When The Pursuer Thinks They Are Clearly Communicating Their Needs

Something I’ve been trying to stay aware of is that the Pursuer does believe they have been clearly communicating their needs, even though their message does not seem to be connecting with the Withdrawer.


“I’ve told her this a thousand times, I just need more help around the house.”

“I’ve told him for years I just want to be held when I’m crying.”


 And it can get confusing for me, the pursuer therapist, because in my head I’m thinking, “Yeah … you have told him/her, that is what you need in that moment. You need him to do the dishes or give you a hug!” And then I go into wanting to find out what is blocking the Withdrawer from giving the Pursuer what he/she needs instead of trying to go deeper and clarify and distilling what is happening for the Pursuer.

I often think of Pursuers as The Little Red Hen – did you all have that story when you were younger? The Mom Hen asks for help with various chores in making bread, and no one will help her, and she ends each denied request with, “Then I’ll do it myself.” At the very end, when the bread is made, everyone wants to eat it with her and she denies them, and explains since she made it all herself she’s not going to share the bread with them.

I see the Pursuer (and definitely myself as a Pursuer) this way. They make a request for an action, it’s met by refusal or non-response, they say to themselves, “I have to do this (emotional soothing, chore, etc.) by myself.” They might make meaning of this by saying, “he/she doesn’t care or he/she might care but isn’t capable.” Then they stuff in their feelings or blow up their feelings. Later, when their partner reaches to them for some connection (sexual, fun, emotional) they find an icy, condescending statue. “Are you serious that you think I’m going to be fun for you when I’ve been doing xyz all by myself all day? You don’t care about my needs, I’m not going to care about your needs.”

I was reminded in Core Skills that Pursuers often hide their needs while complaining about not getting their needs met. I still struggle with discerning what “the need” actually is. I hear the surface need – I need help with the dishes, I need a hug – as the actual need. Because they do need help with the dishes and need a hug. So I think this is where I could slow down and ask the Pursuer, “how do you make that request?” and, “what are you feeling the split second before you make that request?” And really try to distill, what/how are they communicating in that moment, and how is that hitting their partner? What is happening in the cycle that is preventing a clear communication of need and response?

I’m wondering if in the moment the Pursuer is actually not communicating the need, not reaching, but instead saying to themselves, “he/she should I know need this right now when I am banging the dishes or hunched over crying.” And then quickly moving into frustration when the Withdrawer is not responding. All of this helps me realize that I need to go slower still with my couples, and really try to understand – what is happening in this moment, and what is happening in the cycle at this moment?

If you have any insights into the reasons the Pursuer's need is not being communicated clearly, please share below!