Keys to Help the Emotionally Distancing, Pulling-Away Spouse or Significant Other… You really are NOT a Schmuck
If you are the reluctant spouse that is pulling away, wants emotional distance and is unsure, I want you to feel better: no guilt, less paralysis and less frustration. I want you to understand your dilemma so you might move ahead, wherever that takes you, in ways that honor you, your spouse and your family.
You probably have been feeling the heat: to give more, to talk more, to connect more and in general to “work on” the marriage.
But…something powerful holds you back.
You may feel angry, cold and frustrated.
Or, find yourself walking on eggshells, fearful that the smallest word will bring an eruption and a fight that will go on …and on … and on – until you capitulate, walk away or explode.
You feel tired and worn out and have given up on trying to give him/her what s/he wants.
You don’t want to touch, let alone have sex. You just can’t do it. Or, you do it with little enthusiasm.
You don’t understand. You hate it!
I’ve walked with many couples in my private practice since 1981 and I want to share some insights that might help you recover your sense of well-being, break the impasse and help resolve all that now is ugly within you and between the two of you.
1. There is ALWAYS a reluctant spouse.
Yes, one spouse always seemingly wants more (intimacy, talking, connection, time together, etc) than the other. There is ALWAYS an imbalance. Usually, but not always, it is the male who backs away or displays hesitancy.
Lisa saw me for a number of sessions, complaining about her marriage to Ted – his distance and emotional “detachment.”
Finally, Lisa was able to persuade Ted, a prominent business person in the community, to join us in a joint session. Lisa walked in the door, followed by Ted. I had this powerful impression of Ted with a ring in his nose joined to a chain that Lisa was gently but firmly yanking. Ted was not a happy camper to say the least.
And this is not unusual.
This pursuing-distancing dance is a common theme in most marriages. (It occurs most powerfully in the Yellow Marriage, one of three types of marriages I’ve identified).
One is gripped in the Yellow Marriage by the pursuing-distancing phenomenon. One spouse pursues, attempting to obtain from the distancing spouse what the pursuer believes s/he needs or wants. Of course, the more s/he pursues, the more the distancer moves away; often out of a myriad of fears and thoughts of inadequacies.
The pursuing-distancing “dance” is played over and over again, with the same results. Neither flourishes nor experiences joy in the marriage or relationship.
Fear of moving close and of truly addressing the underlying issues comes to characterize the marriage. Fear maintains the distance and the dance.
Frequently, the pursuer tires of that role and becomes the distancer. The pursuer eventually says, in essence, “I’ve had enough. I quit trying to make this work.”
The equilibrium of the marriage is upset and the distancer is upset with the change of the status, frets about losing what was and frequently becomes the pursuer.
This situation often results in a confusing, emotionally intense crazy-making-time for a couple.
Remember, the distancing-pursuing dance is NORMAL. Every marriage I’ve encountered has it. The major issues are: how intense is the dance, how often does it occur and have we found ways to change the dance?