The relationship duet is the dance of intimacy that all couples do. If one partner moves in, the other backs-up. Partners reverse roles as well, but they always maintain a certain space between them. The unspoken agreement is that the Pursuer chases the Distancer forever, but never catches-up, and that the Distancer keeps running, but never really gets away. What is happening is a negotiation of the emotional space between them. We all have needs for both autonomy and intimacy – independence and dependency, yet we simultaneously all fear both being abandoned (acted by the Pursuer), and being too close (acted by the Distancer). Thus, we have the dilemma of intimacy: How can we be close enough to our partner to feel secure and safe, without feeling threatened by too much closeness? The less room there is to navigate this distance, the more difficult the relationship. The greater sense of self a person has, the more flexible and comfortable s/he is with greater distance and greater closeness. There is less anxiety, and hence, less demand on the relationship to accommodate a narrow comfort zone.
Origins: Research suggests that intimacy problems originate in the early relationship between the mother and infant. Babies and toddlers are dependent on the mothers’ empathy and regard for their needs and emotions in order to sense their “selves,” to feel whole. To an infant or toddler, emotional or physical abandonment, whether through neglect, illness, divorce or death, threatens its existence, because of its dependency on the mother for validation and development of wholeness. Later, as an adult, being alone or separations in intimate relationships are experienced as painful reminders of the earlier loss.