While some couples prefer autonomy and independence in a relationship, others enjoy a strong emotional connection. One partner may want to talk things through and need to always feel connected, reassured while the other will be more distant and removed. When the partner remains removed and distant, we then continue to pursue even more. As we pursue, the distancer retreats and seeks out alone time, which intensifies the pursuer’s need for closeness.
We refer to this as the Pursuer-Distancer Relationship.
Couples struggle with balancing two primary needs; togetherness and separateness. In order to feel secure and safe in a relationship, pursuers need attention, closeness and connection. They have a need to talk things through and have feelings of rejection if their partner needs space. On the other hand, the distancer needs space and time to process emotions. They do not have the same need to talk things over as a way of connecting and will often report feeling suffocated. They may focus more on outside activities such as work as a way of avoiding feelings. The distancer must learn ways to share his/her feelings and allow for vulnerability. However, they have a better chance of doing this, once the pursuer stops pursuing. No matter which side you are on, either pushing or pulling, each individual tends to blame one another and this dance creates strain on the relationship.
It is healthy in relationships to have separateness and togetherness and to be able to communicate with one another when space and intimacy are needed. Scheduling time for togetherness is necessary, and so is scheduling time for being alone. Spending time apart and learning something new can enhance your relationship. It’s important to sustain your own identity outside of the relationship, and maintain your own hobbies and interests. Expecting that your partner can meet all your needs is unrealistic. No one person is able to do that. Maintaining other outside friendships to provide some of our needs and interests helps to sustain our own sense of self.
During this time of COVID-19 and isolation, many couples are experiencing a lot of togetherness. Tension and stress could be building up especially since we have turned our homes into the workplace and classroom. Some may have their own separate place to retreat but those of us who do not, find this time extremely difficult and challenging. It is important to set specific boundaries with your spouse and children in order to allow for some alone time. It could be time spent alone in your yard, on a walk or just listening to music. We need to respect one another and offer these simple gestures to our partners and our family and take turns in providing the space we need.
What I found very helpful was placing a “Do Not Disturb” sign on my door. Whenever that sign is up, I am either teleconferencing with a client or simply need some time alone. Respecting one another’s time and space is essential especially during the lockdown.
Hellenic Therapy Center is located at 567 Park Ave., Scotch Plains, NJ. We are currently seeing clients via Zoom, FaceTime or Phone. Please feel free to call me at 908-322-0112 or visit my blog at www.hellenictherapy.com or our Facebook page.