2. We withdraw from the relationship to create space so we can protect ourselves from being rejected and calm down. We do this to numb our overwhelming emotions and so we can get them under control. This also prevents us from becoming engulfed in the relationship with our partners, which may have been devastating in prior relationships.
Protest behavior is an indicator that your primal attachment needs are not being met.
Want to know more about how you can have a strong relationship connection with your partner? Check this video out below:
Examples of Protest Behavior
1. Anxious attachment and excessive attempts to reestablish contact: Calling or texting multiple times in a row. Waiting for a phone call. Loitering by your partner’s workplace in hopes of running into him or her.
2. Withdrawing: Going emotionally numb. Leaving. Turning your back. Talking on the phone and ignoring your partner.
3. Keeping Score: Paying attention to how long it took them to respond and waiting just as long to respond to them. Waiting for them to make the first move to mess up.
4. Acting Hostile: Rolling eyes. Angry outbursts. Looking away. Walking out in the middle of a conversation. Shouting.
5. Manipulations: Acting busy when you’re not. Pretending to be unapproachable. Ignoring phone calls. Saying you have plans when you don’t. Waiting for your partner to rescue you.
Threatening to Leave
1. Ultimatums: “If you don’t stop (or start) doing/being ______, then (bad things will happen).”
2. Making partner feel jealous: Making plans to see an ex or going to a single’s bar. Telling your partner about someone who hit on you in an attempt to make them jealous and insecure.
Recognizing your protest behavior is an easy way to notice when you have an unmet attachment need. With this realization, you can make a bid that helps your partner meet your needs, rather than withdrawing or demanding something from them.
If your protests feel like they don’t affect your partner, you will eventually stop protesting and will emotionally withdraw as well. Instead of being in love, you feel like two ships passing in the night.
You Are Response-Able
You are response-able for getting your attachment needs met as well as meeting your partner’s attachment needs. Being response-able in your relationship means being open and responsive, both emotionally and physically, to your partner’s bids for emotional connection. It is your choice how you are going to respond. You can turn towards, or turn away/against. You are also response-able to ask for what you need in a way that invites your partner to meet that need.
Being Response-Able to Your Partner
There are four obstacles to noticing your partner’s bids for connection.
Couples often miss bids out of mindlessness, not malice. Just being aware of how subtle these bids are and how vital they are to creating a passionate and healthy relationship can make a big difference in how partners emotionally connect.
2) Bid wrapped in a negative emotion.
Bids can be positive, and as you’ve seen with protest behavior, bids can be negative as well. Negative bids often cause us to react negatively and miss the hidden plea for connection.
For example, Stephanie says to her husband, James, “it would never occur to you to load the dishwasher, would it?” As a result, James misses her bid “please load the dishwasher.” He only hears criticism. So it makes sense when he responds defensively by saying, “like you ever fill up the gas tank in the car?” His response is only escalating the argument.
What if James responded by saying, “Oh, I’m sorry. I’ll do it.” and then loaded the dishwasher? He’d probably score major brownie points and earn a guilty smile from his wife, who would realize that her harsh comment was uncalled for.
Before you reply defensively to your partner, pause for a moment, and search for a bid underneath your partner’s difficult words. Then focus on the bid, not the delivery. You can say, “I want to respond positively to what you said, so can you please let me know what you need from me? I want to know.” That phrase is a powerful way to demonstrate you are responsive and response-able to your partner’s needs.
If bids laced with criticism are a habit in your relationship and negativity is blocking the bids, work on softening how you start your conversations.
3) Missing the bid in protest behavior.
When my partner back in college called me 34 times in one night, I dismissed her bid for connection and the opportunity to hear what she really needed: the emotional security that I was there for her.