BY: T. Franklin Murphy | January 2016 (edited 2018)
Success with intimacy requires working through sensitivities provoked by relationship fears.
Love isn’t one wondrous moment of joy after another. Intimate partners arouse sensitivities. Our close connections are tightly bound to security; fluctuations in behavior signal volatility and painfully poke at vulnerabilities. Trust from repeated loving responses and timely repairs softens the fears. For many, however, a simple event or spoken word triggers strong emotions sending emotions into over-drive; they aggressively lash out, or silently stew in self-righteousness.
All organisms respond to offensive slights and dangerous attacks, protecting from further harm—emotional or physical. Responding to emotions is normal and essential for connection. High-value relationships must be tenderly approached; careless expressions sometimes convey sharp messages that divide rather than connect. We should express emotions triggered by a partner but carefully, considering how the message will be received. When expressions are made with care and mediated with personal responsibility, they can create closeness. When expressed in harshness, laced with accusations and blame, our rude presentation strangles communication, coaxing the partner into defensive protection.
Emotional expressions are the precious moments that build or destroy security.
When we are aroused, no matter how serious the triggering behavior, going straight for the jugular with a violent attack, doesn’t resolve the issue. Our swings drive a separating wedge deep into the relationship. Our attack may produce blood but never open the partner’s heart.
Isn’t being felt the goal?
A venomous attack divides partners, inviting further defensiveness, closing the ears we wish would hear our cries. Even when we seemingly "win," the victory is a fantasy, increasing tension, and building resentments.
Slow down! Recognize the bubbling emotions; evaluate the value of the impulsive reaction; we must break this destructive chain. Breathe. Calm the emotional flooding first, reestablishing safety. After you have soothed the primitive aliveness of the emotional brain, remind yourself of the long-term goals, and only then appropriately share feelings in a kind, non-accusing and compassionate way. Expressing ownership for your emotions first and then offering specifics about the behaviors and events that triggered those emotions; with care, we can effectively open the door to our hearts, and there in our naked vulnerabilities will a compassionate lover respond. We can be felt and accepted in the core emotions of love.
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