What do you get the least? Good advice.
People mean well. Unfortunately, people tend to repeat what they were told or what they do. You run the equal chance that their advice for couples will move you back as much as forward in your own relationship.
It’s not their fault. They might not be qualified professionals; they might be everyday people with backgrounds no different than your own. These individuals also have friends and teachers telling them erroneous advice, which they might then pass on to you.
Advice for Couples
There are some common stumbling blocks. First, we think that relationships and personal emotional issues can be solved using pure logic—as if they’re math problems. Our belief is if we could just analyze the issue well enough, we could improve the situation. Sure, this works some of the time, but this strategy rarely works in the long run.
With social media, we have become more focused on the speed and quantity of interaction, not the depth. Sitting down with your phone turned off just to be with a person is a rare experience. To be quiet, possibly alone and going slow is anxiety producing for many.
If you are going to have a satisfying relationship, you need to be with your partner. You can’t do that if you are multitasking. Make an effort to slow down and connect with your partner.
When you connect with your partner, have more than an intellectual conversation. It’s wonderful to have a partner with whom you can discuss Plato or subatomic physics, but in the long run, what a successful relationship need is an emotional connection. You don’t get that unless you are connected to your own experience. If you are paying attention to your phone, the ball game on TV, or preoccupied with what you need to do tomorrow—you aren’t present in the moment with your partner.
How can you tell when you’re connected and in the moment? You know that you are present when your partner’s words move you. These words may evoke sadness or joy; whatever the feeling, you will feel the physical analog in your body. Sadness might sit like a rock in your stomach. Joy might flutter in your heart like butterflies. Rather than ignore these feelings, move into them and let them intensify. Once you felt your response, allow yourself to be vulnerable.
Fixing a Relationship
When your partner can’t feel your emotional connection, conflicts can arise. A lot of us have experienced this, and we know it is unpleasant and unproductive.
If you feel something, allow your partner to see your response. If something brings a tear to your eye, allow it to be there. Vulnerability is important in relationships, and can bring you closer to your partner.
Once vulnerable, stay there. When you check out, and you will notice you disconnected from your experience and your partner. Breathe. Check back in with what you feel and want. Then connect with your partner.
Some will tell you just to connect. That may work in the short term. By connecting to your own experience first, your connection is deeper and more sustainable. You connect through your emotions and vulnerability, not through your mind. Rather than just fostering agreement, you create empathy. With empathy, can feel emotionally safe.
The formula for fixing a relationship or enhancing a relationship is simple: slow down, feel, allow yourself to be impacted, become vulnerable, then reach out while staying connected to your experience.
If you keep employing this formula, you can heal old patterns of survival and disconnection as well as create secure attachment as Attachment Theory would describe it. What was once difficult work will become automatic actions. We see couples that struggle because they were following bad advice create a relationship that exceeded their expectation just from practicing this formula.
Connect with your partner
In the next 24 hours, take a risk. In some small way emotionally step towards your partner when your first inclination is to step away. As you do that—feel. Train yourself to feel. Then start working on being vulnerable as you feel.
Let us know how it goes. I will respond to your questions. You can do it.