8 Ways to Get Out Of the Distancer-Pursuer Communication Pattern. by our interactions with others and the relationships we create. Fogarty, Thomas F. The Distancer and the Pursuer. Compendium II Do you thrive on having discussions of marriage or your relationship? Do you get taken for. Dr. Les Greenberg, who developed Emotion Focused Therapy, describes this as one person being the “pursuer” and the other the “distancer” in the relationship.
But as the chat progresses, you notice that your conversation partner has inched towards you until they are standing uncomfortably close. What do you do? Most people, without even thinking about it, would back away.
Are You in a Distancer-Pursuer Relationship? 8 Ways to Get Out
You can probably imagine the absurdity of this, as it could easily result in the other person appearing to chase you around the room in an awkward, unspoken dance. The result of this is that the first person the pursuer feels abandoned and the second the distancer feels smothered.
And what most of those people mean, and are explaining in the best way they know how, is that they are stuck in a pursuer-distancer dynamic. Emotional Bids In The Relationship CureJohn Gottman outlines a finding from his research about how people in relationships seek connection. Gottman says that we all make emotional bids — or asks — every single day.
Regardless of the content of the bid, there are three ways for your partner to respond: This is a complete lack of responsiveness or acknowledgement. I think this is surprising! Knowing what we now know about bids, think about the experience of the pursuer. In this new language, we can now say that a pursuer is making emotional bid after emotional bid, and the distancer is repeatedly turning away.
Are You in a Distancer-Pursuer Relationship? 8 Ways to Get Out - IRIS
And as we just discussed, because turning away is the most painful response, this couple is at high risk for separation. Empathy for the pursuer-distancer dynamic Another master of relationships is a researcher and therapist named Sue Johnson. In her book Hold Me Tightshe writes about the steps to healing relationships such as these through the practice of Emotionally Focused Therapy.
She provides a profile of what both pursuers and distancers are feeling as follows: Pursuers — The driving force behind a pursuer is fear or anxiety. The person feels a great amount of discomfort with the discord and is panicked at the idea that their partner is pulling away from them and may never return.
Instead, the distancer runs away, opting to extricate themself from the situation. Both of these communication styles can be learned in a variety of ways. Each can be a reaction to the family the individual grew up in, experiences in previous relationships, or can develop over time as a pattern in a present relationship.
While our goal may be to get closer to our partner, these behaviors often serve to push our partner away.
The Pursuer-Distancer Dynamic - Through the Woods Therapy Center
If we grew up with a parent who was distant, unavailable, or not attuned to us, we may have become cut off from our own needs, as it was too frustrating and painful.
In this case we may have formed an avoidant attachment pattern as a kid, which can evolve into a dismissive attachment in our adult relationships. In a relationship, we may have the tendency to emotionally distance ourselves from our partner. We may seek out isolation or be pseudo-independent. We may be overly focused on ourselves and meeting our own needs.
Our partner may see us as emotionally unavailable. We may avoid certain levels of intimacy or seem aloof in ways that frustrate or alienate our partner. In the process of growing up, we develop fears and defenses that keep us at a simultaneously frustrating, yet safe-feeling, distance from our partner. That is often why even when things shift, and the distancer starts to seek closeness, the pursuer will often recoil, and the roles will seem to shift.
For example, for years a man I worked with in therapy struggled with staying close to his girlfriend. After a while, his girlfriend stopped nagging him and started doing more on her own. She made some new friends and even took short trips without him.
- The Pursuer-Distancer Dynamic
She reacted to this by feeling controlled and intruded on and pulling away herself. While the dynamic completely flipped, there was still the same troubling yet familiar and safe gap between the two of them.
I can barely get her attention. The truth is that both sides engage in behaviors that create distance. Because we both do things that perpetuate this cycle, we should each ask ourselves how we can change our half of the dynamic.
We can talk openly about the cycle with our partner without blaming each other. We can start to notice how the cycle operates. What do I do the minute before my partner does that thing I dislike? Do I nag my partner rather than ask directly for what I want? Does my tone sound warm and inviting or whiny and critical? Do I purposely avoid eye contact or resist affection?
Do I create restrictions based on my own insecurity? Do I reject time alone with my spouse? If we can be curious and non-defensive, we can really come to know our own cycle and patterns, both in coming toward and moving away from our partner.
These thoughts can be sneaky, but they encourage us to act in ways that keep the cycle going.