bad marriage

Avoidant: How to Love (or Leave) a Dismissive Partner

AvoidantKindleCoverHigh705x1125

My next book has been published and is available for sale as a Kindle book on Amazon. Right now available from Amazon Kindle for $3.99, and a trade paperback is also available.

If you’ve been wondering what to do about your “difficult” dismissive or fearful-avoidant spouse or lover, it’s a handbook for understanding and dealing with them. If you’re a regular reader here, you will have seen some of the material posted earlier, like Dismissive-Avoidants as Parents.

Since avoidant partners are the most read-about topic here and I’ve heard more from readers with this problem than any other, it seemed worth concentrating on. Since there’s a pretty decent recent book on the anxious-preoccupied, this was an area no one has addressed well (in a reasonably-priced popular book.)

Buy it in Kindle format at Amazon.

More on Avoidant and Bad Boyfriends:











Subconscious Positivity Predicts Marriage Success…

Happy Couple - shutterstock

Happy Couple – shutterstock

..and conversely, negativity predicts turmoil and failure. In attachment type terms, both avoidant types (Dismissive-Avoidant and Fearful-Avoidant) have a negative view of attached others in general, while Secure and Anxious-Preoccupied types are positive about others.

The Wall Street Journal reports on an experiment which measures newlywed’s subconscious attitudes about their partners and found those with negative subconscious attitudes experienced a faster decline in marital satisfaction over time:

First off, they found that ratings of marital satisfaction declined over time, something reported previously. They also learned that the [written test] answers from newlyweds predicted nothing about marital satisfaction four years later.

But the scientists also measured something else in those newlyweds, using an “associative priming task.”

This involves briefly flashing a series of words like “wonderful” or “odious” on a screen; subjects have to quickly press one of two buttons, depending on whether the word has positive or negative connotations.

Now comes the subconscious manipulation.

Just before each word, the researchers flashed up a picture of a random face for an instant—300 milliseconds—too fast for people to be consciously certain about what they saw but enough time for our subconscious, emotional brain circuitry to be certain. If the face evokes positive feelings, the brain immediately takes on something akin to a positive mind-set; if the word flashed up an instant later is a positive one, the brain quickly detects it as such. But if the word is negative, there is an instant of subconscious dissonance—”I was feeling great, but now I have to think about that word that means ‘inconsiderate jerk who doesn’t replace the toilet paper.’ ” And it takes a few milliseconds longer to hit the “negative” key. Conversely, display faces with negative connotations, and there is that dissonance-induced minuscule delay in identifying positive terms.

So in the study, the rapid-fire sequence of faces/words included a picture of one’s new spouse, revealing automatic feelings about the person’s beloved. That led to the key finding: The more subconscious negativity in a newlywed, the larger the decline in marital satisfaction four years later.

Did subjects understand what the priming task was about? No, and people’s automatic responses were unrelated to their answers on the questionnaire. Was that discrepancy due to an unwillingness to answer honestly, or were people unaware of their automatic attitudes? It is impossible to tell. Did people with the most positive automatic feelings about their spouses subsequently develop fewer problems in their marriages, or were they less sensitive to the usual number of problems? Subtle data analysis suggested the latter.

What does this study tell us, beyond suggesting that lovebirds should probably take this nifty computerized test before marrying? It reminds us, like much we learn about the brain and behavior, that we are subject to endless, internal biological forces of which we are unaware.

The original Science writeup is here.


More on Divorce, Marriage, and Mateseeking

Marriages Happening Late, Are Good for You
Monogamy and Relationship Failure; “Love Illuminated”
“Millionaire Matchmaker”
More reasons to find a good partner: lower heart disease!
“Princeton Mom” Susan Patton: “Marry Smart” not so smart
“Blue Valentine”
“All the Taken Men are Best” – why women poach married men….
“Marriage Rate Lowest in a Century”
Making Divorce Hard to Strengthen Marriages?
Student Loan Debt: Problems in Divorce
“The Upside of ‘Marrying Down’”
The High Cost of Divorce
Separate Beds Save Marriages?
Marital Discord Linked to Depression
Marriage Contracts: Give People More Legal Options
Older Couples Avoiding Marriage For Financial Reasons
Divorced Men 8 Times as Likely to Commit Suicide as Divorced Women
Vox Charts Millennial Marriage Depression
What’s the Matter with Marriage?
Life Is Unfair! The Great Chain of Dysfunction Ends With You.
Leftover Women: The Chinese Scene
Constant Arguing Can Be Deadly…
“If a fraught relationship significantly shortens your life, are you better off alone?
“Divorce in America: Who Really Wants Out and Why”
View Marriage as a Private Contract?
“It’s up there with ‘Men Are From Mars’ and ‘The Road Less Travelled’”
Free Love, eHarmony, Matchmaking Pseudoscience
Love Songs of the Secure Attachment Type
“The New ‘I Do’”
Unrealistic Expectations: Liberal Arts Woman and Amazon Men
Mark Manson’s “Six Healthy Relationship Habits”
“The Science of Happily Ever After” – Couples Communications
Free Dating Sites: Which Have Attachment Type Screening?
Dating Pool Danger: Harder to Find Good Partners After 30
Mate-Seeking: The Science of Finding Your Best Partner
Perfect Soulmates or Fellow Travelers: Being Happy Depends on Perspective
No Marriage, Please: Cohabiting Taking Over
“Marriage Markets” – Marriage Beyond Our Means?
Rules for Relationships: Realism and Empathy
Limerence vs. Love
The “Fairy Tale” Myth: Both False and Destructive
When to Break Up or Divorce? The Economic View
“Why Are Great Husbands Being Abandoned?”
Divorce and Alimony: State-By-State Reform, Massachusetts Edition
“Sliding” Into Marriage, Small Weddings Associated with Poor Outcomes
Subconscious Positivity Predicts Marriage Success…
Why We Are Attracted to Bad Partners (Who Resemble a Parent)

“Sliding” Into Marriage, Small Weddings Associated with Poor Outcomes

Small Wedding

Small Wedding

Science Daily has a report on a study of marriage happiness called “Bigger weddings, fewer partners, less ‘sliding’ linked to better marriages.”

Unfortunately this is another study showing correlations but not proving causations, so it is less useful than it might appear:

Rhoades and co-author Scott M. Stanley came to these insights by analyzing new data from the Relationship Development Study, an ongoing national study based at the University of Denver and funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Between 2007 and 2008, more than 1,000 Americans who were unmarried but in a relationship, and between the ages of 18 and 34, were recruited into the study.

Over the course of the next five years and 11 waves of data collection, 418 of those individuals got married. The authors looked closely at those 418 new marriages, examining how the history of the spouses’ relationships and their prior romantic experiences were related to the quality of their marriages.

So far so good. But what they did was select a group of single people, look specifically at the ones who got married, and then question them about the happiness of their marriage, their history and other factors that might be interesting. There are problems with drawing any conclusions: self-reporting of both relationship history and marriage quality, and alternative explanations for some correlations.

Those who have had more romantic experiences — for example, more sexual or cohabiting partners — are less likely to forge a high-quality marriage than those with a less complex romantic history, the researchers found.

Raising children from prior relationships can add stress to a marriage. For women, but not for men, having had a child in a prior relationship was associated, on average, with lower marital quality.

….More relationship experiences prior to marriage also means more experience breaking up, which may make for a more jaundiced view of love and relationships, Rhoades said. It’s also possible that some people have personality characteristics — such as liking to take risks or being harder to get along with — that both increase their odds of having many relationship experiences and decrease their odds of marital success, she added.

From the attachment type perspective, it’s easy to see from the Dating Pool Danger graph that people who have been through several relationships are far more likely to be insecure types: Dismissive-Avoidant, Fearful-Avoidant, or Anxious-Preoccupied. Each of these types would be expected to have a lower-than-typical quality of marriage. So the people who they initially selected were already skewed (since they were single) toward the insecure types, and those with a history of broken relationships were even more likely to be insecure types and thus find marriage rough.

Past studies show that couples often “slide” into living together rather than talking things out and making a decision about it. In this study, participants who lived together before marriage were asked directly if they made a considered decision about premarital cohabitation or slid into it; they indicated their degree of “sliding versus deciding” on a five-point scale. The more strongly respondents categorized the move as a decision rather than a slide, the greater their marital quality later on.

“We believe that one important obstacle to marital happiness is that many people now slide through major relationship transitions — like having sex, moving in together, getting engaged or having a child — that have potentially life-altering consequences,” said Stanley, research professor and co-director of the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver, as well as a senior fellow for both the National Marriage Project and for the Institute for Family Studies.

That seems fairly intuitive — commitments that occur thoughtlessly, almost by default, happen when people are not strongly motivated by anything but convenience and inertia. After marriage, they may just as easily leave when it becomes inconvenient. Living together for years before marriage tends to show someone was not especially motivated to get married!

Having more guests at one’s wedding — the biggest ritual in many relationships — is associated with higher marital quality, even after controlling for income and education, which may be proxies for how much the wedding might have cost, the study found. Among couples who had weddings, the sample was divided into those who had weddings with 50 or fewer attendees, 51 to 149 attendees, or 150 or more attendees. Among each grouping, 31 percent, 37 percent, and 47 percent, respectively, reported high marital quality.

“In what might be called the ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ factor, this study finds that couples who have larger wedding parties are more likely to report high-quality marriages,” said W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project and a professor of sociology at U.Va. “One possibility here is that couples with larger networks of friends and family may have more help, and encouragement, in navigating the challenges of married life. Note, however, this finding is not about spending lots of money on a wedding party. It’s about having a good number of friends and family in your corner.”

This also seems obvious — lots of friends and family at your wedding tends to mean you have lots of social support, and the larger the social network you invited, the more you probably believed in your own wedding as a real commitment!


More on Divorce, Marriage, and Mateseeking

Marriages Happening Late, Are Good for You
Monogamy and Relationship Failure; “Love Illuminated”
“Millionaire Matchmaker”
More reasons to find a good partner: lower heart disease!
“Princeton Mom” Susan Patton: “Marry Smart” not so smart
“Blue Valentine”
“All the Taken Men are Best” – why women poach married men….
“Marriage Rate Lowest in a Century”
Making Divorce Hard to Strengthen Marriages?
Student Loan Debt: Problems in Divorce
“The Upside of ‘Marrying Down’”
The High Cost of Divorce
Separate Beds Save Marriages?
Marital Discord Linked to Depression
Marriage Contracts: Give People More Legal Options
Older Couples Avoiding Marriage For Financial Reasons
Divorced Men 8 Times as Likely to Commit Suicide as Divorced Women
Vox Charts Millennial Marriage Depression
What’s the Matter with Marriage?
Life Is Unfair! The Great Chain of Dysfunction Ends With You.
Leftover Women: The Chinese Scene
Constant Arguing Can Be Deadly…
“If a fraught relationship significantly shortens your life, are you better off alone?
“Divorce in America: Who Really Wants Out and Why”
View Marriage as a Private Contract?
“It’s up there with ‘Men Are From Mars’ and ‘The Road Less Travelled’”
Free Love, eHarmony, Matchmaking Pseudoscience
Love Songs of the Secure Attachment Type
“The New ‘I Do’”
Unrealistic Expectations: Liberal Arts Woman and Amazon Men
Mark Manson’s “Six Healthy Relationship Habits”
“The Science of Happily Ever After” – Couples Communications
Free Dating Sites: Which Have Attachment Type Screening?
Dating Pool Danger: Harder to Find Good Partners After 30
Mate-Seeking: The Science of Finding Your Best Partner
Perfect Soulmates or Fellow Travelers: Being Happy Depends on Perspective
No Marriage, Please: Cohabiting Taking Over
“Marriage Markets” – Marriage Beyond Our Means?
Rules for Relationships: Realism and Empathy
Limerence vs. Love
The “Fairy Tale” Myth: Both False and Destructive
When to Break Up or Divorce? The Economic View
“Why Are Great Husbands Being Abandoned?”
Divorce and Alimony: State-By-State Reform, Massachusetts Edition
“Sliding” Into Marriage, Small Weddings Associated with Poor Outcomes
Subconscious Positivity Predicts Marriage Success…
Why We Are Attracted to Bad Partners (Who Resemble a Parent)

“If a fraught relationship significantly shortens your life, are you better off alone?”

couple_argues

From The Atlantic, a good read about that Danish study we covered here showing relationship conflict can be surprisingly deadly, comparing it with alternative of social isolation. The study adjusted for all the usual health risk factors but found that even for people who seemed equally healthy, conflict with people near them, especially spouses, greatly increased the risk of death:

“In your everyday life, do you experience conflicts with any of the following people?”

Partner
Children
Other family
Friends
Neighbors

A Danish health survey asked almost 10,000 people between ages 36 and 52 to answer, “always,” “often,” “sometimes,” “seldom,” or “never” for their applicable relationships.

Eleven years later, 422 of them were no longer living. That’s a typical number. What’s compelling, Rikke Lund and her colleagues at University of Copenhagen say, is that the people who answered “always” or “often” in any of these cases were two to three times more likely to be among the dead. (And the deaths were from standard causes: cancer, heart disease, alcohol-related liver disease, etc.—not murder. Were you thinking murder?)

The stress of constant conflict degrades health and eventually kills, it seems. But being isolated was not great, either:

In isolation, most of us wither psychologically and crumble physically. In 1979, a California epidemiological study showed that the risk of death during a given period among people with the fewest social ties was more than twice as high as in those with the most. Some experts have suggested that isolation, perceived or objective, should be commonly considered alongside things like obesity as a serious health hazard. One study found social isolation was as strong of a predictor of mortality as smoking. People with heart disease are 2.4 times more likely to die of it if they are socially isolated. We could go on and on with these decades of pro-social correlations.

So the point here is relationships are like almonds. We know that if you eat almonds, you increase your odds of living longer—unless you hate almonds so much that eating them sends you into a rage, raising your blood pressure, and you eat them every day until at some point the hypertension eventually causes a stroke. Yes, just like almonds. The objective nature of what’s said or done between people converges with our personalities to create perceptions of that relationship, and that’s what matters and (seems to) significantly influence our bodies. “Certain personality traits may promote the reporting of any social relation as stressful,” the researchers write, “and therefore strong correlations between measures of stressful social relations would be expected.”

Men did seem more physically vulnerable to worries and demands from their partner than did women, which is in keeping with a scientific understanding of men’s health as especially relationship-dependent. Men release more cortisol in response to stress than women do, and marriage has proven more beneficial to men’s health than to women’s. And it was Harry Nilsson, not Mariah Carey, who was first moved to popularize Badfinger’s “Without You” in 1971 by really drawing out the emotive i in the line, “I can’t liiive if living is without you.”