The Dance of Pursuit

The definition of pursue is to follow someone or something in order to catch them.  In my relationships I may play the role of the pursuer or the one being pursued.  These roles change as do the players. 

 Example one:  Throughout my 39 years of marriage (yup, 39 years!), there have been times when I have focused, like a laser, my amorous attentions on my husband.  This has happened when I have perceived we were floating apart (distancing). My courtship may include preparing special meals for him, making myself more available for walks, or simply sending him short texts, just letting him know he is in my thoughts.  All these actions to move towards him are usually well received, and don’t cause him to move away.  What may occur in a relationship is that one of the partners may get burned out constantly being the pursuer.  When this happens, the other partner may panic and become the pursuer (change in roles).  Hopefully, there is something left of the relationship to salvage. This could happen in friendships.

 Example two:  When my youngest son was 15 years old and we were in the midst of supporting our older son through difficulties with his mental health, my youngest son began running away.  He was searching for normalcy outside our household.  He would run away, my husband and I would track him down, and we would bring him back. This happened several times.  We were the pursuers and he was being pursued.  What we recognized was that while we were chasing him, he was running – moving away from us.  We were advised to let him go.  I gave him information on homeless resources in our community, I even helped him explore the process of emancipation at age 16.  I helped him pack a duffle bag.  We hugged him and let him go.  I am happy to report that he returned to us three weeks later (one of the longest three weeks of our lives) and never ran away again. 

 Much later, I acquired knowledge concerning the dance of pursuit and distancing.  When we move towards someone with purpose, we pursue.  That person may not welcome our pursuit and will turn away and flee in the opposite direction.  To continue pursuit just increases the distance between the two people.  If you stop pursuing, it gives the person a chance to stop, turn around, and interact. I also learned that in some situations, being the pursuer gives you power while being the pursued takes power away.  I can see this fitting my situation with my son. While I was pursuing my son, my power was giving me the sense of control.  My son experienced a sense of lack of control; he felt trapped.

This lesson has helped me in all my relationships and I hope you find it useful in yours.  If you want to read more about pursuit and distancing in relationships, see the blog published by The Gottman Institute titled: A research-based approach to relationships