There is a dynamic common to mankind. It’s even prevalent in the world of nature. Understanding it will be very valuable in regaining your spouse’s interest.
Relationships are like see-saws. For example, if one person expresses all the optimism and confidence, the other person is invited to feel all the pessimism and insecurity. One goes up—the other goes down. Spouses often balance each other in this way in what is called the “Avoider-Pursuer” dynamic. When one person’s position is extreme, it invites their spouse to adopt an equally extreme position in the opposite direction.
When one person wants the marriage to work, fairly typical patterns emerge. The spouse who wants to preserve the marriage desperately pursues their mate, trying to reverse the momentum of the alienation. Usually there is pleading, begging, crying, threatening, anything to try to win back the departing spouse.
“I know deep down inside you still love me,” she says, in an effort to convince him to keep trying, or “What about all these years together?” “We have a history that shouldn’t be thrown away,” she tells him, hoping he will see the light. “I promise I’ll change, I know it can work,” he tells her, praying she will give him one more chance.
Although these acts of desperation are understandable, unfortunately they increase the chances of divorce. The more desperate the spouse who wants to keep the marriage alive, the less appealing he or she becomes. The result? The reluctant spouse becomes more certain than ever that ending the relationship is the right thing to do.
Pursuers have other things in common. As the marriage deteriorates, they often become obsessed with wanting to know their mate’s whereabouts and activities and who they are with.
If separated, they may call many times a day, sometimes to check on their mate, other times to be reassured. These calls are usually met with anger or apathy. This is hardly the reassurance the caller wanted. In fact, the distancing mate feels that the pursuer is try to control him or her, which inevitably leads to resistance.
The more one spouse worries about the breakdown of the marriage, the less the other spouse has to worry about it. The result? If you have been working overtime to convince your spouse that your marriage is worth saving, that you love each other, or you are worried about the children, you make it easy for him or her not to think or feel about these things because you are doing it all for them! The solution? Stop the chase! In fact, it’s not enough just to stop the chase, you must do a 180-degree about turn.
Things to avoid:
– Don’t act down and depressed
– Don’t be clingy
– No interrogations
– No questions
– No persuading
– No convincing
– Be unavailable sometimes
If you are still living together:
– Stop calling him or her at work or other places
– Stop initiating sex or trying to be seductive
– Make plans for yourself
– Keep busy around the house when your spouse is present
– Act happy (Actually become a happier person; this is a decision!)
– Stop questioning your spouse about their whereabouts, or who they are with
If you are separated:
– Stop calling
– Be unavailable sometimes when he/she stops over
– Act happy (like your old self) when they visit
– Be more involved with others, children, parents, friends, etc. while they are there
– Make appropriate social plans for yourself
– Be interested but not eager
Stick with it for awhile before you decide if it is working. Give this new way of interacting with your dis-interested spouse a chance before you give up. This takes patience and perseverance. Resist the impulse to ask for more commitment, or of seeming too eager. Allow enough time for the positive interactions to take hold. Don’t get complacent too soon, or you spouse will become distant again.
When you focus less on your spouse and more on improving your own life and making yourself happy, you can start making your life enjoyable again. When your own life is in order, you feel better about yourself, which helps you be more clear-headed about your marriage. The more enjoyable you are to be around — the better your chances you have to win back the one you love.