In talking with one of my clients today, she shared with me about the lack of genuine emotional intimacy in her relationship. The most interesting thing she shared was that in previous relationships, in order to have emotional intimacy, she would actually initiate disagreements, just so that she could experience the emotional intimacy that would follow.
I must admit, I never heard of anyone actually doing that on purpose. But as you might know, many people say that “making up is the best part of fights.” The reason is that after a disagreement, when people are really sorry and start to see how wrong they were, etc., there tends to be a lot of emotional “intimacy”. Meaning each one takes responsibility for their part, they seek forgiveness, they regret what was said, their love for one another is re-discovered, and they are now vulnerable. AKA, emotional intimacy.
Creating a safe enough environment for intimacy to flourish means that each person needs to take responsibility for creating safety within themselves, as well as safety within the relationship. We do this by practicing acceptance and compassion for ourselves, which will then naturally extend to others.
However, the moment we are triggered into fear — fear of rejection, of domination, of abandonment, of losing ourselves or losing the other — we often do anything but behave in a way that creates inner and relationship safety. We abandon ourselves and become reactive — getting angry, complying, withdrawing, resisting, blaming, defending, explaining, attacking and so on. None of these behaviors create inner safety, nor do they contribute to relationship safety.
How do we learn to stay connected, openhearted and non-reactive in the face of fear and conflict?
The key is to practice staying connected with each other and our spiritual lives during peaceful times, ( non-conflict moments), so that when the fear and conflicts arise, you have that connection available to you and can bring that comfort to your painful feelings. None of us can stay open by ourselves. This “safety Zone” in relationships will need to be cultivated by planning regular meetings that include, reading a book for example that provides insights in communication, oneness, etc., and some degree of prayerful connection, and vulnerable discussion. David Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D., in his book entitled simply “I,” states that,
“The strength of the ego is such that it can be overcome only by spiritual power.”
When our ego — our wounded self — is activated by fear and conflict, we must be able to turn to a source of spiritual power for the strength to not react with our learned defenses, and the strength to bring compassion to our painful feelings.
The more we practice staying connected with our spiritual guidance and our own feelings, the more we create inner and relationship safety. The safer we feel within ourselves and with our partner, the freer we feel to share our joy and pain with each other, which is what leads to connection and intimacy.
BH/ Contribution: Margaret Paul, PhD