• Ma'ayan Greenbaum

Is the Demand/Withdraw pattern eroding the love you desire?

Is it frustrating and hurtful to you when you’re disappointed, yet your partner seems unfazed?


Maybe your mate grows even more indifferent, the more upset you become?


Do you find yourself angrily demanding that your partner hear you out, only to end up feeling even more alone afterwards? Or possibly feeling so disillusioned and spiteful that a powerful urge to push your partner away comes over you?


My clients “Jackie & Thomas” (not their real names) were stuck in a similar struggle for 5 years since they got engaged. In fact, Thomas found it so exhausting that he often wondered if explaining himself to Jackie would be worthwhile and feared their marriage wouldn’t last.


He desperately wanted to feel close to Jackie, but secretly worried he’d “mess things up” if he allowed his feelings to “get the best of him” when they argued.


Jackie came into marriage hopeful that Thomas would help her counteract the guilt she had about wanting more for herself. Early in their relationship, his clear boundaries and confidence really appealed to her, yet later on those very qualities left her feeling shut-out and alone.


Tragically, the more aggressively Jackie “stood up for herself”, the more Thomas withdrew. The more enraged she became, the more he turned away from her. They both felt helpless, defeated and painfully lonely underneath.


Our work together allowed them to bring new awareness to the underlying hidden dynamics and unconscious agreements that were fueling their power-struggles. They were finally able to recognize that they actually shared the same underlying fear of losing their connection (but had very different strategies for dealing with it). These insights along with the safe container of our relationship gave Jackie and Thomas opportunities to practice new, more satisfying patterns of being with each other that they couldn’t have previously imagined:


Instead of seeing each other as the “enemy” and feeling like the only option they had was either to FIGHT or SUBMIT, they softened their criticism and became more vulnerable with each other. NOW, they take a stand for each other (without abandoning themselves). They make requests of each other, instead of putting each other down. And finally, they shift blame into curiosity and create space to be more present with each other, more of the time. While they still argue sometimes, their disagreements are a lot less damaging and they are able to recover from them a lot faster. They feel secure with each other and are super excited to welcome their baby into their family this summer.


If you’ve ever found yourself reflexively repeating the same disappointing patterns with your partner and feeling hopeless or stuck, listen closely:


Becoming conscious of your relationship dynamics and honoring their origins is the first step towards understanding why your reactions feel so automatic & visceral; why your intimate relationship often feels it’s in “replay mode” AND…. how you can expand beyond your previously limiting assumptions so that you can create new and exciting possibilities with your partner!


If this was valuable to you, please comment below and share your takeaways!

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Dr. Ma’ayan Greenbaum is a NJ and NY licensed clinical psychologist. Her psychotherapy practice in Livingston, NJ is dedicated to working within the interfacing spheres of relationships, sexuality, fertility and parenthood.

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124 East Mt Pleasant Avenue, Livingston, NJ 07039