How do you know if your marriage or relationship is headed off-course? When you don’t see or understand your needs for connecting in your marriage or love relationship, and don’t know how to connect on a deeper level, your reaction most likely fits into one of two categories:
1. Turning away from your partner or spouse, as you attempt to turn off your need for connection
2. Criticizing or becoming overly demanding toward your partner or spouse, as you try to regain a connection with him or her
Most likely, when you’re not connecting emotionally with your partner or spouse, you talk about many practical aspects in your marriage or relationship that don’t seem to be working. For instance, your partner or spouse didn’t take the garbage out, or load the dishwasher, and you feel like the burden falls on you. Other areas are easy to get lost in, such as finances, sex, and child-rearing issues. What can get lost in your interaction together are the emotions, the meaning behind those emotions, and the needs tied into your emotional states. In a secure relationship or marriage, a couple is able to see beyond the garbage, dishwasher, finances, sex, etc. and discuss the deeper meaning of fears or sadness related to the meaning behind the behaviors and content of the fights, bringing them closer to each other, instead of disconnecting them.
Many times, when you’re experiencing an emotionally intense moment in your love relationship or marriage, the level of emotion stems from your brain interpreting key experiences in your love relationship as a life or death situation. Both you and your partner or spouse can get overwhelmed with upsetting emotions, such as fear or anger, that can then lead to behaviors that actually pull the two of you further apart. You may experience upsetting emotions through being flooded with intense feelings, or through going numb.
We are always experiencing an emotion, though when we’re not aware of feeling anything, most likely we are numbed out and cut off from our internal emotional experience. Whether you get overwhelmed with intense emotions and feel flooded, or go numb, your emotional state leads to actions and reactions that influence your partner or spouse to react in a way that you’re most likely most afraid of.
For instance, if you get angry because your partner or spouse isn’t responding to you, the likelihood that he or she will give you what you really need after you express your anger diminish dramatically (4-6% likelihood), according to John Gottman’s research, of Gottman Method Couples Therapy. What you may not realize is that your partner’s response is most likely occurring due to your negative patterns together, rather than because your partner or spouse feels like he or she no longer loves you, isn’t capable of a relationship, or is rejecting you.
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Do you relate to one of the two negative patterns in your own marriage or love relationship? Do you see your partner or spouse in one of the patterns as well? Share your experience with us, and help other couples learn from your own lessons.
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