Will My Avoider or Pursuer Reaction Style Help Me Get My Needs Met?

When you’re upset, do you tend to pull yourself inside or express yourself outwardly?  Do you clam up?  This is the Avoider Style of reacting.  Do you persist in talking about the issue?  This is the Pursuer Style of reacting.  Which is your ‘go to’ reaction? And, could your reactions be making things worse? What you say or do may be ADDING TO the conflict and REDUCING the passion in your relationship.

If you pull energy inward, you are the Avoider Style and probably…

  • become quiet or mumble
  • make your body smaller by cowering
  • move behind something
  • leave the room
  • appear unaffected
  • block out what you’re hearing
  • construct a protective shell

If you expand energy outward, you are the Pursuer Style and probably…

  • get louder or shout
  • make your body larger by standing up
  • use big hand and arm gestures
  • pace or stomp around the room
  • have an urgent need to talk about the issue NOW
  • follow or chase your partner around the house to get things resolved

Whether people contain their reactions or react outwardly, it is often because INSIDE they’re upset, frustrated or any number of painful feelings such as hurt, fear, rejection, or jealousy. We often have painful feelings because one or more of our needs are going unmet.

Needs such as…

  • being heard and validated
  • being understood and empathized with
  • getting affection and sexual stimulation
  • feeling valued and important
  • being loved and cared for.

Now, think about it from your partner’s perspective: if your reactions are any of the above, you may, in fact, be interfering with getting your own needs met. Here are a few examples: It’s going to be extremely difficult for your partner to validate you when you’re screaming. It’s also going to be difficult for your partner to understand you if you’re not telling her/him what you’re upset about. It’s going to be difficult for your partner to reach out to be affectionate if you are stomping around the room. Likewise it’s going to be difficult for your partner to express caring if you’re blocking out what’s being said.

In other words, your reaction may be ADDING TO the conflict and REDUCING the passion in your relationship. You may be getting in your own way and preventing yourself from getting your needs met and therefore contributing to your relationship troubles! How can you avoid doing this?

Next time you feel yourself getting upset, try to step back and think. What’s upsetting you?
Is it a need you have that’s not getting met? Then take it to the next level by asking yourself: “Will my reaction help me get that need met or will it ensure the opposite – that I don’t get that need met?”

You CAN control your reaction to a large extent. If you normally react inwardly and keep a neutral expression, make sure your partner sees that you feel hurt. If you normally clam up or leave, make sure you speak up (in a non-attacking way) and let your partner know what you are feeling. If you normally react outwardly and become louder, larger or more intimidating, try to react in a less dramatic fashion, so that your partner hears you and gets your point. This will give your partner the chance to see your needs and meet them rather than pushing him/her away. Don’t let your own reactions increase the conflict and reduce the passion in your relationship. You can create a happy, loving relationship where your needs are being met.

To learn more or to schedule an appointment here at Couples Therapy Center, call 908-246-3074, email GetSupport@CouplesTherapyCenterOfNJ.com or go to www.couplestherapycenterofnj.com and use our online scheduler.

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