The Classic Dynamic of Pursue and Withdraw

One of the classic partnering-up that occurs in an opposite-attracts type way is a dynamic known as “Pursue and Withdraw.” In an attachment framework, one person is typically Pre-occupied and the other is Avoidant-dismissive. In layman’s terms, one partner tends to be more emotional with a need for connection, looks to their partner for reassurance and will fear being alone. The other partner tends to have less emotional capacity, will “shut down” when pressed for deeper connection and tends to struggle with closeness in relationships.

Initially, this couple will provide the yin to their yang; their peanut butter to their jam. But over time with increased stressors, and in times of conflict, the differences between how the two communicate will widen the gap. When one pursues, it creates an increased need for the other to withdraw, and withdrawing creates panic in the pursuer, who reacts by increasing the pursuit; creating a vicious cycle.

It becomes important to begin by recognizing the dynamic and then seeking help in lessening the gap. It is never the differences that lead to a break down of relationship, but rather an avoidance of self-reflection within ourselves and within the relationship. Learning how to correct some of these behaviours is the first step in understanding that when two people each have a healthy ability to regulate their emotions, they have confidence in their capacity to be an independent partner while still navigating as a team.

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