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Avoidants and Awareness

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  • #193171
    Craig
    Participant

    Hello,

    I just ended my second consecutive relationship with a woman with avoidant attachment style. In some ways, they were easy to be around, because I didn’t have to worry that they would try to smother me. When they were content, we had a lot of fun, communicated well, and functioned well as a couple. But when their reptilian brains were triggered, both of them reacted by silence, not talking for days, and/or not wanting to see me for weeks or months at a time. This felt really awful. I see both of them as wonderful people, but in both cases I could no longer tolerate the extended withdrawing behaviors. I grew up in a family that used the silent treatment and find it very painful. I did a lot of psychotherapy, and learned not to shut myself off from people I love.

    I understand that it’s a difficult behavior to change, but I couldn’t wait and/or hope for these women to do their personal work. Neither of them had done psychotherapy, and both actually seemed to fear it, and wouldn’t do it. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.

    Anyway, my role in this is that I chose women who were avoidants because I knew they wouldn’t consume me. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to meet someone with a secure attachment style, as I might be able to have a reliable and close connection with this kind of person. I see myself as being somewhere between the secure and anxious attachment style. The problem is that most of the “secures” are in relationships, because they tend to maintain healthy relationships. The dating pool, especially of older folks (I’m in my 50s), is overrepresented by avoidants and I keep finding them.

    Is it possible to have a reliable and close relationship with someone with avoidant attachment style? I’m thinking I need to run in the future when I come across this again.

    #193175
    Mark
    Participant

    Craig,

    Yes it is deadly that when an anxious tries to have a relationship with an avoidant.

    I wonder how do you know that 50s + people are overrepresented by avoidants.  From your personal experience?  I would question that for I believe we attract those whose characteristics/wounds are why we need to work on for ourselves.

    There are articles on the web about trying to co-create a relationship with an avoidant.  Of course there is a spectrum of attachment and it is not across the board consistent either.

    I tell people I have only three initial criteria for woman that I want for a relationship: 1. chemistry 2. kindness and 3. self-awareness.  The self-awareness piece means to me taking responsibility for their own shit and that they are working on it.

    I have no answers or suggestions here for I am looking for myself as well.  I consider myself an avoidant-secure attachment personality.  However I am highly self-aware and communicative.

    Mark

    #193179
    Craig
    Participant

    Mark,

    I’m embarrassed! I did the silly thing of referencing “internet wisdom” – an article I’d read made the point that the dating population of older folks is mostly populated by avoidants. Thanks for challenging me on that – maybe it’s not the case. Even if it is, that doesn’t change what I have to do.

    I have tended to select people based on chemistry and kindness. But I think I have to be more insistent about your third criterion, awareness. What I experience with people who haven’t grappled with their stuff is that when their reptilian brains go nuts (as all of ours do from time to time, I believe), they tend to look outside themselves for the source of their pain. Who is closest and “appear” most likely to be the cause? Their partner, so watch out!

    A few years ago, a counselor recommended that I only explore having a relationship with women who had done psychotherapy. I ignored her advice. I am now seriously thinking I need to listen to her advice.

    Thanks for your thoughts!

     

    #193187
    Joe
    Participant

    Craig,

    First thing I notice about your post is use of labels. You might look at what they really mean and your role in creating such labels. Reptilian? Bullshit. They’re children of God.

     

    #193345
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Craig:

    Like the member who responded most recently to your thread, and before I read his comment, I too noticed the term you used twice on this thread regarding your ex girlfriends, “reptilian brains”.

    You wrote: “But when their reptilian brains were triggered, both of them reacted by silence… when their reptilian brains go nuts… they tend to look outside themselves for the source of their pain. Who is closest and ‘appear’ most likely to be the cause? Their partner, so watch out!”

    Your anger at the two women is evident.What came first in any one of these relationships: your anger or theirs, I don’t know. Did they withdraw from you because you expressed that anger toward them? Or did your anger follow theirs. I don’t know.

    anita

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    #193381
    Craig
    Participant

    I guess I should have explained how I was using the phrase “reptilian brains,” as it seems to have come across in a a way that I did not intend. It comes from the triune theory of the brain, which seems no longer to be fully embraced  by neuroscientists, but is still useful as a model to represent that part of the brain responsible for the fight/flight/freeze/submit responses designed to keep us alive. We all have the reptilian aspect of our brains and it is not derogatory or angry to say so. One aspect of the functioning of this part of the brain is its tendency to imagine the worst, and then to react as if the imaginings were true. Sometimes they are, but frequently, the imaginings are tied into older, painful childhood experiences. Thus, I believe, one purpose of therapy is learning to examine one’s impulses of fear, anger, aggression, etc. and to separate how much of that energy belongs to the present and how much of it is really the stirring around of very old traumatic experiences. Anyway, that’s how I see it.

    In response to Anita’s questions, my anger followed theirs. My anger comes from my own frustration of being abandoned. Much of that energy comes from my past, and the present contribution of the energy is my frustration that I cannot resolve and connect with a partner who disappears. I don’t feel angry because my partner feels triggered into emotion. In fact,  I love working on being a present and patient partner. But when my partner goes away and refuses to talk, then that feels pretty awful.

    #193383
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Craig:

    I understand how frustrating it is for a partner to .. disappear from one’s life, or to be treated with the silent treatment, that is a partner’s carried on intent to punish with silence.

    Was the two women’s  “Avoidant attachment style” their efforts to punish you, or something else?

    anita

     

    #193391
    Craig
    Participant

    Anita, I’m not always sure. My guess is that both women primarily left out of fear, but one of them may have included an attempt to punish me. My best understanding of the fear is that they are afraid that I am not trustworthy, so they in turn get scared and instead of dealing with it with me, they run away and/or withdraw.

    May I give a couple examples? The simplest example was when one of my exes googled my name. Somebody with my exact name and who lived in a region I had lived, had killed somebody in an auto accident. The court case was on-line. My ex concluded that this person was me (it was not) and was angry and irritable to me because I had not divulged this to her. Well I had not divulged it to her because it was not me. Even when she eventually told me, and I explained it wasn’t me, it took her a long time to separate her imagining that it was me from the fact that it was not me.

    My more immediate concern is seeing if I can salvage my recent relationship and get it thriving. Out of anger, I ended it because I couldn’t take the silence any more. We had a repeated pattern. She will not talk on the phone Monday through Friday (when due to jobs and children, we don’t see each other in person), and only texts. This is partly because she just doesn’t like talking on the phone, and partly because English is not her first language so it is easier for her to text. Her culture may play a part in her use of silence. Anyway, this is the pattern: We will be texting. She will text something that in her mind is a joke. I don’t know that it’s a joke. It’s not obvious from the words, and I can’t see her face or eyes or hear her voice. Thus I react as if she’s just texted something that is not a joke. Then she becomes upset because I did not understand what was in her mind. Typically, she will say that we don’t have the same sense of humor (though we laugh all the time in person), will cut the texting short, and stop texting or communicating for a day or two. Sometimes longer. Then she goes to the place of saying that I’m not the “right one” for her because she wants a soulmate who empathizes with her perfectly. Sigh.

    Nobody comes off-the-shelf ready for another person. It takes time and effort and patience to develop deep understanding. I’m terribly sad because I think we could have the kind of close, reliable, understanding relationship that we both want, but we can’t get there by not communicating.

     

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 7 months ago by Craig.
    • This reply was modified 4 years, 7 months ago by Craig.
    #193397
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Craig:

    What you described by the two women is that they either did not communicate with you at al (the first making an assumption and not checking with you) and the second miscommunicating, assuming that you can read her mind. These two behaviors are go beyond not being “off-the-shelf ready for another person”- it is about not checking major assumptions and expecting you to do the impossible: reading another’s mind.

    My goodness, reads to me that you had two relationships with two unreasonable women. I… assume you tried to communicate with them best you could but with no results, correct (checking assumption here…)?

    anita

    #193399
    Craig
    Participant

    Dear Anita,

    I have tried to communicate with them, but I take the stance that I can always do better. I don’t want to give up trying to be a better communicator. What worries me, with my most recent partner (who I haven’t given up on), is that she indeed really thinks people can read each other minds. That is essentially her definition of soul mate. I don’t know how to overcome this.

    I suppose I could walk away for good, and try to be a better partner picker. But I’m also wary of  not wanting to repeat cycles, when perhaps, I could break the cycle with the person I’m with. If possible.

    #193403
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Craig:

    Regarding the last partner, the one you didn’t give up on: she truly believes that two people, soulmates, can read each other’s mind.

    If for some time she thought the two of you were soulmates, then for that time she believed that she was able to read your mind. And that you were able to read hers. Was there any meeting of the minds, then, for some time in the past, that is, a time when she expressed to you how well you understood her without her saying much?

    Did you feel at that time that she understood you, knew you deeply?

    anita

    #193405
    Craig
    Participant

    Actually, no. The extents to which I understand her, and she understands me, seem to have been done the old fashioned way, by talking and sharing experiences.

    She has remarked a number of times that I seem to understand her, but it’s because I try to listen to what she says and watch what she does.

    Similarly, I think her understanding of me has been earned by conversation and experience.

    And when differences have arisen , like when I don’t understand her jokes, etc., she becomes quite upset and concludes the relationship isn’t viable.

    #193409
    Mark
    Participant

    Craig,

    I admire that you are trying to break the cycle with your current partner.  It can be hard to determine when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em.

    I would find it too challenging if I was with someone who expects to read her mind.  Does she read yours?

    Does she want someone else, a soul mate rather than you?

    Mark

    #193415
    Craig
    Participant

    Mark,

    Thanks. I’m just trying to be wise and do my best.

    It’s challenging as heck that I can’t read her mind, because she becomes upset and instead of getting more motivated to communicate, tends to withdraw and think there’s something wrong with the relationship.

    In some sense she does want someone rather than me. Her problem is that the someone that she wants – someone who “empathizes with her perfectly” – does not exist.

    #193425
    Craig
    Participant

    Mark, sorry, I didn’t answer your question as to whether she reads my mind. No, she does not. As she gets to know me, she is better at learning how I think and predicting how I will act, but in the end she can’t read my mind.

    I’m not sure how much anyone in reality can read anyone’s mind. I’m aware of some research on mirror neurons, but in the end, I just think people need to talk to each other and tell their stories of their inner worlds.

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