July 27, 2012

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Finding and Keeping the Love You Want by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D.

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Minimizers and maximizers come in all different sizes and shapes. They have what we call adaptations. If they were injured in the attachment stage with either neglect or rejection, then what will happen in their adulthood is that they will develop a pattern of avoidance—that is, of withdrawal. Or one of them will do that and the other one will develop a pattern of clinging. So they make a very interesting pair. This is the type of pairing that occurs. The person who withdraws pulls away, doesn’t show any emotion, likes to spend a lot of time alone, will be attracted to and fall in love with and make a committed partnership with the person who can’t stand being alone, who wants to be together all of the time. When you go to bed at night, they want to snuggle all night long.

I remember one time a couple came in and the big argument they were having was that when they went to bed at night, she wanted to snuggle in the fetal position. You know that one—where you’re on your side and the other one is curled up behind you. And that was fine with him for about 10 minutes, but she wanted to go to sleep in that position every night. They had this argument for four years. Can we go to sleep cuddled at night? And he said, “It’s fine with me to cuddle for ten minutes, but then I start sweating and you start sweating and I get uncomfortable and also I can’t go to sleep on my side. I have to go to sleep on my back.” Because if you have patterns of avoidance, you are certainly not going to sleep on your stomach because you want to go on your back so you can see things. And his partner was a person who said, “Well, you know, I just want to be close. I just want us to be in body contact. It just feels good to me to feel your body. I can go to sleep on my side and you’re just not a romantic person. You just don’t want to be close.”

Well, neither one of them were dealing with love. They were both dealing with needs. One had a need for distance and the other one had a need for excessive distance and excessive contact. Now, as we go through the developmental stages, the minimizers become avoiders. Or if you get to the expiration stage, you can stand contact for a little longer. Here’s the person who doesn’t: the distancer in adulthood who has developed distancing as a defense in childhood doesn’t feel compelled to not be in contact. In fact, the avoider, one of the characteristics about the person who has developed avoidance is that they will never initiate contact. They will respond to it but they will never say, “Let’s go to a movie,” or on the way to a movie, they will never reach over and hold your hand.

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