When partners relate automatically rather than mindfully, they will eventually get stuck in a pattern that makes real intimacy impossible. That pattern can take a variety of forms–avoiding certain topics, feeling bored with your partner, walking on eggshells, frequent fights or misunderstandings, or all of the above.
When things get tense, stuck, volatile, stale, or boring, try these simple practices to deepen your love:
- Remember what first attracted you. Have a conversation where you share about what drew you to each other in the beginning. When couples come to me for coaching, I often ask them to tell me the story of how they met and what first attracted them to one another.
When a couple gets trapped in ongoing distress and reactivity, each partner feels a lack of ability to turn things around. Each concludes the other needs to change in order to reduce tension, upset, distancing, or discontent. As if taking a victim role, each believes they have no power to influence the situation.
A major turning point comes when partners discover the power to change their dynamic. This occurs when someone makes a new move in the dance that gets better results. In our coaching practice, we often help partners make new moves. An example is when a normally avoidant person discovers the positive impact of moving toward their upset partner. This is a dance move opposite of the self-protective distancing they normally do. They find out the power of this new dance step in that it actually calms the tension they typically attempt to dance away from. Continue reading
Falling in love is the easy part. Staying in love is another matter. Some couples seem blessed with everlasting love. Then there’s the rest of us — who start running into trouble once the honeymoon is over. We encounter differences, disagreements, disappointments. Buttons get pushed. We watch helplessly as loving feelings start to fade in the face of misunderstandings, blowups, shutdowns, or vicious communication cycles.
What is the main difference between couples who share ongoing happiness and those who don’t? Couples who keep love alive know how to repair. They are good at quickly attending to the little glitches that every relationship encounters. All couples go in and out of synch and will occasionally be at odds. Distress gets stirred up even in the best relationships. How it is handled makes all the difference. Continue reading
The word intimacy is given various meanings. For many, it refers to the physical act of sex. For others, it has far more to do with emotional transparency and knowing each other on the deepest levels. For many of the thousands of couples we have worked with, it is has everything to do with how these two meanings interact — where blocks to emotional intimacy ultimately lead to struggles with physical intimacy.
Here is a stereotypical dilemma couples fall into. He complains that she never wants to have sex (the genders may be reversed, of course). But she complains back that he never is available to emotionally connect. She tries in vain to explain to him that if he could approach her and talk about feelings – or even just touch her without it seeming to suggest sex is his real goal – that could actually turn her on. But the very ways she tries to communicate this useful information only seems to trigger him and deepen their mutual reactive cycle. So both sexual and emotional intimacy deteriorate. Continue reading
No matter how great a relationship starts, any couple can get stuck in some unhappy pattern. Despite their best intentions, at moments partners will fall out of synch or push each other’s buttons. Not knowing how to repair such moments leads to increasing distress, discomfort, or dissatisfaction. Over time, this can result in some recurrent pattern of upset communication.
This will look differently depending on the personalities involved. Some people pursue and attack, while others defend or withdraw. Some blow up, others shut down. It is sad to consider how many couples start with such great love and hope, only to end up unnecessarily suffering some form of disconnection or reactivity. Continue reading
All couples encounter differences and fall out of synch at times. They may disagree about things, misinterpret one another, or get their buttons pushed. Your ability to effectively communicate at such times makes all the difference between resolving issues or getting stuck in upset.
Unfortunately, most of us did not grow up seeing adults model healthy ways to work through differences. So we don’t know how to talk with one another in a way that handles each other’s distress.
We can all learn from couples who share ongoing happiness. How do they communicate and handle distress? A key skill they have is being able to rapidly repair things. They are good at quickly attending to the little glitches that every relationship encounters.
Those of us who do not naturally know how to do this suffer a buildup over time of unrepaired ruptures. Eventually this buildup leads to feeling unsafe or guarded with each other. And we find ourselves feeling less intimate, less relaxed, and more alone.
So if you and your intimate partner are experiencing lack of intimacy or a build-up of unresolved distress, it’s time to learn this three-step formula for addressing and resolving communication difficulties: (1) Pause; (2) Calm; (3) Repair. Continue reading
We hear a lot these days about letting go of fears and conditioned patterns that get in the way of intimacy and lasting happiness in love. In our book Five-Minute Relationship Repair, we show how to work with such fears and unconscious patterns as a portal to better self-awareness, mutual healing, and deeper intimacy.
We find that if you can be mindful of the fact that at times fears do get triggered in you, you’re in a much better position to heal the parts of yourself that are afraid. This, in turn, helps you express your wants and needs to your partner in a healthier, more effective way. When you know how to embrace your vulnerable feelings, and offer yourself some tender attention around any fears and pains you find, you have what you need to heal these. This offers a way to overcome reactive cycles and keep love and intimacy thriving.
Which of the following fears have you felt in your intimate relationships? What reactive behaviors (blow up, shut down, judge, avoid, complain, etc.) do you fall into when a fear in you gets triggered?
- Fear of being abandoned: You fear your partner might leave. You feel that your partner doesn’t need you as much as you need him or her.
- Fear of being unimportant or invisible: You fear you are not as important to your partner as other things or people, or that you don’t really matter.
- Fear of being rejected: You have trouble feeling accepted or valued just the way you are. You fear that you, or your needs, will be rejected.
- Fear of being inadequate or a failure: Complaints or criticism triggers fears that you are not good enough, that you are inadequate or unlovable.
- Fear of being blamed: You fear being seen as wrong or as the cause of relationship upsets, so you either defend yourself or shut down in the face of negative feedback.
- Fear of being controlled: You fear feeling weak or vulnerable. You instinctively try to be in charge or control of any situation.
- Fear of being trapped or suffocated: You fear intrusion, losing yourself, or being consumed. You’re uncomfortable with others’ expectations or too much closeness.
Any of these core fears promote an unconscious stance that braces you to survive the feared occurrence. Thus braced, you become hypersensitive to cues that this feared event may be about to happen. Continue reading