1.  Ask for a volunteer couple. (It works best to have your helpers do this exercise and act like a pursuer/withdrawer).

– Have them stand opposite one another, and instruct them not to move so that they stay in one place.

– Tell the volunteers that this is a silent exercise (no words, only facial expressions etc.).  

– Give one partner a box of soft balls (we use soft red hearts with our logo on them).

– Give each of them secret instructions:

– Partner number 1:  Your job is to get your partner to catch one of these balls. Do whatever you need to, to get your partner to catch a ball.

– Partner number 2:  Your job is to get your partner to stop throwing these balls. Do whatever you need to, to convince your partner to stop throwing. 

2.  Let this go on for couple minutes and let a cycle develop.

3.  Then ask the other participants in the group, who have been standing in a large circle around this couple, to identify with one partner or the other.

– Ask them who they feel for/which partner they identify with/etc.

– Ask them go and stand behind that partner, so that two groups appear in the room.

4.  While the couple is still playing this game, walk around the room with 2 large signs, for the larger group to see.

– One sign says: I am trying to connect and will do whatever it takes.

– The other sign says: I am trying to prevent a fight, I have to get this to stop

5.  Pause the game.

– Have the two partners debrief on what the game was like:  ask them to talk about their position, how they felt, how they interpreted the other’s moves.

– Then ask the larger group for their reactions, and start to facilitate a debate between the two sides. Probe and provoke some discussion, with questions such as….

– “I’m being convinced by the throwing partner here”

–  “I agree that the other group seemed unresponsive. What were you all thinking?”

– “Well why don’t you respond? Oh you are right, the throwing could be intimidating you have a point.”

– “The throwing team seems agro, why are you guys getting so worked up about connecting?”

This exercise takes about 30 minutes.  It is a large group game that draws each person in, and has each consider the position they take in their own relationship. Each participant is able to identify with others who react the way that they do, and are able to hear about some of the reasons for the way they react. This exercise gives them some solidarity, and it gives them an opportunity to look at their own reactivity with some distance.  This activity also gives participants an opportunity to understand why their partner may react in certain ways.