EMOTIONAL SAFETY IS IMPORTANT: Emotional safety is important in healthy relationships. No well-functioning relationship can work if the partners feel frightened, afraid, tense, or expect the other to walk out the door any minute. And emotional safety is key to building trust, human connection and growth. It promotes intimacy, vulnerability and a durable sense of closeness. In the context of emotional safety, we can create families together and commit our lives to each other.
COMPLACENCY IS THE ENEMY: Unfortunately, over time, emotional safety can become emotional boredom. Feeling safe in the presence of another can turn into feeling unmotivated in two important aspects of relating—curiosity and engagement. What was previously standard practice—asking your partner about all the pieces of his or her life that needed filling in, and asking about feelings and reactions and hopes and preferences—these were all part and parcel of getting to know one another, building a compatible relationship together, and forging a life with one another. The answers lead to discoveries and to mutual excitement in the revelation of the other. This, in part, fueled sexual excitement too, as you looked to the other as the source of ever-lasting excitement, interest, and novelty.
FROM INTEREST TO DISINTEREST: As we get to know our partners, it’s self-evident that they become more familiar to us. There seems to be less available to discover. Less that is new and exciting. Less that can trigger our own desire for engagement. For some, this is a difficult moment in relationship, a moment when the other is subtly transformed from the object of interest, to the object of complacency and even disinterest.
WHAT TO DO? How do healthy couples work to keep themselves from growing complacent and bored with their partners?
HARD BUT REWARDING WORK: On the surface, we can talk about the hard but rewarding work of being aware of the pitfall of growing complacent. We can commit to staying curious and interested. And, to actively seeking what’s new and to letting your partner know you’re engaged.
THE MIND IS THE LAST FRONTIER! More often than not, what’s new in a relationship comes from the interior self. From your partner’s thoughts, feelings, reactions, hopes, and states of mind. Most importantly, what’s new in a relationship comes from how your partner and you share the interior parts of self with each other. Since our minds are always active—considering, mulling over, reasoning, responding, feeling deeply or struggling with a problem—the mind is really the last frontier. It’s the area of the self that is almost always fresh, always involved with some new idea, partial thought, or feeling state.
I’M LONELY; WE DON’T COMMUNICATE ANYMORE: Unfortunately, breakdown in relationship occurs when the interior self is warded off, shut down, kept off limits, and not made part of the shared relationship. Often this breakdown is expressed in statements like: “I’m lonely,” or “We don’t communicate anymore.” We can hear, in these complaints, the longing for deep, authentic contact between partners that arises only when mind and interior self is shared.
THE SOLUTION: Why is there a lack of deep authentic contact between you and you and your partner? Have you each retreated to your lonely corners, afraid to come out? Has prior disappointment left you unwilling to take the chance and risk further disappointment? Have you and your partner slipped into a habit of avoiding intimate sharing? These are complex questions that rarely have simple answers. And furthermore, the answers are surely not the whole solution. The whole solution includes the slow and steady work of reclaiming intimacy and connectedness by building a new habit of sharing and engaging with the inner selves of both you and your partner.