Mandy Kloppers

How to fix a push-pull relationship

Love is complicated enough without the added pressure of trying to always second guess what your partner will do at any given moment. Many of us have experienced a push-pull relationship. This is where the balance of power in the relationship isn’t equal. One person seems to chase when the other is pulling away and vice versa. All relationships go through a natural process of meandering along ‘power lines’, but mostly to a degree that isn’t detrimental to the longevity of the partnership.

A push-pull dynamic can create havoc in a relationship and cause ongoing stress for both people involved. That fairy tale of the perfect connection can often turn into endless turmoil, explosive drama…and a lot of pushing and pulling.

The pattern of a push-pull relationship

The push-pull starts off very slowly in the beginning. But as the relationship continues, the push and the pull can become a daily fixture in this already intense relationship or at least a regular occurrence for the once happy couple. One is always running while the other is always chasing. They go back and forth while narrowly coming face-to-face with one another. But it’s when they turn to see each other in between chases when the passion ignites and the world seems to stand still. The love they feel in these fleeting moments is what keeps the relationship alive. Both the pusher and the puller believe that the love they feel in the interim is why they are “meant to be.”

Push-pull dynamics

The puller is very much aware of her deep fears of abandonment — meaning she is conscious of it. Her subconscious fear is intimacy, even though she craves this particular thing the most. For the puller, intimacy is what leads to abandonment. When the connection is sparked, the puller goes into protection mode and puts up a wall to keep safe.

The pusher’s conscious fear is intimacy, as this is where he, too, faces possible rejection. In opposition of the puller, the pusher is conscious of this fear because he thinks that intimacy will lead to enmeshment, a feeling of confinement and restriction for him. It is his subconscious fear of abandonment that lead to his fear of enmeshment… and eventual sabotage of the relationship. Neither the pusher nor the puller really wants out of this otherwise tumultuous relationship. They are both gaining a great deal from this interaction by re-living old childhood traumas.

The effects of a push-pull relationship

The relationship is rarely stable

Both people can feel insecure in the relationship

Emotional games tend to be played and this takes it’s toll emotionally

Harmony is short lived

Intimacy is avoided for the most part

The relationship can have an unhealthy focus to the exclusion of other areas in life (family, friends, work, health etc)

A push-pull relationship doesn’t always start out that way. It can be relatively smooth initially until emotional intimacy crops up. This is when the ‘pusher’ tends to pull away. The person who was receiving attention and affection wonders what had happened and they tend to start pushing – the roles become reversed. In effect, both parties are often engaged in opposing behaviour – never quite meeting in the middle.

How to fix a push-pull relationship

Try the “Opposite action theory”. Do the opposite of your normal behaviour. If you would normally chase and seek reassurance, refrain from doing this. Keep in contact but maintain a confident position within the relationship. This can be difficult to do though as it creates tension and anxiety within a relationship and no one likes to feel uneasy.

This is the wisest choice though despite being hard to do. If the relationship can’t survive without the push-pull dynamic, the likelihood of it lasting at all are slim.

Be responsible in the relationship and own up to your feelings. Identify the push-pull dynamic and communicate openly with your partner about this. If they can’t see this dynamic or refuse to acknowledge it’s existence, that will tell you a lot about their attitude towards you and the relationship. Often this ‘dance’ can be a manifestation of early childhood patterns. At times, we aren’t even fully aware of the push-pull factor but we will be aware that the relationship drains us.

Communicate, increase your self-awareness and show empathy for each other. Blaming and shaming is unhelpful and will make things worse. Work on yourself and practice being vulnerable. it’s a scary place to be but it helps build a bond and the closeness will help you through the trickier times in your relationship.

Try couple counselling

If all else fails and you are unable to undo the push-pull dynamic, a relationship counsellor will be able to intervene and help you both get back on track towards a healthier, more mutually satisfying relationship.

Mandy X

Photo by joseph marrufo on Unsplash