Breaking the Cycle: Understanding and Fixing Push-Pull Relationships


Understanding Push-Pull Relationships

Push-pull relationships are complicated and emotionally draining. They involve a continuous cycle of attracting and repelling, leaving both parties feeling insecure and confused about their connection.

If you have ever been in a push-pull relationship, you understand how frustrating and exhausting they can be. In this article, we will examine the definition of push-pull relationships, how they are related to fear of intimacy and abandonment, their unsustainability, and why it is vital to practice self-love before entering a relationship.

Defining Push-Pull Relationships

Push-pull relationships are characterized by a dynamic in which one partner alternately pursues and distances themselves from the other. There is a constant back and forth between being close and becoming distant.

The pusher is the person who creates distance in the relationship by withdrawing or being emotionally unavailable. The puller is the person who wants to get closer and craves intimacy.

Fear of Intimacy and Abandonment

Push-pull dynamics are driven by an unconscious fear of commitment and intimacy, leading the individuals involved to pull away when they feel too vulnerable and approach when they seek emotional security. Fear of intimacy and abandonment, usually resulting from past relationships or childhood trauma, often underpins the push-pull relationship dynamic.

The individual who is pushing away may feel that they are not ready to commit fully to the relationship for fear of getting hurt again. They may also fear losing their independence and freedom.

On the other hand, the puller is seeking acceptance and security, driven by deep-seated anxieties and fears about abandonment from their past. This fear of being alone can lead to an over-reliance on the relationship as a source of validation and worth.


The cyclical nature of push-pull relationships is unsustainable. It is a game that cannot be won—a perpetual dance in which one partner chases, and the other runs away.

In a push-pull relationship, both parties alternate between being the pusher and the puller, creating a never-ending cycle of emotional hot and cold. This endless cycle creates emotional turbulence, and it is tough for either partner to feel secure and valued.

Over time, the relationship becomes increasingly unsatisfying, and both parties end up feeling unfulfilled, frustrated, and exhausted.

Importance of Self-Love Before Entering A Relationship

One critical lesson to learn from being in a push-pull relationship is the importance of self-love before entering a relationship. When you love and respect yourself, you are less likely to fall into the trap of seeking validation from others.

When we lack self-love and self-worth, we tend to seek love outside ourselves. The problem with relying on external validation is that it leads to a dependency on your partner to make you feel happy.

This dependency can lead to an unhealthy dynamic of push-pull. Before entering a relationship, it is essential to take the time to understand yourself and embrace your own uniqueness.

Learn to value yourself and recognize the qualities that make you special. By doing this, you create a healthy sense of self-esteem that protects you from the insecurity and anxiety that are at the root of push-pull dynamics.

Characteristics of Push-Pull Relationships

The game-like nature of push-pull relationships is one of their most prominent characteristics. It can be exciting and energizing initially, but soon the thrill wears off, and both partners end up feeling drained and frustrated.

Key Characteristics

  • The role of the pusher and the puller: As mentioned earlier, the pusher and the puller are roles that individuals play in a push-pull relationship. The tension between the two roles creates an emotional rollercoaster that leaves both parties feeling drained and confused.
  • Development of Misplaced Sense of Security: In a push-pull relationship, individuals may develop a false sense of security. This happens because they crave the emotional highs and lows that come with the cycle of attraction and rejection, leading to a pattern of emotional manipulation.
  • Superficiality of the Relationship: Push-pull relationships are centered around the cycle of attraction and rejection, leaving little room for meaningful connection and emotional intimacy.

They are often shallow and superficial, with little depth or substance. In conclusion, push-pull relationships are fraught with emotional ups and downs that can leave both parties feeling frustrated and drained.

To break this cycle, it is vital to practice self-love and self-respect. Remember that you are worthy of love and appreciation and that seeking validation from others will only lead to disappointment.

By embracing your uniqueness and valuing yourself as an individual, you set the foundation for a healthy and fulfilling relationship based on honesty, respect, and trust. Push-pull relationships are notoriously challenging to navigate because of their cyclical nature.

The Push-Pull Cycle in 7 Stages

  1. The Pursuit

    In this stage, the pusher pursues the relationship with enthusiasm, often overwhelming the puller with their attention and affection. They may express their love and admiration openly and frequently, leaving the puller feeling cherished and wanted.

  2. The Bliss

    The bliss stage is characterized by a deep sense of love and connection between the two partners. They are inseparable, expressing their love and admiration for each other regularly.

    This stage is where the relationship seems to be at its best, with the promise of a bright and loving future.

  3. The Withdrawal

    Here, the pusher begins to withdraw or distance themselves from the puller for no apparent reason.

    The puller may feel confused, wondering why their partner has pulled away and questioning their own feelings. It is at this point that the relationship starts to feel shaky and uncertain.

  4. Repel

    The pusher becomes distant or cold, now repelling the puller and seeming to push them away altogether. The puller is left feeling rejected and unsure of themselves, leading to feelings of anxiety, confusion, and insecurity.

  5. Becoming Distant

    In this stage, the distance between the pusher and the puller grows. Communication fades away, and the relationship feels more and more disconnected.

    The puller may make efforts to reach out, but the pusher continues to remain aloof and unavailable.

  6. Reconcile

    After some time, both the pusher and the puller begin to feel a sense of loss and longing for each other.

    The pusher may begin to pursue the puller again, expressing their love and regret over their withdrawal. The puller may be hesitant but eventually gives in and begins to reconcile with the pusher.

  7. Peace and Harmony

    Finally, the relationship stabilizes, returning to its blissful and loving state. The couple experiences a sense of peace and harmony, enjoying a feeling of love and security.

    However, this stage is often temporary, as the cycle continues to repeat, and the relationship may once again fall into a push-pull pattern.

People Involved in Push-Pull Relationships

The people most likely to become involved in push-pull relationships are those with unhealed wounds and unhealthy attitudes towards partnerships. It is common for individuals who have experienced trauma in their childhood or past relationships to try to push away a partner when they get too close.

They may view intimacy as a threat and believe that they need to protect themselves from being hurt again. Low self-esteem is also a significant factor in people getting caught up in push-pull relationships.

They may feel unworthy of love and, as a result, cling to a dysfunctional relationship in fear of abandonment. In some cases, the emotional turmoils of a push-pull relationship may seem like a comforting alternative to the possibility of being alone.

Fear of abandonment and intimacy is another significant factor that drives push-pull relationships. This fear is generally linked to past experiences of abandonment, abuse, or trauma.

When pushers feel like they are becoming too attached to a person, they may pull away in an effort to reassert their independence and avoid getting hurt. It is also important to note that individuals who struggle with healthy, balanced relationship styles may be more likely to fall into push-pull relationships.

These individuals may be used to tumultuous and dysfunctional relationships and may not know how to cultivate healthy ones. In conclusion, push-pull relationships are complex and challenging, driven by individuals’ fears of intimacy, abandonment, and unresolved emotional wounds.

Understanding the seven stages of the push-pull cycle and the people most likely to engage in these relationships can help individuals break the cycle and create healthier, more fulfilling relationships.

Can Push-Pull Relationships Work?

Push-pull relationships are notoriously complicated and can be emotionally draining, but some people still try to make them work.

In this article, we will explore the possibility of a push-pull relationship’s lifespan, whether or not individuals can be addicted to the push-pull dynamic, the emotional toll of push-pull relationships, and the potential for change and resolution. We will also share actionable steps to fix a push-pull relationship.

Lifespan and Addiction

While some push-pull relationships may last for years or even decades, they are often fraught with challenges, and eventually, one or both parties will tire of the cycle.

However, some people may develop an addiction to the push-pull dynamic and struggle to give it up, which can make the relationship last longer than it should. This addiction may arise from the intense emotional highs and lows that the cycle produces, leading some individuals to crave the drama and the rush of intimacy followed by distance.

Emotional Toll

The emotional toll of a push-pull relationship cannot be overstated. The constant dance of attraction and rejection takes a heavy toll on one’s self-esteem and emotional well-being.

The relationship may become a source of anxiety, stress, and insecurity, leaving both parties feeling drained and unfulfilled. The cost of staying in a push-pull relationship may not be visible at first, but it can translate into long-term emotional trauma for both parties.

Potential for Change

While it may be tempting to cling onto the hope of making it work, it is essential to recognize the potential for change and resolution. Both parties must be willing to face their fears, understand their attachment styles, and communicate honestly with each other about their needs and desires.

When both individuals are committed to working on and changing the dynamics, there is hope that the relationship may evolve positively.

How to Fix a Push-Pull Relationship

1. Identifying the Problem and Owning Individual Roles

The first step to fix a push-pull relationship is recognizing and owning the problem. Both parties must accept their individual roles in the push-pull cycle and take ownership of their feelings and behaviors.

They must recognize how the dynamic is negatively impacting the relationship and be willing to work on it.

2. Developing Empathy and Understanding

Understanding your partner’s emotions and attachment style can go a long way in improving a push-pull relationship. Try to put yourself in their shoes and see the world through their lens.

This can help to foster trust, empathy, and connection.

3. Recognizing the Cost of the Dynamic

Both pullers and pushers must recognize the cost of their behavior on the relationship. This means being honest about the emotional and physical toll it has taken on their partner and themselves.

Becoming consciously aware of the cost of the dynamic provides the motivation necessary to commit to creating a life of empathy and peace.

4. Respecting Each Other’s Needs and Attachment Styles

Strengthening a push-pull relationship requires that the partners respect each other’s needs and attachment styles.

Pullers should allow space for pushers’ need for independence and respect their boundaries. At the same time, pushers should remain sensitive to the pullers’ need for connection and emotional security.

5. Allowing Vulnerability and Avoiding Power Plays

Push-pull dynamics often stem from a fear of vulnerability and emotional exposure. By allowing oneself to be vulnerable, both parties can create a deeper sense of intimacy.

Additionally, avoiding power plays that use emotional distance or withdrawal as a tool is critical in creating a sustainable and healthy relationship.

6. Correcting Assumptions and Working Towards Healthy Relationships

Understanding and correcting assumptions about oneself and one’s partner is foundational in transforming a push-pull relationship. It requires communication that respects the individual perspectives of oneself and others while working on improving the relationship as a whole.

In doing so, the dynamic can shift to create healthy and lasting relationships.

In conclusion, push-pull relationships may be challenging to navigate, but it is possible to make them work.

It requires that both parties recognize the problem, develop empathy and understanding, respect each other’s attachment styles, allow vulnerability, avoid power plays, correct assumptions, and work towards a healthy dynamic. While it may not be easy, putting in the effort to overcome the push-pull dynamic can lead to a stronger and more fulfilling relationship.

In conclusion, push-pull relationships are characterized by a pattern of attraction and rejection that can lead to emotional exhaustion and insecurity. Understanding the cycle’s stages, identifying the people most likely to engage in a push-pull relationship, and recognizing the emotional toll can help individuals break the cycle and form healthy relationships.

While challenging, individuals can take action to fix a push-pull relationship by owning their roles, developing empathy, respecting each other’s needs and attachment styles, allowing vulnerability, avoiding power plays, and working towards a healthy relationship. Ultimately, by taking the time to understand oneself and one’s partner, individuals can overcome the push-pull dynamic, have fulfilling and lasting relationships that bring love and positivity into their lives.

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