Making Space in Your Relationship for Fear, Anger, and Love

A couple seated in a park“…there’s nothing more intimate in life than simply being understood. And understanding someone else.” -Brad Meltzer

Did you ever know a couple who never argued or disagreed, who were the envy of other couples in your circle of friends, who appeared to be the perfect pair—and then, the next thing you knew, they were getting divorced?

You might have been surprised by this, but I’m not. Often people think that the most stable relationships are the ones that appear the most peaceful, most agreeable, and the least cantankerous. This is not necessarily true.

The deepest emotional connections of love and intimacy are the ones where each partner is genuine, authentic, and capable of expressing the most difficult feelings at the most difficult times. These are relationships where partners choose not to hide, are willing to engage each other in real feelings, and are committed to expressing their anger, fear, pain, and love.

Hiding from Emotional Intimacy

Being emotionally intimate is no small endeavor. It can be scary. Becoming deeply connected means you choose to be vulnerable; you choose to deal with your feelings of pain and hurt. You have the awareness that you may lose your partner, if not through separation, then though death.

Some partners unconsciously use anger and fear to keep their relationship from getting too deep or close. It’s risky to put your heart out there, knowing that at some points you will feel hurt, angry, and rejected. The beauty is that you will also experience the deepest, most fulfilling and intimate emotional connection possible.

Those who see us for couples therapy have often experienced a measure of hurt and pain in their relationship. Some people will allow this to define the relationship, staying in their anger and fear without forgiving as a way of protecting themselves from being hurt yet again. Others may disengage from their partner, withdraw from the relationship, or look to another person outside the relationship for the solution.

Forging an Authentic Closeness

It’s vital for couples to know that the true path to deep emotional connection and intimacy is through each partner’s willingness to get “emotionally naked” at the same time: to express and explore their deep sadness, hurt, fear and love. By empathizing with and sharing the other’s vulnerability, a resilient bond is created. This allows the couple to unite in an emotional way that is unique and authentic.

The couple who never quarrels and seems like the perfect pair is not necessarily the couple who has the greatest emotional bond. It is the couple who express themselves and their differences, who engage in their struggles in a constructive way, who may be contrary at times, and who also express their love that are the most deeply intimate. You must engage in many ways to be truly close.

We have a group of very passionate, romantic couples.
They sort of enjoy the bickering and the arguing…
                    to them, it symbolizes real involvement and connection.
John Gottman, PhD, on observations at his University of Washington “Love Lab”

© Copyright 2011 by By Lori Hollander, LCSW-C, BCD, therapist in Owings Mills, Maryland. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 10 comments
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  • Deanne

    Deanne

    October 24th, 2011 at 4:29 PM

    If u cant argue w ur spouse then who can u argue with?!

  • Christian

    Christian

    October 25th, 2011 at 5:14 AM

    Arguing is like saying out your thoughts, but it doesn’t have to be always in an arguing manner.

  • liza

    liza

    October 25th, 2011 at 5:47 AM

    well,if you don’t let your heart out you may not get hurt that bad or be a victim at your partner’s hands but you also miss out on the real meaning of the relationship,you’re living in a superficial relationship and will never attain that level of satisfaction either.

    so what do you want? a safe but superficial relationship or one where you both share things and are closer to each other than ever before?

  • Coleman

    Coleman

    October 25th, 2011 at 1:25 PM

    What is life but a combination of all three of those mentioned emotions?
    And don’t you wnat to be married to someone who can live with you and experience with you all three?
    I mean there has to be a balanace among them all, but think of how nice it would be to go through life with someone who can stand by you and hold your hand no matter the given emotion.

  • Susie

    Susie

    October 25th, 2011 at 11:56 PM

    Well,it isn’t love if you haven’t fallen in it at least once! :)

  • Wendy J

    Wendy J

    October 26th, 2011 at 2:31 PM

    Your partner is the one person in the world with whom you should feel the most comfortable and at ease to express anything that is going on. That means the good along with the bad. This is your go to guy or gal. And yes the hard times are often what make you stronger as a couple. So if you think that you can’t be yourself or are not able to express your feelings, that does not really sound like you would be building that relationship on solid ground. You should never feel like there is anything that you have to hide. There are better ways than some to express these emotions but they should not be negated just because you are afraid that the relationship cannot withstand it. If it is a string one it can take anything.

  • Lori Hollander

    Lori Hollander

    October 30th, 2011 at 8:58 PM

    Thanks for all your wonderful comments!! I really appreciate them.

  • Pankaj

    Pankaj

    October 8th, 2013 at 11:30 AM

    I agree with what lisa said. It is important to live in a authentic manner, rather than in a safe o superficial manner. I had violent verbal fight fight which almost converted to physical fight. I felt this violent engagement was emotionally difficult but it was healthy. We expressed to each other and it just shows the emotional development of our relationship. And we know where we stand!

  • Lori Hollander

    Lori Hollander

    October 8th, 2013 at 4:06 PM

    Pankaj,
    Thanks for your comment!
    Lori

  • Rollercoaster

    Rollercoaster

    January 26th, 2017 at 10:40 PM

    I’m learning I can be the operator or enjoy the relationship. I bring and react becausecof my thoughts not considering my girl friends I don’t have to burden or push her to my liking to avoid any real hurt…control myself n reactions to misunderstandings enjoy not operate to avoid hiccups but trust in expressing your healing things in intimacy not operating and controlling the whole enjoyment of ups n downs

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