There are unhealthy powerplay habits that happen in relationships. They’re called demand-withdrawal patterns. This has become a serious problem.

There are various reasons why marriages don’t work. One of those reasons is something called the demand-withdrawal pattern. This strange dynamic reduces each person to a role that rarely changes.

Who’s demanding and who’s withdrawing?

The demanding person in the relationship is usually the one who complains, requests changes, and continually tries to communicate, not necessarily in the right way, however.

The withdrawn partner tends to avoid conflict, which includes any communication that can help the relationship. Now you can see how this pattern can be toxic. How can you recognize that you’ve fallen into this pattern?

Signs of demand-withdrawal patterns in your relationship:

1. You’re sweating the small stuff

Let’s say you’re constantly complaining about your husband being messy. What reaction do you expect to receive? Well, honestly, you would love for him to get better at it, but more than likely your demanding demeanor with result in his withdrawal.

If you’re constantly saying something about all the little things your partner is doing, this is a sign you both have fallen into a toxic dynamic.

2. One partner is controlling the other

This is not always the case, but in many cases, one partner is treated like a child by the other partner. Usually, the one who is demanding starts to complain, or ask for changes, and even try to dictate everything the other partner does, maybe not in all situations, but in most.

The other partner withdraws in response to all the demands. If you notice your relationship has become controlling, it’s a sign of the demand and withdrawal situation.

3. There is no structure in the partnership

A relationship should be built on a firm foundation, and even ground, or at least close enough. Disagreements should always be open and calm communication, and you shouldn’t complain more than you compliment. This is a demanding trait.

The symptoms of withdrawal, on the other hand, appear as a result of not getting to have an opinion and no boundaries. The good structure has good communication between both partners and an even push and pulls pattern. If not, this could be a sign of demand-withdrawal toxicity.

4. One person is clingy, one is offish

If a relationship exhibits one partner as overly clingy, that’s a sign of a demanding role. Since this demanding role includes complaining and argumentativeness, it’s a huge sign of demand-withdrawal patterns with the other partner.

The partner who doesn’t require a lot of attention will stay away or isolate themselves from the other. The more clingy one of them gets, the more withdrawn the other, and vice versa. Watch for these signs to know for sure.



5. The relationship has endured a breach of trust

If trust has been compromised in the relationship, for instance, one partner has cheated, then an unhealthy pattern sometimes evolves. When there is little or no trust in a relationship this is a big sign that the demand-withdrawal pattern has been operating in the relationship for quite some time.

This is especially true if the breach of trust happened a long time ago and there was little communication. Some couples, although making a highly unhealthy decision, prefer to never speak of the betrayal again. You will know your relationship is in trouble if this is going on, whether you are to blame for the breach or your partner.

How to stop unhealthy behavior

When people enter into a relationship, they never expect to have an unhealthy dynamic. They hope to utilize communication to solve problems, use respect when having fights and always be loyal to each other. Unfortunately, this is not the case in even most cases. So, how do we stop ruining our relationship with demand-withdrawal patterns?

For starts, if you’ve been in a relationship for years, then learning about this pattern is the first step. Read about these signs, and see if you can relate to them. If you see yourself in these signs, then you have come to the first milestone. You see your problem.

After understanding what’s wrong with your relationship, you should take steps to practice respect, and listening to each other’s ideas, opinions, and passions. Try not to criticize your partner’s ideas, at least no more than 20% of them. Listen and try to have an open mind. Most importantly neither one of you let yourself become controlling, and do not run away from conflict.

Unhealthy to healthy behavior

This may be a rocky start when changing the way you’re used to living, but if you can make small changes at first, you can continue to work toward the largest issues, such as breaches of trust, if any. If someone has been disloyal, the partner has the right to feel betrayed. Trust will have to be rebuilt from the bottom up, helping restructure the relationship upon a firm foundation.



I hope these signs do not pertain to you and your relationship, but if they do, there is hope. If you see these signs in others, then you should tell them in hope that they can find a solution for their situation, thus bettering their life.

I thank you for reading and hope these indicators have helped.

Sherrie Hurd, A.A.

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