Why is Holding Difficult for Avoiders or Pleasers?
Avoiders find holding time awkward as they most often grew up with parents who showed minimal to no affection and offered little comfort. If coached, they may be willing to try and hold their spouse, but certainly would not ask for a holding in return. One avoider husband I know held his wife as she shared some painful memories. She cried a lot and all those emotions were a bit overwhelming for him, but he is trying to grow and he did a good job. When she later asked to hold him he said, “I don’t dwell on pain, I just move on.” Now being an avoider myself, I understand this thinking. We worked hard to not feel pain, so why dig it up? There are three compelling reasons.
First, if we are going to be transformed into the image of Christ, we need to be able to feel. (See last week’s blog).
Second, holding gives an opportunity to receive what was missed as a kid. Nurture. Comfort. Being heard. Being known. Avoiders have no idea that nurturing can relieve stress. They have to experience comfort in order to value it. Third, avoiders end up resentful because they are always being asked to give something, but need little to nothing in return. I cannot tell you how often I hear from the spouses of avoiders, “He or she does not need me.” Avoiders need to learn to receive. There is no better way than to allow your spouse to hold you.
Pleasers are givers not receivers. Of all the types, they have to give to soothe their own anxiety about others being unhappy or distressed. They are hyper attuned to the needs of others; a skill they learned in childhood. By the time marriage occurs, they have had years of practice in the giving, caretaking role. As a result, they never ask for much and are absolutely terrible receivers. They are so unaware of their own feelings and needs that it does not occur to them to ask for comfort when they are stressed.
Now most of you know that Milan is a pleaser and I am an avoider. So, how easy do you think it was for us to learn to do holding times? The answer should be obvious. It was difficult.
Neither of us wanted to be vulnerable, but we knew it was an important skill we were missing in our marriage and parenting.
So, we kept at it. Over time it got easier, safer and we felt more competent.
What did we do when strong emotions of grief emerged during a holding? We agreed that holding time was not a time to fix or problem solve. The goal was to learn to be together, listen, validate and comfort. If your spouse feels an emotion, say what you see. “I see this makes you tearful and sad.” “I see your eyes welling up with tears.” Give permission: “I’m glad you are sharing those feelings with me.” “This is a safe place for you to feel.” “It makes me feel needed and special when you are vulnerable with me.”
I wish we could describe the results and the blessings of giving one another comfort. It has been more than worth every awkward moment. As we get older, we find life brings more loss. We have a safe place to feel the sadness and process the grief. We have healed many of our childhood wounds as we have comforted one another through painful memories.
Next week we will look at Vacillators and Chaotic love styles and holding time. So, how’s it going for you? Have you tried it? Let us know how it goes. You have to make yourself uncomfortable in order to grow.