Some Issues That Couples Face
The universal need for relationship motivates us, in healthy and unhealthy ways, to attach to others. Loneliness is the undesired isolation from others. Solitude is the desire to be alone with oneself, in order to satisfy a variety of needs. Detailed below, are experiences that humans encounter in the journey to attach and and remain connected to each other.
The Many Ways We Experience Love
- Infatuated Love. This occurs when your passion is high but the relationship lacks intimacy and commitment. Think “love at first sight.”
- Empty Love. Married couples can be highly committed to each other, but their relationship lacks passion and intimacy. Some arranged marriages may begin as empty love, and some long-lasting marriages may begin to feel empty.
- Romantic Love. Romantic lovers feel a strong bond and physical attraction-they are passionate and have an intimate knowledge of each other. But the relationship is typically new, and hasn’t reached the stage of substantive commitment.
- Fatuous Love. Some couples end up committing to each other after a whirlwind, passionate courtship. Their passion for each other is high and their commitment is solid, but they may discover they know very little about each other, and their emotional intimacy remains low.
- Companionate Love. A lasting love is often based on deep affection and commitment, but may be lacking in sexual desire. Commitment and emotional intimacy are high, but the sparks of passion have dwindled.
- Liking. Some of our most emotionally intimate relationships are with friends. These friendships may contain emotional intimacy at a high level, but lack passion and enduring commitment.
- Consummate Love. For many couples, this is an ideal. It is a complex form of love with high levels of commitment, intimacy, and passion.
The Ways That We Become Attached To Each Other
There are many different attachment styles which people develop. These styles of attachment are sometimes shaped by the nature of early attachment experiences in families of origin. Often at their core are anxieties about separateness. These attachment styles may include:
- Anxious/preoccupied attachment style: They feel the world is an unpredictable, unsafe place. They need closeness and reassurance to feel secure, and as a result, are preoccupied with being connected to others.
- Avoidant attachment style: They feel people will mostly let them down, and as a result, strive to be overly independent and take care of themselves without the help of others.
- Fearful attachment style: This is an insecure attachment style marked by low self esteem, and constant doubtfulness about the sincerity of others.
- Secure attachment style: They generally feel the world is safe and stable, are trusting of other people, and able to ask for help in doing things.
- Disorganized attachment style: They often feel confused and fearful in the presence of caregivers, avoid or resist attaching to others, have profound difficulty trusting, and seeking help and reassurance from others, and have difficulty calming themselves, and managing stress.
Codependent And Enabling Relationship Characteristics
- In order to connect to you, I ignore my needs and compromise my values.
- In our relationship, I always focus more on how you feel than how I feel.
- I always ask you what you want, but rarely tell you what I want.
- I use excessive giving as a way of feeling secure in a relationship.
- My quality of life is primarily determined by your quality of life.
- I learn to value your way of doing things as more important than my way of doing things.
- My self-esteem is primarily determined by solving your problems, and diminishing your emotional distress.
- I’ve abandoned my interests, and cater only to your interests.
- I have withdrawn from my family members, and circle of friends, as I have become more involved with you.
- My fear of your hostility, and dislike of me determines what I say or do.
- I often feel sorry for myself, and feel that no one really understands me. I often think about getting counseling, but rarely follow through, or quit before changing my behavior.
Ways We Try To Remain Attached To Each Other:
(Adapted from Jonathan Gottman’s book “The Science of Trust”)
- Requests for conversation, or just venting frustrations
- Discussing, and sharing the events of the day or week
- Demonstrating compassion, empathy, sympathy, and understanding
- Asking for help, direction, information, answering questions, responding to simple requests, engaging in teamwork or problem solving, and providing emotional support
- Displaying affection, touching, and holding, getting your partners attention, interest, active excitement, and approval
- Engaging in intimate conversation
- Sexual intimacy
- Humor, laughter, playfulness
- Relaxing together and reducing each other’s stress, eating, and sleeping together
- Adventure, exploration, experiencing and learning something together.
Areas of Exploration in Couples Therapy
- Family of Origin Issues
- Cultural Clashes
- Invisible Loyalties and Betrayals
- Gender and Class Oppression
- Gender Identity
- Loss and Mourning
- Repressed Memories of Childhood Trauma
- Intimacy and Emotional Intelligence
- Sex and Seduction
Social Media And Intimacy
It is important to avoid the cliches, and stereotypes typical of many discussions about social media, and relationships. Most people are driven by the need for some form of social connection. Perhaps, online networks may actually foster greater appreciation of close friendships, and actual time spent in person with others.
The Anger Fear Connection In Divorce and Separation
Freeze – Flight – Fight – Fright
A person’s frequent response to the perceived or real threat of divorce or separation is refusing to talk about problems in the relationship-ie.-freeze.
Flight typically, is not an option because, too much could be lost by running away.
Therefore, a couple can quickly jump to fight, that is arguing, and displays, and expressions of hostility.
Like a cornered animal, a person may feel trapped and under attack during divorce proceedings, or separation, and while it is not exactly the same as immobility (or “playing dead”) some people get to the point of “playing dead”, completely giving up, and telling their soon to be former mate to take whatever shared assets they possess-ie.-capitulate.
There are many reasons to feel threatened in divorce, and separation. For example, there is the loss of someone who may have understood you, someone whom you engaged in familiar and routine tasks with, someone whom you were able to provide care for, and someone you sexually enjoyed. Some of these threatened losses are very real, as is the fear these losses trigger. Common responses to these threatened losses are to stonewall, or freeze in place, respond by flight ( temporarily moving out) and fighting-i.e.- arguing or retaining a strong legal advocate.
Many threats entail fear of the unknown, of the uncharted future course of parenting, making money, and exploring new relationships. Many people, understandably, become angry at their estranged partners for throwing their lives into states of uncertainty and upheaval. Others desperately try to cling onto a bad relationship, when the alternative is facing an uncertain, frightening future.