Posted on November 27th, 2012
Relationships have been historically much more about roles and duties than about being emotionally close. But the past few decades have shown a slow and steady increase in the importance of emotional connection in relationships. Intimacy—warmth, openness and connection—is now the prize that most people seek.
Every relationship moves back and forth along a continuum between separateness and connection. The more separateness there is in your relationship, the safer you may feel, but also the more alone you can feel in the relationship. The more connectedness there is, the more you experience the relationship as intimate.
Intimacy requires openness—being self-revealing—and openness brings risk with it. The risk is that you and your partner will have to face differences which you won’t know how to accommodate, differences you may now either avoid or argue about rather than accept. Yet when you can deal with these differences, and are able to be more connected with each other, the openness also brings reward. The reward is a larger, more complete relationship, able to accommodate more of who you are.
Creating a more intimate emotional life together requires three ingredients—knowledge, skill, and courage.
The knowledge is greater knowledge of yourself, of your partner, and of how your relationship works. You may feel you already know your partner and your relationship, but what that sometimes means is that you have ‘settled,’ that you are at odds, or that you are stuck, rather than being able to find and build on what is forward-moving in yourself and in your partner. The experience of intimacy both requires and creates an entire new body of knowledge about yourselves and your relationship.
The skill is in knowing how to more easily acknowledge, confront, and integrate differences and hidden needs into your relationship. This is about communication, not familiar dead-end arguments but productive communication which will leave you feeling closer and at the same time allow more space in your relationship for who you actually are.
The courage comes from pushing through stuckness, building on the attraction which initially brought you together. No matter how buried beneath struggles and disappointments this may seem, this attraction can usually be found, strengthened, and used as a base from which to grow in connection to each other.
Effective couples counseling works with all three of these, working with you to learn more about yourselves and each other, teaching you the skills necessary for living a more intimate, more fulfilling life together, and helping you to find the courage to be authentic with yourselves and with each other.
Posted in Marriage and Couples