pursuing and distancing in relationships

Do You Recognize These Warning Signs of Pursuer-Distancer Relationship Patterns?

Sharing is caring

Many relationships run into trouble because one partner seeks more closeness while the other seeks more distance. It’s a cycle that psychologists call a pursuer-distancer dynamic.  In spiritual communities, it’s referred to as the twin flame runner/chaser stage. 

While this dynamic may play out in non-toxic relationships, it’s also one of the hallmark indicators of the dysfunctional relationship patterns carried out by narcissistic individuals.

Typically, during the initial infatuation stage, you both want to spend as much as time as possible together. Then, reality sets in. One partner feels like they’re not getting enough attention, and the other begins to feel suffocated. The more the pursuer clings and asks questions, the more the distancer criticizes and pulls away.

To make things more confusing, when the pursuer decides to move on, the distancer often starts trying to win them back.  Minor fluctuations are natural in any relationship, but this cycle can become destructive if it becomes too intense or persistent.

If you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, this pattern will play out over and over, with the narcissist playing games to hoover you back into the relationship, where it’s only a matter of time before they resume their maltreatment of you. If you see such warning signs in your relationship, try these more effective methods for maintaining your personal power and showing up for yourself.

Steps to Take When You’re the Pursuer:

  1. Meet your own needs. Be honest with yourself about how much you’re expecting from your partner. Try making new friends, cultivating outside interests, and fixing your own dilemmas. If your partner tries persuading you that you don’t need your own life, friends, or interests (or worse, mocks you for them), it’s a sign that you’re dealing with a narcissist.
  2. Ask for what you want. If you’re dealing with a manipulator, one of two things will generally happen, 1) they will make you feel that you are making it hard for them to be themselves and shift blame onto you for the imbalance in the relationship or, 2) say things aren’t working out and break up with you so they can do whatever they please, then come back later desiring to “give things another try”.
  1. Level the field. Who puts more into your relationship? A slight disparity may be insignificant, but if you’re reaching out too much and doing the work of two people to keep the relationship afloat, you may need to exercise some restraint. Resist the impulse to fix and rescue. If you find yourself giving 150% and are met with indifference or silence, this may be an indicator that your partner is trying to condition you through the use of intermittent reinforcement.

Even after implementing the above steps, it may be difficult to determine if your relationship is having normal ups and downs or if you may be the target of manipulation and psychological abuse, especially if you identify as being an Empath.  Many empaths mistake the dysfunctional undercurrents of a relationship with a narcissist as those of the twin flame runner/chaser dynamic

Narcissists take advantage of this mistaken belief, using it as a great window of opportunity to disappear from the Empath so they can groom other supply or generally live life on their own terms, which includes pretending to be in a committed, progressive relationship all while they secretly live life as a single person behind the Empath’s back. 

Narcissists excuse themselves for this covert behavior by claiming they love the Empath too much and are frightened by the depth of their love, hence why they feel inclined to “run”.

Are you in a toxic relationship?  Below are additional signs that your relationship is unhealthy.

Some relationships cause more grief than they’re worth. Ask yourself if your relationship is enhancing your life or making it more challenging.  Following are further signs that you are in a toxic relationship:

  1. A consistent lack of trust. It doesn’t matter whether you don’t trust the other person, or they don’t trust you. Relationships are incredibly draining when there is a pervasive lack of trust. There’s never any peace.
  2. You’re forced to compromise your values on a regular basis. When you’re put in the position to live outside of the tenets you consider to be most important, your self-respect suffers. A healthy relationship makes it easier to be at your best.
  3. Your partner isn’t supportive of your success. They say you find out who your real friends are during times of distress, but the same can be said of periods of success. It’s not uncommon for friends and family to be unsupportive when you’re doing well. The last thing you want is a partner that displays this type of behavior.
  4. Is your partner dismissive towards you? Your interests and projects should be respected.
  5. Your partner is unreliable. If you can’t count on your partner, your life is more stressful than it needs to be, and your relationship is harming you.
  6. Going somewhere else after work is more relaxing than going home. What’s worse than spending a stressful day at work and deciding you’d rather go sit in a coffee shop alone than going home to your partner? It’s nice to have a home that is an oasis from your everyday stressors.
  7. A lack of affection. There’s a lack of closeness when affection wanes. Ask yourself why you no longer want to touch each other.
  8. You resist confiding in your partner. When you have something sensitive to discuss, it would be nice to be able to rely on your partner. If you find yourself hesitant to share, it could be a sign that your relationship isn’t healthy. Ideally, your partner is also your best friend and helps you weather the ups and downs…not just after you threaten to leave.
  9. The relationship is harmful to any children involved. Relationships should enhance the lives of the children. Frightened or discouraged children are a warning sign.
  10. You feel unsafe with your partner. No relationship is worth risking your safety. Make your health and well-being a priority in your life.
  11. You can think of other people with whom you’d rather be in a relationship. Do you find yourself wishing you could be in a relationship with a friend or coworker instead of with your current partner? Something is amiss if you’re imagining yourself with someone else.

If you believe your relationship is toxic, take the time to investigate further. Be willing to get help from a relationship professional, such as a therapist or a coach. However, if you suspect your partner is a narcissist, it’s probably best to pursue individual help first.  

Living a healed, balanced, and happy life means accepting these painful truths.  Toxic relationships aren’t worth your time or peace of mind. Ensure that you’re taking the best possible care of yourself by walking away from situations that dull your sparkle.

Sharing is caring

Leave a Comment:

M says August 26, 2023

Bob…I mean no disrespect, but you complain about her (yet you dated her anyway?) It sounds more like a compatibility issue.
She may not be a narcissist. Just a person with traits you don’t like, which isn’t always the same as an actual personality disorder.
Maybe she simply isn’t the person for you.

Back on the original subject at hand…I can see a lot of this in my husband. I feel that he doesn’t like me, that he wishes he could be with somebody else.
He is extremely aloof and distant. He has a bad habit of confiding in others (mostly females) while being secretive towards me.
I’m open to anything he wants to share, yet he persists with this behavior. Now I finally see why none of his previous relationships went anywhere.
Being treated this way hurts.

I am now at the point where if I could leave my marriage, I would consider it. I love him but this is not a normal situation anymore.
I need to feel loved, wanted. I need a family (with children and a proper home). I need connection. I need real intimacy…not just occasional sex, but loving touch and heartfelt conversations.

I believe that he has been dishonest about things and that he cheated on me at some point in our 15-year marriage.
He is a good provider financially. He is a good person in many ways. But I’m at the point where I can’t overlook certain things anymore.
He is emotionally stunted. I know that sounds harsh. He is also still hung up on a girl he dated over 35 years ago. This person is married, lives far away, but he can’t seem to leave her in the past where she belongs.
It makes me feel like he never truly gave us a chance because he is still obsessed with her. She dumped him and he never got over it.

It’s just sad to find yourself in a relationship with these types of people.

The Dark Neuroscience Behind Falling in Love: What You Need to Know - Kim Saeed: Narcissistic Abuse Recovery & Personal Growth says December 16, 2018

[…] tango often begins a vicious pursuer-distance relationship pattern. As one person desires to become closer, the other responds by holding back and even moving […]

Bob says January 9, 2018

I am dating a woman that “claims” she was married to a Narcissist for 15 years. My question is do you thinks she may be a Narcissist from these traits I continually notice? I feel like a pursuer/empath

Silent treatment can go silent for 3 – 4 days then say well why didn’t you text me is your finger broken? Phone works both ways
Constantly talks about her jerk ex, they have been divorced 8 years
Compares things I do to her ex “my ex did that”
Always asking if I’m mad at her
Can be suddenly moody
Can seem very depressed at times
Constantly says reality sucks
Very cutting and mean in arguments
Very sarcastic in arguments
Often challenges my integrity during arguments “ she will say I don’t believe your sorry”
My life is so busy I told you that at the beginning
Constantly repeats negative statements
Spends money even though she does not appear to have it 9complains about finances constantly)
Can’t sleep – can’t turn off her mind
Endless energy
Likes to read my mind as to what she feels I’m thinking
Twists the blame on me
Overuse of foul language
Likes to read into what I am saying of texting
Talk disrespectfully to me even after asking her to please not to talk to me like that
Has cancelled plans suddenly on me at least a dozen times in 6 months for various reasons
She shows or wants little affection unless she wants sex (I know a man’s dream right)
Lacks empathy at times
She will never say sorry if she is wrong
Feels some friends are jealous of her
Often talks about ex boyfriends, rates their sexual prowess
Emotionally unavailable at times
Relationship runs on her terms
Tends to have some falling outs with family and friends
Constantly worried I was going to “get sick” or “tired” of her
Angers easily
I almost feel that she knows I am going to see the real her eventually
Seems at times like she is sabotaging the relationship – pushing away
Constantly complains about aches and pains
“I have red hair” don’t piss me off
Often says “I was just kidding” if she feels she over stepped her boundaries”
Seems almost proud of her sexual past
My life sucks
My job sucks
Often complains about friends and family behind their backs
Very vocal aggressive driver

    Anonymous says December 17, 2018

    Wwwwoooow. Run. you are completely addicted completely addicted to this horrible disgusting human being. I’m reading this and thinking my God why would anybody want to date someone like this. Well I know why. Because I did too and I’m addicted and you are. This is horrible horrible horrible horrible you need to leave immediately and get help immediately

    None says November 19, 2019


    Justin says November 25, 2019

    Sounds just loikike my girl. Im cheating with everything that moves. Constantly saying im stupid or uneducated,gross ,failed father, etc

Add Your Reply