Some couples seem to find themselves stuck in rigid and distressful patterns of communication. These couples report repeated bouts of hurtful conflict and continuous patterns of arrow slinging at one another. Hurting couples tell me what they want the most is a safe, loving, and peaceful relationship. But, what gets in the way? Fear! Fear often results avoiding vulnerability and closeness.
The belief is that achieving closeness and/or vulnerability exposes my character defects, my weaknesses and my limitations. This fear of closeness and vulnerability actually sets us up for possible rejection, feeling unlovable and ultimately fear of abandonment. To avoid these fears we often withdraw, hide, attack or compromise our values. Getting unstuck from these challenging patterns and moving toward experiencing a vibrant, loving connection is not just a dream, it can become a reality.
Sometimes just a few modifications can create an amazing and lasting change. So what to do? Consider adding the Three C's to your relationship repertoire. Comfort: Physical touch (affection) such as hand holding, stroking, gentle touching and safe holding (gentle hugs) communicates safety, security and connection. This is NOT about sex; it is about creating a safe place for emotional and physical bonding and healthy attachment.
Contact: Emotional contact includes spending quality time together, responding with good eye contact and active listening. Even if disagreeing, do so with respect and honor. This simple act reminds us we are connected. Sometimes anger or conflict is an act of protest that hopes for restoration and a stronger connection with the other. It can be an attempt to gain reassurance--to hear from the other that the relationship is secure despite the problem at hand. Try to reframe the "protest.
" "Help me understand the good reason you are feeling upset." Don't make assumptions, but clarify and look for the "good intentions" (i.e., a need for reassurance, hurt feelings, fear, etc.).
Caring: Vulnerability and validity remind us we need others to help us process feelings. Vulnerability implicitly indicates that sharing feelings, fears, hopes, etc., can be used against us for hurt. It is here, though, that we elevate our willingness to be vulnerable over the need for self-protection and distancing. Caring allows for one another to help process difficult feelings without critical or judgmental finger pointing. There is safety and acceptance in a caring and secure relationship.
Our relationship security is directly related to how we navigate the "Three C's." We can continue with the rigid patterns of distress and destruction, refusing to give up our patterns of defend/attack/withdraw or we can ask for clarification and seek the "good intention." Vibrant relationships focus on bringing out the best in one another. These relationships create and maintain a bond of love and acceptance within a safe and secure environment.
This bond allows for differences and builds a stable and reassuring emotional intimacy. Developing and maintaining successfully vibrant relationships hinges on a purposeful cultivation of mutual honor and respect. Perhaps this is why Proverbs 16:24 reminds us "Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." Copyright (c) 2007 G Susan Rivers, LMFT.
G. SusanRivers is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice for over 20 years. She contines to help couples reframe and focus on "good intentions," "honor and respect" and "bringing out the best" in one another. Her goal is to help couples achieve long lasting, vibrant relationships. To contact Susan go to http://www.gsusanrivers.com