“Every couple needs to argue now and then. Just to prove that the relationship is strong enough to survive. Long-term relationships, the ones that matter, are all about weathering the peaks and the valleys.” ― Nicholas Sparks
How to Connect with Your Partner Even if You Feel Distant
Distancers deal with stress by withdrawing and tend to be men. Pursuers deal with stress by seeking more attention and tend to be women. Ironically, if our partners have a different orientation, both approaches tend to produce the exact opposite results than what we want.
Once you understand that distancing and pursuit aggravate each other, you can make changes that will strengthen your relationship. Select the strategies that match your style.
Strategies for Anyone
- Wait 3 months. We all tend to be on our best behavior when we start dating someone new. Consciously or unconsciously we may be downplaying the habits that undermined our previous relationships. It may take a few months to see how people usually respond to stressful events.
- Empathize with differences. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Imagine how they’re feeling. Respect the choices they make.
- Accept accountability. Our happiness depends more on our way of thinking than on any external events. Focus on your own behavior rather than trying to change your partner.
- Avoid taking things personally. It’s easy to feel abandoned or put down if the one you love avoids spending time with you or nags you. Realize that it’s their way of coping rather than a statement about you.
- Choose to feel connected. We can always decide to feel connected. View your partner with love and concern even in the midst of conflict.
Strategies for Pursuers
- Make the first move. Pursuers are likely to feel the most dissatisfaction with a relationship. Take the initiative to change your way of interacting.
- Curb your enthusiasm. Your partner may respond to your intensity by drawing away even more. Try talking less and turning down the volume.
- Practice small talk. Take a break from heavy issues. Warm up by discussing funny cat videos first.
- Spend time apart. Nurture your independence. Take up a hobby. Schedule a night out with friends.
- Offer more praise. Nagging rarely produces the results you want. Remind yourself of what you love in your partner. Thank them for making breakfast or picking up the dry cleaning.
Strategies for Distancers
- Recognize the risks. Relationships often break up when pursuers find the status quo intolerable. You may need to take action if you want to stay with your partner.
- Explain yourself. It may be okay to go on doing the same things as long as you give a little advance notice. Let your partner know you plan to work late or want to watch a ball game Saturday afternoon.
- Reach out more. Demonstrate your affection and suggest activities that you can enjoy together. Cook your favorite dinner side by side and watch a romantic movie. Hold hands and kiss each other goodbye.
- Share household responsibilities. Take an honest look at how much you’re doing around the house. Clean your rain gutters before your spouse asks you about them. Surprise them by doing a load of laundry when it’s not your turn.
- Communicate your needs. Speak to your partner directly and tactfully about what you need. They’ll be likely to regard anything you have to say as being better than getting the silent treatment.
We often have tendencies for both distancing and pursuing, and they emerge in different aspects of our lives. The important thing is to control your behavior and work towards healthier ways of dealing with stress. Your efforts will be rewarded with more loving relationships and greater peace of mind.