I am having problems leaving my anxiously attached husband

I’ve been married over 20 years. I am a dismissing personality and my husband is anxious (on depression medication). I have never met his needs and he told me I didn’t meet his emotional, physical or financial needs.

We’ve made it this many years with me trying to be what he needed. In recent months I realized I would never meet his needs and I have totally checked out of the relationship. However, even with a dismissing attachment style, I am having a terrible time ENDING it.

I can’t move out of the house because of two children still at home and financial obligations and he won’t move out because of religious convictions.

The kids are aware of the situation. We have the house on the market for sale and I’ve told him when it sells he is going to get a place and I am going to get a place and we are going to be separated, but the house hasn’t sold, and he is starting to push me into a corner.

Any suggestions?

Response:

The situation you describe is fairly common. When people with a dismissing and anxious style of attachment become involved, both sides feel that their needs are not being met. You probably feel like you never get credit for being a good wife or that you never get a break, while your husband feels that he never gets the love and attention he deserves. Given this dynamic, both of you are probably less than happy in the relationship (see attachment styles).

But, being miserable in a relationship, does not mean that a relationship is easy to end. Being attached to another person makes breaking-up very difficult to do. Our emotions were designed to keep us together and the loss of an attachment figure can be overwhelming (see romantic attachments).

There is, however, an important difference between you and your husband’s situation. By ending the relationship you are regaining some freedom and autonomy, which you have been missing. If you have a dismissing personality, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. But, from your husband’s perspective, his worst fear is coming true—he is being abandoned. No one loves him and he (feels that he) is going to be all alone.

So our advice is to proceed very cautiously. While you may perceive some gain by ending the relationship, your husband may sense only loss. Again, for an anxiously attached person the end of a relationship can be the worst thing that could possibly happen. Your husband may be backing you into a corner because his fear is getting the best of him. And fearful people often behave very irrationally.

Moreover, it would be wise not to do things which increase your husband’s fear or sense of abandonment (even though doing so may feel somewhat liberating to you). For instance, stating that you are going to leave him, without addressing his fears will only make the situation more tense. As such, we strongly suggest that you talk to a counselor about the best way to proceed with the separation while also trying to find ways to help your husband deal with his anxiety.

If you can find a way to help your husband deal with his fear of abandonment, it will make things easier on you in the long run. Doing so, however, isn’t exactly fair. It requires that you take his perspective into account and that you try to take care of him (which can be impossible to do). Making matters worse, your husband will probably not be able to see your side of things (fearful people often have a difficult time seeing beyond their own needs).

Again, given the challenges involved in this type of situation talking to a counselor is critical.

We hope this helps somehow.

 anxious attachment | dismissing attachment | end of relationship | troubled relationship

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