Do you swing back and forth between periods of calm followed by periods of conflict and unhappiness?
If you answered yes to these questions, take heart, you’re not alone.
Insights gleaned from a relationship model called the Velcro Loop might be just what you need to guide your relationship into calmer, more peaceful waters.
In counseling sessions with couples struggling to find happiness in their marriages and intimate relationships, I found the insights contained in this model to be consistently helpful.
The Velcro Loop Model is based on the idea that there are two basic personality styles in most relationships. One is called the Distancer. The other is called the Pursuer.
The Distancer is initially attracted to the Pursuer. In an attempt to be close, the Pursuer showers the Distancer with loving intimacy and appreciation.
The Pursuer is initially attracted to the Distancer because he or she mistakenly assumes the Distancer’s need for appreciation is a need for closeness.
To understand what creates these two common personality types we have to go back into childhood.
Home: The Distancer is usually a person who grew up in a home in which relationships were emotionally uncomfortable or dangerous. It may have been an abusive or critical home, or an enmeshed family in which autonomy was discouraged.
Fears: The Distancer fears criticism and a lack of appreciation. “No matter how hard I try, it’s never enough.”
Defense: When a relationship gets too smothering or dangerous, the Distancer defends or protects by physically or emotionally withdrawing from the relationship.
Home: A Pursuer, on the other hand, probably grew up feeling emotionally abandoned, unloved, rejected, or invisible.
Fears: The Pursuer fears abandonment and a lack of intimacy and attention. “No one is ever there for me.”
Defense: Unlike the Distancer, when a relationship gets too lonely or abandoning….too dangerous, the Pursuer tries to move in closer and seeks to increase intimacy and attention with an ever increasing level of energy.
The Basic Problem:
The defensive strategy of each partner triggers the fears of the other partner.
The Relationship Over Time
Picture taking Distancer A and velcroing him or her into one end of a long narrow box. Then take Pursuer B and velcro that person onto the other end of this long narrow box.
Now nail the lid on the box down tight with a marriage or relationship commitment and lets see what happens.
Things will be fine for a while. We call that the honeymoon period.
But it isn’t long before the Distancer begins to feel a bit smothered by the Pursuer and starts to emotionally pull away. The Pursuer feels abandoned and is frightened by the increasing emotional distance in the relationship and attempts to move emotionally closer.
The relationship begins to pick up energy.
As the Distancer begins to feel the growing danger, he or she begins to pull even further away.
The Pursuer, sensing the disengagement, is frightened and feels compelled to begin increasing his or her energy by getting louder, angry, and more insistent.
Hearing criticism, the Distancer continues to emotionally shut down.
You can see where the relationship is going.
It’s only a matter of time before the childhood drama of both people begins to reach a level of pain that is intolerable.
“No matter how hard I try, it’s never enough”…….”No body is ever there for me”.
Eventually, many relationships kick on the auto-pilot.
The Distancer automatically goes into a full shut down mode and the Pursuer automatically goes into a high energy critical, demanding mode.
When the pain inside the box gets too hurtful, or has persisted long enough, the relationship either gets stuck in a state of never ending conflict, or it ends in divorce or break-up.
Insight #1 – What needs to be acknowledged is the insight that your partner is not causing your pain. Stated clearly…..they are not responsible for the pain you are feeling. They are not creating it. Your pain is coming from childhood.
Insight #2 – Both of you are frightened and vulnerable… not evil and hurtful.
When both partners can begin to see the vulnerable, hurt, and frightened child inside the other, the energy will quickly back down. Both partners will recognize the need to reach out and care for the person they love.
Insight #3 – The Pursuer will always need to acknowledge and affirm the Distancer’s need for more emotional space in the relationship. When the Distancer begins to pull back it is not a behavior that needs to be feared or taken personally. The Pursuer needs to trust that the Distancer’s need for appreciation will bring them back.
The Distancer will always need to acknowledge and affirm the Pursuer’s need for more emotional closeness in the relationship. This is not a need that should be taken personally or feared when the Pursuer’s energy begins to climb.
Sometimes holding hands or a simple hug is all that is needed.
Insight #4 – When conflict energy begins to increase in the relationship, both partners need to acknowledge that childhood fears and vulnerabilities are becoming visible in their relationship.
Insight #5 – The “dance” between closeness and distance takes place in virtually every relationship. The Velcro Loop Model makes this common relationship “dance” visible and normal.
When these five insights are understood and incorporated into your marriage, the level of compassion and care for each other will naturally increase. You will discover a greater ability to find love and happiness in your marriage even when your partner is not the “absolutely perfect” partner you thought you married.
The concept of an “absolutely perfect partner” is an illusion, but these insights could save your relationship.
PS. Don’t forget you can have a compilation of the recordings from previous quarters for listening in your mp3 player in your car, while exercising or just relaxing. Purchase and instantly download them here.