How to Connect with Your Partner Even if You Feel Distant
The dynamics between distancers and pursuers can complicate any relationship. Both patterns are natural ways of dealing with stress, so it’s really a question of compatibility.
Distancers deal with stress by withdrawing while pursuers deal with stress by seeking more attention. Ironically, if our partners have a different connection orientation from us, both approaches tend to produce the exact opposite results than what we really want.
Once you understand that distancing and pursuit aggravate each other, you can make changes that will strengthen your relationship.
Strategies for Everyone
1. Notice over time. We all tend to be on our best behavior when we start dating someone new. Consciously or unconsciously we may be downplaying the habits that undermined our previous relationships. It may take a few months to see how people usually respond to stressful events...observe behavior patterns; they often reveal truths words conceal.
2. Empathize with differences. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Imagine how they’re feeling. Respect the choices they make.
3. Accept accountability. Our happiness depends more on our way of thinking than on any external events or influences. Your partner isn't trying to make you feel frustrated; focus on your own behavior and mindset rather than trying to change your partner.
4. Avoid taking things personally. It’s easy to feel abandoned or put down if the one you love avoids spending time with you or nags you. Realize that it’s their way of coping rather than a statement about you.
5. Choose to feel connected. We can always decide to feel connected. View your partner with love and concern even in the midst of conflict.
Strategies for Pursuers
1. Make the first move. Pursuers are likely to feel the most dissatisfaction with a relationship. Take the initiative to change your way of interacting.
2. Curb your enthusiasm. Your partner may respond to your intensity by drawing away even more. Try talking less and turning down the volume.
3. Practice small talk. Take a break from heavy issues. Warm up by discussing funny cat videos first.
4. Spend time apart. Nurture your independence. Take up a hobby. Schedule a night out with friends.
5. Offer more praise. Nagging rarely produces the results you want. Remind yourself of what you love in your partner. Thank them for making breakfast or picking up the dry cleaning.
Strategies for Distancers
1. Recognize the risks. Relationships often break up when pursuers find the "neediness" intolerable. You may need to take action if you want to stay with your partner.
2. Explain yourself. It may be okay to go on doing the same things as long as you communicate clearly and lovingly and give your partner a little advance notice. Let your partner know you plan to work late or want to watch a ball game Saturday afternoon.
3. Reach out more. Demonstrate your affection and suggest activities that you can enjoy together. Cook your favorite dinner side by side and watch a romantic movie. Hold hands and kiss each other goodbye.
4. Share household responsibilities. Take an honest look at how much you’re doing around the house. Clean your rain gutters before your spouse asks you about them. Surprise them by doing a load of laundry when it’s not your turn.
5. Communicate your needs. Speak to your partner directly and tactfully about what you need. They’ll be likely to regard anything you have to say as being better than getting the silent treatment.
People can, at different times, engage in both distancing and pursuing and these patterns emerge in different aspects of our lives. The important thing is to understand and manage your behavior and work towards healthier ways of dealing with stress. Your efforts will be rewarded with more loving relationships and greater peace of mind.
If you or you and your partner would like some support in staying connected, we can help!