Guest Post by Marriage and Family Therapist, Jessica Ellis, M.S.
What is the biggest, basic problem in your marriage?
“He’s too controlling.”
“We just have such different personalities and cannot see eye-to-eye on anything!”
“She has way too high of expectations for me.”
“We aren’t having sex like we used to.”
“We totally disagree on how to parent our kids.”
We are trying hard to make sense of the distress in our relationships, but our formulations are usually missing the mark. Our explanations are just the tip of the iceberg. What if I told you that managing you and your spouse’s level of conflict was not the best predictor of marital success? What a relief, right?! Rather than focusing on how to get less annoyed with each other, or how to bicker less, you can shift your focus to the actual predictor of marital success: emotional responsiveness. When couples have disconnected emotionally, they no longer feel emotionally safe with one another and that is where the issue lies.
You see, our loved one is our shelter in life. Whether life floods us with stress, mounds of happiness, or grief upon grief, our loved one is supposed to be our shelter, our safe place. If you or your spouse are emotionally unavailable or unresponsive, you are forced to face the reality of being alone, cold, and helpless- and that is a scary place to be. Assailing emotions such as anger, hurt, sadness, or fear attack us. Losing connection with our spouse, our shelter, jeopardizes our sense of security; I mean, fear is basically our built-in alarm system that goes off when our survival is threatened. We love our spouse, but we are not tuned into them. We are not communicating the true, often deep-seated message of what we need from them and how much we care about them.
As time elapses the longer we feel disconnected from our spouse, and the more negative our interactions with one another become. This type of negativity can erode each partner’s trust in connection altogether. So, of course, at this point, it is natural to start explaining the content of whatever the issue is about, but eventually what the fight is about won’t matter at all. We begin to see every difference, every disagreement through this negative filter. It becomes this negative cycle of interaction that we get stuck in with our spouse. The cycle is as follows: we feel something deeply, but we are not fully aware of it, and so instead do something, such as reacting intensely, to get the job done. Insert whatever content you want, and suddenly you will see that it is not about the content any longer.
We have a few good days and all is well in the world! But then, another incident happens and somehow manages to totally kill the good vibes. It starts a negative spiral of insecurity in the relationship that chills the relationship. These dramatic exchanges between us and our spouse evolve so fast, so chaotically that we usually don’t catch what is actually happening. But if we are able to slow down, to see what we are actually feeling and what our partner is actually feeling, we suddenly see our options. Powerful, relationship-defining emotions usually accompany these newfound options. When we can get to a point in our marriage where we feel overall safe and connected, the incident becomes just a brief cold breeze on a sunny day, rather than a bone-chilling, relationship-stunting incident.
Understand The Concern
As human beings, men and women alike, we all share these sensitivities. We just express them differently. When we are stuck in this negative cycle of interaction with one another, men usually talk about feelings of rejection, inadequacy, and feelings of failure. Whereas women are usually flooded with feelings of abandonment and disconnection.
It is not your level of conflict causing these issues. It is your level of emotional availability for one another. Can your partner come to you and safely express a difficult emotion without you responding in anger, sarcastic mocking, or cold-shouldering? As lovers, we delicately walk a tightrope together. When the winds of doubt and fear begin to blow, we have the option to panic and clutch at each other, abruptly turn away, OR we can shift with one another’s moves and respond to each other’s emotions.
As Sue Johnson says it best, “As we connect, we balance each other. We are in emotional equilibrium.”
If you read this article and thought to yourself, “that is us!”, please don’t hesitate to reach out for more information on my upcoming marital workshops or to schedule an initial laid-back counseling session. I get it, and I’d love to hear from you.
Reconnect With Your Partner
Southern Romantic Getaways wants to strengthen you marriage by offering you romantic getaways and fun date night ideas to help you reconnect with your spouse/partner.
Custom Date Night Packages- We've created date night experiences that will bring back the spark in your relationship. Incredible memories from scavenger hunts in downtown Chattanooga, limo rides, private chef dinners, and our annual events will be sure to bring spontaneity and opportunities to communicate with each other.
Custom Romantic Getaways - We'd love to pamper you during your custom romantic getaway. If you are looking for an experience that will recharge your relationship, then we've put together 2 packages that will wow you. Pick between a beach and mountain getaway. The beach getaway includes private house, pool, bikes to ride on the island, couple massages, and dinner reservations. The mountain getaway includes chocolate covered strawberries, private bed and breakfast, gourmet breakfast, couple massage, dinner reservations, and Jacuzzi tub with a view of the mountains. We took all the stress of planning your romantic getaway away from you.
If you would like to book a different location, we aim to please. Just contact us for a consultation.
Book Your Own Private Romantic Getaway- Find a private beach house or mountain cabin that's away from the hustle and bustle. VRBO has unique romantic places you can stay that are away from the crowds, but near the attractions you are seeking to attend.
Camp In Style By Renting Your Own RV - We love that you can enjoy camping, but in comfort with RV Share. You can find an RV that fits your style, driving ability, and comfort. You do need to be over age 25 and have a valid driver's license to rent an RV.