In Blog, Psychology, Relationships
This is a continuation of the series of posts about my healing process after Amy and I split up. If you haven’t yet read part 1 and part 2, I recommend you do so after reading this.

After spinning into the depths of despair when my girlfriend (Amy) broke up with me last month, I’m on the up and up again. This is good news!

The easy thing to do would have been to take my foot off the gas after having experienced so much pain, but I know that NOW is the best time to do the important work of turning myself inside out to ensure that I don’t repeat the same patterns in my next relationship.

My ex-wife stepped in to support me healing and recommended I re-read Harville Hendrix’s book, “Getting The Love You Want.” It was an eye opener, so much so that I want to dedicate a post to what I learned from this extraordinary relationship therapist…

Have you ever wondered why you keep attracting to the same type of relationship over and over again, even when you don’t want to?

Has this happened to you before?

You end a relationship and a few months or years later, you meet a new partner. You fall in love again and everything feels rosy for the first few months. Then, before long you realize that you are basically in the same relationship as you were in before, just with a different person…

The same issues surface again. You have the same arguments and often, the relationship ends in the same way as your last one… Sound familiar?

Dr. Harville Hendrix has an interesting perspective on this phenomenon…

Are you an Isolator or a Fuser?

In his years of research helping couples resolve their relationship challenges, Harville discovered that he could divide his clients into 2 broad categories, Isolators and Fusers.

Isolators are children who never experienced autonomy and independence as a child. Perhaps their parents wouldn’t let them out of their sight or they were constantly concerned and worried for their safety.

These children grow up into adults who seek independence and autonomy in life and unconsciously push others away. As such, they need a lot of space around them and the freedom to come and go as they please.

On the other hand, Fusers are children who struggled to experience a loving connection with one or both parents. Perhaps their parents were always busy working or just didn’t have the ability to express their love.

These children grow up into adults who have an insatiable need for closeness and reassurance and often need to stay in constant verbal contact with their partners. Fusers want to do things together and often are prone to feeling abandoned.

Here’s the breakthrough phenomenon that Harville discovered…

Isolators and Fusers almost always end up in relationships together. They are attracted to each other like opposite side of a magnet, and so begins an infuriating game of push and pull that leaves neither partner satisfied.

Why are these opposites so attracted to each other?

Because both Isolators and Fusers are unconsciously seeking resolution of their fundamental childhood needs.

Isolators unconsciously seek Fusers who will re-enact their childhood feelings so that they can be resolved and vice versa.

So, are you a Fuser or an Isolator? The answer may help explain your entire life.

We all have elements of both Fuser and Isolater in each of us, just like we have a left and right hand…

…and like you have a preference for writing with your left or right hand, so you have a preference for Fuser or Isolator behavior.

These behaviors especially rear their heads when things are not going well in our relationships. Think back to how the major love relationships in your life ended and then see if you can see your pattern for Fuser or Isolator behavior.

The Primary Reason Loving Relationships Often Fail…

When a Fuser-Isolator couple come together, they initially feel the magnetism of falling in love, but soon realize that they are not getting their need for connection or independence met.

At this point, most couples end up in conflict and more often than not, either separate or only survive in the the relationship (often for the sake of their children).

The reason these relationships fail is because the couple is totally unaware of the unconscious dynamics they are playing out.

Like most things in life, the solution is AWARENESS.

When I read Harville’s book, I became acutely aware that I am a Fuser and Amy is an Isolator… unfortunately too late in the game.

Neither of us were aware of these unconscious dynamics between us and so when Amy became distant from me, the Fuser in me panicked.

“Is she going to leave?”

“Is she unhappy?

“Does she still love me?”

These were questions I constantly asked myself.

On the other side, Amy was probably thinking, “OMG, Bruce wants me to commit to him and seems to require so much of my time… I’m feeling trapped… I need to get the hell out of here… Oh my, I think I suddenly have feelings for Bruce’s friend Dave…”

Can you see the vicious cycle here? The more independence Amy craved, the more I connection I craved. The more I moved towards her, the more she moved away.

Can you recognize this in your own relationships?

How To Transform Your Relationship Into A Magical Union

According to Dr. Hendrix’s research, the only reliable proven way he has found to resolve the Fuser-Isolator dilemma is to:

  1. Have your partner share their needs with you and
  2. Make it your primary job to meet your partners unmet childhood needs… and vice versa

Before you scream, “Hell no! I’m not meeting my partner’s childhood needs. That is their job, not mine!” consider this…

If you were getting your needs met by your partner, would you be more inclined to meet theirs? I know I would… and I’d be happy and secure giving this to my partner.

There is another reason why I can see this strategy works.

As I stretch myself to gift my Isolator partner space and independence, I learn that my world does not come crashing down around me, my partner does not leave and I become able to BE with my greatest fear… abandonment.

Conversely, as my Isolator partner stretches herself to gift me closeness and reassurance, she learns that her independence is not threatened and she can still maintain a separate Self while being connected to another… and she gets to heal her childhood fear of losing her sense of Self in relationship with another.

See how this works?

It makes a whole lot of sense to me.

Can you see how this could transform your current or future relationships?

Getting The Love You WantI recommend you go buy “Getting The Love You Want” by Dr. Harville Hendrix today and begin transforming your relationship into the juicy, passionate, loving, sexy relationship I believe you want.

Harville writes that his views on commitment have become more and more conservative over the years. He believes that couples, who choose a lifelong commitment, should make every effort to honor their vows for life, not for moral reasons, but for psychological ones.

He writes, “Fidelity and commitment create the feeling of safety that allows couples to work on their unconscious issues and heal their childhood wounds – the unconscious purpose of all committed love relationships.”

I trust that this post was as enlightening for you as Harville’s book was for me.

To you having the love you want.

Bruce

P.S. Please leave me a comment and let me know whether you think you’re a Fuser or an Isolator. Then let me know what you’ve learned about your own relationship dynamics. I’m authentically interested. Thanks!

P.P.S. You can still read part 1 and part 2 of this series.


Showing 34 comments
  • Jack
    Reply

    ISOLATOR! I am currently reading DR. Hendrix’s book, “Getting The Love You Want” at the request of my current girlfriend (fuser). How utterly sad am I to realize this life altering information 5 years too late- I walked out of a 10 year relationship with the love of my life (also a fuser),an amazing woman I have loved for 30 years. While I am a firm believer that, everything happens for a reason, I am certain, we would have been able to save our relationship with the tools in Dr. Hendrix’s book. She was more than willing but, I was caught up in feeling controlled and thus, I ran away…

  • Jenna
    Reply

    I don’t think it’s possible to be both an Isolator and a Fuser. This does not make any sense to me. I think that we are either one or the other. However, when a fuser has had enough & cannot continue he/she thus becomes distant (a tendency of an isolator) the Isolator panics and suddenly remembers and misses being loved and thus becomes the pursuer (a tendency of a fuser). Once he wins his love back, he is again ready to continue his life as an isolator. He never becomes a fuser.

    He wants someone in his life but he also wants his space.

    She, as the fuser may be exhausted from dealing with the withdrawals and distance her partner repeatedly requires but once given a dose of assurance and love, she once again has the energy to continue in the relationship. Though she shows a tendency of an isolator by distancing herself, she never becomes an isolator.

    • Adam
      Reply

      Baloney. Speaking from nauseating experience, a person CAN BE BOTH an isolator AND a fuser, just not simultaneously. The woman that I married 18 years ago, was DEFINATELY a fuser and I was an isolator. She tried incessantly to keep me close, wanting most, if not all of my free time solely for her. I felt cramped, trapped and a need for some independence. Two years ago, we did a role reversal, in which I quit my job outside the house, so that I could work at home and home school our two daughters. My fuser wife just graduated college and was going to start her new career. I suddenly found myself starving for my wife attention and affection. She suddenly found herself in a new, exciting career and found me and the children, a complete drag or “ball and chain” if you will. The more that I pulled, the more that she pushed. We are still together (barely) but we are working on it… and YES, I am currently reading Hendrix’s book, GETTING THE LOVE YOU WANT. I pray to God that it helps our marriage. I love my wife and do not want to lose her.

      • Bruce Muzik
        Reply

        Adam, we can play either end of the Isolator/Fuser attachment style spectrum, depending on the person we are with and depending on the stage of relationship we are in. However, we will mostly default to one way of relating more than another. Often, when falling in love (aka The Romance Stage of relationship), we show our partner the opposite i.e. If we are a Fuser, when falling in love we can often display Isolator traits and vice versa. It’s only when we hit the Power Struggle Stage of relationship (that often coincides with one or both partners perceiving the relationship to be permanent) that our attachment style begins to show up.

  • Lisa
    Reply

    I’m an isolator. I could not get far away enough from my parents and family to do what I wanted, to think the way I chose. But also because I felt criticized and inadequate in their eyes. I have mostly attracted relationships that made me feel that I wasn’t enough too(who knows what they were struggling with). I would withdraw when seriousness in the relationship started or marriage was spoken.

    How does one heal from feeling inadequate and cease attracting people who treat you that way?

  • Rosanna
    Reply

    I tend to be more of an isolator in every day life but when I go into saving the relationship I become a fuser.
    I think my last relationship ended because I tried so hard to save the relationship (with a fuser) that when he started talking nonsense (ie ideas that I couldn’t even consider debating) I felt like “oh well, I tried, this time it’s your turn to accommodate me” and he didn’t.
    Anyway, I’m a pretty independent person but I also love interactions and deep, connected relationships with friends. In fact, I don’t think my ex is capable of what I want out of a relationship of any sort.

  • SG
    Reply

    I’m an isolator with a fuser and a fuser with an isolator.
    Yes, I’m screwed.

    • Carla
      Reply

      “Screw it, let’s do it.” Richard Branson

  • Christine
    Reply

    Hi Bruce,

    I find that I tend to have traits of both Fuser as well as Isolater however I’m more a fuser in my current relationship..

    It certainly puts some light on the strains we have been having so I will purchase this book.

    You have truly contributed to my life positively over these past few months.

    Love & thanks
    C

  • Amolemo
    Reply

    Wow, I have spent the last 2 days going through all my childhood memories and realise my core issues are fear of not being loved for who I am and fear of physical abuse. Going through all those emotions is tiring but freeing at the same time. This has played itself out through all my relationships- lies, cheating, not wanting to commit but wanting another to be honest and commit (sometimes to just throw it back at them). Now what I have just discovered is that I’m a perfect Isolater/ Fuser. I always start by being a fuser and then an isolater after a while. Once I’m in that isolater mode, my need for freedom and space become very important. I guess this is all part of a healing process I started last year, going within, looking more at me more than another person. Thank you for sharing your experiences, it was most humbling.

    Continue doing all the good work…aluta continua!!

  • Pamela
    Reply

    Definitely a fusor and for all the reasons you outline. And I am always in relationship with an isolator. But years of experience have taught me the open hand method is more likely to get me what I want than trying to hold on tight. Wish I had read the book or seen your blog post years ago. It would have saved me a whole lot of pain and sorrow.

  • Cheryl A. Downey, Ph.D.
    Reply

    Enjoyed the post! I am an isolator by nature, and I think that spiritual work and experiences helped me grow in my skills in “fusing” if you will. But I would still view myself on the isolator side. I also just blogged on changing relationship patterns and see there are lots out there right now. Must be relationship spring cleaning! Mine is http://www.examiner.com/relationship-psychology-in-colorado-springs/relationship-patterns-how-did-i-end-up-here-again

    Cheryl A. Downey, Ph.D.

  • Angie
    Reply

    I found myself nodding as I read through your post – at the patterns, and the solutions. I’m 10 months into a relationship and fortunately, we both recognized our patterns a few months ago (I’m the Isolator), and have since made great strides in healing old wounds. Here’s the greatest part – once you practice and learn these lessons, you don’t have to repeat the cycle and instead, reap the benefits of your personal work.

    Thanks for being brave enough to share your lessons. Your next partner is going to be one lucky woman.

  • arlene
    Reply

    I think i’m a fuser. everytime i meet someone i like and realise that they like me too, somewhere deep inside i know they are going to leave me so i start to panic and do stuff to draw them closer, i start sharing too much too soon and it ALWAYS has the opposite effect to what i wanted which was to let them see my vulnerability. i end up pushing them away!!! then i tell myself – i knew they were going to leave and if they were really interested they would’ve passed my little ‘test’.

  • Troy
    Reply

    I always new that I was more of an isolator in relationships, but ignored recognizing that I was also apart of the problem. I always past the buck to my fuser ex. I felt like she was asking for to much of everything from me. Thanks for opening up my eyes to my personal issues. Basically the reason why am single now is because I can’t handle letting go of some of my wants to accomadate another. I came to the realization that I need alot of help in establishing and sustaining a successful relationship. So I will read Dr. Hedrix’s book for my self improvement. Thanks Bruce for elightening me on my self issues.

    • Bruce Muzik
      Reply

      Troy, I applaud you. It takes a LOT of courage to admit that to yourself.

      Well done. With an attitude like you have, I’m have no doubt that you are more than capable of creating the love you want.

      Thank you for sharing.

  • Kat
    Reply

    I guess I’m predominantly an isolator. At this point I enjoy having some isolator friends, but I’ve really had it with clingy fusers – even as just friends. What fuser tendencies I do recognize in myself have only served to bring disappointment and hurt and so reinforce my staying on the isolator side of my personal coin. Nowadays I consider myself very happily single. Maybe I need to read the book.

    • Bruce Muzik
      Reply

      Yes Kat. The book is phenomenal.

      When I read it, I finally got WHY my relationships have previously been so unfulfilling for me and how I made that happen. My next partner is going to be one lucky lady, becasue I’m going to make damn sure I meet her needs!

      Kat, happily single is great. And somewhere down the line you’ll meet someone special and then this dynamics WILL rear it’s head.

      Read the book so you can recognize it when it happens and have the tools to do something about it.

  • Nicoleta
    Reply

    Hi,Bruce
    I think I`m attracted to Isolators and then hope they turn into Fusers – if they do I switch to Isolator type if they don`t i stay or become a Fuser..
    What a mess!!!!

    • Bruce Muzik
      Reply

      Tell me about it!

      Hopefully this awareness you now have will give you the freedom to shift the dynamic when you next notice it happening.

      Harville’s book tells you how… Go buy it.

  • Carrin Behr
    Reply

    Thanks Bruce, for turning what could have been a profoundly sad experience into an opportunity to share the healing aspects to such an experience, with us….inspiring!!

    What’s been moving, is to see you going from strength to strength in this journey to healing.

    A book I’d also recommend is The Mastery of Love by Miguel Ruiz….!

  • Charmaine Treherne
    Reply

    I am both an isolater and a fuser. Any hope for me?!! I was abandoned by my mother (illegitimate)- never knew my father, and was smothered by an overly-anxious grand-mother and mother when she was present. I do need a lot of space, and a need for security. I’m transforming it by acknowledging it, seeing it for what it is (a protective transmutation device) and learning slowly, very slowly, that pain is NOT something to be afraid of, it is NOT as society would have us think, a signal of dysfunctionality, and risk and pain go together. Either one chooses to live a life of the known or take the road less travelled. Keeping the heart open means taking risks, being pre-pared to feel hurt and pain and learn how to use it’s gifts to portal you to freedom.

    • Carla
      Reply

      If there is hope for you? Seems life and living is and needs duality. Congrats! … And thank you for reminding us to keep our hearts open and taking risks to enjoy our challenges.

    • Bruce Muzik
      Reply

      Hi Charmaine,

      We all have elements of both Fuser and Isolater in each of us, just like we have a left and right hand.

      Just like you have a preference for writing with your left or right hand, so you have a preference for Fuser or Isolator behavior.

      These behaviors especially rear their heads when things are not going well in our relationships. Think back to how all the major love relationships in your life ended and then see if you can see your pattern for Fuser or Isolator behavior.

      Let me know…

      Bruce

      • Charmaine Treherne
        Reply

        mmmm usually I outgrow partners – spiritually, or lose interest and move on. My most recent marriage however, ended because I married an American and went to live in Bakersfield and was desperately unhappy there. In that relationship I was the fuser – very insecure and needy in a strange land with nobody present. Thought I would land on my feet as I usually do, but instead got major depression. I’ve always needed a lot of space in relationships, AND can be quite controlling. Major relationships have been with isolators though, and I’ve learned some major lessons through having to let them be themselves. But then again John Gray says that venus people are typically ‘controlling’. Thanks for a great topic Bruce. Hendricks’work is just about the best relationship work I’ve come across. Very practical. It’s also good to do shadow work too(Robert Bly and Debbie Ford) because we always attract that which is in our shadow.

  • Laura
    Reply

    Bruce – Thank you for such valuable information. I especially like this:

    “How To Transform Your Relationship Into A Magical Union
    According to Dr. Hendrix’s research, the only reliable proven way he has found to resolve the Fuser-Isolator dilemma is to:

    1.Have your partner share their needs with you and
    2.Make it your primary job to meet your partners needs… and vice versa
    Before you scream, “Hell no! I’m not meeting my partner’s needs. That is their job, not mine!” consider this…

    If you were getting your needs met by your partner, would you be more inclined to meet theirs? I know I would… and I’d be happy and secure giving this to my partner.

    There is another reason why I can see this strategy works.

    As I stretch myself to gift my Isolator partner space and independence, I learn that my world does not come crashing down around me, my partner does not leave and I become able to BE with my greatest fear… abandonment.

    Conversely, as my Isolator partner stretches herself to gift me closeness and reassurance, she learns that her independence is not threatened and she can still be a separate Self while being connected to another… and she gets to heal her childhood fear of losing her sense of Self in relationship with another.

    See how this works?

    It makes a whole lot of sense to me.”

    Thanks again!! 🙂

    • Bruce Muzik
      Reply

      I’m so pleased that you’re getting so much out of this post.

      Bruce

  • Carl
    Reply

    Wow, based on my childhood I should absolutely be a fuser. I have definitely tried to fulfill the fuser role in my past and failed (more than once). At some point I became more of an isolator and I see extreme problems in my current relationship because of this isolator tendency. I actually believe I may have met someone that is somewhat in the middle though, could it be possible? Thank you for sharing Bruce – I wish you all the best.

  • John
    Reply

    Hmmm….Isolator with fuser tendencies….does this make me schizophrenic?
    Thanks for sharing
    John

    • Carla
      Reply

      Seems woman do have that part of longing for closeness, and being at some part very lovable Fusers by evolution. 🙂

  • Amanda
    Reply

    I am a Fuser, he was an Isolator. The relationship ended with the terror of abandonment for me, and his moving out of state chasing his freedom. I never want to live through anything like that again – thank you for writing this! I have been working on my awareness, and ready to change. And the interesting thing is, I am in a very close friendship with another Isolator right now. Sometimes my Fuser tendencies surface and I can see his subtle reactions towards this, and I am able to become aware to work on healing myself right then and there. Although we are only friends, I have again attracted an Isolator. Very interesting. I am grateful for knowing this so I won’t destroy this friendship.

  • Carla
    Reply

    Thank you for recommending Harville Hendrix’s book. – Such as there seems to be not just White and Black there might be not just an Isolator and and a Fuser. Feels I am an Isolator with some nice portion of a Fuser; what a great challenge! 😉

  • Roberta
    Reply

    Isolator!! At least at this rate, though I believe I’ve had Fuser tendencies in the past. The last relationship I had, the male Fuser was buying me flowers and taking me out and I was FREAKING out in my head and pushing him away. As it turns out, I had been trying to talk myself out of my heart with my head by ignoring red flags and the relationship ended dramatically. I felt light and grateful the next day.

    Thank you. I will seek out Hendrix’ book and I would suggest Calling In The One, by Katherine Woodward Thomas, which I am currently reading. Incredibly insightful and entices a sickening amount of personal awareness – literally.

Leave a Comment

Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, ASAP.