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  • Craig Constantinos

Fixer-Withdrawer Dynamic

The most important question when I work with couples is: what feeling are you looking to your spouse to help you with?

The answer to that question reveals expectations for marriage, the type of spiritual attack against that person, their struggles with God, and the dynamic that will continue to erode their marriage if left unchecked. Although we all have aspects of both, in every marriage there is one person who struggles more with fear and another that struggles more with shame.

Fear-based “Fixer”

Shame-based “Withdrawer"

Core Lies

No one will take care of me as well as I can. If it is going to get done, I will have to do it

I have to earn and maintain my worth and value. I just need to do a little bit more and then I will feel like I am enough.

Processes emotions

Externally, wants to feel like they are on the same page

Internally, wants to have space to figure out how they feel

Looking for in relationships

Teammate, can have open and honest communication with them

Encourager, sees best sides of them

Fear in relationship



Preoccupied by

Worst-case scenarios

Disrespect, blame

There are many exceptions to this and many couples will present the same patterns in unusual ways (a common exception is that the fixer has given up trying to fix, the withdrawer is problem solver except when triggered). But when I discuss these concepts with them, it always becomes clear what the primary strategy is for both partners, no matter where the relationship has gone since rifts emerged.

Once the dynamic is revealed, it becomes relatively simple to heal the relationship. When people understand why the other person is acting this way, why they are not being listened to, why everything feels it is stuck or falling apart, then the dysfunctional patterns that emerged can be broken. A new, healthier relationship can result that not only builds up the couple, but grows their relationships with God.

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