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What Is A Push Pull Relationship? Signs And The Ways To Overcome It

What Is A Push Pull Relationship? Signs And The Ways To Overcome It

Updated on Nov 03, 2023

Reviewed by Katina Tarver, MA (Mental Health and Wellness Counseling) , Life & Relationship Coach

Push Pull Relationship - Meaning, Signs, Reasons & Ways to Overcome It

In a push pull relationship both the partners are unable to get involved with each other for some reason. 

It is a challenge for them to build a secure and loving relationship. They just keep pushing each other after pulling them in. 

Forming a genuine attachment in this kind of relationship is tough. There is no stability and the control power is always lacking. 

They have a tendency to hurt each other and then not be able to heal the wounds. 

If you are in one of these relationships, it is really important for you to pursue self-love first. 

If you are unable to take care of yourself and love yourself, it can be hard to love someone else and build a healthy relationship with them. 

What is a Push and Pull Relationship?

A push pull relationship is a kind of relationship where someone pulls people closer but then pushes them away. They can be pulled again only after they become distant and cold.

This kind of relationship only lasts because both the partners allow it. The push pull relationship can be stressful and affect your emotional well being negative. 

Some of these types of relationships can last really long. But most of the time there is no expectation of any positive outcome from a push pull relationship. 

The puller believes there is a bond developing, so they begin to enjoy the attention and feel value in the pairing. 

Still, the pusher starts to pull away gradually and becomes disinterested. The puller’s immediate thought is wondering what they had done to cause the reaction.

When you believe in love and look for a new beginning but end up in a push and pull relationship, your world can turn upside down. 

Push pull relationship does not always have a fixed role for you. Both individuals can change their roles as a pusher or a puller. 

In this role changing relationship, things can get more complicated with time. 

Push Pull Relationship Signs

When you are not happy in your relationship and experiencing several issues, you need to take a step back and think about everything. 

Look for the signs that can tell you what is wrong with your relationship and decide what to do next. 

1. You represent each other’s fear or insecurities

Trauma can come in different forms. Trauma is not always the result of any violence or accidents. 

Different childhood experiences may not seem bigger from the outside but can cause trauma and affect your life for a long time. 

For example, if you never had someone to talk to you or share your feelings with, it can affect your romantic relationship in the future. 

Over dominating or controlling parents, careless caregivers in childhood, abandonment from father or mother, and many more things can be responsible for your current emotional condition. 

It can be hard for you to express your true emotions or true feelings to your partner and be vulnerable around them. 

Not being able to trust your partner is very common in those who have experienced trust issues in their childhood. 

On the other hand, you can develop a fear of judgment and abandonment in your life.

This fear can force you to continue a relationship even if you are not satisfied because you do not want to be left alone. 

You worry too much about what other people may think about you and are not ready to experience any judgment from them. 

2. You do not have any understanding

The pusher in this relationship prefers to avoid any kind of attachment and intimacy. They are highly independent and do not want to get involved in any kind of commitment. 

These people can also engage in healthy flirting with others. 

The puller in this relationship wants to develop a stable and healthy relationship with their partner. 

They want attachment more than anything and intimacy is a part of their life. They feel anxious when not able to develop any closeness and security in a relationship.

Developing and maintaining a relationship with these separate desires and attitudes is really difficult.

Both the partners will never be able to satisfy each other’s emotional needs and will be trapped in their concepts of intimacy. 

The pusher will panic every time they feel any pressure to commit or emotional attachment. Whereas, the puller will get anxious when their partner is pushing them away. 

3. You feel threatened often

People who are anxious to develop a happy relationship will do anything to achieve their dream. They will put so much effort to make things right and reestablish the attachment after a fight. 

They feel threatened every time some disagreement happens and try their best to reach a conclusion that can fit them both. 

Never losing hope is a speciality for them. These people will not calm down until they make things work again.

Whereas, people who are the exact opposite will do anything to avoid any kind of commitment or attachment in their life. 

They can feel threatened every time there is any closeness developing between you two and run from it. 

4. Unresolved conflicts

Expressing yourself and facing your conflicts is very positive for any relationship. Resolving all your conflicts together can bring you closer and help you to develop your bond. 

Effective communication is really necessary for all of these. 

When two different people with different needs are together in a relationship, conflicts are inevitable. 

Both the partners should talk about their feelings and their needs in life and try their best to resolve all the disagreements and conflicts. 

If any of them is not interested in forming any attachment or does not want to commit to this relationship, they will maintain a safe distance. They know that talking about these conflicts can make things work.

Thus, they will try their best to avoid any kind of communication which can help to develop the bond. 

Avoiding anything that can lead to any attachment, understanding or affection will be their main motive.

5. Instability 

For people who are avoidant in nature, instability is really common for them. If you can look back and analyze yourself, you may be able to improve your nature and focus on stability. 

If you are emotionally attached to someone who does not really believe in any kind of attachment, stability will not be easy to achieve. 

After a certain period, all your needs or demands will become unbearable and more complicated. 

You both need to take a step forward if you really want to make things work and develop a stable relationship. 

Push Pull Relationship Cycle

A push pull relationship is based on a cycle and there are seven stages in it.

This cycle continues as you are maintaining your push pull relationship with your romantic partner.

In this section, we are going to describe all the stages so that you can have a better idea. 

1. The pursuit 

In this first stage, a person with a lower level of self-esteem generally approaches someone they are attracted to, by suppressing all their fear of intimacy.

They try to hide all their fear and insecurities and put on a charm.

They pretend to be someone with different romantic attire and a cool attitude.

From buying expensive gifts to providing attention all the time, these people can do anything to impress their crush.

The other person often does not pay much attention to their fear of abandonment. They play hard to get initially. 

Being vulnerable around someone is just not their thing. But after a certain time, all those efforts and attention make them feel good about themself. 

2. Bliss

Their relationship goes well for a while. They share tons of excitement and enjoy every moment together. 

The time they spend together starts increasing and becomes more entertaining. In this phase, they may get physically intimate too. 

They do not spend much time in deep and healthy conversations with each other. The level of emotional intimacy is very low between them. 

This way they lack having a well balanced and healthy relationship

3. Withdrawal 

In this phase, one partner starts feeling overwhelmed with all this intimacy and attraction. Their hidden insecurities and fear of intimacy can not be suppressed anymore. 

They develop a certain fear of this closeness and attachment.

Withdrawing themself from anything overwhelming or too emotional is what happens in this phase.

Their need to reduce this intensity can make them do anything. As a result, they try to escape from the situation and avoid any kind of attachment. 

Being physically distant and emotionally unavailable seems like the only way out. 

4. Repulsion  

As the withdrawal begins the other person starts pursuing their partner. They do not want to be left as they have a fear of abandonment in their life. 

They can go miles to get the attention of their partner and to win them back. 

However, these efforts play an opposite role to their partners and push them away. It can create more fear in those people who are afraid of any kind of intimacy. 

They become more emotionally unavailable and start repealing their partner more. 

5. Distance 

As the situation becomes too intense both the partners decide to calm down and take a step back. 

This decision to give each other some space and increase the distance in between is to avoid any breakup. 

Their fear of abandonment becomes too strong. To avoid the feeling of heartbreak they are even ready to deal with the distance and stay away from each other. 

Even if they feel that there is nothing good left in this relationship, they will be unable to break up to avoid the fear of being alone. 

6. Reunion 

After they get all the space they need they start looking at their relationship positively again.

The craving for their partner starts getting stronger with time and they start pursuing it all over again. 

From intense gifts to countless apologies, they can do anything to win them and restart the relationship.

Things take a huge turn in this stage. The pusher also starts feeling a need for that affection and moves back in. 

7. Harmony 

The relationship starts going through another peaceful phase with harmony and happiness. Both of them are satisfied at this stage. 

The pusher does not feel too much intimacy or seriousness and the puller is happy that the relationship is not over.

As soon as things start becoming more intense and intimate the withdrawal phase will start all over again. 

Steps to Overcome a Push Pull Relationship

It is hard to get out when you are stuck in a push pull relationship. Breaking up is not always easy in this situation.

Here are some ways that can help you to improve your relationship or move on. 

1. Identify the problem 

The pusher in a relationship is never concerned about their problems. They always want to avoid all the issues so that things can go as it is. 

Whereas, the pullers always overthink everything that is going on currently. 

If you want your relationship to improve and take a positive turn, the first thing you need to do is identify the cause. 

Reflect on the possible issues that can affect your relationship or your partner.

By identifying the real problem here you will be able to take proper steps to work on it. This way you can try to change the dynamic of your partner and your relationship. 

2. Understanding and Empathy 

When you want to avoid a break-up with your partner, you have to work on your empathy.

Once you can find out if you are the pusher or the puller in your relationship, you can take the next step. 

Try to pay more attention to your partner and understand their thoughts and feelings in a better way. Do not judge them instantly for their behavior. 

Listen to them and be more empathetic to their problems. Identify the underlying reasons behind their behavior. 

Once you are ready to deal with your issues it will be easier to talk about the problems of your relationship to your partner. 

This way, you can help each other to overcome all the fear, insecurities, and every other issue you have. 

3. Acknowledge the cost 

You need to be aware of the cost to be addicted to a push pull relationship. One must know all the possible outcomes before getting stuck in this kind of relationship intentionally.  

It can damage your mental health on different levels. 

Stress, anxiety, fear, frustration, anger, and many more negative emotions may be triggered and affect your life when you are in a toxic and unhealthy relationship

Once you are able to acknowledge all these outcomes you can find several ways to deal with your relationship. 

You can choose that if you want to break up or find a way to resolve the issues. 

4. Respect the differences

It is one of the most important things for a push pull relationship. However, it is hard to respect when someone is exactly the opposite of you. 

But when you are ready to know more about your partner things can get easier. 

In this kind of relationship, both the partners have different points of view and different goals in life. 

Until you are ready to respect these differences, it is impossible to make something good happen in your relationship. 

Whenever the puller tries to take the next step in their relationship, the puller will feel overwhelmed and have withdrawal. 

Thus, you both need to understand each other’s methods to deal with the situation and find a way to cope with it without breaking up.  

5. Take some space

Taking some space is not always a bad thing in a relationship. The distance can help you both to think clearly about your needs and your past. 

For the pusher in a push pull relationship, distance is really important to avoid their insecurities. For a puller, it can make them anxious and nervous. 

However, it is good to stay away from each other and enjoy your personal space for a while in every relationship. 

Space can help you both to achieve a positive perspective about your relationship before getting back with each other. 

6. Work on yourself

Setting everything aside you need to work on yourself. Identify all your negatives and find a way to work on them until you are able to achieve success. 

Try to increase your self-esteem and confidence level to be a better person.

When you are able to improve all your personal qualities you can improve your relationship as well. You also have to improve your coping mechanism too. 

7. Emotional vulnerability

When the puller in your relationship has taken the step to understand the importance of space in a relationship, it is the time for the pusher. 

They should try to work on their fear of intimacy and learn to be emotionally vulnerable around their partner. 

If you have experienced something bad in your past, you may not be able to drop your walls that easily. 

It is important for you to try harder and figure out the cause of your insecurity. Without a reason, you may not be able to find a solution. 

You must let your guard down if you really want this relationship to work. It is important for the partner to appreciate and support the pusher in the process. 

They must not feel judged and hated. Otherwise, all the efforts will go in vain and they will start avoiding once again. 

8. Try to work as a team

Putting efforts from one side will not do anything well. In every relationship, it is important to work together to make things right. 

You both need to learn to work as a team first before entering into the process. 

Both the partners should be willing to improve their relationship and make it healthier and more successful. 

You must learn to help each other and divide your responsibilities. Things will get easier and less complicated this way. 

9. Seek therapy

When you both are ready to improve your relationship but unable to find out how you must seek help from a therapist. 

With professional guidance, you can work on your problems and improve your relationship in less time. 

There are several therapy methods that can help you to work on yourself and your relationship. 

  • Psychodynamic Therapy can help you to reach the core of your problems and identify all your issues and internal conflicts. 
  • Therapies like behavioral therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy can help you to improve your behavioral pattern and modify it. 
  • Couple therapy can help you to work together as partners and help each other to work on your problems. 
  • Different exercises like meditation or yoga can make your mind calm and ready to deal with your issues. 

Type of People Who End Up in a Push and Pull Relationship 

There are two types of people who can end up being in a push pull kind of relationship.

If one of these kinds of people is present in a relationship things can be resolved more easily. 

Whereas, when both kinds of people come together and build a push pull relationship things can be more complicated and hard to resolve.

Type one 

People who are afraid of any kind of intimacy are prone to have this kind of relationship.

Though their fear of intimacy is conscious, they may have an unconscious fear of abandonment too. 

Certain childhood trauma or past experiences can be the reason behind their current emotional state.

There is a lack of self-esteem in these people and which can force them to pursue a romantic relationship. 

Being in a romantic relationship with someone helps them to feel worthy and loved. These people do not like to let their guards down in front of their partners. 

They do not like to feel suffocated in any relationship and get overwhelmed when their partner is trying to get closer. 

Their feelings make them run from the relationship and take some space whenever things get a little intense.

Type two 

The other kind of people is those who have an unconscious fear of intimacy and a conscious fear of abandonment.

They do not like to feel insecure in their relationship and can do anything to be loved by their partners. 

These people are more involved in their relationships and do not like the concept of having space at all. 

Reasons Behind a Push Pull Relationship 

There are several factors that can be responsible for creating a push pull relationship in your life. 


If you are bored with your single life and you want to be with someone just to avoid your loneliness, you may end up being in a push pull relationship. 

Though you want to experience love and care but are not ready for any commitment.

It is also possible that you are in a relationship with someone for a long time and you feel bored with your partner. There is a lack of adventure and excitement in your life and you want to escape from your relationship. 


Low self-esteem can create a need or desire to win all the time. People with lower self-esteem may try to run behind those things that are hard to achieve. 

They can put all their effort into starting a relationship with someone who is not that interested at first.

These people will never stop until they are successful in their mission. But once they have achieved their desires, they will start losing interest eventually. 


Individuals with a certain fear in their minds may end up being in this kind of relationship. You can be afraid to get closer to someone for different reasons. 

It is hard for you to be emotionally vulnerable around someone and open your thoughts to them. 


Insecurities are something that can have a hinge negative impact on relationships most of the time. 

For someone who is struggling with different insecurities in their personal life, then it becomes really hard to trust someone. 

You may feel that the person you are putting your trust in may abandon you or hurt you badly.

Staying away from your partner can make you insecure that they may lose their interest in you and start liking someone else. 


Any childhood trauma can hold you back to establish a healthy relationship with someone. Negative things can have a huge impact on your mind. 

A history of abuse or abandonment in your childhood can cause attachment issues in future.

If you have seen or experienced something bad in your life that can affect every decision you want to make. 


People who always have negative thoughts about different things may never be able to hope for a better future. 

They will always focus on the bad and overlook the progress. Their negativity can affect their thoughts about relationships too. 

Fear of a negative outcome can hold them back from starting a healthy and committed relationship with someone, even if they like their partners. 

Narcissistic personality 

Individuals who are obsessed with themselves will always put their needs and comfort first. 

The moment they feel that they have to step out of their comfort zone things will come to an end. These people will never be ready to adjust to anybody in their life against their will. 


A push pull relationship is toxic most of the time. In this kind of relationship both the partners are not able to understand each other’s thoughts. 

They both have different needs in their life which is the reason behind all the conflicts between them. 

If you end up being in a push pull relationship but you want to make things work, you need to figure out the issues you both are having. 

Try to emphasize each other and work as a team to overcome all your problems together.