One version of couples struggling that I come across are couples with partners that are codependent. These are the couples that are stuck in patterns that they can’t seem to break, they have a lot of fighting and drama or complete disconnect (conflict avoiding), they feel they are behind their peers in terms of professional and relational achievements, and can’t seem to synchronize on handling the business of creating a joint life and getting their needs met.
In these couples the partners show up in two ways:
One is the pursuer (borderline tendencies…) – the one that needs connection and acknowledgement to feel OK.
The other is the distancer (narcissistic tendencies…) – the one that needs more space to be themselves to feel OK.
Note, that nothing in life is so clear cut – there is range on both sides on how this manifests. The couples that struggle the most are the most polarized.
These partners create a loop of pursuing and distancing that creates more stuck patterns and dissatisfaction. They constantly hurt each other, usually not intentionally. Their main focus is to make sure they are OK. Their ego is on overdrive to make sure they are not smothered or swallowed up (for the distancer) and not abandoned or rejected (for the pursuer).
The ego’s approach at making sure we are OK, is to do more of the same and more intensely – nobody ever said the ego is smart… Therefore, if you are a pursuer – to feel OK you pursue even more. If you are a distancer, to feel OK to distance even more… If your partner distances, you pursue. If your partner pursues, you distance. You see how we can get stuck?
One of the pursuer’s main fear is not to be seen, feeling like they don’t exist or count. For the distancer, one main fear is of not being good enough, or feeling small or not measuring up.
The way the partners go about addressing their related needs trigger the other’s fears which engage their ego further (the fear-based approach to relating and life). When the pursuer wants connection and acknowledgement and they don’t get it, they micromanage and criticize to get what they want – which makes the distancer feel not good enough and small like they don’t have a voice or can’t be themselves. When the distancer wants space and have a voice and they don’t get it, they shut down and withdraw and go do their own thing – which makes the pursuer feel abandoned, not wanted and not existent.
And, this creates a mess! Here are two quick tips to start breaking the codependency:
1 – Own yourself and not your partner! If I got a dollar for every time I say or write that… Mind your beliefs, thinking, feelings, communication, and attitude and behavior… and not your partner’s…
2 – Work your “stretch”. If you are a distancer, your stretch is to feel your feelings, own your voice responsively and respectfully, and not shut down or withdraw – safeguard the connection… If you are a pursuer, your stretch is to contain yourself, self soothe, self regulate and self manage, find ways to stay grounded and engaged, and to be patient and stand still…
When couples focus on changing how they are contributing to their stuckness and invest in stretching and changing their own approach to the relationship and their partner, beautiful things start to happen. I wish this for you. I you happiness , abundance and authenticity upon you!
~ Your MetroRelationship™ Assignment
If you are a distancer – find two areas you need to be more vocal on and mindfully share your perspective on them… (this gives you a voice and importance)
If you are a pursuer – find two self care activities to integrate into your routine… (this helps you self soothe and regulate)
Add this to your Tool Kit…
~ Share Your Thoughts & Successes in the comment box at the end!
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Thanks for connecting with the MetroRelationship™ Family!
Copyright (c) 2016 Emma K. Viglucci. All rights reserved.
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Emma K. Viglucci, LMFT is the Founder and Director of Metropolitan Marriage & Family Therapy, PLLC, a private practice that specializes in working with couples, she is the creator of the MetroRelationship:tm: philosophy and a variety of Successful Couple :tm: content that assist couples succeed at their relationship and their life. Stay Connected:tm: with Emma and receive weekly Connection Notes in your inbox with Personal Growth and Relationship Enrichment insights and strategies, visit: www.metrorelationship.com.