Psychologists describe people and their behavior. They try to help people understand themselves and become the best that they can be. Part of this process is to describe behavior that is healthy and growthful and that which is painful and destructive. Romantic relationships are complex because you are working with two individuals who have their own personality and style and need to come together in a united synergistic partnership.
One of the better psychologist writers over time has been Dr. Harriet Goldhor Lerner. Her book THE DANCE OF ANGER is a classic work. A part of this book describes two basics types of people in a relationship – PURSUERS and DISTANCERS. The following are descriptors of each. I would like to encourage you to read them and determine which one best describes you – and your partner, if you have one.
1. React to anxiety by seeking greater togetherness in a relationship.
2. Place a high value on talking things out and expressing feelings, and believe the other should do the same.
3. Feel rejected and take it personally when the partner wants more time and space alone or away from the relationship.
4. Tend to pursue harder and then coldly withdraw when the partner seeks distance.
5. May be labeled as “too dependent” or “too demanding” in a relationship.
6. Tend to criticize their partner as someone who can’t handle feelings or tolerate closeness.
1. Seek emotional distance or physical space when stress is high.
2. Consider themselves to be self-reliant and private persons – more “do-it-yourselfers” than help-seekers.
3. Have difficulty showing their needy, vulnerable, and dependent sides.
4. Receive labels as “emotionally unavailable”, “withholding”, “unable to deal with feelings”, from one’s partner.
5. Manage anxiety in personal relationships by intensifying work-related projects.
6. May cut off a relationship entirely when things get intense, rather than hanging in and working it out.
7. Open up most freely when they are not pushed or pursued.
Okay, which one fits you best? You may not fit either one completely, but you probably lean strongly toward one or the other. How about your partner, past partners? Are you with the same type as yourself? Attract the opposite.
For those of you who have read Harville Hendrix’s works, his “Fusers” would be the Pursuers and his “Isolators” would be the Distancers. He describes the family situations that tend to develop one or the other. You might want to re-examine your childhood experience in the Family to help understand why you are oriented to be one or the other.
Knowing your tendency and that of your partner can go a long way to help you both understand each other’s emotional wiring and how it affects your relationship. Communication about this topic will explain a lot of each other’s behavior. I hope you explore these aspects of your personality. Only good things will come from such effort!