The Push-Pull Relationship

The push-pull starts off very slowly in the beginning. But as the relationship continues, the push and the pull can become a daily fixture in this already intense relationship or at least a regular occurrence for the once happy couple.
10/06/2015 05:15 pm ET Updated Oct 06, 2016

Love is complicated enough without the added pressure of trying to always second guess what your partner will do at any given moment. But it's the never-ending back and forth swing stance that wreaks havoc on an otherwise passionate, happy and intense relationship. That fairy tale of the perfect connection can often turn into endless turmoil, explosive drama...and a lot of pushing and pulling.

In the beginning of the push-pull relationship, there is a credible and unwavering pursuit by the man, typically a classic commitment phobe, who we will call the "pusher." His relentless pursuit and "take no prisoners" approach to getting the girl is what gives him the high he so desperately seeks. Eventually, the target female, we'll call her the "puller," tires and the eager charm of the lone and insistent prince wins her over. That is, until she turns to face him. After just the first few months (or sometimes weeks!) of newfound relationship bliss, the pusher starts to slowly push away, leaving the innocent puller wondering where all of the love, promises and affection have gone.

Feeling uneasy and clearly disturbed by her lover's sudden change, the puller begins to pull him back in by making herself more sexually desirable or in many cases, by simply acting aloof and uninterested, which sparks the pusher to think he is losing his prey or that his princess may have gotten over her pulling ways.

The push-pull starts off very slowly in the beginning. But as the relationship continues, the push and the pull can become a daily fixture in this already intense relationship or at least a regular occurrence for the once happy couple. One is always running while the other is always chasing. They go back and forth while narrowly coming face-to-face with one another. But it's when they turn to see each other in between chases when the passion ignites and the world seems to stand still. The love they feel in these fleeting moments are what keep the relationship alive. Both the pusher and the puller believe that the love they feel in the interim is why they are "meant to be."

But it's not long before the good times fade and the routine begins all over again.

The pulling away typically happens when the relationship seems to be going exceptionally well -- usually right after that interim of deep and meaningful connection. This occurs because the intimacy was getting too intense for the pusher, who may start a fight seemingly out of nowhere, to get the push-pull started once again. He may even go back to seeing his ex, the previous puller, or cheat for temporary relief. To make matters worse, lying has become his favorite past time.

Whatever the case, the pusher is suddenly shut down and unavailable. This is the most confusing aspect of this dance for the puller, who is blindsided by this reckless behavior. After all, everything was going so well and looking just like the beginning again! And in a way, it was... for now.

The typical shelf life for this relationship is about two years and both the pusher and the puller have the same fears -- making it obvious that these two are bound for disaster. The common fears that the pusher and puller share are intimacy and abandonment.

The puller is very much aware of her deep fears of abandonment -- meaning she is conscious of it. Her subconscious fear is intimacy, even though she craves this particular thing the most. For the puller, intimacy is what leads to abandonment. When the connection is sparked, the puller goes into protection mode and puts up a wall to keep safe.

The pusher's conscious fear is intimacy, as this is where he, too, faces possible rejection. In opposition of the puller, the pusher is conscious of this fear because he thinks that intimacy will lead to enmeshment, a feeling of confinement and restriction for him. It is his subconscious fear of abandonment that lead to his fear of enmeshment... and eventual sabotage of the relationship. Neither the pusher nor the puller really wants out of this otherwise tumultuous relationship. They are both gaining a great deal from this interaction by re-living old childhood traumas.

If the pusher and puller can realize what is actually going on here -- two adults perpetuating old wounds--then they can work on the relationship together. Some couples will stay in these relationships for a lifetime, feeding off the love and connection they feel in between chases.

Relationships are not meant to cause us pain. Our relationships should feel supportive, honest and loving. Settling for less is not an option. However, if your partner makes great strides, both psychologically and emotionally, to heal his or her own wounds, the push-pull relationship can become a match made in heaven.