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The Avoidant Personality and Silent Divorce

 The Avoidant Personality and Silent divorce is © George Hartwell, all rights reserved, June 2006

Your comments or questions on "Silent Divorce the Non-intimate Marriage" are appreciated.
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silent divorce Christian marriage counselling counseling

George Hartwell M.Sc.

What  does the ‘Life Avoidant’ Personality look like, and what does marriage to the Avoidant person look like, and how this almost guarantees a Silent Divorce?

There is a personality type that is associated with avoidance of risk. Such persons are basically in flight from life and use manipulation and control to consolidate this flight.  They get married for safety not for love.   Marriage provides adults with a place of emotional support, someone who listens to our feelings and is safe to share our life with.  If that is marriage and Avoidant Person does not want to get married.  They have no intention of opening up at the heart level.  And, be the way, they resist, I mean really resist growth, therapy or change.  They have no intention of changing.

One rule of life is that the greater our fear of life the greater we need to control.  Frightened and insecure, such people will controle in order to remove the risk of living.  They will control appearances to ensure approval.  They will control their family members to reduce risk. 

One extreme of this is the physical and emotionally abusive spouse where the threats and or violence will bring the partner into total abject submission.  This abuser (includes battering) destroys the ability of the partner to express their own thoughts or opinions because of physical abuse or the threat of physical abuse.  Given enough time the 'life avoidant' abuser will destroy the unique person their partner is.  They will crush their spirit.  True marriage ends with this 'loss of a partner' and silent divorce results.

A less extreme Life Avoidant Personality brings death to the marriage relationship, and their partner's self-confidence and identity, over longer time with less obvious abuse.  This person may be male or female.  Female patterns are always more subtle; not in the open, harder to detect.  Husband may not know what is going on.  She can quite easily keep up appearances while avoiding intimacy,  undermining the individuality of her partner and escaping true marriage into silent divorce - a pretend marriage.

Living in a Silent Divorce is just fine with the "Life Avoidant Personality" because they do not want to take the risk getting close and personal in the first place.  That, however, does not mean they will agree with you divorcing them.  They, in fact, will hate you for that.  Divorcing them may be a life-affirming decision for you, but for them it means exposure, being alone, risk.

In silent divorce they have all the emotional stability and security they desire - the appearance without the reality, marriage without intimacy.  They have the status and safety of being married.  If his or her partner stays in this silent divorce it could become the death of him or her.  However, if you leave because you want love, life and health, the Avoidant Pseronsality will resist.  They have a lot of hostility along with fear.

If you live with the avoidant personality, you will be trained to avoid expressing emotions, confronting issues head on, talking about 'negatives,' raising any objections to their life style and the others increased control of your life together.  This could manifest in you as depression and 'an anger problem.'  It may manifest as physical disease - some sickness.  It might increase any tendencies in him to find escape in drinking, drugs, gambling, pornaography or sexual addictions.

Jesus comments on life-avoidance in the parable of the talents

All of this is very serious.  We are talking life and death; truth and pretense, health and disease.  But it does expalin one thing.  In jesus teaching he portays the Life Avoidant Personality in the Parable of the Talents.  Read this story.  If you had not heard what I said above about the Life Avoidant personality you might wonder why the judgement in the parable is so severe.

In Jesus parable about failure to risk (Matthew 25:24-30) the risk avoidant “wicked, lazy servant” ends up losing what they have. Then that worthless servant is thrown out into the darkness!  This one is called not just "lazy" but a "wicked" servant.

So, according to Jesus, it is inevitable that whoever buries his talent will lose what he thinks he has. Without trust (courage) there is no risk.  Without risk, there is no growth.  Without growth (movement forward), there is no life!  Without the courage to live, there is death.


I will explain more about how the 'life-avoidant' personality is a prime candidate for a silent divorce. But first a little more about the signs of a life avoidant personality. 

How life avoidance shows up in a Silent Divorce.

ONENumber one point is the need to avoid intimate communication.  But it goes beyond that.  The avoidant partner may avoid all personal communication, all adult consultation with their partner, all playful interaction and all correction or negative feedback.  How they do this varies but they will impose this pattern which leads to silent divorce.

The net result of the avoidance of communication is that their partner will be lonely and feels alone in the marriage.  vulnerable for communication intimacy.

TWO.  The second point is the avoidance of physical affection.  Yhe avoidant partner may minimize all kissing, hugging, caressing and being affectionately physical together.  If this is the case both partners will end up ‘touch’ starved.

THREE.  Regarding the sexual relationship.  This may be avoided for the most part.  When the genital sexual relationship does occur heart to heart bonding may be avoided.  This is done by avoidance of eye contact, stepping away from the afterglow period then a powerful opportunity to deepen the marital bond and feed and nurture one another’s spirits is missed.

FOUR.  Consultation and shared decision-making.  When decisions are not shared together, requests are not made, discussion does not happen the life together must of necessity become life apart from one another.

FIVE.  Life by rules.  There may be a tendency to control by making life run by rules.  When corrected on a small point the life avoidant person may make a rule: "I will never do that again."  This is something like living in a prison of 'inner vows.'  A cage of unalterable rules is built over time.  Life becomes very structured and rigid.

In a marriage with a Life Avoidant Partner both of the partners begin to deaden within, the heart sickens, the spirit languishes, one lives with constant residual depression and a search for life outside of the marriage becomes as search for life, love at the emotional and spiritual level.  One strongly hungers and thirsts for that which will lift one spirits, heal one’s heart, rekindle one’s passion and bring the experience of community and intimacy to one’s soul.

By God’s design there is a powerful oneness created in sexual union, in cleaving to one’s wife, in becoming one with her.  But Jesus is right.  After years of neglect (through the burial of the possibility by intimate communication) the gift of togetherness that God gave begins to fade.  And, in time, that powerful God-given oneness does die.  Silent divorce ensues.

An example of an Avoidant Man - a testimony by 'Geraldine':

"My ex husband avoided about everything, so I don't know how it fits with your definition.  Try: avoided communication, responsibility, intimacy, any kind of interaction other than grunting, grumbling or saying whatever he thought would be what I wanted to hear.  We never went anywhere, did anything, had visitiors.  Anything I wanted to do was answered with 'not my thing, go with your friends, go with the kids'. Not a shred of support, kindness, or genuine anything.  It was like living with a work colleague, but even then there was less 'working together' than in a work situation.  It was his way or nothing; if I said something he didn't like it was like world war 3."

George:  Yes, this is a description of an avoidant personality.  Notice how much he avoids.  Can you see that the common theme in all this is fear.  When you fear loss of control of life, then you cannot allow communication.  To the avoidant communication mean loss of control, vulnerability, because when you communicate, you share something of yourself and that is a risk.

He avoids responsibility.  What is the risk of responsibility?  To be responsible is to take the risk of failure.  If you fail someone may ask for an accounting.  The Avoidant Personality does not want to take that risk.

He avoids intimacy.  Every aspect of intimacy involves risking and sharing of yourself.  To get closer to someone is a risk.  They might reject you or leave you.  Therefore, avoid intimacy or anything that could lead to bonding, connection or attachment.

By saying what you want to hear, the Avoidant Personality avoids taking the risk of establishing boundaries, having an identity, being a person, being real, sharing feelings.  This means avoiding a confrontation, conflict, connection or real life.

This Avoidant Personality looks almost 'housebound' in that he does not go out or do anything.  Staying home and doing nothing seems to the Avoidant Personality to be the least risky.  Why take a risk?

To understand how this effected Geraldine we want to look at my discussion of the Shame Curse on Listening-Prayer.com.

Want more information about the avoidant personality?  See: Avoidant Personality - A Dialogue where I answer some questions from a man who believed he was engaged to an avoidant personality.

On my Blog HealMyLife.blogspot.com see Avoiding Love.
On my web site: www.ex-harmony.com see what happens if we mess with God's plan for love, sex and marriage.  What happens if we avoid close personal encounters that create the marriage bond or the love bond.