How to Deal With a Man With Avoidance Issues in a Relationship

Communicating your needs lets him know how his avoidance affects you.Communicating your needs lets him know how his avoidance affects you.

In his article "7 Keys to Long-Term Relationship Success," communication coach Preston Ni writes that expressing and responding to warm or loving emotions are essential to creating intimacy in a relationship. When your man avoids creating emotional connections, won't communicate or mentally distances himself from you it can break down intimacy. Dealing with avoidance issues -- or the inability to connect on an intimate emotional level -- requires patience, empathy and the ability to truly hear what your partner is saying.

Step 1

Get to the root of the problem. Avoidance isn't the same thing in every relationship and doesn't come from the same place for every man. Avoiding intimacy or another aspect of your relationship may stem from anxiety. Fear is a powerful emotion that often results in avoidance, according to Karyn Hall, Ph.D., the director of the Dialectical Behavior Center, in "Anxiety and Avoidance" on the PsychCentral website. Your boyfriend or husband may fear that you'll hurt him, betray him or even leave him if he gets close to you.

Step 2

Talk to your man in a way that will make him listen. If he's already avoiding communicating with you, having him hear what you're saying isn't always easy. Director of the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy, Robert Leahy, Ph.D., writes in his article "Relationship Communication: How to Talk So That Your Partner Will Listen," that picking the right time to initiate a conversation, editing down what you have to say and understanding that your partner doesn't have to agree with you all of the time is essential during a discussion. For example, instead of presenting a lengthy monologue on his avoidance issues, narrow down your focus to one specific topic such as how it makes you feel when he won't show affection in public.

Step 3

Stay calm. Avoid attacking your guy or putting him even more on the defensive by blaming him or making him feel at fault. Offer constructive criticism and suggestions that are more positive than negative. For example, rather than saying, "You're always so cold. I hate it," try something along the lines of, "I understand that it can be scary to confide in someone. But I'm here to listen to you and would appreciate your open communication."

Step 4

Seek professional help. Some aspects of your relationship may require an impartial third party who has an expert's view. Avoidance when it comes to potential conflict is a primary reason that many couples have communication problems, according to licensed psychologist Dave Thornsen in his article "Honest Truth: The Down-Side of Avoiding Conflict." A counselor or marriage and family therapist can listen to both of your issues and help to facilitate the communication process.

Step 5

Re-assess your relationship. Ni suggests asking yourself basic questions such as if your partner is reliable and if you can count on him. These questions will help you to assess if you can trust your guy enough to believe that his avoidance issues can turn around or that his emotional unavailability comes from where he says it does. For example, if you suspect that your man is cheating -- and that his avoidance isn't coming from fear or anxiety about intimacy -- you may need to consider leaving.

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About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

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