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My master’s thesis developed the first measure of couples thoughts that would maintain an unhealthy distancing-pursuing dynamic, with one partner consistently seeking more time, intimacy and attention while the other partner consistently withdraws or avoids closeness. Previous research into couples communication and behavior had shown that this distancer-pursuer dynamic is associated with lower relationship satisfaction, but no one had yet studied the thought processes behind it.
Then in the doctoral dissertation I found that couples who exhibit this distancer-pursue dynamic in their thoughts, communication and behavior are not only less happy with the relationship; they also were more likely to draw harmful conclusions about their partner. Specifically, distancer-pursuer couples were more likely to attribute negative relationship events to their partner’s innate personality (e.g. he’s just a selfish or irritable person) rather than making a more forgiving, situational explanation for negative moments (e.g. he was irritable with me because he must have had a bad day at work).