The most well-functioning relationships that I have witnessed seem to excel based on one individual’s position as a “pusher” in the relationship, while the other is the “puller.” That may sound disparaging, but it is really quite efficient.
Pushers and pullers allow for balance, harmony, and long-term success.
Think of every couple that you know. How often have you said to yourself,
“She definitely wears the pants in that family,” or “It’s his world, and she’s just living in it.”
A partnership must be symbiotic to succeed, with each half playing a role that helps the partnership to excel as a unit.
One individual, the puller, has to be the decision-maker. They are the one who strives, and pulls, for what they want, whether it be deciding where the couple eats for dinner, or what house they buy, or even what color baby stroller they purchase. Couples who are both pullers, can not possibly succeed happily long-term. When pullers collide, the result is an epic battle for decision-making supremacy, resulting in arguments, resentful feelings, Mexican standoffs, and even clandestine actions.
On the other side of the yin-yang relationship balance, are the pushers. These are the individuals who live for keeping peace. They are much less interested in getting their own way and are happy to push off as much of the decision-making responsibilities onto their puller as possible. While some may say that pushers are spineless, disinterested, wishy-washy, or unable to make decisions, they have crafted a strategy to maximize their relationship survival.
When pushers try to take a stand against their pullers, they generally are not equipped with the prowess, or the desire, to successfully wage a successful argument. Instead, they revert to what they do best: deferring to their puller. E.g.: “Honey, get the taupe curtains, or the wheat curtains, whichever you think is best,” (read: because I honestly don’t care and they look the same to me).
Two givers could also not succeed in a relationship together either. Nothing could ever be accomplished, and each day would seem like an endless cycle of polite deferrals:
“No really, you pick where we go to dinner.”
“No, Honey, I picked last time. You pick where we go to dinner.”
“No no, I insist. You pick. I’ll be happy with anything.”
In the end, the pushers and the pullers need each other, like the tide needs the moon to keep it coming back to shore.
Think of every couple that you know. I bet you can easily identify the pushers and the pullers, and for those that are both pullers, or both pushers, how successful has their relationship truly been?
Now, that is not to say that there are not lessons to be learned for pushers and pullers everywhere. Here is my advice to both of you:
Pushers: Ask yourself what you really want every once and awhile. I bet you’d be surprised to realize that sometimes, more often than you’d expect, you really do have an opinion. For all of the things that you think you don’t feel strongly enough about, ask yourself what you are willing to stand up for. Also, you have to give your puller some credit. Although your puller may be most comfortable when he or she is able to choose the direction that you take in major and minor matters, they love you too. If they are truly the right partner for you, they will prove that they value your input and that they want you to be happy. When a decision has the potential to really make you disappointed, be honest and initiate negotiations. You’ll likely be surprised by how pleased your puller is to hear your opinion and work with you to come to a decision together.
Pullers: Don’t just listen to what your pusher says when you ask his/her opinion. Listen to what they are not saying. Look into their eyes. When you love someone, you have a unique ability to know what is not being said. Don’t doubt yourself. You can tell when your pusher is masking disappointment, feigning indifference, or just trying to appease you. These are the times when you really need to push back on them. Remind them that you care about their opinion, and that you don’t want them to always defer to you. Given the opportunity, they are likely to open up so that you can make your decisions together.
For pushers and pullers reading this advice who feel that there is no way that they could possibly concede their desires, or push for their goals, just know that you are both missing out on bringing out the best of your relationship, and the best of each other.