SECURITY, LOVE AND INTIMACY Building intimacy through careful nurturing
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Love songs, poems and stories glamorize instant connection—soul mates. “Happily ever after” is a mainstay of love folklore. Beautiful images of love imprint magical expectations in our hearts dulling the sparkle of reality. The normal struggles of relationships can’t compare with idealistic images from the arts. New love solidifies childhood fairytales with the accompanying rushes of intense emotions. “Finally,” we think, “this is the person of my dreams. Now life will be all better.”
Biologically equipped with desires for connection, we chase, flirt and seek partners. Sexual attraction excites; they feel good, stirring hopes of a secure future. But instant attraction doesn’t predict future relationship success. Once the hot embers of early desire cool, we are tasked with developing a relationship by employing skills to create security, intimacy, and acceptance.
Bonds of security strengthen from patterns of loving behaviors. The strengthened relationship then can navigate conflicts without shaking the underlying foundations of the relationship. Each partner feels reassured and respected even though an issue remains unresolved. When conflicts are non-threatening, relationships become secure. David Richo in his book, ‘How to be an Adult in Relationships,’ says that relationships strengthen through Acceptance, Appreciation, Attention, Affection, and Allowance (the Five As). We create secure bonds by resisting emotionally spurred impulses.
John Gottman in his “love labs” has found that the strength of a relationship is not through lack of conflict but through the manner in which conflict is addressed. This is a skill.
The stabbing emotional darts proceeding from insecurities, fears and anger disrupts the warmth of certainty and damages trust. The personal ebb and flow of feelings when unmanaged victimizes partners. The safety of a relationship is destroyed when we incur wrath for mundane behavior, not because we did wrong but because an emotional storm is brewing in our partner. Like an abused child, living with an alcoholic parent, abuse (emotional or physical) is unpredictable when dependent on factors we do not control. No security lives here. The emotionally disturbed often expect partners to moderate their feelings—if they feel bad, the negative feelings are attributed to a partner. These misdirections are subtle but destructive. Like a malignant tumor, these damaging accusations spread, infecting the entire relationship. We feel falsely accused, while our partner feels ruthlessly ignored (or vice versa).
Behaviors mean nothing until we give them a meaning. The meaning hurts or heals. Our assumed meanings of a partner’s behavior directly impact the relationship. Even if we weren’t ignored, but simply felt ignored, we store the emotional memory of being ignored. These memories accumulate, tainting new experiences with accompanying biases. Negative assessments, then, influence our views.
"These misdirections are subtle but destructive. Like a malignant tumor, these damaging accusations spread, infecting the entire relationship. We feel falsely accused, while our partner feels ruthlessly ignored (or vice versa)."
As humans, we have moments of disconnection, distraction, or moodiness. Those moments are not the entirety of our character; they may even be a temporary deviation from character. The over simplifying, especially during heightened emotions, ignores the complexities of personality, leaving devastation in its wakes. Our partners (and us) deserve more than a moment by moment assessment of character.
The emotional waves, faulty assessments and character assassination redirect focus from the necessary work to strengthen a relationship; instead we are engaged in partner fixing. Discussions no longer are resolution focus but an endless battle to affix blame.
New relationships eventually encounter a subsiding of the euphoria. If not anticipated, the loss prompts fear—a fear that the relationship is sinking. The fear may motivate positive behaviors (Acceptance, Appreciation, Attention, Affection, and Allowance); but may also elicit destructive and defensive behaviors. Intense fear demands action—controlling, manipulating, clinging, jealousy, and emotional outburst. Many dismiss unhealthy reactions as normal consequences to intense love. But the justifications cripple honest acceptance, limiting our ability to address the harmful behaviors early before they impact intimacy.
Continue to enjoy the sentiments of a timely love song, but remember the strength of the relationship requires work, employing skills such as Acceptance, Appreciation, Attention, Affection, and Allowance. The mindful work provides necessary nurturing behaviors to create our own love song; one that goes on and on and on.