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:
- 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.
- 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”.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Is your partner dismissive towards you? Your interests and projects should be respected.
- 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.
- 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.
- A lack of affection. There’s a lack of closeness when affection wanes. Ask yourself why you no longer want to touch each other.
- 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.
- The relationship is harmful to any children involved. Relationships should enhance the lives of the children. Frightened or discouraged children are a warning sign.
- You feel unsafe with your partner. No relationship is worth risking your safety. Make your health and well-being a priority in your life.
- 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.