How To Tell If Your Partner Has an Avoidant Communication Style

Wouldn’t it be nice if relationships came with an operator’s manual? A nice set of instructions that gave us the inside scoop on how to communicate and work together as a team. More often than not, we’re forced to figure it out on the fly—with frequently messy results. Successful couples learn to work together by learning how to communicate effectively.

In today’s post, we’re going to take a deep look at how to recognize whether your partner has an avoidant communication style.

What Is an Avoidant Communication Style?

There are lots of ways people deal with situations that are uncomfortable or frightening to them. Some people lose their tempers and puff themselves up, while others are inclined to dodge, weave, and slip away.

An avoidant communicator is one who shies away from certain topics or issues—especially ones that require emotional vulnerability or that threaten their sense of self. In some cases, an avoidant communication style may be marked by conflict avoidance. They may prefer to pretend a problem doesn’t exist, rather than engage with it directly.

Behaviors of Avoidant Communicators

Non-Confrontational

Avoidant communicators tend to be non-confrontational. This means that they may physically or emotionally withdraw when confronted with uncomfortable conversations. Does your partner storm out of the house, or shut down and go silent when you try to talk to them?

People who see communication as uncomfortable or threatening have a fight-or-flight instinct that’s primed to go off when confronted. By extension, avoidant communicators frequently struggle to express their own needs clearly and concisely.

Difficulty with Transparency

Because avoidant communicators often fear emotional depth and intimacy, they have a tendency to engage in secretive behavior and avoid disclosing important information for fear of rejection or judgment. Accordingly, they may struggle to talk about their thoughts and feelings as well as events from their past.

photo of a couple laughing together wearing matching shirts that say thankfulDefensiveness

Does your partner go from room temperature to boiling when you try to talk to them? Because avoidant communicators often feel uncomfortable and threatened during conversations about emotionally charged issues or personal queries, they may get defensive.

This is the fight part of the fight-or-flight instinct. Some people learn early on that defensiveness is a quick way to shut down an uncomfortable conversation. Ultimately, it’s a self-defense mechanism that turns out to do more harm than good.

Desire for Independence

Avoidant communicators often guard their independence carefully. They may have been burned in the past by relying on others for help and support, so they may demonstrate reluctance to emotionally invest in relationships. It might make them uncomfortable when others lean on them for support, and they may have a hard time asking others for help in times of need.

How Does Avoidant Communication Impact a Relationship?

In a relationship where one or both partners have an avoidant communication style, it’s likely that conversations have a ‘surface-y’ feel to them. Miscommunications frequently escalate into conflicts, resentments build up, and problems never seem to be resolved. It’s difficult to feel secure when you’re never sure where you stand with your partner.

What Motivates Avoidant Communicators?

Consider the reasons behind your partner’s communication style. While some behave this way out of malice, avoidant communicators usually act out of a desire to avoid conflict and emotional vulnerability. This behavior often stems from upbringing, past traumas, or cultural influences.

Counseling Can Help

With time, counseling, and support, it’s possible for avoidant communicators to feel safe enough to adjust their style. Consider reaching out to schedule a consultation for marriage counseling if you and your partner are struggling to connect. Understanding your communication styles is a key factor in learning to become a team that solves problems instead of avoiding them.