Picture an old fashioned teeter totter. In order to maintain balance, if one child moves further out, the child on the other side will need to move further out as well. This is how things work on the playground. It is also a practical illustration of what often happens in couple relationships. It is a balancing act!
Let’s take one of many issues that requires balancing in relationships, but especially in couple relationships—closeness and distance. A task of every couple is to figure out how to work with each other’s different needs for closeness (being together) and for distance (being separate) at any given time. One way to go about this is to try to eliminate the differences between the needs and desires of the two people involved. This probably isn’t possible, is it? Another strategy that is used when trying to resolve these differences involves the pattern of pursuing and distancing. As one partner begins to request more togetherness and then pursues, the other may respond with an increased desire for time apart and then distances. This newly increased distance then contributes to the first partner pursuing even more and the cycle continues. The original situation of different preferences for balancing togetherness and personal space become more pronounced, not less. What was set out as a course of action to bring more harmony to the relationship does the opposite of what was intended. The attempted solution has contributed to an even greater problem. Allowed to progress, this can become a source of major distress and dissatisfaction for couples.
Let’s go back to the teeter totter and visualize a situation where balance is initially maintained with the partners being fairly close to the middle. When one moves out (by desiring more of anything–in this case, togetherness), the other will try to maintain the balance by moving out on the opposite side (by desiring more separateness). Allowed to continue, both partners can find themselves at extreme ends in order to keep the balance. Complaints about the other begin to fly back and forth because of these exaggerated responses. In addition, each person begins to see themselves as caricatures of who they really are and who they want to be.
Do you find yourself becoming someone you don’t recognize in order to try to balance your partner’s responses? Is it hard to understand why your partner is not responding how you had hoped? Is your relationship being stressed by this constant balancing act?
Please contact me if you are finding yourselves moving to the outer edges of your personal teeter totter. It may be time to take some deliberate steps toward re-balancing.
DISCLAIMER: The information included in this article does not apply to relationships where abuse or violence in any form is present.