When Christian and I first began our long-distance relationship (with me in California and him in Denmark), I found myself toggling between pulling on him for more connection, and appreciating what we had.
Without exception, every time I approached him from a needy, longing place for more connection, he pulled back in resistance. Every time I relaxed into appreciating what we had and trusting that everything between us would turn out in the end, he came forward.
• She wants to be with him. He wants space.
• He wants sex. She wants to talk.
• She wants commitment. He wants freedom.
• He wants to have fun. She wants to work on the relationship.
• She criticizes. He withdraws.
Unfortunately, this pull-repel dynamic is self-reinforcing.
When one person wants more and “energetically” pulls on their partner to come closer, the one being pulled on backs off and resists in reaction. This has the “Puller” only pull harder. The pattern repeats itself, sometimes for years.
What keeps this dynamic going is the assumption that our partner is doing something TO us on purpose, for some negative reason. We take their pull or withdrawal personally.
But it isn’t personal at all!! Both parties WANT LOVE!! That’s the bottom line! A desire for love is what is underneath all of this craziness! Both parties are screaming for love, crying out for love in their own way, but neither can hear this call for love because each is too busy screaming for love themselves!
Discovering this was a life-changer for me!
When Christian withdrew, instead of taking it personally and assuming it meant he didn’t love me or didn’t want to be with me, I saw his withdrawal instead as a call to be appreciated for who he was and for being enough for me. So instead of pulling for more, I stepped in with love and fully appreciated him. I was surprised to discover how quickly he softened and came forward.
Same vice-versa. When I complained about our lack of connection, instead of taking it personally and assuming it meant he wasn’t enough and wasn’t doing it right, he thanked me for loving him and wanting to be closer to him. In the face of his appreciation, my pull disappeared.
When you find yourself in your own version of this pull-repel dynamic, try stepping in. Listen to the desire for love underneath your partner’s words and actions and respond to their underlying positive intent.
Say things like, “Thanks for wanting to be closer to me. Thanks for wanting to marry me. Thanks for wanting to have sex with me. Thanks for loving me. Thanks for wanting to be appreciated. Thanks for wanting to be free to be yourself with me. Thanks for wanting to talk and make our relationship better.”
The second either party steps forward, the pulling and resisting stops. From there, genuine connection can occur. Love is felt. Freedom is available.
Remember, your pull-repel dynamic is but an ineffective cry for love. When you step in with love and gratitude, you replace the pull-repel dynamic in your relationship with a mutual giving of love and appreciation that will create an upward spiral of nourishment, love and support in your relationship.
PS. Here’s an old YouTube video we did on the push-pull dynamic (please bear with the video quality!