The Tale of the Distancer and the Pursuer

You argue. It heats up. You need space to cool down. He/She wants to stay and finish it. You walk away. He/She follows you. You retreat to the bathroom and lock the door (smart move ... it’s the only place you’re allowed to be completely alone). He/She bangs on it and waits, nose to the door. 

Welcome, ladies and gentleman, to this conflict pattern. 

The Distancer 

The distancer needs breathing room. Conflicts can trigger the biological bells and whistles ... racing heart, sweaty palms, dry mouth. Feelings shoot up and spill over the top, causing overwhelm. Retreat is necessary to turn the volume down on thoughts, feelings and body sensations.

The Pursuer

The pursuer needs to stay in it until it’s resolved. Otherwise, same thing -- their own biological bells and whistles stay active.

There’s no right and wrong style. But the two clash because of opposing needs. 

 Here’s one approach for peace: 

When both of you are calm, have a sit-down about your own conflict style and what you need. Make a commitment to try this.

For the distancer: 

Say that you need space and that you’ll resume the conversation when you feel ready.

Important: Keep your word. Go back to the conflict -- don’t use space as a excuse to shut it down forever (yep ... we already know that trick).

For the pursuer: 

Say that you’d like to resolve it now, but that you’ll give space until the other person is ready.

Important: Keep your word and honor the space -- don’t resume the conflict until the other person is ready (I won't lie ... this part takes practice).

FYI: Keeping your word builds trust. 

Try it. Practice it. Tweak it. 

Here’s to peace,

Maureen