Below is an excerpt from a fairly typical relationship counselling session:
Person A: My boyfriend and I have been together for almost a year now. We were beginning to talk about marriage but now he seems to be changing his mind. I think I am losing him.
Dr. E: What makes you think he is changing his mind?
A: He is not loving and seems to avoid me.
Dr. E: Let’s ask him what he thinks. B, do you think you are pulling away? If you do not want to be with A I am confused as to why you have agreed to come to counselling?
Person B: I very much want to be with her. She does not want to be with me.
Dr. E: What makes you think that?
B: She is always busy, cold and distracted. She has no time to spend with me. I think she plans to break up with me.
Dr. E: So because you feel that she may end the relationship, you have pulled away?
B: Yes, I would feel silly saying and doing loving things only to have her tell me it’s over.
A: But I don’t want it to be over! It is YOU who wants to end it.
B: No I don’t! I love you.
This is a pattern so common I call it the dance. B assumes A’s distance is rejection. B, feeling hurt and rejected, withdraws to minimize the pain. B’s withdrawal is interpreted by A as rejection and A backs out. One person backs away, the other pursues in vain and then quickly backs away. They both feel rejected. This dance can easily be avoided. How? DON’T ASSUME! Tell your partner what you are feeling and discuss it. Check out your assumptions. But when you do find that the gap has widened, counselling can bring you back into sync.