Better Relationships ♯8. know your escape routes

8. Know your Escape RoutesIntimate contact is what most of us desire, but for many it’s tricky territory. Deeply loving another is to make them massively important, and that means being vulnerable. And this is a huge risk – they could leave or die.

Everyone has his or her own ways of avoiding intimacy and dropping out of connection. When you begin to identify how you do this, you’ll start to recognise patterns in your couple dance that don’t support your relationship.

This process takes about 30 minutes and can help both partners to see more clearly what is going on.

1.  Using a timer, take a piece of paper and write for 10 minutes – list all the things that upset you about your partner behaviour – focus on the ways they tune out, are not available – their idiosyncratic ways that trigger you to feel disconnected.  Playing with their phone, walking a bit too fast (or slow) when you’re together, working late, not responding to your messages, making plans without consulting you, looking at the ceiling when you’re speaking, playing golf/tennis, hogging the duvet…. You get the idea

Don’t censor – no one else is going to read your list.  Go for it; let yourself be as niggley as you can, it helps to get you into the swing of recognising the ways you are activated by particular behaviours.  Keep writing for 10 minutes

2. Take another sheet of paper, and now write about yourself for 10 minutes.  What are all the ways you avoid contact or connection, what are your own particular escape routes?  Going to bed earlier or later… avoiding sex, making unilateral decisions, talking on mobile when together, watching TV or playing video games, filling up the evenings, making lots of social commitments, DIY on the weekends…

3. Now, give this sheet – the one about you – to you partner. And read what they say about themselves.

Now have a good conversation sharing your lists

  • Do some of your partner’s self-identified habits match the ones you wrote down for them?
  • Do you recognise you both have similar behaviours?
  • Can you see patterns of withdrawal and disconnection? when I do this, he/she tends to do that?
  • Can you remember similar behaviours with one or both of your parents?  Or in a previous relationship?
  • Identify the positive intention of your behaviours. What are you trying to achieve by disconnecting? Feeling safe, not needing to need your partner, disengaging before they do, wanting them to come to comfort you…
  • What are you trying to avoid by this behaviour? Discomfort and insecurity of intimacy, being abandoned, not losing own identity…

This is a good process for self-exploration, and doing it openly with your partner is to talk about difficult stuff at a time when you are not triggered and reactive, but likely to be open and curious about your dynamics.


 You may not control all the events
that happen to you,

but you can decide not to be reduced by then. 
– Maya Angelou


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