Pursuit and Withdrawal.

God tagged Adam pretty hard for his refusal to engage with his wife and her seducer in the Garden. With no less zeal, he slapped a heavy sentence on Eve for her presumptuous initiative.

In every marriage there is a pursuer and a withdrawer. The pursuer tends to initiate engagement, discussion, conflict and problem-solving. The withdrawer tends to defer or even avoid potentially conflictual discussions; they enjoy contact and discussion, but don’t typically initiate it. In a healthy marriage, one spouse tends to pursue or withdraw more often, but – like a pendulum swinging from side-to-side – each partner moves back and forth between pursuit and withdrawal. When a relationship gets into trouble, partners become increasingly entrenched in their pursuit or withdrawal. The pursuer locks into their role and - with escalating fear, need or anger - seeks to engage their spouse in emotionally meaningful contact. Fearing the intensity of their spouse, the withdrawer actively avoids contact, retreating behind an emotional detachment. Feeling shut-out, the pursuer escalates their efforts and intensity, reinforcing the withdrawer’s disengagement and retreat. As this death spiral cycles downward, the withdrawer feels increasingly inadequate to please their spouse, manage their emotional intensity or meet their growing emotional need. Concurrently, a pursuer’s fear that they will be abandoned and uncared for exposes a growing conviction that they are unmanageable or unworthy of their spouse’s love.

I once watched my dog chase and catch a squirrel by the tail in my back yard. Once caught, the squirrel lunged at him. I guess that’s not quite what the dog was expecting because he jumped back and then let the squirrel go his way. I’m pretty sure that the same squirrel was back in the yard again the next day. I’d like to think that he and the dog are friends now.


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