Image Source: Charlie Foster
I often hear people say things like “I’m not great at communicating because my dad never showed me love” or “My mum always told me I would never amount to anything, so I struggle with intimacy as I don’t want to get hurt.”
The fact is we all know communication and intimacy play a vital role in the health of a relationship. And if we know that these things are a challenge for us, then we need to start to think about how we can address the hurdles that stand in the way of greater closeness and intimacy.
Don’t get me wrong. I understand and empathise with how painful and difficult these experiences can be for someone. But as a relationship specialist what I am really interested in is this: what are you going to do about it?
One of the most important elements in the success of a long-term relationship, one with connection, intimacy and chemistry, is the degree to which we each take responsibility for the way we experience the world and our emotional response to it.
And to be honest, most of us aren’t great at this.
What often ends up happening is that an expectation also develops that one partner should help the other work through an issue and essentially play the role of an intimate therapist.
Let me tell you, more often than not this is a number one relationship killer. And in my role as a relationship specialist I see it happening all too often.
It’s an understandably easy trap for people to fall into; their partner is there, they are sympathetic, listening and supportive. And obviously from time to time, we all need to offer that nurturing support to each other in our low moments.
If a low moment or challenge is persisting however and the person experiencing this is not doing anything proactive to deal with it, other than leaning on their partner when their stuff comes up, this can place intolerable strain on a relationship.
The partner being the sounding board starts to tire of the role, of hearing the same thing over and over again without any positive change or progression. They begin to feel resentful of always being the supportive one (then in turn feel guilty for that resentment) and the respect for their partner diminishes, which then has a huge impact on the intimacy, connection and chemistry. It’s like a ripple effect, fanning out into every area of the relationship.
Too often I see clients in relationships with this dynamic, struggling under the burden of resentment, exhaustion and strain. They don’t feel that they can tell their partner how they feel without triggering accusations of heartlessness and blame and so they just feel stuck and overwhelmed.
We can’t always control what happens to us in our lives, but the good news is that – while it may not feel like it at the beginning – we do have the ability to master and ultimately control our emotional responses to painful and traumatic experiences that threaten to define us.
It brings to mind a quote from the Dalai Lama: “Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions”.
Taking responsibility for our own emotional wellbeing means that we understand that it is our job to deal with a personal issue, especially if it is impacting negatively on our lives. It is up to us to seek some outside help, be it in the form of reading or talking to someone.
Remember we are here to empower one another, inspire each other, to challenge the status quo and to grow together. But we cannot fix each other.
The challenge is there for the taking: you have the power to choose positive, therapeutic action for your own emotional wellbeing. While the going may seem hard, the rewards will be profound. Not just for you, but for those closest to you.