Often couples get stuck in a pursue-withdraw pattern. Each partner is doing his or her best to manage the difficult feelings that arise when they feel disconnected from their loved one. As human beings, we have a fundamental, hard-wired need to connect with another. When our connection feels threatened, we really only have a limited number of choices. Most people have one of these default positions:
- We pursue or criticize. We get louder and more clingy to make our partner hear us because we’re afraid that if we stop reaching or criticizing, we’ll be all alone. Often we’ll do anything we can to get some response, because even anger is better than feeling ignored.
- We withdraw or go numb. The anxiety about being misunderstood gets so overwhelming that we act as if we don’t have any needs for emotional closeness. We might withdraw into alcohol, computers, shopping, or work. But underneath, we often feel alone and worried about losing our partner.
Although these reactions happen automatically, therapy can help you recognize the underlying emotions so you can more clearly convey your needs to your partner so each of you can feel safe and secure.