Daniel and Rebecca were getting tripped up by feeling they couldn’t agree on spending time together. Daniel wanted more alone time, to feel more free. Rebecca wanted more time with him, this made her feel more free. 

The more time Rebecca wanted to spend with Daniel, the more he felt suffocated by her.  It wasn’t that he didn’t love her, he just needs more space. Rebecca on the other hand would choose to spend every waking minute with Daniel, if he would let her.  Instead he’s often busy with work and lots of extracurricular activities. Daniel and Rebecca had different ideas about the meaning of the word free.

The more Daniel pulls away from Rebecca, the more she feels he isn’t interested in being with her and the more insecure she feels in the relationship. The more Rebecca reaches for him by pushing to spend time with him, the more suffocated Daniel feels, and the more this makes him want to run away.

Sound familiar?

This is a classic dance that many couples experience.  In Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy language one is the pursuer and the other the withdrawer. One is not more correct than the other. This is a typical dance Dr. Sue Johnson creator of Emotionally Focused Couples therapy https://www.mickilavinpell.co.il/hold-me-tight/ , discovered many couples find occupying their relationship.

It can cause tremendous anxiety and distress for us if we don’t understand what is fueling our dynamic. Many of us get into the tendency of telling the other they are causing problems in the relationship, rather than realizing that each position is valid. Each of our chosen moves is motivated by something subconscious.

Daniel felt frightened by having so much attention from Rebecca because he was used to supporting himself from early on in life.  As a child, he had to lick his own wounds. He wasn’t used to having his parents support him emotionally. The idea of sharing how he feels with Rebecca couldn’t be more foreign and frightening to him.

Rebecca saw her parents share everything with one another.  She was often invited and involved in family decision making. Perhaps too involved.  For her sharing is caring. When Daniel shies away from sharing, Rebecca’s radar reads, “he doesn’t love me”.

The more we understand what’s happening for each of us emotionally, the more we can let go of our stance. This makes us more free to recognize and understand what is happening for our partner. The more we understand what is happening for our partner, the more we can let go of our current position and take steps towards respecting their experience more.

For those of us who crave independence:

  • We can’t imagine how being committed to one person can feel free and positive:
  • We want to be able to do what we want, when we want, without having to share it with someone else.
  • When we feel that our partner wants to hear about our day it feels like a burden rather than a pleasure

For those of us who crave more closeness:

  • We can’t wait to share our day with the one we love
  • Sharing feels like less of a burden
  • Doing things on our own doesn’t feel as fun as doing them with the one we love

The more we understand what is fueling our emotions that are making us push towards or pull away from our partners, the better able we will be to calm ourselves down and not get so riled up. This of course is easier said than done. It certainly isn’t an easy task without the assistance of a professional who deals with this on a regular basis.

Our need for closeness and distance is a composite of how we were raised by our parents and our attachment towards them. We hope that our partner can instantly and instinctively know what we need when it comes to how to respond to us, but sadly this is something we often aren’t aware of.

The more aware Daniel and Rebecca became of their emotions that were fueling their dynamic, the better able they were to calm down and not feel afraid they were losing themselves in this relationship. The more they felt they understood themselves, the better they were able to express what they needed from one another.

They couldn’t always get things exactly the way they wanted it, but at least they felt their partner wanted the best for them, which was even more important.

When we feel we’re in a relationship where our partner has our back, this feeling of safety and security gives us the greatest feeling of FREEDOM!


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