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Push-Pull - A chronic pattern of sabotaging and re-establishing closeness in a relationship without appropriate cause or reason.


Also sometimes described as “I hate you…don’t leave me!” Push-Pull describes the feeling of being in a relationship with someone who routinely pushes you away only to chase after you and pull you back in.

Push-Pull happens in many kinds of relationships: familial, platonic and romantic:  When a disordered parent repeatedly ignores or disowns his or her child, only to later chase after them and offer bribes or the promise of attention or special favor.  

In friendships, or romantic pairings, the person wreaking havoc may give  the distinct impression of having completely checked out of the relationship, but when the friend or partner actually withdraws, will suddenly be filled with remorse, rush back in, and overcompensate for their earlier behavior by making grand promises to change and begging the object of their affections not to abandon them.

Transient symptoms of personality disorders such as Fear of Abandonment, Dissociation, Engulfment, Moments of Clarity, Selective Amnesia and Splitting can naturally manifest themselves in the behaviors and attitudes of the personality disorder sufferer such as Alienation, Blaming, False Accusations, Chaos Manufacture, Domestic Theft, Hoovering, Raging, Shaming and Thought Policing. These feelings often represent the truth in a person who suffers from a personality disorder, who treats people they come into contact with according to the way they are feeling, good or bad, regardless of what they may truly deserve.

What it feels like:

Push-Pull is when your elderly mother ignores you for months at a time,  but the moment  her "favorite" child is out of sight,  suddenly remembers there is another body she gave birth to and begins barraging you with phone calls, trying to insinuate herself into every aspect of your life.   The likelihood is that when the favorite returns, she will immediately sever communication and go back to ignoring you, until the next time she feels abandoned and in need of someone to fill up the empty space inside her.

Push-Pull is when your significant other dumps you, immediately becomes involved with another person, then calls you up a few weeks or months later, begging for another chance. 

What often confounds the person on the receiving end of such treatment is that while they can clearly see inconsistencies in the cyclical arguments and behaviors they are dealing with,  the person with the personality disorder may be completely blind to the contradictions. This "difference of reality" can often lead to more Circular Arguments between the PD Sufferer and the Non-PD Sufferer, which generally only serves to pour more fuel on the dysfunctional fire.

it can be hard not to take a hit to your self\-esteem as you try to guess from one day to the next what kind of mood your PD will be in when you wake up, when you arrive late from work, or when you go to a social gathering. It's common practice to try to find patterns in a person's behavior such as "Last time I said xyz it really pleased her" or "Every time I try <---> he always results in him doing <---->". However, when the behaviors are driven by the feelings of a PD the same parameters do not always produce the same result.

Push-Pull Examples:

  • A woman cycles between telling her husband she wants a divorce and begging him not to leave her.
  • A man hits his girlfriend and then tells her she means the world to him.
  • A mother tells her daughter she is mommy's favorite all the while egging on her siblings to tease and scapegoat her.
  • A father repeatedly blows the rent at the casino and then begs his family for forgiveness.

What Not to Do:

When you are dealing with Push-Pull behavior:

  • Try not to look for a logical reason for every illogical thought, deed or word of a person with a personality disorder.
  • Try not to play the guessing game, trying to change your own behavior in an attempt to control the reactions of another person.
  • Don't assume anyone else's bad behavior is based something YOU have said or done. Everyone is responsible for their own behavior.
  • Try not to react emotionally in anger or revenge when you don't get what you want or deserve.

What to Do:

  • Learn everything you can about the personality disorder your loved-one suffers from, and how that is likely to affect their behavior, their thoughts and their moods.
  • Develop an emergency plan for any scenario that may include violence or abuse being directed towards or your children.
  • Discover ways to get what you need/want that are not solely dependent on your loved-one having a "good day".

For More Information & Support...

If you suspect you may have a family member or loved-one who suffers from a personality disorder, we encourage you to learn all you can and surround yourself with support as you learn how to cope.

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