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Push and Pull Relationship: Understand the Causes and How to Get Help (13 Tips)

Last updated on November 11, 2022 by Florence Adepoju

In a push and pull relationship, both partners can't connect for one reason or another. Creating a loving and secure relationship with this dynamic can be quite challenging. He ends up pushing you away after pulling you in.

Forming a real attachment can be difficult when your relationship is dynamic. In such a relationship, the required stability and control power is absent.

Finding yourself in a push and pull relationship means that you and your partner tend to hurt one another, sometimes to the point where the wounds can’t be healed. If you are in this relationship, especially as a woman, it is imperative that you first seek self-love. While it is not a magic elixir, the inability to love yourself makes it extremely difficult to love another, less create a healthy relationship.

This article will discover what push and pull attachment style means in relationships.

What Does “Push and Pull” Mean in a Relationship (with examples)?

We first need to understand the push and pull attachment style to comprehend a push and pull relationship. The push-pull relationship theory is founded on pulling people close to you and then pushing them away.

It is important to note that while there is push and pull in a relationship, this dynamic can also occur outside relationships and love. For instance, if you go to a shoe store to buy new heels and you meet the sales clerk saying the shoes you want might not be in stock, a pull-push dynamic has just occurred.

You going to get the heels is the pull, while the sales clerk saying the shoes might not be in stock is the push. When you hear that your heels might not be available, it makes you want the shoes more. This is simply human nature.

The same underlying process, albeit with significantly more intense emotions, is found in push-pull syndrome relationships.

Push-Pull Syndrome Relationships

Push and pull in a relationship is where your partner pushes you away, only to pull you closer emotionally, after which they become cold and distant again. When this happens, it is commonly a result of your partner's fear of intimacy. Nevertheless, a push-pull attachment style requires two people to work.

The only reason such a relationship functions is you allow it to happen. Being in a push and pull relationship can be highly stressful, emotionally draining, and chaotic. 

You might ask yourself, "why would I want my partner to push me away?" Usually, it stems from a fear of abandonment. Nevertheless, such a relationship lasts several years before a push pull relationship breakup occurs.

As stated earlier, this relationship only functions because both partners enable it. A push-pull dynamic in a relationship is stressful and can also affect your emotional well-being. Adult relationships with this push-pull dynamic can last quite long; however, they never tend to become positive. You might believe that you are bonding, causing you to feel the value and revel in the attention you get from your partner.

There is nothing quite like believing in love and taking the leap to search for a new connection; however, it can be pretty confusing when you discover that you are in a push-pull relationship cycle. On the other hand, your partner, as the pusher, begins to gradually pull away from you, becoming disinterested. 

When this happens, you wonder if their reaction is because of something you did.

You should note that a push and pull relationship doesn't put partners in set roles, as both partners can be pullers or pushers, depending on the circumstance. Things can become even more complicated in such a push pull relationship dynamic.

Signs that You Are in a Push-Pull Relationship

When you discover that your relationship is experiencing various issues and you are unhappy, it might be wise to take a couple of steps back to assess the entire situation. With that in mind, you can search for the signs below to note if your relationship has a push-pull attachment style.

1. Instability

If your partner is naturally avoidant, then instability is a natural factor for them. You need to take the time to analyze yourself to see if there is a way you can concentrate on stability and improve your nature. If you are emotionally attached to an emotionally unavailable individual, then stability will be tricky for you to achieve.

After a while with this person, your emotional needs and demands will appear complicated and unbearable to them. When this happens, both of you will need to make a concerted effort to make things work if you want to develop a stable relationship.

2. There are unresolved conflicts

there are unresolved conflicts

A positive and healthy relationship is one where you can express yourself while facing your conflicts. However, when two individuals with different needs get into a relationship, the battle over ideas is bound to happen. You and your partner should be able to resolve any issues you might have together to increase your bond further. To achieve all of this, you need effective communication.

Nevertheless, both partners understand that the key to this is to allow good communication and emotional vulnerability. If one of them isn’t interested in creating a relationship in which intimacy begins or perhaps isn’t interested in creating attachments, then they will keep their distance. 

They do this because they understand that talking about things and clear communication can make things work. Therefore, they attempt to avoid all forms of constructive communication, hampering any bond development.

3. You feel threatened

If you desire emotional vulnerability with your partner to the point of becoming anxious, there isn’t any step you are not willing to take, no effort too great to achieve that aim. 

As women, we have this innate need to conclude when a disagreement or conflict happens. Typically, this conclusion must meet our emotional needs and re-establish our relationship dynamics. You should not lose hope now; you keep working until things get right.

Conversely, if your partner is the opposite, they would do anything to avoid any form of attachment or commitment in their life. This can cause them to feel threatened each time they consciously recognize a need for emotional vulnerability.

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4. You lack understanding

If you are the pusher in the relationship, you will likely stay away from any forms of intimacy or attachment. Pushers are typically extremely independent and would prefer not to get into any shape of commitment. A pusher can also healthily flirt with others.

Pullers in push-pull syndrome relationships want to create a healthy and stable relationship with their partner. These individuals wish for attachment and intimacy. They tend to develop fears and feel anxious when they cannot develop any security or closeness in their relationships. 

As you can see, the differences between pullers and pushers make keeping a relationship between both types of people difficult. Regardless of how much they try, both partners will be unable to satisfy the emotional needs of one another, seemingly trapped in their interpretation of intimacy.

A pusher could panic when they have an intimate relationship as it will cause them to feel pressure to either commit or form an emotional attachment. In the case of the puller, they are likely to get anxious and feel overwhelmed with their partner pushing them away.

5. You represent your partner’s insecurities, and they represent yours

Trauma tends to present itself in various forms. While most people believe it is a result of accidents or violence, that isn’t always the case. Various childhood experiences that might not seem like they matter much can create trauma which in turn affects your life.

For instance, if you have never had a person you could talk to or share your feelings with, then any romantic relationship you have in the future can be affected.

Controlling or over-dominating parents, lack of support while growing up, abandonment from parents, or negligent childhood caregivers are some things that can affect your current emotional state. This can lead to fears later that can affect your relationship. It can be difficult for you to express your true feelings or emotions to your special person. 

Also, it can be even harder to be vulnerable near them. The inability to trust their partner is quite popular among those that suffer from childhood trust issues.

Conversely, you could develop a fear of abandonment or judgment in adult life. With such subconscious fear, you spend more time concerned about what others would think and less about how the situation makes you feel. When you have such fears, you end up continuing in a dissatisfying relationship simply because you don't want to be alone.

What Is the Push-Pull Cycle?

This section of the article will discuss what a relationship entails when in a typical push-pull cycle. Let's say John and Alex are in a relationship, and John is afraid of intimacy while Alex has abandonment issues.

The first phase: The pursuit

John makes a concerted endeavor to pursue Alex. He might walk up to her and ask her to go on a date with him. Due to Alex’s abandonment issues, she plays hard to get and prefers to take baby steps before making a decision, but John is persistent, and ultimately, they begin dating.

The second phase: The bliss

At this point, things are going great. John and Alex become closer, spending more time with each other. All of this results in the creation of a deeply intimate connection.

The third phase: Anxiety and the beginning of withdrawal

the third phase: anxiety and the beginning of withdrawal

At this point, John’s fear of emotional vulnerability starts to kick in. It all seems to be just too much for John to bear. The pusher starts to panic, and his anxiety starts to take over, causing him to sabotage his relationship. It could also manifest with John simply being distant and cold. Alternatively, he could take extreme measures like flirting with others or beginning arguments.

The fourth phase: The withdrawal intensifies

When a relationship is healthy, one partner will tell the other that he isn’t meeting her emotional needs. At that moment, there is a decision to either allow him to alter this behavior or end the relationship if there is no behavioral change.

Nevertheless, due to Alex's fear of abandonment, she will likely try even harder with John to win his affection and rekindle their intimate relationship. This has an adverse effect as it becomes too much for John since it pushes him further away.

The fifth phase: Distance

At this point, Alex will refrain from pursuing John. She does this because she aims to restrict the pain she feels from being abandoned. This results in her keeping her distance.

The sixth phase: The reunion

Since John finally has the space he wants, he starts to think, "what if I lose Alex?” To avoid this, he makes grand gestures to get her back. Alex forgives him since forgiving him is much easier than being alone.

The seventh phase: Harmony

With grand gestures there comes a hope for the future. Things appear to be back to normal; however, it is only a matter of time before that feeling of anxiousness begins to envelop John again, and that relationship experiences the third phase.

This push-pull relationship cycle continues since they cannot satisfy each other's needs emotionally. It continues until one person is brave enough to take steps that help end the push-pull cycle.

Why Do People End Up in a Push-Pull Cycle?

Asking why people end up in the push-pull cycle can be akin to asking why men push women away. When you discover that you are with someone in a push-pull attachment style, it could be that you have low self-esteem, fear of abandonment, or a fear of intimacy.

The answer is there isn’t a single solution for such an individual. Nevertheless, it is typically common among individuals that have experienced abandonment or pain in prior relationships. This could be a relationship with a family member or a romantic one.

A push-pull person might have experienced one of the following:

  • They were abandoned by one or both parents when they were younger, resulting in fear of abandonment in their adult life. Children that suffer from this can grow up to feel terrified at making a loving connection for fear of that person leaving.
  • They might have broken their heart in a past intimate relationship, which manifests as fear of intimacy. In this scenario, their subconscious could link an emotional connection with pain and heartbreak.

How to Stop the Push and Pull in a Relationship?

Ending the push-pull cycle can be pretty difficult. Creating a push-pull relationship breakup doesn’t come easy in this scenario.

With that in mind, here are a few steps to cancel out the push-pull relationship psychology and improve your bond or move on.

1. Recognize the Problem

recognize the problem

If your partner is the pusher in the relationship, they are unlikely to be bothered about their issues. They will do all they can to avoid these issues and ensure things remain as they are.

If you are a puller, you tend to overthink everything. The most effective way to improve your relationship by transforming it from push-pull relationship psychology to something healthier is to recognize the issues.

This means you must reflect on any problems hampering your relationship. When you identify the real issues, you can then take pivotal steps to fix them. Doing this ensures that you can alter the push pull dynamic of your relationship, or at least try.

2. Be Understanding and Show Empathy

If you want to steer clear of a push-pull relationship breakup, you must learn how to be empathetic. To do this, you must ascertain if you are the puller or pusher in the relationship. Only then can you make a conscious effort to fix things.

Pay close attention to your spouse, and gain an insight into their feelings and thoughts. You should never instantly judge them for their behavior. Instead, you should take the time to listen to them, becoming empathetic. Recognize the underlying issues and why they do what they do. Only then are you ready to handle the problems, as it would be easier to speak about the issues you both have in the relationship

Doing this can help both parties overcome their insecurities, fears, and other issues.

3. Acknowledge that There Is a Price to Pay

Both of you must understand that you remain in a push-pull relationship psychology for a reason. You both need to understand the prospective outcome before staying in this type of relationship.

Staying with someone with a push-pull relationship dynamic could negatively affect your mental health. Anger, frustration, fear, anxiety, stress, low self-esteem, and other negative emotions can be triggered, affecting your quality of life when you remain in an unhealthy and toxic relationship.

4. Go to Therapy

If you both are ready to improve your relationship but are unsure how to go about it, it might be necessary to enlist the services of a therapist. For this to be effective, it needs to involve both parties, not one partner. 

Professional guidance at every step can help you improve your relationships and effectively work on your problems. If you want a therapist experienced in relationship challenges, then Relationship Hero is the choice for you. Depending on your challenges, be it moving on, building attraction, coping with a breakup, or simply getting dating advice, you can find all you need.

5. Work on Being Vulnerable Emotionally

When you, as the puller, have made a move to understand how important personal space is in a relationship, your partner, as the pusher, should make the next step. This step requires your partner to work on negating their fear of intimacy and learning how to cope with emotional vulnerability when with their partner.

If you don't have a reason, it makes it more difficult for you to search for a solution. If you are the pusher, you might have a traumatic past, making it even more challenging to let your guard down. Nevertheless, you should never give up; try your hardest to discover the source of your insecurities.

If you want your relationship to work, you, as the pusher, must be willing to let your walls down. For the pullers, supporting and appreciating your partner during this process is essential. At no point should they feel hated or judged, lest all the effort be in vain.

6. Take the Time to Work on Yourself

take the time to work on yourself

Taking time aside to work on yourself can be beneficial. During this time, you should identify your negatives and discover ways to work on them until you succeed. This means getting rid of your low self-esteem till you have the confidence to be an improved individual.

When you improve your personal qualities, you indirectly strengthen your relationship. You also enhance any coping mechanisms you have.

7. Take Some Time Away from Each Other

Taking a bit of time in a relationship isn't as bad as people make it seem. Don’t let fear of abandonment get the best of you. The distance can be useful, allowing you to think clearly about your pasts and needs. If you are a pusher in a push and pull relationship, you need the distance to avoid your insecurities. If you are a puller, distance can make you nervous and anxious.

Nevertheless, enjoying your personal space and avoiding each other can be a great idea before rekindling your new relationship phase.

8. Respect the Differences You Both Have

Understanding that you and your partner are different is one of the most important things to consider when in a push and pull relationship. Nevertheless, it can be difficult to respect the fact that your partner is the exact opposite of you.

But things can get easier when you take the time to learn more about your partner. In this type of relationship, you and your partner are bound to have different goals and viewpoints.

It can be difficult to make something fruitful out of your relationship until you can acknowledge and accept your differences.

9. Don't Rush to Assume

With time as the relationship progresses, we tend to have assumptions about our partners. As a result, if you assume you have a cold, uncaring partner, you might unconsciously gather evidence to prove this.

For instance, if a pusher wants to take a stroll, the partner asks: where are you going? He might assume she doesn't want him to have his freedom.

One way around this is for both partners to put more thought into their choice of words to avoid assumptions that will rather make things worse.

10. Make It a Team Effort

Both parties need to be willing to make the relationship work because if the effort comes from one side, there will not be a balance in the relationship.

This means coming together as a team with a common goal – to make the relationship work. This involves working together to build one another such that you compliment your differences.

You can avoid more complications this way.

11. Have a Balance of Power

Consider making sure that each party gets their turn in calling the shots. This can only work if both parties are willing to cooperate and work together.

For instance, you can have a day when one person calls all the shots in the evening while power changes hands at night. (Think of which movie to watch, who does the dishes, walks the dog, and other things).

With this, you both feel good knowing you will also meet your needs.

12. Boost Your Self-Esteem

boost your self-esteem

There is a high chance both parties have issues with low self-esteem. You both likely have problems from the past that have marred your self-confidence. With this, your issue will appear bigger than expected.

The pusher, due to experience, might believe they are unworthy of love from others. Their partner, on the other hand, becomes fed up with the constant distance they experience

A recommended way out is for both parties to concentrate on a positive aspect of themselves and their relationship. This can wither the emotional issue they experience in their relationship.

Working on your self-confidence will not produce magic overnight. You have got to dedicate time and effort to see results.

13. Forget the Movies

While we love and appreciate the movie providers for keeping us busy and giving us a fantastic view of love, that is not always true. Their picture of love and relationship does not always mimic reality, so hoping for a happily ever after might be likened to chasing the wind.

Not all relationships need to hit a bump before having a happy ending. Similarly, you can't have things going smoothly in your relationship. So, quit comparing your relationship with those fairytales. 

FAQs

How to be high value when he pulls away?

When your partner pulls away, you can remain high-value by doing one or more of the following:

Make your stance known by talking about it
Never insist, plead, or beg
Stop reaching out after he pulls away
Give him space
Focus on yourself

Why do men push women away?

There are various reasons why men push women away. It could be because men never truly learn about relationships. Also, it could be that since they are seen as "hunters," they spend too much time attempting to sell themselves.

It could also be that they are inconsistent or give too much too soon. Whatever the reason, their go-to move is to push the women in their lives away.

Why do I push people away in relationships?

You tend to push people away in relationships because you are afraid of intimacy. This could stem from previous romantic experiences that ended badly, so you are seriously trying to break free from any entanglement. It could also be that you have low self-esteem, which makes you view others as too good for you or see yourself as not worthy.

What to do when someone with BPD pushes you away?

First, you should ensure that you never attempt to convince them they are wrong. You inadvertently make them feel attacked when you do so, and they can respond by pushing you away even further.

The key is discovering how you can validate their feelings and acknowledge their experiences.

Conclusion

Most of the time, being in a push and pull relationship is highly toxic. This type of relationship doesn't foster understanding. Since you and your partner both have varying needs but cannot communicate them effectively, a breeding ground for conflict is formed.

If you want your relationship to work and eliminate the push-pull relationship psychology, then you need to understand the issues that you both have. Take the time to work together as a team; this is the key to overcoming your relationship problems.

Do you feel like all you think about is him, but he only thinks about himself?
This doesn't mean he doesn't like you. You have to understand how he is wired. Once you do, you'll find there is a subtle thing you can say that to him that will drastically change how he shows his emotions towards you.

Take this quick quiz that looks at whether he actually likes you or not!

Florence Adepoju
I am a trained teacher, psychologist, writer, and stay-at-home mom. I am passionate about children, girl children, and the female gender. My interests include volunteering, caring for the elderly, watching movies, and cooking. I currently stay in Lubbock, Texas, with my family and dog, Ayden.

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