From the Forums
[I] realized that I was the Distancer for most of our Marriage; he was the Pursuer …It has been hard to now resume distancing because that is what I feel like got us here in the first place. I would say that is my biggest struggle right now–how much should I connect with him and how much should I distance.
Often Pursuer and Distancer roles switch if the person leaving was previously the Pursuer; the MLCer usually is the Distancer during MLC. But that is not always the case. Clinging Boomerangs are perhaps the main exception, but other contact types may also take on the Pursuer role.
A Stander who was the natural Distancer may have an easier time adjusting to their MLCer leaving. Distancers appreciate personal alone time. Some may switch roles in the shock and panic that is the typical aftermath of Bomb Drop, but a Distancer may still recover from the loneliness factor faster.
- Let your MLCer initiate contact and communication.
- You need to maintain some level of contact so as not to hinder reconnection.
- Do something different; do the opposite.
For some what to do seems clear, though immensely difficult: Limit Contact
When advised to do something different, change, do the opposite… and you were a Pursuer, limiting contact, not pursuing, giving space, distancing… are obvious opposites. But what if you were the Distancer? What if your spouse felt neglected by you? If you distance, will that be more of the same? What if your MLCer used your distancing behaviors as one of the excuses for leaving?
I was and am the Distancer in my marriage and I used to tie my brain in knots over this very issue. This is why Standing is a tightrope act. All of the advice is correct. If you have a Clinging Boomerang or other Pursuer, you won’t need to worry that there will be no contact between you because your MLCer will initiate the contacts. So that handles that. But how are you supposed to maintain a contact limitation in those circumstances? That does not mean No Contact, but some sort of limitation. And since you are supposed to maintain some level of contact, how do you accomplish that while at the same time limiting the level of contact?
Maintaining contact and limiting contact are not opposites. You first need to consider your level of strength and detachment. How long has it been since Bomb Drop?
Early Bomb Aftermath: 0-6 months
(Timelines are approximate and vary with each individual.)
Less is better.
In the beginning you may think that less contact will send you spiraling into more panic and anxiety and that may be true. But more contact may not have better results and may have worse results because dealing with a Monster Replayer may still send you into panic and anxiety. You need to build your strength and detachment so that you can handle contact. That is a priority over maintaining a level of contact for the purpose of a future reconnection.
Contact when you are in the reactive mode created by panic and anxiety will be negative and hinder reconnection.
The extremity of the contact limitations will be dependent on the living arrangements. No Contact will not be possible with an MLCer who lives at home; Dark or Dim are your options. With an MLCer who does not live at home the contact limitations can be stricter—even when you must maintain levels of contact for co-parenting. Go No Contact if you are unable to maintain composure when in contact. Limit communication methods to those that do not involve physical contact and perhaps eliminate live-voice contact as well. Use email and texting.
Detached: 3-18 months after Bomb Drop
Your detachment will increase and waver, but once you have got the hang of it a bit, you can adjust the contact to fit your strength as well as the situation. Contact will help you to test your detachment, thereby increasing it—one step back, two forward.
Is your MLCer in Mean Monster? Set a strict No Contact as a consequence and as a means for you to continue focusing on your increasing strength and detachment. With a Pursuer that does not mean there will be zero contact.
Is your MLCer flirting or trying to seduce you? That is another aspect of Monster. Be firm and say No. I know, that sort of message may feel positive and you want and need it. But the offer is not meant as spousal intimacy. You don’t have to limit contact to No Contact if you do not have a problem saying no to temptation. Be polite and let your MLCer know the boundaries. Intimacy is for a marital and committed relationship. When your MLCer tries to tell you he has changed his mind and is now committed, thank him and then ask how he plans to work with you to repair your broken relationship because he needs to do that before you will resume physical intimacy.
Does your MLCer want to be your friend or your tarnished knight who fixes things around the house? This is where the advice about maintaining a connection becomes practical; it’s also where your MLCer may become a Cake-Eater. But if you want to rebuild your marriage someday, that will never happen if you maintain a permanent No Contact. That seems obvious, right? This period may last a few years and be interspersed with No Contacts as you set boundaries against Cake-Eating and as the dynamics with alienator change and react to the situation.
During this time you are re-establishing a friendship and trust. No, your MLCer is not trustworthy. If there was an alienator in the beginning, there is still likely to be an alienator. You are establishing yourself as the safe zone and helping your MLCer to trust you. Your MLCer left to find comfort and safety. He may have felt you did or would judge him; that you were critical and you would deliberately try to make him feel guilty and ashamed. Whether that accurately describes you or not, it may be how your MLCer feels.
During this time you are setting up the firmness of your Stand because your MLCer doesn’t buy it. That makes sense. He left, he cheated, he blamed you for everything that is wrong, he spewed Monster yuck at you…it is normal to think that you will not want to reconcile. He doesn’t believe you. He tests you with more spew and the alienator relationship continues. It will take 1-3 years of your consistent Standing for him to believe in it. This is Paving the Way.
If you are too severe regarding contact limitations, your MLCer may interpret that as you being over him, not interested, angry, unemotional, uncaring… and thus it’s over. She may not want it to be over, but she is not yet at a point where the thought of losing you scares her into changing. It may scare her, but into a paralyzing rather than active fear.
Detached: 18+ months after Bomb
You re-established trust and now he may think he can do anything since you are a Stander and you won’t leave him. You will always take him back. Boy that cake is good!
Now is the time for strict No Contact. Before, he may not have feared losing you because he was trying to lose you. Now you are his place of safety, you are his comfort, his secret confidant—it may be a secret from you, and leaving you is his greatest regret. And yet he’s not ready to come home either. The alienator still has claws in the situation and he is not strong enough to make a decision one way or the other—even though he knows he does not want the alienator. Emotional Blackmail is not easy to escape.
Your MLCer needs to fear losing you because his fear will now motivate action rather than motivating a sense of hopelessness and poor-me anger. Use No Contact as a consequence for inappropriate spousal behavior.
Call me when you choose to be an appropriate husband/wife. But not until then.
Loosen the boundaries gradually only as conditions are met. Some boundaries may have attached timelines. After multiple moves home and away, I set up a boundary about living together that included a specific time period. We could not live together for a full year from the time Sweetheart left the last time. That would have been increased had he remained with the alienator for that entire year, but he left her within a couple of months. It did not matter what other conditions he met, how perfectly he behaved and what additional assurances he gave; that timeline was firm. I had too much experience with me caving and him leaving to keep doing it.
Related Main Site Series: Contact & Communication
For more information in Pursuit & Distance read The Solo Partner by Phil DeLuca
What have I not covered?
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