The Push Pull Relationship

by Andrea Blundell
Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

You chase someone like crazy, but if they decide to go for it? You pull away. Or you are in love one day, hate them the next, and on it goes.

Why are you so addicted to the push pull relationship pattern?

Push and pull games in relationships

Been told to ‘stop playing games’ because of your tendency to always confuse others? And felt unfairly judged?

Yes, there are some people who purposely push and pull others. And yet despite what the internet would have us all believe, the percentage of narcissists amongst us who are amused by hurting others is quite low.

Most people who use the push and pull relationship dynamic don’t mean to, or even hate that they do it. Like anyone, they want to be in love.

It’s just that somewhere along the way, you've developed coping mechanisms that leave you unable to relax in relationships.

Or you have other mental health issues that are causing you to be hot and cold when it comes to love, and even friendship.

Mental health issues behind push pulling

What are the issues that are possibly leading you to push and pull in relationships?

Fear of intimacy

Want love more than anything, but deep down you are terrified? Fear of intimacy means that if someone actually tries to get to know you, you'll find ways to sabotage.

Childhood trauma

Unresolved past trauma is often what drives a fear of intimacy or unhealthy relating patterns. Trauma and neglect damages our sense of self and leaves us with very little self-worth. We also end up with core beliefs that we simply don’t deserve love or good things, or that relationships are dangerous. No wonder we push pull.

Anxious attachment

If, as an infant and young child, we didn’t get unconditional love and care from at least one primary caregiver? We can grow up into an adult with ‘attachment issues’. Anxious attachment happens if our caregiver was inconsistent, or made us earn any love we did get. Relationships will make you so anxious that sometimes you panic and push and pull.

Borderline personality disorder

This is one of the most common reasons people push and pull in relationships and become known for a string of short, intense romances. If you have BPD you will have a deep fear of rejection and abandonment. As soon as you think the other might in any way abandon you, you’ll push them away, hard. But your desire to be loved will have you then try to win them back. And on it goes.


Isn’t codependency about getting your sense of self by overcaring for others? Yes. But often codependents have a ‘panic point’, where they overgive so much they then feel overwhelmed and push the other away. Codependents are also guilt driven. Soon their guilt makes them pull back.

Adult ADHD

Adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is most known for its symptoms of lack of focus and an inability to finish things. But ADHD also heavily affects relating. You’ll find your tendency to be distracted and unorganised can lead to others feeling pushed away. You might also get bored easily in relationships, and push pull because you need the drama to stay interested.

How can I stop the push pull relationship dynamic?

Again, the push pull dynamic in relationships is not usually something we want to do. It’s a pattern that is bigger than us, related to difficult childhoods that didn’t teach us healthy ways of relating.

Self help is useful. The more we get to know ourselves and build our self-worth, the better our relationships tend to be.

But push pulling can be one of the toughest relating patterns to break, and therapy is often advised. A good therapist can help you get to the root of why you push pull, and can help you learn and try out healthier ways of attracting and maintaining relationships.

Ready to stop ruining relationship with the push pull dynamic? Use our easy booking tool now to find a therapist you like and get talking.

I'd like a personalised therapist recommendation for push pull relationship issues

If you'd like a personalised recommendation from the team, just sign up below and we will be in touch shortly:

Need a Therapy Session ASAP?

Here's who's next available...

See other available therapists ›
Are you a therapist?
Apply to be on the platform  ›