The Schizoid-Depressive Couple
Does your partner withdraw the more you demand an answer?
Posted Aug 01, 2018
"I’m in love with someone who has schizoid personality disorder, but I also deal with depression. I really want a life with this girl. I’m willing to do anything to make things work and make her as happy and comfortable in this relationship as can be."
Schizoid people follow a pattern of seeking intense emotional connection followed by creating distance in order to protect themselves from feeling overtaken or consumed by the other. It’s very difficult to have a relationship with a deeply schizoid person because they won’t commit. However, being schizoid is a continuum and not everyone who has these tendencies is impossible as a partner. (For more on the schizoid personality, see here.)
The depressive personality, on the other hand, seeks connection and fears her over-dependence will overwhelm the other. The fear of abandonment can make the depressive person overly solicitous, desperate to please the other person so he or she won’t leave.
The dynamic in a schizoid/depressive couple is that the partner who is desperate for connection and afraid of being abandoned is experienced as intrusive and demanding by the schizoid partner. The more the depressive tries to understand the schizoid, the more he withdraws. The more the depressive demands an answer and an end to the silence, the icier the schizoid becomes.
The schizoid/depressive dance often ends with the rage of the depressive being met with the schizoid leaving. The depressive person is then both enraged at being abandoned and racked with guilt for having been too needy. But “needy” is the result of needs not being met. The more the schizoid partner withdraws, the needier the depressive partner will become.
Sam and Barbara are an example of a schizoid/depressive couple dynamic. Sam didn’t tell Barbara he was going on a trip for 10 days. When he came home and called her, she was enraged. He then got enraged at her and hung up. She called him back to demand an explanation of why he hurt her so much. He felt furious that she was making demands on him and hung up again.
The depressive person who loves a schizoid person will feel abandoned and furious routinely because the schizoid person will sometimes be available and then withdraw if it gets too intimate or any demands are made.
If you are in love with a person who is schizoid, what can you do? Here are a few tips:
- Try to ascertain how schizoid this person is. Have they ever been married or lived with someone? Have they been able to maintain a relationship for any duration in the past?
- Discuss fighting before you have a fight. How does each of you deal with another person disappointing or hurting you? If you can be honest about how you react, you may be able to create a shorthand for danger. Once the dynamic starts, it’s like quicksand and the relationship can sink fast. Make up a hand signal for "time out."
- Rules for arguing: No shouting. No interrupting while the other person is talking.
If you’ve had round one and are about the repeat it, take a time out for a while before you try to discuss it again. No accusations. Just explain how you feel or what you are thinking.
- Tolerate withdrawal. The depressive partner should try to avoid insisting that the schizoid partner talk or explain his or her behavior. Insistence and demanding (e.g., multiple texts or voicemails) pushes the schizoid away. Try to say what you need to say without insisting on a verbal response.