“…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. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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