How Does Abuse and Emotional Neglect Make Someone An Avoider?

How Does Abuse and Emotional Neglect Make Someone An Avoider?

Understanding the Avoider’s Past So You Can Gain New Ways To Interact That Help You Break Out Of Old Ruts

We’ve talked a lot about what makes someone an avoider in previous articles on our website here and here.  We also explain more about why it matters and in different contexts.  But there are some other areas I want to dive deep into because they also play a huge role in your marriage. 

There are several things that can make someone grow up to become an Avoider. In this post we’re focusing on the aspects of your spouse’s past that make them an avoider.

There are several things that contribute to that from their past that we’ll get to in a moment. I don’t want to ignore the things that are happening now in your relationship that might cause them to avoid, that’s the the topic of another article you can find here. 

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3 Strategies For Raising Your Kid To Be A Kind And Likable Person

3 Strategies For Raising Your Kid To Be A Kind And Likable Person

How Your Parenting Today Impacts, Not Just Your Marriage, But Your Kid’s Future Marriage As Well

In a previous post called How To Raise Your Kid To Be A Great Spouse we shared several practical strategies for building a great relationship with your kid so they become a great spouse one day.  

This post continues that conversation about how do we do what we can do to ensure we raise exceptional human beings….AND how this has a direct impact on marriage.

We write from our experiences as parents and as professional marriage therapists.  We help couples every day who once were little kids seeking for attention and love.  We never lose that need for connection and love….it simply transfers to our marriage partner.

If we can learn to meet these needs for our kids we are doing 3 things.  1. We are learning how to meet those needs for our partner, 2. We’re learning about our own needs, and 3. We’re transforming lives for generations upon generations into the future.  

Humans have this incredible power to love and make a conscious effort to change.  We can heal and we can make little shifts to heal the lives of others if we’re brave enough to try.

We’re in this together!  One big human family.  Your family and your marriage plays a key roll in how the world thrives or falls apart.  If you don’t believe me…look at the education system for example…

When our public lacks an education there aren’t enough skilled workers to keep an economy alive.  People go hungry and loose hope.  The good news is you don’t have to rely on some government education system.

When you learn these skills you teach your children how seek their own education.  You remove obstacles so they can fully thrive and live up to their potential.  You’re giving them emotional intelligence.  This gift will allow them to never starve for love or intimacy.

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The Pain of the Betrayed After an Affair

The Pain of the Betrayed After an Affair

What Past Clients Have Told Me

An affair can the most devastating person experience the betrayed spouse experiences in their lifetime. I’ve had people tell me they would rather go back to Iraq and be shot at than to experience their spouse’s betrayal again. I’ve had a woman say that her husbands affair was worse than her child passing away. Just because an affair is so devastating doesn’t mean a marriage can not be rebuilt. An affair can be put behind you if the trauma is properly dealt with.  

If the Involved spouse doesn’t really know how traumatic their actions have been for their injured spouse, that can serve as a severe hinderance to recovery. The involved spouse just won’t “get it” and fail to be a resource of support and compassion....

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Healing Trauma & Depression As A Couple

In this post we talked about how research has shown that couples therapy is becoming more and more effective in helping individual issues.  The reason is because everyone needs a support system and everyone needs to feel connected to others, especially to our significant other, emotionally.  This need for connection to others is known as the Attachment Theory in psychology. 

We also talked about if an individual has experienced trauma, if they have a significant other walk with them through their healing process, then they are more likely to heal and heal quicker than if they had to go at it alone.  

Part II will discuss why couples counseling is effective in helping individuals overcome trauma. Susan Johnson, a highly respected couple’s therapist, said, “Isolation and a lack of secure connection to others undermine a person’s ability to deal with traumatic experience.  Conversely, secure emotional connections with significant others offer a powerful antidote to traumatic experience (Johnson, in press).”

How does a secure relationship help us heal and deal with trauma?  Well, to simplify it, a traumatic experience turns our world upside down and a good relationship with our significant other can turn our world around by soothing us, offering safety, promoting confidence and trust, and helping us to feel comfortable in taking risks and learning new coping mechanisms to name a few.  

On the other hand if your relationship is not good then that in-and-of-itself is a traumatic experience.  If you have experienced war, past sexual abuse, a life altering accident, or any other sort of trauma, a poor connection with your spouse can actually worsen the trauma from the past.  


“A significant portion of clients identified as having borderline personality disorders, most of whom are survivors of childhood sexual abuse (CSA), improve substantially in later life if they find a positive attachment relationship with an understanding other (Stone, 1990).”

Brad uses the Attachment Theory as a foundation when working with couples.  He works with couples to feel and become closer to each other by helping individuals feel comfortable being honest and forthright talking about issues.  He also helps each spouse rise to the occasion and teaches them how to become that caring support system their spouse so desperately needs.  

So here are the 10 central tenants of attachment theory as described by Susan Johnson in her book Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy with Trauma Survivors (some of this is copied directly from her book and some is my own interpretation in order to best explain attachment):

  1. Attachment is an innate motivating force.  We all desire to be close. It is imbedded in our genetic make up.  It isn’t simply an infantile need but is what we all need in order to survive.
  2. Secure dependence complements autonomy.  “There is no such thing as complete independence from others or overdependence (Bretherton & Munholland, 1999).  There is only effective or ineffective dependance.”  Surprisingly, the more securely dependent we are the more autonomous and separate we can confidently be.  
  3. Attachment offers a safe haven.  Even back in the stone age people lived together, worked together, fought together and without one another there surely would be no procreation and death of a population was insured.  As a survival mechanism, people need to be securely bonded to one another for safety.  If this is not possible stress and uncertainty is the outcome.
  4. Attachment offers a secure base.  It is a spring board for people and a foundation they can refer to.  When you know you have a secure place to return to you feel more confident and encouraged to explore the world and take necessary risk, to learn, and continually reinvent yourself.
  5. Accessibility and responsiveness build bonds. The building blocks of secure bonds are emotional accessibility and responsiveness.  It is emotional engagement that is crucial.  In attachment terms, any response (even anger) is better than none.  If there is no engagement, no emotional responsiveness, the message from the attachment figure is “Your signals don’t matter, and there is no connection between us.”
  6. Fear and uncertainty activate attachment needs. When an individual is threatened (by traumatic events, the negative aspects of everyday life such as illness, or an assault on the security of the attachment bond itself) emotions arise and the need for comfort and connection become very obvious.   People begin to ask “Where am I in proximity to my spouse?” or “Where do we stand?” or “What does my partner think of me?” or “Do they love me?” or “Can I depend on you when I need you?”.
  7. The promise of separation distress is predictable.  When someone reaches out to the spouse for connection but the spouse fails to comfort them and respond to their efforts then the normal response is angry protest, clingy behavior, depression, and despair.  Ultimately, this leads to detachment.  Depression is a very natural response to a lack of connection in your relationships.  
  8. A finite number of insecure forms of engagement can be identified.  There are only so many ways a person can respond to negative answers to the plea for connection.  Our responses fit into two different categories: anxiety and avoidance.  When the attachment or connection between an irreplaceable other like your spouse, a parent, or a child anxious behavior may increase.  You may become more clingy, pursue harder, and even become quite aggressive.  Or you may become more detached or avoid the situation or conversations out of fear.  These are strategies people use to protect themselves from further pain.  
  9. Attachment involves working models of the self and the other.  This is how you view yourself and how you view others.  If you view yourself as lovable and worthy of care and as confident and competent this is a secure attachment and can determine your responses to situations.  Securely attached relationships can help us grow and become a person who views ourself that way because we look to others to validate our opinions naturally.  Securely attached people, who believe others will be responsive when needed, tend to have working models of others as dependable and worthy of trust.  These outlooks are formed by thousands of interactions and become expectations and biases carried forward into new relationships.  The way we relate to ourselves and our significant other is infused with emotion.
  10. Isolation and loss are inherently traumatizing.  When someone has experienced trauma in their past and the isolation that follows, their personality formation and their ability to deal with other stresses in life is greatly altered.    

HELP for the New Year

Each year we set new years resolutions and we hear from every self help author about how to achieve those goals.  If you are one to enjoy self improvement books and audio tapes then check these out.  We recommend listening to Brian Tracy and the late Zig Zigler if you are interested in getting motivated and encouraged.  Zig gives more general advice and Brian Tracy makes more application of the same wisdom. 

Two other great self improvement author/speakers are Earl Nightingale and Napoleon Hill.  You may recognize Napoleon Hill by his book Think and Grow Rich.  So if you have an aspiration to read more check Napoleon out.  It is well worth your time.  If you are “not a reader” check out the books-on-cd option.  We spend so much time in our cars going to work and other activities.  Turn your vehicle into a university on wheels and see how much you learn!

The Cause of Most Fights in Marriage - and it's Not Money!

It is a commonly thought that the number one thing couples fight about is money. That is simply not the case. Although money is a point of stress it is not the biggest issue facing couples. The number one issue that causes the most trouble in marriage is actually a lack of feeling close. Here are 10 other more common problems a marriage faces...
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The Magic 5.5 Hours a Week That will Transform Your Marriage

This is the time of Thanksgiving! Giving thanks for your family, friends, pie, and of course your SPOUSE! For some you reading this eNews e-mail you may have found yourself in a rut relationally. Maybe you just don't know what to do to get started in a positive direction. Small steps are all you need. Yes, baby steps in a positive direction can be the difference between working it out and kicking them out. Before you toss in the towel try just altering 5.5 hours in your week. Not even 5.5 hours in your day JUST your week. This will make a difference:
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Should You or Your Spouse Take a Lie Detector Test & Other Common Questions

There are many words to describe an affair. It is often called a fantasy, a break from reality, infidelity, some call it unforgivable, everyone calls it painful. But what it truly is deep down to the core is a lie. In counseling part of what we do is work with the couple to rebuild trust. Sometimes we recommend that the betrayer should take a polygraph also known as a “lie detector test”. This is another way to help the betrayed spouse feel at ease with the truth the betrayer is telling them. If the betrayer is with holding parts of the truth the polygraph will help bring that to light.
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7 Steps to Separating From the Affair Partner

Here are the rules for separating from the affair partner: 1. Allow your spouse to participate in the severance. By allowing your spouse to have a say in how it is done will help your spouse find closure as well. Also, because the affair involved so much secrecy, this moment of truth is refreshing for them. Remember you and your spouse are a team. 2. Make it a clear, absolute, severance. There are a number of ways to separate from the affair partner that we will talk about but, however it is done, don’t let there be any question whatsoever that there is a glimmer of hope in the world that there could be anything between you again...
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The Affair Trap

Did you know that most affairs are not actually about sex? Surprised? You may also find it interesting that most people who have had an affair believed it would never happen to them. It doesn’t matter if you are religious, a good person, or a smart person. Affairs have very little, if at all, to do with the type of person you are. So you may be asking, “what are affairs about anyways, if it's not just sexual addiction, and what types of people have them?” We will tell you. Affairs are about many different things. Reasons can vary based on circumstances and what is going on inside the heart and mind of the person who has the affair. Let’s look at a few different ways a person falls into the affair trap:
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How the Internet Affair Virus is Spreading

The painful feelings are still very similar whether your spouse is having sex with someone or they are just having an “internet fling”. We often hear from people that say even though their spouse hasn’t slept with anyone it still feels like they have cheated. Your heart still feels ripped out. Yet many can’t fully understand why. That is what this series of blog posts aims to sort out for you.
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We Get What We Expect!

Everyone who goes into marriage has expectations of what that marriage will be like based on their upbringing, personal & family history, and what THEY WERE TOLD it would be like by their future spouse. A lot of my pre-marital couples who have never been married may not realize they have expectations for marriage, but they do. How can they fully realize them? They’ve never been married! So how do you adjust when you discover things aren’t as you hoped?
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