I’m an Avoider. What Now?

So, you’ve taken Milan and Kay Yerkovich’s love styles quiz, and you recognize that you have an avoider love style. You’re clear on What the Avoider Love Style Is, and although you’d like to just keep going as you are, you’re wise enough to recognize it might not be the best idea.

What’s the Damage?

You’ve grown up with a severe lack of nurturing and comfort. It’s likely that you don’t even remember the season of your childhood when you did naturally long for those things. You are human; therefore, you were hard wired for relationship to bring comfort and connection to transform your brain and life in a very positive way.

Not receiving the comfort, nurturing, and connection you actually needed as a child (yes, children need  these things and babies actually die without them. Check out “failure to thrive” if you don’t believe me), you decided it was easier to quash your longing than to be hurt and disappointed from wanting something you never got. You’ve come to believe that relationships don’t bring comfort and that being vulnerable is dangerous, weak, and undesirable. (If you know logically this is false but just can’t embrace the truth, check out the research on the power of vulnerability).

This has left you out of touch with your emotions and severely underdeveloped in your EQ. As Henry Cloud talks about in Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality, you cannot be an effective leader in your area of expertise unless you have “integrity.” Integrity is about wholeness- both in having what it takes to meet the demands of reality to get a task done and having what it takes to meet the demands of reality in managing relationships along the way.  The avoider love style is incompatible with integrity of character, leaving your character far from whole, integrated, and structurally sound.

At Work, this leaves you unable to create and maintain trust, achieve the results and growth you desire, and embrace and solve negative realities. The wake you leave there affects everyone you work with in a way that stifles the increase you would like to attain.

At Home, your disconnection is palpable. You likely don’t just dismiss your own emotions, but also the emotions of those you love, pushing them farther away and hurting them deeply.  It’s likely that when they need you the most, you are the most repulsed by their weakness and your approach communicates rejection and contempt. This can leave your spouse feeling disrespected and unloved, pushing them farther from you. It can transform the way your children love, robbing them of their childhood and leaving them unable to receive comfort from relationship and to function with integrity (as Cloud defines it) as adults.

In Your Personal Life you may not be able to achieve or enjoy your full potential. Because our feelings reveal what we need, it’s important for us to recognize and share them. Avoiding vulnerability and honest reflection chokes out potential for self-awareness, growth, and healing. Without this, you will never achieve your highest potential personally or professionally.

You may actually be in danger of embracing more and more risky behaviors just to feel something. You may be unable to really experience and enjoy your successes fully, and you may struggle with depression. You likely have an undercurrent of anxiety running through your life. Hiding pain and not being able to receive comfort from others can create a lot of unresolved anxiety. Fear of failure is covered by performance. Feelings have to be stuffed and ignored, and not dealing with emotions builds up over time. All this leaves you wide open and very bent toward addiction. Many avoiders get very trapped in addictions like pornography, because they need relief, comfort, and connection, but they have never developed the skills and emotionally maturity to achieve these in authentic, healthy relationships.

If any of these general realities about avoider’s applies to you (and not all will- every person is different), and if you are convinced that you don’t want to stay where you are, what can you do? In the next blog, I’ll address how to transform your parenting if you have children, but here are some strategic ways you can take steps today to become more of a secure connector.

How Can I Change?

You don’t have to run to addictions or risky behavior for temporary relief of the emotional strain you are under. Your loved ones don’t have to go on feeling lonely in your presence. Your brain can be rewired, and your life and relationships can be transformed as you grow into a secure connector.

1. Increase Your Awareness of Emotions

The top thing you can do is to begin recognizing your emotions. You may only recognize a couple emotions occasionally. Download Milan and Kay’s Soul Words List (it’s a freebie linked here). Begin checking in with yourself twice per day and recognizing what you are feeling. Over time, expand the range of emotions you are feeling. As you recognize what you are feeling, try to uncover what these feelings might be indicating you need.

Begin to recognize how your body responds when you experience emotions. Do you experience tightness in your chest, jaw, throat, arms, stomach, breathing- or in some other way? Consciously relaxing these areas of tension can help free you to experience emotions naturally and heal.

Read a Psalm per day. List the feelings described in the Psalm. Underline those that you have experienced in the last few weeks.

2. Communicate How You Feel

Have a talk time with your spouse each day. Let your spouse hold you (maybe your head in his/her lap) while you look in your spouse’s eyes and communicate what you are feeling. Don’t just vent about your day, what others did, and what went wrong. Go deeper. Explain how that effected you. What do you feel as a result?

Milan and Kay explain that it is vital to be able to express your childhood memories. You may not have very many, but it’s important to spend some of your talk time expressing what you remember to your spouse. It will build connection. Do you have any memories of being comforted? Do you have any memories of very difficult experiences (those times in which a child would normally be comforted)? What happened in your case. Tell your spouse about it.

3. Listen Well

Begin training yourself to not withdraw and disengage when someone you love is dealing with difficult, strong emotions. Instead, have the courage to ask them about what they are feeling and experiencing. If it is your spouse, return the favor of holding them and looking in their eyes when they are talking to you (it will feel uncomfortable for a while, but over time, you will develop the ability to give and receive comfort). Find out if they would like to vent or problem solve. If they want to vent, look them in the eyes and restate back to them in a gentle tone what you understand them to be feeling  and affirm them with phrases like:

  • It sounds like you are very …(sad, disappointed, angry…)
  • I can see that you are feeling…(upset, hurt, crushed…)
  • That matters to me.
  • Thank you for entrusting me with your feelings. How you feel is important to me.

If you have a loved one dealing with a debilitating disease, a serious crisis, recovery from an injury, death in the family, job loss, or some other painful trial, be very careful to recognize how you feel towards them. You may experience extra repulsion when people you love are extra weak. Check out Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 and ponder the truth of this. Study the Gospels and how Jesus entered the pain of others, connected with them, and sought to bring about wholeness. Seek Him for help to do this yourself when it’s hardest.

Next Steps

In the How We Love Workbook, Milan and Kay delve deeply into steps for change. If you’re serious about change, this is a great place to go. In Transformational Parenting for the Avoider, find out how an avoider can transform their parenting.  If you are married to an avoider, check out: Help! I’m Married to an Avoider. Follow the blog so you don’t miss the other love styles.

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Want To Know More?

Milan and Kay Yerkovich wrote a great book called How We Love: Discover Your Love Style, Enhance Your Marriage. They have a whole series for singles, couples, counselors, etc at How We Love. (note, I’m not an affiliate or anything. I just have benefited from these resources and want to share).

More Resources You Might Like:

Photo Credit: Photo adapted from Photo by Road Trip with Raj on Unsplash.

Sources:

  • Henry Cloud. Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality. Harper Collins Publishing: 2006.
  • Milan & Kay Yerkovich. How We Love: Discover Your Love Style Enhance Your Marriage. Christian Audio.
  • Milan & Kay Yerkovich. How We Love Workbook: Making Deeper Connections in Marriage. Waterbrook: 2017.
  • Milan & Kay Yerkovich. How We Love Our Kids: The Five Love Styles of Parenting. How to End the Struggles and Tension. The Crown Publishing Group: 2011.

Copyright ©  2019 Angela Edmonds. All rights reserved.

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