In my new book, 52 Emails To Transform Your Marriage, I guide couples through writing messages to each other that each tackle a different issue that can undermine connection. Here is one example, email #15. It is relevant for couples where one is the pursuer and one is the distancer, a common dynamic that I discuss here and here as well. After the prompts is a pair of example emails so that couples can see what these messages may look like for a couple trying to write them. (All couples are fictional and based on a composite of clients I have worked with over the years.) Try sharing this post with your partner and both writing the email!
Even if you're not an extreme pursuer or distancer, you still likely fall more toward one category. Sometimes, people are pursuers in one relationship but distancers in others. However, in your main intimate relationship (such as your marriage), you tend toward your natural role, the one that you subconsciously learned in childhood. Here's a hint: if you're the one who purchased this book, you're likely the pursuer (Blogapist's note: if you're the one reading this post, you're the pursuer!). And if you're the one who said, "Nah, we don't really need this book" or have avoided doing the exercises, you're the distancer.
If you find yourself thinking that your partner is an extreme pursuer or distancer, but you're not as extreme, look more carefully at yourself. It is highly unlikely to be the case. Extreme pursuers and distancers tend to find one another, and neither generally feels a spark with people who are in the middle of the spectrum. Also, two pursuers or two distancers don't usually click either; they seek their opposite.
Use the first prompt, as well as at least three others, and end with two or three open- ended questions!
• Writing you this e- mail makes me feel ...
• I think I am the pursuer (or distancer) in this relationship, because ...
• One example of when we most recently fell into this pattern is ...
• Here is how I feel about being in this dynamic with you: ...
• When you pursue (or distance), it makes me feel ...
I feel excited to write you this e- mail, because, hello, this is us. I am, of course, the pursuer, and you are the distancer. I always text you, want to make plans in advance, and try to get you to open up. And you're always evading me! We fell into this pattern just this morning, when I was asking when you'll be home tonight, and you kept saying you didn't know and that you can't focus at work if you have to report to me what time you'll be home. But I could have picked any of a dozen other examples. Pursuing is not fun for me. But when you distance yourself, I get anxious and scared that you're not committed to me and that you're going to leave me, like you did with Dara.
• Did you immediately recognize us in this pattern too?
• Did Dara also act like a pursuer with you?
I love you, Farrah
I feel hesitant writing this e- mail to you. I know what you're going to say-- that I'm the distancer here. I agree that some of the description fits, but not everything. I am fine with spending a lot of time with you. I love you. The problem is when you tell me that I can't do anything without checking in. Then it's like you're my mom, not my wife.
I don't want to feel like I have to keep you at a distance, but if I don't set boundaries, I fear that I'll end up having no independent thoughts or life at all. When you pursue me, I feel suffocated and resentful. The most recent example of us doing this was when I told you about John's bachelor party, and you flipped out. I should have given you more notice, but you acted like it was this big example of how I don't think about you. But to me, it's just a party. When you get mad like that, I shut down, because it seems like talking will just make things worse.
• Do you think that if you laid off me a little, we would be able to get along better?
• Do you think I am "cold and arrogant"?
For more on this topic and many more (attachment, sex, parenting, upbringing, infidelity, trust, the list goes on), purchase 52 Emails and read with your partner! And till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Says, Everyone Is On Their Computer Or Phone During The Day, Might As Well Use That Time For Your Marriage.
Learn about Dr. Rodman's private practice, including therapy, coaching, and consultation, here. This blog is not intended as diagnosis, assessment, or treatment, and should not replace consultation with your medical provider.