The Pain of Avoidance Within a Relationship

Posted By: on July 22, 2015

To be fully known and loved anyway.

Sometimes, this is the deepest desire of our hearts. And yet, it can be very challenging to express this desire, even to our closest friends and family.

Instead, we hold back. We protect ourselves. We refrain from showing others who we truly are, deep down, behind the barriers we’ve put up to protect ourselves.

When we silence ourselves in this way, we usually turn to avoidance. But when we avoid, we decide (consciously or unconsciously) to simply silence our own voice.

Here are three ways it often happens:

1. Not Engaging with People, Even When in Person with Them

We might be sitting right next to someone, perhaps someone we have a lot to share with, but we might not share anything at all. In these times, we can feel everything we need to say, but nothing comes out. And we remain silent.

This can happen even after we’ve spent some time by ourselves thinking about our relationship with the person. We might have perfect clarity about what needs to be said, but then we sit down next to the person and our anxiety gets the best of us.

We find ourselves “forgetting” or simply choosing not to share.

2. Using Electronics to Distract Ourselves

Entertainment through media, television, and games is another very common way people use to avoid feeling the emotions of the moment. iPads, iPhones, iMacs and iBooks can all be great things (can you tell I’m a Mac guy?). But they can also keep us from facing and dealing with some of the more difficult situations in ourselves.

3. Using Substances to Forget the Emotions

Alcoholism and drug addiction is often born out of a desire to distract ourselves from emotions we’re feeling.

In all these ways, we hide from our problems and often from our relationships as well, all in plain sight.

Invitation: The Answer to Avoidance

However, another form of communication—one that gives us our voice back—is to invite: To approach the other person with what we’re needing and what were feeling, in a way that is not critical of them, but rather fully expressive of us.

To be able to say, this is me, this is what I feel, and this is what I need, and this is my hope for our relationship. And to invite the other person to hear us, to understand, and to respond graciously with their own feelings and their own needs.


Perhaps the greatest gift we can give ourselves in our lives, and perhaps the first and most important gift we need, is a gift of expressing our own authentic selves.

It is a courageous act. It requires bravery to stand before another person and say, “This is who I am. I don’t protect myself from you. And I don’t hide myself from you either.”

This is at the heart of loving each other, at the heart of being present, and at the heart of being fully alive.

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