LONELINESS AND INTIMACY
LONELINESS AND INTIMACY
• Do you feel lonely in your relationship?
• Are you and your partner growing apart and you can’t figure out how to get back together?
• Is your level of affection and intimacy at an all-time low?
• Has your spouse disconnected from you emotionally?
You don’t know what happened. You and your partner had the perfect relationship, then suddenly life happens. You have kids, your career takes off, you have your personal enjoyments, you have your friends and before you know it, you two have little to no emotional engagement.
You’ve grown apart as a couple and don’t know how to get it back to the way it was. This happens when you don’t notice until life slows down, or you think about the last time you had sex, or perhaps when the last child has left the house, or maybe when you retire. Then you start asking yourself questions like, “Will we ever get back to normal?” “Does he even like me anymore?” “Does she still love me?”
Over time you and your partner have disengaged and the emotional support that was once very strong in your relationship has weakened. If our lover cannot turn and open up to us, we begin to give up and let go. There is nothing more painful than loving someone who cannot respond to you.
Emotional withdrawal can be something big, like choosing a work meeting over a family funeral, or it can be as small as turning away when your partner needs emotional support.
Emotional responsiveness is the core element that defines the viability and happiness of a love relationship.
Here is some of what we know:
1. We are born to need each other. The human brain is wired for close connection with a few irreplaceable others. Accepting your need for this special kind of emotional connection is not a sign of weakness, but maturity and strength.
So don’t feel ashamed of this need for a safe loving bond.
2. In love relationships emotional hurt is a mixture of anger, sadness but most of all, fear. Fear of being abandoned and rejected. This hurt registers in the same part of our brain as physical hurt. It is too hard to push these feelings aside or ignore them. The first step to dealing with injuries in love is to pinpoint the feeling and then to send clear messages about this hurt to the one you love
So don’t just “ignore hurts” with the idea that they will up and go away.
3. The strongest among us are those who can reach for others. Love is the best survival strategy of all. We all long for a safe haven love relationship. Self-sufficiency is just another word for loneliness.So risk reaching out and fighting for this safe haven. It is the best investment you’ll ever make.
4. Relationships can survive partners being very different. Even if you think you are from different planets it’s okay. The one thing love can’t survive is constant emotional disconnection. Conflict is often less dangerous for your love than distance.
So after a fight, put it right. Repair it, heal the rift between you.
5. There is no perfect lover. That is only in the movies. We shut down when we think we have failed as lovers, when we have disappointed. But our lover doesn’t want perfect performance. In the end he or she needs our emotional presence.
So it’s okay to say “I don’t know what to do or say.” Just stay open and present.
6. The fights that matter are never about sex, money or the kids. That is just the ripple on the surface of the sea. They are about someone protesting, often in an indirect way that is hard to understand, the loss of safe emotional connection. The most terrible trap in a love relationship is when one person really wants to say, “Where are you? Do I matter to you?” but instead becomes critical and demanding and the other person feels hopeless and inadequate and moves away. The lovers then get caught in emotional starvation, stalemate and more and more disconnection.
So do try to tell each other when you feel lonely and like you are failing at being the perfect partner, especially if you are having lots of fights about tasks. Look beneath the surface.
7. We only have two ways to deal with the vulnerability of love when we can’t connect. Get mad and move in fast to break down the other’s walls or try not to care so much, and build a wall to protect yourself. Which one do you do? You probably learned it very young.
So do try to listen to your longings and risk reaching to connect. These other two options are traps that drive your lover away from you.
8. A loving relationship is the best recipe for a long and happy life that exists. Holding your lover tight is the ultimate antidote to stress. Cuddle hormones turn off stress hormones!
So do take time to hold and canoodle. It’s better than taking your vitamins.
9. Lasting passion is entirely possible in love. Infatuation is just the prelude. An attuned loving bond is the symphony. This kind of bond creates what I call synchrony sex. Sex becomes a safe adventure.
So don’t give up when sex goes into a temporary slump. Talk about it. Making love without candid conversation is like landing a 747 without help from the control tower!
10. The key moments in love are when partners open up and ask for what they need and the other partner responds. This demands courage but this is the moment of magic and transformation.
So, take a deep breath and listen into your emotions. Let them tell you what you need. Then tell your partner that they are so special to you that you want to take a risk and tell them what you need from them most. Keep it simple and honest.
Everybody has different ways of expressing themselves. In a committed relationship, it is the responsibility of both partners to uncover and disclose these preferences to understand what the other requires to feel loved, protected, and supported.
One tool I recommend to guide you with this process is “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. This book will help you find your own love language as well as your partner’s. Once you start speaking each other’s language you are on the road to rebuilding that emotional connection.
Sue Johnson, the developer of Emotionally Focused Couples and Family Therapy (EFT) tells us that of all the hundreds of studies on love that have emerged during the past decade or so has taught therapists that emotional responsiveness is what makes or breaks love relationships. Happy stable couples can quarrel and fight, but they also know how to tune into each other and restore emotional connection after a clash. They do this by finding a way out of emotional disconnection and back into the safe loving contact that builds trust.
But why can’t we all do this?
Our loved one is our shelter in life. When this person is unavailable and unresponsive, we are assailed by a tidal wave of emotions — sadness, anger, hurt and above all, fear. This fear is wired in.
Being able to rely on a loved one, to know that he or she will answer our call is our innate survival code. When we sense that a primary love relationship is threatened, we go into a primal panic.
People deal with this panic, this sense of impending loss and isolation in different ways. If we are in a happy, secure union, we accept the need for emotional connection and speak those needs directly in a way that helps our partner respond lovingly.
If, however we are in a wobbly relationship and are not sure how to voice our need, we either angrily demand and try to push our partner into responding, or we shut down and move away to protect ourselves. This creates more and more resentment, caution and distance until we reach a point where we feel the only solution is to give up and bail out.
But that is not the only solution! Finding that secure bond, learning to reconnect emotionally, is the solution and I will guide you through this process in therapy.
In reality, what most distressed couples want is to re-establish a strong and healthy connection. The first step to re-building their bond is intentionally communicating non-defensively and openly.
By doing so, couples may come to understand the reasons underlying each other’s choices and behavior patterns, express their frustrations in a gentler, more constructive way, and become aware of the effects they have on each other on a daily basis.
As part of emotionally focused therapy, the tried and tested, powerfully effective couple therapy I do, we help withdrawn partners find another solution to their feelings of rejection or helplessness besides turning to stone. I help them come out of their shell and engage with their partner. We also help their partner share the isolation and desperation that stonewalling generates in them and their need for connection.
What does all of this have to do with intimacy? Your intimacy will naturally improve when you are emotionally engaged again. The more secure you feel the more emotionally and physically responsive you will want to be.
If this is what you need in our relationship, please contact me to schedule and appointment or a free 15 minute consultation.