If you are taking the time to read blogs and articles about couples, psychology, and therapy, I am betting you are typically the person in your partnership who initiates conversations about the relationship. I might be wrong, but for the sake of this article, I am going to assume a few things about you, the reader. You are motivated to understand what is happening, and why, in your relationships. You want to feel connected deeply to your partner so you ask lots of questions. You track the well-being of your relationship, motivated to make changes and improvements. Let’s call you the Pursuer. Based on these assumptions, I am going to make some assumptions about your partner. Often times he/she responds to questions with “I don’t know,” and “can we talk about this later?” He/she seems to be on a different planet sometimes. When conversations get tense, it feels sometimes like your partner mentally just checks out. These responses, or lack thereof, make you feel annoyed at the least, and at the worst, these responses make you feel furious, alone, disappointed and abandoned. We will call your partner the Withdrawer.
As a couple’s therapist, I have the honor and privilege of witnessing and experiencing what is happening inside of people during these conversations. While every couple has their own unique cycles of interacting, there are similarities that I have noticed. In fact, Dr. Sue Johnson at the University of Ottawa has developed an entire therapeutic framework around her research of these similarities called, Emotionally Focused Couple’s Therapy. As a Pursuer myself, I find learning about commonalities among Withdrawers to be heartwarming and fascinating. Here are 5 windows into your partner’s mind:
#1- Withdrawers are actually very sensitive and aware of what Pursuers are feeling and doing.
#2- When he/she says “I don’t know what I’m feeling/thinking” he/she really doesn’t know.
#3- Not being able to open up, talk, and get closer makes him/her feel ashamed of him/herself.
#4- He/she would rather do nothing than make a mistake.
#5- Withdrawers need breaks and/or time-out’s in conversations.
#6- If pursued for too long or too aggressively, your partner will eventually snap at you.
#1- Withdrawers are actually very sensitive and aware of what Pursuers are feeling and doing. Oftentimes on the surface a Withdrawer looks to be checked-out, unresponsive, and uncaring. This is actually the opposite of what is happening deep down. Usually a Withdrawer is very attuned to his/her partner’s happiness and stress levels. So sensitive that their body begins prepping for a conversation before us Pursuers have said a word.
For Part 2 of 2 Follow This Link: Anxiety About Your Relationship?
6 Windows into Your Partner’s Mind – Part 2 of 2