Pursuing is a common response to experiencing emotional neglect or abuse in childhood. As a result of this neglect or abuse, you often felt like you had to beg to be loved, seen, or accepted by your caregivers. In adulthood, you now feel an intense distress when someone is upset or when the relationship is going through a rough patch (as this can stir up the same feelings of neglect or rejection you experienced as a child). The result is that you want to talk things out immediately during conflict in order to find a resolution and smooth things over. In comparison to withdrawers, pursuers are also more likely to seek out reassurance, validation, and closeness from their partner in order to feel secure in their relationship again. When pursuers are in a relationship with a withdrawer, they can become angry or frustrated when they feel like they are the ones doing all the work. They often feel like they have to beg their partners just to get them to open up. This pain is only amplified when a pursuer sees that their withdrawing partner is not attempting to resolve the conflict or talk things out.Pursuers often do not realize that their pursuing tendencies are causing their partner to shut down even further, which is reinforcing the overall negative relationship cycle. If pursuers want to have healthy connection and safe conflict in their relationships, they need to focus on de-escalating their pursuing behaviours and speaking to their partners in more effective ways in order to create enough emotional space for their partner to come forward. To do this, pursuers must become skilled at regulating their nervous system to create a sense of internal safety and learn healthier communication skills.
Withdrawing is a common response to experiencing emotional abuse or emotional neglect in childhood. As a result of being shamed, criticized, or left to deal with overwhelming things on your own, you likely learned to suppress your emotions and not ask for help. Fast forward to adulthood, and you now avoid expressing vulnerability in order to protect yourself from further criticism or shame, and you likely struggle with a wound of never feeling good enough for other people (no matter how hard you try).Withdrawers tend to need time and space to process their emotions before they can engage in a discussion or find a solution. This is due to the overwhelming fear and shame they may feel during conflict, as well as the lack of emotional awareness they have about their own feelings since no one cared to tend to their emotional pain. But these withdrawing behaviours can be very frustrating to their pursuing partners, and can lead to significant conflict or a potential breakup as their partners' often feel like they are the ones doing all the work. If you want to have healthy conflict and communication as a withdrawer, then you must learn to change your core beliefs and regulate your nervous system during conflict. By regulating your system, you are able to soothe the fear and overwhelm throughout your body, which is necessary to access the part of your brain responsible for clear communication. These skills combined are exactly how you can show up up for your partner in moments of conflict without *further* overwhelming yourself at the same time.