Have you ever felt your partner pulling away from you and the more you pushed, the more he or she retreated?
Or maybe you’ve been on the other end of this drama where your partner’s pushy energy pulled you further away from him or her.
If so, you’re certainly not alone!
We see this push-pull drama in so many relationships, in our past relationships–and it pops up every now and then even now in our relationship.
Here’s a letter from Claire about this topic where she asks a question that is an extremely common relationship challenge …
“Dear Susie and Otto,
My husband and I have a good relationship but sometimes he crawls so far into his hole that I can’t reach him and it drives me crazy. I end up asking him “what’s wrong” numerous times and pushing him for some kind of response but all that does is make him withdraw from me even more!
What can I do to give him the space he needs but still feel a connection with him?”
Here’s our answer…
Your question has to be as old as Adam and Eve and just as frustrating whether you’re the “pusher” or the “puller.”
It’s pretty natural to start pushing when you sense that love is being taken from you.
This is a very primal urge from your old lizard brain that sees everything as a threat to your immediate survival.
It’s a pretty short-sighted view of your relationship and situation but that’s what many of us do repeatedly even when we know better.
It’s also pretty natural to react from that same lizard brain when you sense that you’re being pushed by either pushing back or withdrawing and pulling away.
So the question is…
How do you tell your lizard brain to relax and instead react (or not react at all) from the place inside you that’s not caught up in the story and emotion?
Here are 3 ways we use when we fall into this push/pull trap to get our relationship back on course–that you can use too…
1. Recognize when you’ve fallen into the push/pull trap
Nothing can change until you start noticing when you’re in the pattern.
One woman we know has lived in push/pull hell for many years with her adult daughter. In “trying” to be helpful and loving, the woman suggests and makes recommendations to her daughter without being asked. Her daughter pulls away.
When we asked her to tell us about a recent time this happened, one question that she used really pushed her daughter away–“Do you really want to do that?”
In other words, when this woman asked that question, her daughter heard “You aren’t doing it right–You can’t think for yourself” and she did what her lizard brain told her to do and that was to pull away from her mother.
Making herself aware of the exact words and tone she used in those situations helped this woman to see what happens more clearly.
2. Recognize the thinking that creates this push-pull relationship drama
We all make up stories that may or may not actually be true. Those thoughts just come and go.
If you want to keep your connection, you job is to recognize when your mind chatter is spinning you off in ways that can kill connection and not buy into it.
This woman is learning to take a deep breath when she starts down that push/pull road and not pay any attention to the thought that she has to still guide her daughter’s life in order for her to be successful.
Claire’s thoughts (the woman who wrote in) might go something like this…
“Something’s wrong with us and I have to fix it right now.”
Whatever your mind chatter is, recognize it, breathe and stop yourself from doing what you normally do.
You don’t have to pay attention to it or act on it.
3. Speak from your heart without pushing forward
If your partner has withdrawn from you and “wants some space” whether spoken or unspoken, as we said, it can be very frightening and cause you a lot of doubt and anxiety, even in a “committed” relationship.
We’ve found that a couple of simple questions to find out more can help the situation.
With as much heart-felt calm as possible, you can ask this–
“What would mean ‘some space’ to you?”
And then listen without getting defensive.
We know that it can be difficult to bypass old habits but if you want to create more trust between the two of you, you have to listen–and it doesn’t mean agreeing.
If your partner just goes silent and pulls away for a considerable length of time, you can ask something like this (after you’ve calmed yourself)…
“I’ve been feeling distant from you and I would like to know if it’s something that I’ve said or done or if something else is on your mind. I would love it if I can feel more connected to you again. Do you want that too?”
The secret of ending the push-pull relationship drama (or shortening the time spent in it) is to be able to see what happens and rewrite how you speak and act when you’re in it.
This is just one way people separate from one another and it doesn’t have to ruin relationships.
Start today to challenge yourself into acting and speaking from a more conscious and loving place within you.