationship in which you never feel lonely or disappointed. Neither fantasy is realistic.
Beware of emotional words
You need to be able to express your feelings and wants to your partner. But emotional expressions delivered intensely often overwhelm avoidant people can’t hear your message because they withdraw or shut down. You are more likely to be heard if you communicate your feelings honestly and openly but in a moderate tone.
Space is important
When things are going well and you feel your partner coming closer, it may be tempting to open the floodgates and voice all your pent-up desires for closeness. You may worry that the “open door” could close at any moment and seek to say everything you have stored up while you can. However, this is often counterproductive. Instead, enjoy your partner’s efforts to get close without overwhelming the moment. Doing so can make it feel safer for an avoidant partner to risk moving closer and staying closer longer.
If an avoidant partner is always the one distancing or seeking independence and you are always seeking closeness, you can become trapped in a cycle. There are probably times when you desire independence and space just as there are times avoidant partners desire closeness. The more you allow yourself to voice and follow your intrinsic voice, the more room you give your avoidant partner to move beyond the avoidant role, at least on occasion.
Abandonment issues can be overcome
If your partner distances, it does necessarily mean you are not loved or that she or he is not committed. In fact, it often does not mean anything about you. Work to contain your feelings of abandonment and soothe yourself rather than expecting your partner to do so.
Your partner does not need rescuing
Trying to change someone’s basic attachment style is fruitless. As Robert Heinlein said, “Never try to teach a frog to sing, once the frog opens his mouth he is going to croak so all you would end up doing is frustrating not only yourself but the frog.” However, it may be that in a secure relationship an avoidant partner can become more willing to risk intimacy and closeness over time.
Be honest about your needs
If you need more than your partner can give, the relationship is probably not going to work. Be sure to communicate – clearly, calmly and with examples – your needs and desires. Your partner can then decide how to respond based on accurate knowledge of what you want rather than just assuming or guessing. If you started out not knowing what you wanted from the relationship but soon find your voice, do not be afraid in expressing people should be allowed in changing their minds.
Let your partner know you expect to be respected. Tell your partner what you need and what you won’t tolerate. Love does not mean accepting dysfunctional behaviour.
No one is perfect
Avoidant partners may need more personal time and take more distance than you might like. That may never change. No partner is perfect.
Imagine your Difficult partner’s shock when he or she assassinates your character, only to find that your response is to calmly say, please stop this, I would like for us to have a conversation, I do care about your feelings… when all your avoidant partner is expecting is a breakup conversation—after which you actually return to considering their opinion. The goodwill you’ll buy will prove priceless. And over time, you’ll win. Not the battle—not the war—the peace.