Translation of what your anxious/avoidant partner is actually trying to tell you. *Attachment perspective*

Working as an EFT (Emotionally Focused Therapy) couples therapist, I find that a large portion of my work tends to be demystifying the actions or statements made by each partner. In this article, we are going to look at some of the common things that both anxious and avoidant type partners say and the actual intended meaning behind them.

But before we do that, it is important to learn why these misunderstandings are so frequently created between the partners. It is because we often say/do things that are driven by secondary emotions, especially when we are being emotionally activated. Secondary emotions are what are called “gut responses,” which are on the surface. It is what you see. They are a reaction to the primary emotions. And the examples of secondary emotions are anger, resentment, frustration, and jealousy. Underneath the secondary emotions, there are primary emotions. They are deeper and more vulnerable emotions, such as hurt, fear, sadness, loneliness, guilt, and shame.

Unfortunately, it is very common that only these secondary emotions (ex: anger, resentment, disappointment) are expressed and taken quite literally between the partners. And the primary emotions (ex: hurt, sadness, fear) are likely to be left unexpressed and unexplored, creating further misunderstandings and conflicts.

Now here are some of the examples I encounter the most in the sessions, from both anxious/avoidant partners.

 

Partner with an anxious attachment style:

  1. They say:

“You don’t care about me!”

What they actually mean:

“I feel so lonely and hurt because I feel uncared for right now.”

 

  1. They say:

“I hate you!”

What they actually mean:

“I love you so much and I’m afraid of how much you can hurt me.”

 

  1. They say:

“Leave me alone!”

What they actually mean:

“Please stay and hold me. I need you.”

 

  1. They say:

“Why do you never call me or text me?”

What they actually mean:

“It makes me feel so alone when I don’t hear from you.”

 

  1. They say:

“…..” *silence treatment*      

What they actually mean:

“I feel so hurt right now. Can you come here and hold me and tell me you love me?”

 

Partner with an avoidant attachment style:

  1. They say:

“This is too much! I need some space!”

What they actually mean:

“I feel overwhelmed and I need some time to cool down. Can I get back to you when I feel calmer?”

 

  1. They say:

“Nothing I do is good enough for you! Why should I even try?”

What they actually mean:

“I feel like a failure. I fear that I can’t make you happy. I feel ashamed that I’m just a disappointment to you.”

 

  1. They say:

“You are too needy!”

What they actually mean:

“I am afraid I won’t be able to meet your intimacy/emotional needs.”

 

  1. They say:

“Forget it, I can’t do this anymore.”

What they actually mean:

“I’m worried that our problems won’t get better. I don’t want to keep fighting.”

 

  1. They say:

“…..” *shutting down*

What they actually mean:

“I am completely flooded with all these emotions. I need my alone time to self-regulate.”

 

If we take these secondary emotion statements made by our partners literally, we end up pushing partners away. When we bypass the secondary emotions and are able to explore our primary emotions, we allow ourselves to be truly vulnerable with our partners. And this in result, draws partners closer together.

Are you finding yourself caught in a repetitive cycle with your partner, in which you keep reacting negatively to each other’s secondary emotions? Are you having difficulty being vulnerable with your partner or getting your partner to talk to you? Contact me or your local EFT therapist to break this negative cycle, to create safety for your partner, and to learn how to be vulnerable with each other. Finally, you will be able to create a positive cycle that allows you to experience a fulfilling relationship with your partner.

Speak Your Mind

*



444 Larchmont Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90004
3711 Long Beach Boulevard #500 Long Beach, CA 90807


therapy@coupleshealingcenter.com
(562) 353-5335

Get Help Today!