Pursuers have beautiful motives to push toward their partners – wanting more connection, more intimacy and more sex. But they often feel rejected and are told they are too much which escalates the cycle.
Learn two things that help the pursuer calm down. 1) Remind yourself that you have good intentions to create change. 2) Use an image of someone who made you feel safe – a therapist, parent, grandparent or even of yourself comforting a younger version of yourself. See how taking a wider lens including both peoples vulnerabilities can stop the pursuer-distance cycle.
The following content is not suitable for children
George Faller 00:02
Amazing things that pursuers can do other than getting angry and critical.
Laurie Watson 00:13
Welcome to foreplay radio, couples and sex therapy. I’m Laurie Watson, your sex therapist.
George Faller 00:18
And I’m George Faller, your couples therapist
and we are passionate about talking about sex and helping you develop a way to talk to each other.
George Faller 00:26
Our mission is to help our audience develop a healthier relationship to sex that integrates the mind, the heart and the body.
Laurie Watson 00:36
Just as we began please remember to check out Uberlube www.uberlube.com is where you can get this great lubricant and help support foreplay radio.
George Faller 00:45
How can a pursuer learn to love withdrawer when they go away? What do you think Laurie?
Laurie Watson 00:55
I like this seems like a relevant topic for me as a pursuer. All right, I sometimes will help my pursuing couples. I don’t do this all the time. But I have a pursuing female right now. And something happened in their sexual relationships. She’s very beautiful. And somehow or another, he doesn’t tell her that doesn’t complement her and has withdrawn sexually. And there were a lot of problems between the two of them that were kind of minor. But now she’s intentional about restoring their sexual relationship, and he’s withdrawing. And so what happens is with little things, when he doesn’t respond the way she expects, she’ll get angry, she’ll want to leave the relationship. I mean, she’s just hot on a dime, about not in a good way, but in a bad way, you know, about wanting to leave the relationship and she’ll be angry, she’ll be cold, she’ll do these things. And so, in between sessions sometimes I’ll take a letter from her and I’ll help her reconstruct those ideas like How could you say it differently? How could you say in a way that I know will work better for him? Like really just kind of translating for her her emotions in ways that will engage him with better language?
George Faller 02:15
Yes, that’s great. For me, it feels very similar to what we talked about last time. It’s a two part process and most pursuers blow past that first part, which is how do I do meet differently? There’s so much focus on what they need to do differently to get that withdrawn partner to do something or not do something. Maybe what they can control their own part of it. That’s to me that what is the pursuer doing? We get the need to protest because that protest is there hope they’re saying, you know, I read the book, if you read this book, we have more common language to kind of do something differently and I can’t get you to read the book. I can’t get you to communicate during sex. Okay, get you engaged. It’s like any move they try. They getting rejected from their partner from their day. engagement. And that’s incredibly frustrating. So we’re not trying to make this sound easy. We get how hard it is, when you’re doing more than your fair share of the work and you’re not being met in that place. It is what
Laurie Watson 03:12
I want to say that reiterate that because they get told they’re bitchy or they’re critical, or they’re pushing. They’re frustrating, or it’s met with silence. It’s met with a lack of response. So I think pursuers the tendency, right is to do it harder. I’m not getting through, I’m not being understood. So they want to push harder.
George Faller 03:35
And it’s coming from a beautiful place because they want something different. They know things could be better. They’re not giving up. We love the energy, the spirit that’s behind the push, you know, but one of the first things I’m trying to get pursue is is to recognize is there’s so much focus on their partner that they don’t recognize the root of it, which is this feeling of being rejected, of giving your all of trying and not having that net. That’s a pretty bad place? How do they not see that rejection by also leaving it to go to their partner? How can they learn to comfort themselves in that rejection, to be able to say, Hey, listen, I did read the book, you know, I am open to feedback. I’m doing my part. Like to give that responsiveness to self really starts to calm down that pushing energy. Does that make sense? That first part, we’re
Laurie Watson 04:26
not going to ask you questions about it, because I want you to explain this. I, I think I’m getting it. But I want to understand this. Okay, how do they give response to themselves? Like what do you mean when you say that?
George Faller 04:37
Well, that’s why I always like to name the trigger in that raw spot that it hits. So when the partner doesn’t engage, there’s an Ouch. I mean, that’s the whole essence of why they do all what they’re doing. They’re trying to deal with that Ouch. That part in them that gets hurt, and they’re trying to push their partner to do something differently. So that ouch would be that big. Hot. That’s where
Laurie Watson 05:01
the star is doing.
George Faller 05:03
No, that’s what the pursuer is doing.
Laurie Watson 05:04
George Faller 05:07
So listen, I’m not certified
Laurie Watson 05:08
I’m close. I’m getting close.
George Faller 05:12
My language might not have been clear. Okay, if you are the pursuer. Yeah. And I’m the Witcher, okay? And this is fictional. Never had people freak out about sex or I did a lot. That’s right. What emotionally, emotionally right? If you want to connect with me, yeah. And I disengage what that’s going to causes an ouch inside of you. Your heart wants something nice. It wants to connect. And all of a sudden I’m not engaging. So the root of this is an ouch which is I’m not engaging, I’m rejecting you, you’re alone.
Laurie Watson 05:48
back I feel pushed back. Right. I feel rejected. And I could tell myself a million things about that, that make it hurt even more. Yes, you know, like, like, Okay, um, I’m no good, I’m not worthy. If it were about sex, I’d be saying, you know, he doesn’t think I’m attractive. I guess I just don’t do it for him. All that kind of stuff would be going on.
George Faller 06:12
Exactly. So if the heart of the problem is the Ouch, that you feel rejected, the solution that you’re trying to get from me, is to get me engaged to engage to comfort you in that place. That’s what all the pushing is trying to get me to do. Right. But what I’m saying is that’s part two, how do you learn instead of you getting critical to yourself, beating yourself up saying there I go again, I have bad timing. I always have so much to say I’m too much. Like how do you learn how to respond to yourself differently? If you know the heart of it is rejection? How do you accept yourself? How do you learn to be appreciative or comforting or nurturing or responsive to your ouch? Right? Take that moment to say wait a second, you know this, this does hurt. But I know in my heart that I’m not too much for what I’m asking for. I’m just trying to fight for my relationship, just trying to fight for love.
Laurie Watson 07:08
I want to say that the the too much trigger that is straight from childhood. The pursuer has gotten the message from their parents in some way. I believe that their requests their demands were too much. And that one like goes straight into the heart. I think definitely I feel that sometimes in relationship and sometimes I hear that from my patients that are pursuers all the time. You know, it’s like okay, I’m just too demanding. Are you saying Laurie I should just give up my needs or my wants and you’re saying no, it’s how do they comfort themselves by saying they’re not too much hot. But sometimes George they are too much. We’ll get to that
George Faller 07:53
spot. Just the Saturday with hot how heartbreaking that is. That is not your fault. Persons not engaging, that you feel rejected and alone. But that’s only the first bed pot. Now here comes the second wave, which is how you start to feel, you start to agree with that message. I deserve this. I am too much I have been here comes all these negative voices, that criticism now that that pot is not there starts to turn inward. Right and of course, that’s only going to feed the desperation. And that’s why that protest can get so fast so quick, but to pursue his work is learning instead of being so critical or hard on myself, how do I learn to give myself that compassion that I’m looking for from my partner? to recognize the truth in this moment, which What am I so guilty of? I’m trying to love better. I’m trying to get closer. Is this so egregious that I deserve all of this negativity surrounding me? Right? Right, right. If you could get a pursuer to say that to themselves, to imagine talking to that little girl inside themselves that that little boy To say, Hey, listen, you know you are worthy of love. You do deserve to have sex you do deserve to have connection that you’re doing the best you can that good enough is the target we’re aiming for. And you’re nailing that. What do you think that would be like for Priscilla?
Laurie Watson 09:15
I think if that were the counter voice, right?
George Faller 09:17
Yes, counter voice I love
Laurie Watson 09:19
it. You know, that would be like the support that they’re looking for which your what you’re saying is as pursuers we can give that to ourselves. We can say hey, this, this thing that we’re going for more sex, more connection, or maybe it’s just like more help around the household. This is gonna make our family function better. It’s it’s not a bad thing, what they’re wanting and it’s it’s usually not unreasonable.
George Faller 09:43
Beautiful intentions. Yeah. And it’s it will connect us further with our partners. So it’s a good thing. So we want this kind counterpoints. I will say that, as a therapist, sometimes patients come in and say that they hear my voice When they’re in that distressed moment, that they’re wanting more sex and they hear you know, Marie says that sex creates intimacy, it’s a good thing. So it’s like it bolsters their heart a little bit when you’re feeling vulnerable. So key what you’re saying, right, that kind counter voice. What it does is on a physiological level, it regulates us. Right, it brings this sense of calmness, this sense of lowering this reactivity. You’re not drowning. You don’t just have this tunnel vision. You need to kind of have a little that self soothing to then get curious, like, why is my partner not engaging? I can’t even think about what’s going on in my partner’s world. When I’m on fire inside my own worlds, right? This is a way of just calming that down to then get to part two, which is why the heck is my partner not wanting sex right now. Why is my partner walking away from me? Why do I see that blank face there’s something going on there. with your partner that it’s almost impossible to be curious about when you are drowning in your own reactivity.
Laurie Watson 11:07
And you’re beating yourself up right? Yes, I’m too much. I think if we come out of a childhood where our parents kind of did manage this in and told us yeah I understand your why you’re upset about this they helped us understand our emotions gave us kind of emotional intelligence by describing and and labeling what we were feeling. I mean, we we hold that forever in our hearts that does keep us calm and what you’re saying I think George’s even if you do come from a good childhood, there’s going to be moments that you escalate and you you feel the the fire when you’ve asked your partner something for something and they’re not responding. But it’s, it’s you’re talking about earning security that calm ourselves down. So that over the long haul, that the long arc and the relationship we don’t get No reactive, we stay calm knowing that our needs are worthwhile. It’s okay to have these needs. In fact, it’s good.
George Faller 12:08
And those images of security, that might be your grandmother holding you, it might be your image of God. It might be moments where your partner responded to the felt sense of that. The beauty of our body doesn’t know time, it always holds on to it, all we have to do is access that image and we bring that sense of calmness. So yes, what I’m trying to bring is some sense of the opposite of rejection is acceptance. I don’t care where that acceptance comes. But the more I can bring a little of that into that pursue his world and start settling it down. Then we can get to part two, which is let’s get curious about what’s going on for your partner, why they withdraw, and how do we try to take that less personal, how do we learn to speak to that place? So let’s talk about that after break. Okay.
Laurie Watson 12:59
We really want you to Check out Oberlin calm with the coupon for play. It’s a great lubricant. It’s the one that I’ve been recommending for years and I recommend it because it is a great glide it has no taste. It has no smell and so you can use it throughout your lovemaking experience. That would be an awesome feel for you to try this if you haven’t already tried it. It’s also made from basically silicone and what’s good about silicone I don’t know if I’ve said this before, but it doesn’t get easily absorbed into the body. So some lubricants get gummy and actually create a drag and that is a not good feeling. But this one stays on the surface of the skin. It’s not absorbed so it’s always gliding. And that is great for touching great for sexual intercourse
save 10% when you use the coupon code for play at Uber lube, calm
Laurie Watson 13:54
George success invulnerability.com your new training site, you have a new model
George Faller 14:00
Yes, so excited about this Laurie module to working with secondary emotion anger, withdrawal protection and blocks the way people really for good reasons put up these detours in session and most of the time it throws therapists off and and therapists start to feel like they’re failing and getting really frustrated, judgmental problem solve, and they missed the beautiful opportunities blocks to really pivot and become flexible and really, it’s the process telling us where we need to go We just need to learn how to embrace these blocks. So I’m so excited about this module. So please, therapists listening, you want to get better at your craft. Sign up and join us
Laurie Watson 14:37
George’s new module in success and vulnerability calm check it out, talking about secondary emotions and blocks. GEORGE You asked us to think of an image that was comforting to calm down the fire when we’re the pursuer and we bring forward our needs to our partner and we get that sense of rejection and I just wanted to say, you know, I lost my therapist this week. No, I wasn’t with her currently. But she was my longest term therapist. Her name was Dr. Jean York, an amazing person. And I would just like to dedicate this whole episode to Dr. York, she really helped me and she is one of the images that I use in my mind to feel calm. I mean, I would often come into session and say, I got something bad to tell you. And she’s like, Oh, you know, I love all that. Tell me tell me tell me. And it was just this sense of so much acceptance and, and her being on my side. I heard her voice and still hear her voice. In fact, I’ve just thought of her recently as somebody on my side who understood my way of thinking and understood my position. And I think that you’re saying to help calm down and not be so reactive to our partners rejection or withdrawal is how can we access that image and and she was one That I always used to feel calmer. What do you do when you are pursuing and need to feel calmer if your partner’s rejecting I just
George Faller 16:07
I just sorry for your loss.
Laurie Watson 16:09
Thank you. I think it’s Thank you. She was a lovely soul.
George Faller 16:15
I can see as you’re describing her, just your sense of calmness that comes over you. Even though she is no longer here just thinking about her voice and saying, I like that stuff. She’s on your side. She’s fighting for you. She’s curious for you, right? We all need people like that in our life. And we cry.
I cried about this. Yeah.
George Faller 16:37
It’s we carry. We carry them with us forever.
Laurie Watson 16:40
Yeah. Attachment figures, right people who loved us who were our champions. So that’s exactly
George Faller 16:47
what I’m trying to remind myself in those moments, where I start to get really reactive and feel like I’m not being heard, and this is unfair, and I start to kind of get to that place of rejection to find I like talking to that little boy inside me. Right? I imagine myself and maybe I struck out at a baseball game, I just go back in time and I take an episode where I kind of felt bad and I felt a little rejected. And I imagine myself just kind of going up and said, it’s gonna be okay, you’re going to do some great things. You know, I get that little kid a hug and I just kind of kind of it’s amazing what that image of me giving myself a hug does to calm my nervous system down. Right and it’s from that place that I could start saying right now what what just happened here? Like I thought I was doing something good. I was reaching out and whack it happened so fast, that rejection piece. So that to me then is the part two, like how do I get curious? Why did my partner want to not want to engage? I know my partner, find space safe. It’s not safe for me because it triggers this rejection. But I got to start getting like what was threatening for my partner? What was it about me Given feedback and bed, or what was it about whatever it is that I did I know I had good intentions, but it didn’t land that way. It’s amazing what happens when we get stopped taking our partners move a little less personal and really keep our focus on them instead of us.
Laurie Watson 18:18
Right I, I call this taking the wider lens. Nice, my story, and somehow or another remembering their story. Yeah, and this is one of the things that the patient in the beginning that I talked about when she’s really really committed to making their sex life good again, the wider lens is that it’s not that he doesn’t think she’s attractive. That’s That’s her primary message that she hears, but it’s that he felt rejected early in the relationship sexually. And so he’s guarding himself from re engaging with her sexually because he’s afraid that he’ll be rejected and that like just reminding her of that I can hear her like, Oh, yeah, that does calm her down even the wider lens like there is another story. Another side to the story. Sometimes when I’m upset with my husband or I feel rejected or I’m angry, hearing his side of the story, my withdrawing partner when he comes forward and he tells me even when it’s hard to hear that it It calms me down just a little bit like, Oh, yeah, it’s not that you’re just crazy or you’re selfish or you just don’t love me and you’ve withdrawn there’s like, there’s a whole nother thing that’s going on in your ad. And, and sometimes it’s helpful to hear that and when I’m just trying to calm down myself, that’s what I remind myself of like, there’s gotta be another side to this that is not just about my partner not loving me. I mean, they’re, they have a side to the story that will be important to hear.
George Faller 19:55
Yeah, I love how you’re when you’re grounded. A little bit more open. Not only can you get curious about your husband’s side of the story, but you could also take ownership for how easy it is to start piling on, you finally get an opening. So your body wants to take it and it wants to bring up other examples. It really wants to highlight and make a point. The intention in that is beautiful. It just wants more and it deserves more. But it doesn’t recognize the delivery of the intent, the somebody who’s so prime to criticism, how quickly they can pick it up and then want to retreat. So that’s the balance. It’s being open to feedback just like a withdraw we’re trying to help pursue is recognize they actually are more critical than most of the time they realize because they really believe in criticism, and they really believe it’s motivation for change. And to say nothing is actually the worst alternative. The stay silent means nothing’s happening. That’s why pursues will take effect. fight over nothing because there’s some engagement, there’s some responsiveness to really help that part too is helping pursue is get how they’ve overdeveloped that muscle of pushing that they really don’t know how to kind of then back off and see the power balance is knowing how to do both push when it’s appropriate and take space back off when it’s appropriate. So how do we help that pursuer develop that muscle memory?
Laurie Watson 21:26
I think what you said like pursuers don’t realize the intensity, the volume, the criticalness of their words, sometimes they are caught up in the desire for change. So the the method that they’re using, they’re not quite aware of its effect on their partner. Sometimes in session, I asked my pursuing clients, like, What number are you at scale of one to 10? Like what Where do you think you are in terms of intensity as you state this? You know, and usually it’s a lower number. It’s like Three, and then I’ll ask their partner What number do you experience that adds like, what, how much intensity? Is this coming at you? And they’ll say, Oh, you know, it’s like a seven or eight. And I think they the pursuing partner or maybe over a lesser incident, or in a review of the fight, or if the conflict, they might say, you know, how intense did you experience me? You know, just to kind of get a little bit of feedback that says, Wow, for me, I’m just dumping it out there conflicts, okay. For me, I grew up in a family with a bunch of that it’s not a big deal. I just, you know, I blow up and then it’s all over, right? And their partner is completely shut down because of that, that intensity, the tone of voice, the volume of their voice.
George Faller 22:44
Yes. So some appreciate what you’re saying that baseline for anxiety or that kind of high energy. They get more comfortable with it. Their partner has less tolerance for it. So that’s safe. They score it very good. differently, right? That’s a good it’s a good image to have. And the last thing I don’t want to listen to is to think that we’re pathologizing. Or blaming this pushing energy. Like we want them to get more empowered, which is recognizing how often they go down this road because they so believe in it, it’s going to create change. They don’t recognize how actually active that criticism that can become like so in session, when I work with couples on waiting for that moment, when a person withdraws or actually admits to something or tries to engage for that pursue that come in with a button, or another story was that pilot odd is just there hope that if they could just finally get through, that that part is really going to follow through with these changes. They’re not wrong for doing it. They just don’t recognize that what they’re hoping is going to be motivating, actually does the opposite for that part. When you understand their partner’s world, it’s raising emotional temperature and their strategies to come gotta turn that down by going away
Laurie Watson 24:02
as a pursuer, taking the inch instead of asking for the mile, you know, like just saying, okay, you gave me a little opening and, and that’s progress, like, kind of reassuring myself, there will be time. For other conversations, there will be plenty of time for us to resolve all of this later. This is good.
George Faller 24:25
It sounds like a great theory. But when you’ve read the whole book, and you’ve wanted to talk about it for two weeks, and your partner comes in and wants to talk about one paragraph or two minutes, and just gets opens up the door for you to get activated, and then doesn’t want to have a conversation. It’s hard to kind of hold back those floodgates? Absolutely, it is.
Laurie Watson 24:44
So how do we help them be comfortable with the paragraph instead of the whole book? What would you say to them? What would you say to yourself?
George Faller 24:52
It’s so hard to stop those tapes. But if you’d notice those tapes that are saying, Are you kidding me? Here we go again. I mean, that’s all I get I’ve been waiting two weeks and this is what I get. And the game’s almost over by that, because once you start going into that place, right, but you know, that self soothe is trying to say, Well, you know, before I wait a second, you know what, I do have a right to be frustrated here. It’s something, but it’s, it’s, it’s not really what I’m looking for. I need more. And that’s okay. Because I don’t want to go down this road to beat myself up. But now it’s trying to communicate that to my partner is trying to say, I appreciate you write that paragraph. And I don’t want to be critical, because I know what that does to you. But I also want you to be able to recognize kind of where I’m at that, you know what, My heart wants so much more. And that’s not a bad thing. But that’s what I get from that message when you don’t want to engage. Now what I want is too much, you know, and I need you to say if you can’t respond, that’s fine. But you need to be able to tell me it’s okay for my heart to want more, that you’re kind of rooting for that. I get that connection. Right. Well More connection, more connection
Laurie Watson 26:01
and conversation about this, that will help you. That’s the motive. It’s not that you’re trying to push me into a place that I don’t want to go. It’s that you’re longing for connection. That would be really soothing if that withdraw would
George Faller 26:18
feel how different that is, you’re the pursuer if I’m the withdraw, and I say to you, I’m working on this. Right? This is my problem. I’m not sure how to engage more. But you absolutely have a right to want more. That’s not you being too much. I’m so sorry. You take that message when I go away. Mm hmm. What does that like for you to hear?
Laurie Watson 26:42
Well, it feels welcoming, right? It feels like I’m being seen for a good motive instead of being rejected because I’m somehow rather overwhelming them too much bad. That feels much better. I mean, I can kind of even feel as you say that just in pretend like my stomach relaxes a little bit
George Faller 27:06
that’s withdraws can learn to fight for their personas, instead of fighting against their personas. And all it takes is that acknowledgement which is the truth, this person this pursue is coming towards me because they want more. And that intention is beautiful. In a know the way it shows itself is often messy. Just acknowledgement of that alone starts to calm things down and starts to bridge to distance. Yeah. And what is the what you’re doing in that moment, they’re able to see that pursuer not as a monster. But as somebody who’s trying to create change. The opposite of rejection is acceptance that is me is what you’re starting to accept you
Laurie Watson 27:47
even and it doesn’t mean that the withdrawal has to agree or do what their partner wants, or or change and be different. It’s just crediting the motive that that My partner wants something good for us. It doesn’t necessarily feel that way to me at this moment, but that’s where their heart set.
George Faller 28:08
We’re starting to figure this stuff out, Laurie.
Laurie Watson 28:10
Thanks for listening, y’all. Keep it up, baby. And PS please tune in to our Patreon page so that you can catch the next exclusive episode and our next Facebook Live.
George Faller 28:23
We appreciate you joining us to spread this really important message.
calling your questions to the foreplay question voicemail dial 833 my four play that’s 833 the number four play and we’ll use the questions for our mailbag episodes. All content is for entertainment purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for therapy by a licensed clinician or as medical advice from a doctor.