The Love Avoident Personality
Are you in love with a person who is love avoidant? It is not unusual to work with clients who report that there is a chronic distance in their relationship, which leaves them feeling empty, angry and hopeless about their marriage. Upon investigation, it appears that the client reporting the concern was initially “swept away” by the person. They admit that they tended to be needy and that this person had made them feel safe and secure about themselves. Once the relationship was well established and my client began to count on his or her partner, the spouse would back off emotionally and start sabotaging their relationship.
The client’s spouse would usually take momentary breaks from the relationship, by working too much, sexually acing out, using substances or participating in other high-risk behavior.
A pattern would occur where this neediness seems to psychologically push the partner away. The partner would either be gone physically for long extended periods or disconnect from the relationship. As you might imagine, the more the client pushed, the more detached the partner became and then like a rubber band that has been stretched to it’s limits, the spouse would snap back into the relationship reassuring my client that things would be different. The spouse would meet the needs of the client for a while and then the cycle would start all over again
Pia Mellody has done much research and refers to the spouse as “love avoidant”. According to her, people who are love avoidant usually experience the need to take care of a parent in childhood. This sense of duty creates a resentment, which results in walls that keep the love avoidant from ever truly experiencing love. Therefore, in adulthood despite the fact that the love avoidant usually hooks up with a dependent person, they will ultimately feel smothered, which is a cue to emotionally escape by acting out. The love avoidant usually does not come to therapy for these issues, but they may get help for an addiction or an at risk behavior.
This relationship will not get better by itself. It requires that the love avoidant work on two issues that are crucial to recovery. First, the love avoidant must look at the at risk behaviors that he has developed to deal with his anger. This means that he will have to look at drugs or alcohol addiction, gambling, sexual addiction, workaholism or whatever these patterns have been and he will need to develop new methods of coping with his feelings of anger. Secondly, they will need to get with a good psychotherapist who can help them to see how their unhealthy relationship with a parent contributed to their maladaptive patterns and their relationship.
The client needs to:
• Decrease their own expectations and meet their own emotional needs outside of the marriage in safe and healthy ways.
• Set healthy limits and boundaries with the love avoidant eg. they won’t wait six hours for them to return home. They won’t make ten calls looking for their partner. They won’t stay up all night waiting for their return.
• Set up new opportunities for support and self-love.
This type of relationship can not be resolved in short-term therapy. It requires that the couple do serious work on themselves. If you relate to the client, then I would recommend the book, Facing Love Addiction by Pia Mellody. It will provide a guideline to use to get started on breaking the cycle.
If you relate to the love avoidant, find a therapist who is skilled at working with relational issues. It will require a deep sense of connection with a therapist. It won’t get better without professional help.