Ways We Prevent Intimacy: The Pursuer/Distancer Pattern
Pursuing is just as love-avoidant as distancing
Posted Apr 28, 2014
As the quintessential loose girl, I was always pursuing guys. My own neediness – to fill myself, to be saved, to not feel my pain – was always my number one priority. I believed fully that someone would make me feel better, which was a fantasy of such great proportions it took decades to finally be free of it.
So, pursuing was what I did. I’d go to a bar or a party or even a grocery store, and I’d lock eyes with some guy I found attractive, and I’d approach. If I didn’t approach, if I could play it cool for at least a little while, I’d eventually be the aggressive one in other ways. I’d do a sort of less personality-disordered version of Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, who famously said, “I will not be ignored, Dan! “ Will you call me? Can I see you? Now? How about now? Once together, I'd get anxious when I didn't hear from him, and I'd call and call, wanting evidence he liked me. My joke, since my “recovery” has been that men love a needy girl. A girl with low self-esteem is basically the easiest lay they can find. But then they want to get the hell out of there. Loose girls are not wife material. They’re the unwanted, the discarded, the replaceable. At least that’s how it always felt to me back then.
For many years I made those same mistakes with men. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t be the mysterious woman I wanted to be. I was always too much there, too available in every way with my feelings and wants. One guy described it this way: “It’s like you leave all your windows open, just in case anyone wanted to come in.” Each time, even when men became boyfriends, they eventually pulled away. At the time, I didn’t understand. I was sure that I was the one available for love, and they were the unavailable ones. I took it to mean I was simply unlovable because I wanted too much, because I couldn’t control my needs. I was half right. I wasn’t behaving in ways that were particularly lovable, but only because I wasn’t available for love or intimacy either. I was just as unavailable as those men.
In so many relationships, this pattern of the pursuer and distancer occurs. One person pursues, and the other person distances. It’s human nature, really. If something is coming at you, you don’t need to walk toward it. You can simply wait there. Or, if the person is coming too forcefully, your instinct is to back up. Too often, the pursuer feels like she (or he) is doing all the work., or that s/he loves the other person more than the person loves him/her.Usually, however, that isn’t the case at all. Pursuers and distancers are both avoiding intimacy. They are opposite sides of the same coin.
Real intimacy happens in the middle place. You are just you. You are just lovable. The other person is too. We all are. We just are. We don’t have to prove it to anyone. We don’t have to prove it especially to ourselves. Stop pursuing, and the other person will stop distancing. Stop distancing, and the other person will stop pursuing. When we meet as two authentic people, people who understand that no one can save us from our pain, no one can make us feel better, when we know that feeling better actually comes from those moments of authentic intimacy, we move toward that understanding of ourselves.