Avoiding the ‘pursuer distancer' dance - The Local
Are You the Pursuer or the Distancer in Your Relationship? the sense that they may be withholding affection, avoiding intimacy, or controlling. In so many relationships, this pattern of the pursuer and distancer occurs. One person other person distances. Both are avoiding real intimacy. The pursuer distancer relationship dynamic is toxic for couples. Here are the seven ways to change that pattern and save your relationship.
Like many couples, Rebecca and Ethan had reached an emotional gridlock. Neither one of them can validate and accept each other's needs. According to Laurie Watson, "With or without children, all couples need autonomy and closeness. She writes, "One spouse becomes the "pursuer" favoring closeness, and the other becomes a "distancer," favoring more separateness.
For instance, some couples swap roles over a particular issue - such as a woman who wants to be closer emotionally to her husband may not be interested in sex. The irony of the pursuer-distancer pattern of sexual intimacy in a relationship is that when couples try to talk things out, it can actually make things worse. For instance, pursuers have a tendency to evaluate and criticize their partners - making them even more likely to distance themselves.
Likewise, distancers may feel the pressure of their partner's preoccupation with having sex - intensifying the power struggle that exists. For example, Ethan admits to making biting comments to Rebecca when she shuts down sexually - causing her to go further into her shell. Commonly, one partner gets tired of pursuing and the other grows weary or gets angry about what they perceive as constant nagging. I've seen this pattern over and over again in the couples I've interviewed for my research.
To complicate matters, it's natural for one person to see their style as preferred and to be convinced that their partner needs to change - neglecting to see their part in the tug-of-war over intimacy. He feels pressured and withdraws from her by spending even more time working late. Now Claire becomes even more anxious and starts texting and calling Jason.
He in turn feels invaded and withdraws further by going out with the boys on a regular basis. This couple is doing the dance of the Pursuer Distancer. Her actions cause him to react. Meanwhile, Jason resorts to a classic distancer strategy - stonewalling her attempts to communicate.
Avoiding the ‘pursuer distancer' dance
As Claire continues to express more disappointment in Jason, he further withdraws. If this pattern isn't reversed, they will both feel criticized and start to have contempt for each other — two of the major warning signs that their marriage is doomed to fail, according to Dr.
In marriage therapy Claire and Jason learned how to break the Pursuer Distancer dance. First of all, both the pursuer and the distancer needed to learn to be able to be alone as well as connect with the other. Claire finally realized that her underlying need for connection was pushing Jason away.
This type of negotiation is not intended to serve as an avoidance tactic but rather a sincere attempt to make the discussion a positive, productive encounter. To use a sports analogy, she could envision the discussion as a football game with four separate quarters separated by the quarter breaks and the half-time break.
Playing the game in four fifteen-minute quarters usually works better than trying to play the total sixty minutes without any type of break. In addition, each team is allowed several time-outs during each half.
Likewise, the wise Distancer will train himself to monitor his capacity and will learn to request a time-out and will negotiate for continuing the discussion at a specific time in the future.
Working on Clarification Goal: She could clarify that her intention is not to attack him but to discuss a particular issue for the benefit of their relationship. This situation is not something I need for you to fix or solve. I need to talk this stress out, so please just listen to me as I do. Please be patient with me.
Could we take a brief break and continue our discussion later? He must take responsibility for the resumption of the discussion in an appropriate time frame. Working on Comfort Goal: Determine to stretch your personal comfort zone as you modify various aspects of your communication style in order to increase mutual patience and to improve overall communication effectiveness.
For example, the Pursuer would prefer an immediate, thorough discussion; however, she practices patience regarding the timing and process of discussions that occur. She values emotional intensity and wants her husband to show a similar level of intensity in his self-disclosure with her.Pursuing Connection with a Distancer?
Admittedly, he is uncomfortable with her emotional intensity and would prefer that she be more like him—always calm and controlled. His past tendency was to interpret her emotionality as anger and he was always her target.
The tools are often more easily used by the spouses when they incorporate positive humor into their struggles to accommodate each other. Pursuer, and I know what you want. Negative humor expressed as sarcasm and put-downs is destructive and damaging and therefore needs to be avoided.
"Surviving in a Pursuer/Distancer Relationship"
In contrast, positive humor can ease tension and encourage creativity within the communication and problem-solving arenas. So, add a big dose of positive humor to your accommodation toolbox. The Communication Highway is not always a smooth road to travel.
Through several months of hard work they have grown in their understanding of their respective communication styles, and they have improved significantly in their ability to accommodate the differences in style.