Imagine this: Preeti and Ajay, a couple in their early thirties from Mumbai, are having yet another disagreement. Preeti is the Pursuer; when conflicts arise, she wants to talk, resolve, and connect emotionally. Ajay, on the other hand, is the Withdrawer; he retreats into his shell, seeking space and time to process his thoughts and emotions.
Preeti can't understand why Ajay is always "avoiding" her, while Ajay feels overwhelmed by Preeti's constant pursuit. Sounds familiar? It's a classic case of "I need space" versus "We need to talk." or what's also known as Withdrawer vs. Pursuer dynamic, and guess what it's common in relationships.
The Pursuer feels a deep emotional need for connection and resolution during conflicts. They believe that discussing issues openly is the key to a healthier relationship. In Preeti's case, she often wonders why Ajay doesn't want to talk things out and resolve their problems promptly.
The Withdrawer values space and solitude during conflicts. They may feel overwhelmed or flooded by their partner's emotional intensity and require time to cool off and think clearly. Ajay finds Preeti's insistence on addressing issues immediately emotionally taxing.
These behaviors, the Withdrawer's retreat and the Pursuer's insistence on resolution, often stem from our individual upbringing and past experiences e.g. Our past experiences, childhood attachments, and the ways we learned to cope with conflict play a significant role.
Interestingly, these dynamics can also surface in conflicts beyond romantic relationships. They may manifest in friendships, even workplace disputes, highlighting the nature of these patterns in our lives.
Understanding and navigating this dynamic is vital for a healthy relationship. Here's how you can start to find your rhythm
Step 1: Self-awareness & Communication
Take a moment to reflect on your own tendencies during conflicts. Are you more likely to withdraw or pursue? Understanding your own behavior can help you communicate more effectively with your partner. Share your observations and encourage them to do the same. Remember, the goal here is not to assign blame but to gain insight.
Step 2: Find Common Ground
Recognize that both withdrawal and pursuit come from a place of vulnerability and fear. Withdrawers may fear being overwhelmed or judged, while pursuers fear disconnection or abandonment. By acknowledging these fears and finding common ground, you can begin to bridge the gap.
Step 3: Set Boundaries
Establishing boundaries is crucial. Withdrawers may need space to process their emotions, but it's essential to communicate when and how you'll come back to the conversation. Pursuers should understand that their partner needs this time and respect it.
Step 4: Develop Coping Strategies
Both partners can work together to develop coping strategies for dealing with conflict. For withdrawers, this might involve sharing their thoughts and feelings in writing or scheduling regular check-ins. Pursuers can practice patience and self-soothing techniques when their partner needs space.
Step 5: Seek Professional Help
If you find yourself stuck in a cycle of withdrawal and pursuit that's damaging your relationship, consider seeking professional help. Couples therapy can provide a safe space to explore these dynamics with the guidance of a trained therapist.
One technique that can be particularly helpful in managing the Withdrawer vs. Pursuer dynamic is the "Time-Out" strategy. When conflict arises, agree to take a break from the discussion. The Withdrawer can have their space and time to calm down and collect their thoughts, while the Pursuer can have the assurance that the conversation will continue later.
Preeti and Ajay decided to try this technique. When an argument flares up, they say, "Let's take a break, and we'll come back to this in an hour." This allows Ajay to regain her composure and Preeti to know that the issue will be addressed.