The Dance of the Anxious and Avoidant in Conflict

This is the pursuer/withdrawer dynamic identified by Dr Sue Johnson in her brilliant book “Hold Me Tight”. It is the dance of the anxious (pursuer) and the avoidant (withdrawer). I know this dance well because it is one my husband and I work with. I have anxious tendencies, and he has avoidant tendencies, so when we are stressed, these are our ways of protecting ourselves. 

One way out of this dynamic is for the pursuer to get curious about how they seek connection initially. Did I reach out for connection when my partner was busy watching the TV, or when they were distracted? Did I directly ask for the connection I wanted, or did I ask a mundane question or even start a fight in the hope of experiencing the connection I am yearning for?  

Another way out of this cycle is for the withdrawer to get curious. When I hear criticism or anger, what do I make that mean? What do I do when I hear it? Is there anything else I could do? What might that look like if I were to take a step toward my partner?

Let me know in the comments if you have ever experienced this dynamic

Note: Some of these explorations are inappropriate if you are in an abusive relationship. Then please seek help.

Love, Jen