Part 5 of 8: How to create change with conflict-avoidant partners

Coming up next on Jan 13: Understanding the Difference between Differentiation and Individuation

How to create change with conflict-avoidant partners

When a couple with a history of conflict avoidance comes to see you, change is often excruciatingly slow. You may wonder, Am I being effective?

Here is why these couples are so challenging:

  • Often, they wait for their partners to be active, while they remain passive.
  • They desperately want better marriages but have deep fears and avoid risking vulnerability.
  • They will “collapse” quickly rather than truthfully expose their own desires.
  • They tiptoe into moments of differentiation and then retreat.
  • They look to you to bring up the real substance in therapy.

Is it any wonder your sessions can be so exhausting?

So how do you work with these partners?

Here is a step-by-step summary of what it takes to create substantial and enduring change in long-term conflict-avoidant relationships.

  • Explain the normal developmental stages for couples relationships and describe why they are stuck.
  • Describe their avoidant pattern clearly.
  • Compassionately explain how their choice of avoiding conflict is self-protective even though it inhibits their growth.
  • Confront passive behaviors when they occur in your sessions.
  • Ask each partner what will help them tolerate more emotional intensity and what support they want from you.
  • Establish some risk-taking goals for each partner.
  • Create intensity in sessions by staying with substantial issues until they are resolved while taking both partners into account.

In my online training program, The Developmental Model of Couples Therapy: Integrating Attachment, Differentiation and Neuroscience, you’ll get to see real cases with specific interventions that work for helping conflict-avoidant couples evolve.

The Developmental Model training is comprehensive. It is strategically designed to show you how to transform couples at all developmental stages. You’ll learn to disrupt passive-symbiotic systems, challenge hostile/demanding partners, and increase intimacy in more evolved couples.

If you are interested in watching videos, reading transcripts of sessions and listening to case discussions designed to move partners forward, I encourage you to sign up for training when registration opens
from January 21 - 24, 2021.

Making you a more effective catalyst for change,


P.S. Don’t take my word for it. Read what a participant says.

You and your husband are a class act, and I have learned a lot. I have received training in other modalities — your approach is the most substantial and the most flexible of the systems I have seen.

~ Steve Gill, Ph.D., Sedona, Arizona

P.P.S. Training will be open only for four days. Be ready to take action on January 21, 2021.

Take Action Now

Please share any subjects you notice conflict avoidant couples don’t like to talk about.

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14 days ago

Hello Ellyn, thank you for your generosity and contribution to the field of couple’s therapy.
Lately I’ve been reading your book “In quest of the mythical mate”. It is very informative. I would like to ask you a couple of questions:
Do you take into consideration the attachment styles? Do you look at the couples through this lens?
How do you (would you) integrate them with the stages of the relationship?
How do you approach attachment in your sessions?
Thank you very much!

ellyn bader
14 days ago
Reply to  Alexandru

Alexandru-Thank you for writing. Yes, i take primary and secondary attachment styles into account when educating and when woking with my clients. Recently I did a 90 minute video for the training group answering these questions. I am sorry i can't write a quick response to you. I am a lousy typist and it would be very long.

13 days ago

Hello Ellyn. Its my pleasure that i got the opportunity to be a part of this series. Your presentation is very impressive and the information you provide is relevant and practical. In my experience as a Consultant Psychologist, I found this developmental model in couples therapy is very useful and easily adaptable. Thank you so much for these great informations.

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