Communication, Intimacy, Relationships, Therapy, Uncategorized

Distancer-Pursuer Relationships

Have you experienced the sense of your partner seeming to pull away from you, just when you need reassurance most? Or what about feeling smothered, as if your partner’s needs are more than you can handle sometimes?

You’re not alone. “Distancer-Pursuer” relationships are one of the most common issues couples bring into the therapy office. The good news is, it can get much better with a change in perspective. Read on for more info.

In most new relationships, everything feels exciting and blissful. As time passes, the reality of your individuality begins to seep into your “honeymoon phase.” This is not a bad thing! When the honeymoon phase of a brand new relationship begins to fade, getting to know one another as individuals is how relationships grow. This shift, however, can create feelings of vulnerability. Again, not a bad thing! Being vulnerable with your partner is how you develop trust and connection. But for some, vulnerability can be uncomfortable and even a bit scary.

If you are what might be called a “pursuer,” you may find yourself needing additional reassurance – more time together, more displays of your partner’s love and commitment, more conversations about where the relationship is headed. “Distancers,” on the other hand, may need some time to themselves to get back in touch with their individuality, friends, or work. This may feed into the fears of the pursuer, who then pushes for more contact, more reassurance. The distancer reacts by pulling back, emotionally, physically, or both. This cycle can replay over and over, with neither partner getting their needs met. Relationships can even end over this perceived mismatch in styles.

Just because a person acts in ways that may feel distancing doesn’t mean they can’t achieve a close, intimate relationship, any more than a person who falls into the pursuer pattern wants to smother or act in a needy manner. They each just react differently to what they are feeling. Differences can be worked through, and all couples have them. 🙂

If you are a pursuer, here are some ideas to try if your partner is asking for some space. First, take a step back and put the focus on yourself. You may have been putting a lot of energy into your relationship, and things like friends, family, exercise, work, school, and other individual activities may have been pushed to the side. Now is the time to take the energy you have been putting into pursuing your partner into loving yourself and rediscovering your own individuality. A pursuer can’t run if you are not chasing them. So – stop pursuing. It doesn’t work, it can push your partner away, and it takes a terrible toll on your self esteem. When you feel the pull to text, call, email, show up on your partner’s doorstep uninvited – stop, take a look at what you are doing, and choose a different activity – one that nurtures you and makes you feel good.

If you are a distancer, your partner is probably feeling a lack of connection. Your absence feeds their anxiety. They may not understand why you have pulled back – you may not fully understand it yourself. If you can, take a moment to express your feelings to your partner. If you need some “me time,” ask for it. If you still care for them, let them know what you are working through and discuss ways you can create a win/win situation as you learn to respect each other’s differences.

Sometimes a bit of time and space as each partner works on themselves is all that is needed. If you feel it would help, seeing a therapist is also a way to maintain your connection while sorting through relationship issues. Don’t lose hope – this is an area that many couples struggle with as they go through the growing pains of any relationship


Watch a video on Distancer-Pursuer relationships here:


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