Is the "Rubber Band" Theory True?
If there's one dynamic that's a sticky issue between two people who decide to be a couple, it's this...
One person feels the need to "retreat" every now and then and the other person feels unloved and abandoned when it happens.
Pretty simple to describe but not simple to deal with!
One of our long time subscribers to our newsletters wrote to ask if we support the "rubber band" theory in relationships in relationship breakthrough coaching practice.
We hope we're talking about the same thing because as we think about it, the first time we heard about the
"rubber-band" theory was when we originally read John Gray's book "Men are from Mars, Women are
While we know that many people get a lot of benefit from John Gray's gender difference information, we
think the issue is much broader and deeper than just being about a differences between men and women.
We have seen this dynamic too many times in both genders to assign one set of behaviors to one and another set to another.
In the past, we've called this dynamic the "relationship push-pull."
Here's a description of what we've seen...
One person (either gender) pulls away for whatever reason and the other person pushes in some form or another because he or she feels a loss of love and connection.
Why do some people feel the need to pull away at times?
--Overwhelm --the need to feel "in control" when emotions get out of control.
--Habit--the way you learned to "resource" yourself or make yourself feel better--maybe from watching someone in your family do it that way.
--Protection--you may feel threatened in some way and feel the need to withdraw and protect yourself.
So why do some people "push" when the partner pulls away (even though they may not think they are pushing)?
--Fear--you feel abandoned and fear that your love will be taken away from you.
--Habit--you learned to "push" when you weren't getting what you wanted.
--Protection--you learned to protect yourself from losing what you have by reacting and pushing.
We could go on and on but the point is that we are all different and react differently to situations and to the triggers in our lives.
What can you do about it if you're in this kind of dynamic?
The woman sent us the question told us that she and her boyfriend were working through it. He is beginning to recognize when he pulls away and is also trying to reassure her that he will be back.
She has shared with him how his pulling away makes her feel and she "allows him to pull away" but maybe "not at the level he thinks it should be."
We think the two of them are taking solid steps toward understanding one another, allowing each other to be who they are, and keeping their connection--even when it's tough.
Here are some more suggestions...
1. Notice your patterns and when you either withdraw and pull away or feel abandoned and either push against or withdraw.
Don't label it "right or wrong." Just notice what happens.
2. Go inside.
When you notice you are doing whatever it is you are doing to separate from each other, instead of trying to figure it out in your head, take your attention to the feeling.
From the feeling, you may get a sense of what you need.
For instance, if you withdraw, you may get a strong sense that you feel out of control or fearful for some reason and you need to be alone for awhile--and it may or may not have anything to do with your partner.
Or you may feel suffocated and it comes down to a fear of commitment and a fear of opening deeply to another.
If you feel abandoned, feel what you need--maybe it's reassurance and maybe it's just to learn to resource yourself in some way.
3. Keep the lines of communication open.
Like our newsletter subscriber, allow yourself to open to listening and understanding how the other person thinks and feels.
Even if you've been in a relationship with each other for many years, there is still much to learn if you truly listen.
Have the courage to say what you need--not from blame but from your heart.
If you're having trouble with communication, take a look at our Stop Talking On Eggshells Program
4. Resource yourself in new ways.
If you withdraw, as soon as you realize what your needs are, ask for time alone if you need it but reassuring your partner that you will be back and that you do love them.
Also take a look at your stories about why you need to withdraw. It might be a very real need but it also might be a habit that you no longer are willing to keep doing. You may want to learn how to "stay" when it's tough.
If you are with a partner who withdraws, you can begin to challenge the stories that are running in your head--that are old, habitual ways of thinking.
These stories might be--"I'm not good enough" or "They always leave." One way to deal with them is to challenge them and choose a better outlook for yourself.
Whatever pattern you discover, allow the space for something different to happen in your life instead of playing and acting out old, worn out tapes that no longer serve you.
Becoming conscious of what takes us away from love and then taking steps toward more love is life-long work.
But it doesn't have to be "hard."
It just takes a little courage and a willing, open heart.