We all need to know that our partner:
- loves and respects us as a human being,
- lgenuinely likes us and wants to be with us, and
- ldesires us above all other people.
We all need to know that our partner will be there when we need him/her most.
We need our partner to know that we will be there when he/she needs us most.
You and your partner can be each other’s source of greatest resilience; each other’s safe haven and secure base. Let us help you get out of the negative patterns you may be in that are keeping you from creating this type of relationship.
Partners usually are either more predominately the pursuer or the withdrawer in their relationship. Every instinctive behavior and primary emotional response is in fact an attempt to find safety. We find our greatest safety as human beings by turning to the person we trust to care about us the most and who can be relied upon to be there when we need support, protection, comfort and reassurance. Even if all that person can offer us is that they, like us, are scared. We want to know that we are not alone and that our partner is in it with us, that we can be scared together. (Research shows that partner’s experience less physical pain when they are undergoing painful medical procedures if they are accompanied by loved ones.)
Usually, people get stuck in negative patterns of interaction that pull them further and further apart; they are trying to “fix” their relationship by using the very strategies that are destroying it.
They are trying to either:
“fight for” their connection with their partner, or
“protect” their connection with their partner.
The more the pursuing partner “fights for” connection, the more the withdrawing partner pulls away from the conflict in an attempt to “protect” the connection from becoming more damaged.
Pursuing Partners are actively reaching for their partner; by saying things like “lets talk”, “don’t walk away”. They may follow their partner and get very angry and upset about the loss of connection, they are “fighting for” reconnection and fighting against any perceived threat to that connection.
Withdrawing Partners are actively trying to protect their connection by shutting down the distress due to overwhelm or fear that the fight will get too big. They often walk away, stop talking or when pressed fight back. They are fleeing from anything they perceive as a threat to their connection with their partner.
The greater the threat to the connection, the more intense their attempts to protect their connection will be. Unfortunately, each partner’s attempts to protect are likely to be perceived by the other as a threat to their relationship. They begin, therefore, down a path of fighting against each other’s attempts to connect.
The pursuer’s reach is likely to feel like a slap to the withdrawer. The withdrawer’s flee is likely to feel like an abandonment to the pursuer.
When caught in the negative cycle it is so hard to see that their partner’s behavior and emotional response is their attempt to connect. The partner becomes the enemy, rather than a safe haven.
Pursuing Partners want to draw their partners closer. However things go sideways when pursuing partners pursue in ineffective ways, such as criticism, verbal attacks and or demands. These methods to connect are often misperceived by the withdrawing partner because the underlying cause (desire to connect) is not being expressed in a more vulnerable way. The withdrawer ends up feeling that they can never get anything right in their partners eyes and they shut down more.
Why do Withdrawers Partners shut down
- They feel inadequate in their partner’s eyes and move into a Freeze/Flee defense strategy.
- They are not sure what else to do and fear making mistakes (say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing).
- They are emotionally flooded and cannot effectively address the conflict in that moment.
Most people stuck in these negative patterns struggle to get out. They double their efforts in doing more of the same strategies that are creating their negative pattern. It gets them nowhere and it is incredibly painful and stressful for both partners. Why waste another moment of your life trying to “do it on your own”, especially if the strategy you employ (pursue/withdraw or combo of the two) isn’t getting you the long term loving connection you are seeking.
Let us help you get out of this negative cycle and create a new way of being with one another. Let us help you clear out all the ineffective clutter that has been between you and your partner and help you find each other.
I encourage you to find a therapist that understands these negative cycles and has undergone extensive extra training in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy. Dr. Potter and her trainees spend hours each week training in EFT and the doctoral candidate cases are closely followed and supervised by Dr. Potter, a certified EFT therapist and clinical psychologist.
Text is adapted from Dr. Lisa Gold, AZ Relationship Institute