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The Role of the Pursuer

Updated: May 6

All romantic relationships have a tendency to drift over time from feeling close to feeling distant.  Busy lives, different needs, and unresolved conflicts all contribute to the drift.

Pursuers play an important role in their marriage because they have a built in radar that is able to pick up even trace amounts of disconnection.  The gender stereotype is that women are more often the Pursuer, but either the man or the woman can be the Pursuer in the relationship.

When things feel off in the relationship, the Pursuer wants to talk about it in hopes of getting reconnected.  However, couples can get into a negative cycle where the more the Puruser attempts to address issues in the relationship, the more their spouse pulls away.  And the more they pull away, the more the Pursuer feels hurt and alone. As long as the Pursuer is able to confront the drift in a way that reconnects them as a couple, all is well.  However, when the Pursuer’s efforts to reconnect are unsuccessful and misunderstood, things start to go downhill.

The Pursuer appreciates that trying to talk about problems in the relationship could lead to a fight.  It’s not that they want a fight. They want connection. But, they would prefer a heated argument to disconnection and distance.  If they are still talking, at least there is hope of getting back to a good place. Being shut out, dismissed, and ignored in these moments is very distressing because it means any hope of reconnection is lost.

The Pursuer tends to be the one in the relationship who is more in touch with their emotions and better able to communicate them.  However, the Pursuer can sometimes get overwhelmed with intense emotions especially when they feel disconnected. In these moments, it can be difficult for the Pursuer to contain and express their emotions in a way that is productive and helpful to the relationship.  Because they feel things deeply, they sometimes wonder if they are “too much” for their partner.

Pursuer Pitfalls to Avoid:


Criticism is a common response for Pursuers when they are feeling disconnected.  It comes from a place of wanting the pain to stop. Subconsciously, they tell themselves that if I could just get my spouse to stop doing something or to start doing something, I would not hurt like this.

Criticism often has an undertone of blame and it frequently takes the form of multiple questions.  “Why did you do that? Why didn’t you do this? What made you think that? What were you thinking” Even though these questions seem harmless, there’s a presumption that their spouse should have known better.  Especially when it is coming from a place of frustration, the subtext is “What is wrong with you?” These types of questions are likely to feel like disrespect to their spouse and create a defensive response.

In these moments, it is easy for the Pursuer to shift their communication from “this is what I am feeling” to “here are all of the things you need to do differently.”  The use of an “I statement” is a good way to avoid these interactions from turning into criticism. Even if there is truth in the “you message” being delivered, it will be received as criticism and control.  Inevitably, it creates stubborn resistance in their spouse, further pushes them away, and builds a wedge in the relationship.

The Story in Our Mind

People have an inherent need to make sense of their relational experiences.  When things are not going well relationally, we all tend to tell ourselves a story about ourselves, about our partner, or about our relationship.  For example, we tell ourselves that maybe we are just not lovable, or our spouse is a narcissist, or we are no longer compatible. All of us are meaning making machines.

Pursuers tend to be intuitive and perceptive which makes them particularly effective at coming up with a story in their mind that makes sense.  The double edged sword for the Pursuer is that they are often right. And because they are often right, they forget to slow down and check their assumptions.

When we don’t slow down and check our assumptions, the story we create in our mind can take on a life of its own.  When this happens, our assumptions often create a chain reaction. For example, we tell ourselves “if this is true, then that is true, and if that is true, then that is just another example of their selfisheness, and I am so done with being treated like this.”  Not only do the assumptions start to spiral, but the emotions that go along with them start to snowball as well. Pretty soon, the Pursuer is feeling a whole lot of painful emotions based on a series of unchecked assumptions.

How to Win Your Spouse Back If You Are a Pursuer

When a Pursuer is feeling very disconnected, it is common for them to ramp up their efforts to reconnect and to start to hyper-pursue. Hyper-pursuing includes things like being clingy, pleading, chasing, using pity or guilt, or buying multiple gifts or flowers to win their spouse back.  Hyper-pursuit typically has the opposite of the desired effect.

A strong desire for connection is what drives the Pursuer.  Conversely, a strong desire for peace is at the heart of what the Withdrawer needs.  When you hyper-pursue or when things are heightened emotionally, it threatens that sense of peace and it often feels unsettling to the Withdrawer.

Keep in mind that what feels like a reasonable level of expressiveness or passion for the Pursuer, will likely feel much more intense and threatening to the Withdrawer and push them away.  We all have experienced the principle that when we have been hurt before in a particular way, it doesn’t take as much to feel that hurt again.

The Pursuer needs to take a step back and give their spouse room to breathe.  You are most likely in your negative cycle and continued pursuit will push your spouse away.  When you are in your negative cycle, you need to do something different. You are not trying to be manipulative or mean, rather you are creating some space.  Stepping back is often difficult for the Pursuer because it goes against the grain. It feels like things will just fall apart if you do not continue to pursue, but it actually gives you the best opportunity for a change in your dynamic.


Listen to a Story of How God Changed This Marriage!


In the meantime, take care of yourself.  Go out with friends. Make a decision to do some fun things.  It is easy to become so preoccupied with what is happening in the relationship that it eclipses the rest of your life.  Pay particularly close attention to your thoughts. Challenge the story in your head and what you dwell on. If your assumptions and fears are indeed accurate, turn them into prayers.  They are out of your control, but not out of God’s control. This will settle your spirit and emotions and create a vacuum where your spouse may start to sense the change in dynamic and turn towards the relationship.  Then at the appropriate time, you can express yourself using an “I Statement” and vulnerable emotion which will have a greater likelihood of drawing your spouse in.




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