Most push-pull relationships die a natural death. One or the other leaves. But some relationships of this type are worth working on.
The hardest thing for both partners to do is to break the insecure attachment, and replace it with a secure one.
Everything that the push-pull was in place to avoid will now have to be faced. Some who are love addicted don’t recognize the cycle; others won’t want to.
If your partner is unwilling to work on a secure attachment, all you can do is wish them the best, and focus on yourself because the longer you stay stuck in hope, the harder the inevitable heartbreak.
Breaking this cycle will challenge you both to face your responsibility in it.
And, to agree on finding healthier options.
One of the biggest challenges to face in creating a secure attachment is the fear of giving and receiving love — because this is the root of a fear of rejection and abandonment.
Anyone who is love-avoidant or a ‘runner’ may understand when I label love as an overwhelming, gut-wrenching, panic-inducing fear that is associated with getting too attached or close to someone you were in a relationship with. For anyone who pushes away love, it’s because love hurts.
If you’ve been taught that love = pain, or love = abandonment, then it has been paired with fear, anxiety, or engulfment — where you’re unable to breathe, unable to move and all you want to do is run.
…yet, these are the same feelings that will need to be faced head-on, and conquered, one at a time, a step at a time, in order to unlearn this toxic conditioning and to begin learning what love really includes.
In choosing a healthier option, this requires looking within. Because push-pull dynamics are based on superficial good times and the chase, getting to a place of authenticity will mean getting to know yourself better — including the parts of yourself you may run from.
It’s not about how many miles you can jog or how many squats you do at the gym, but about understanding yourself on a deeper level and taking the time to figure yourself out.
Partners may also consider defining intimacy on their terms. It’s not surprising that many partners who are used to a push-pull style in identifying their relationships are unsure what true intimacy is.
By setting the terms together — emotional and physical intimacy — partners can start building a secure foundation together.
Because push-pull relationships are based on an imbalance of power, establishing a balance of power between partners is important. This may play out at both partners having their own personal space, boundaries being established, or learning to trust each other one step at a time.
What to Do?
If you’re genuinely stuck in this cycle, it’s likely you and your partner have different needs around intimacy. Or, possibly, you have the same desire to be close but are terrified of it. It can be a complex dynamic to work through but here are some starter tips.
1. Blame the cycle, not the person.
The first thing is to recognise there’s a pattern to this behaviour. If you keep a note of the cycle, you’ll see what I mean. It may — or may not — be about the person you are with. It’s possible one (or both) of you is associating love with some form of pain from loss or abandonment. Which is a pretty sound reason for wanting to back away from love or commitment.
2. Respect your differences.
It’s okay to have different ways of “being” in relationships. It’s normal: After all, we all have different emotional and relationship histories. We all have our own quirks and triggers and vulnerabilities. The key is whether you can talk openly about what’s going on. If you’re both up for an honest discussion, you may be able to work through any differences and get to a more consistent place. If your partner refuses or shuts down (or if you do), sorry — Big Red Flag.
3. Check in on your mental health.
Especially check in on your mental health in relation to your relationship. If being with someone is making you anxious/fearful or unwell, then there’s something toxic in the dynamic. Pay attention. Something either needs to change or you shouldn’t be in this relationship.
4. Measure your progress together.
After you’ve been together a while, do an honest assessment of whether you are moving forward in the way you manage your relationship, and especially conflict. Or are you going around in circles? Are you both trying? Making progress, even if it’s just one of you changing your reaction to a disagreement, is a sign of hope.
5. Ask yourself if you can carry on this way.
People do take time to get to know each other. Every relationship needs time to bed in and feel comfortable. But not too long! A genuine push-pull cycle, where one or both partners can’t change their behaviours, isn’t healthy and it’s not sustainable without a lot of tears and hurt. Everyone deserves a little time to absorb a new partner’s ways but, if it’s dragging you down emotionally, maybe you need to call time on it. A relationship should add to your life — not detract.