Did you know that intimate relationships are based on the exact same principles as parent-child relationships?
There are three main things we require from our parents (as children, and often even as adults) in order to feel safe, and secure.
We need our parents to be present, trustworthy, and responsive to our needs.
We require the exact same things from our significant other.
There are three essential questions that are asked (often silently) in every love relationship:
- Are you there for me?
- Do I, and my feelings matter to you?
- Will you respond to me when I need you?
The answer to ALL three must be YES for us to feel safe, and secure.
And that is scary!
So scary in fact, that our biological instinct kicks in to protect us in three main ways:
✓ Fight – attacking, arguing to win, and putting our partner down with criticism, and/blame
✓ Flight – escaping emotionally, making excuses, and avoiding intimacy
✓ Freeze – pretending like nothing is wrong
Our reactive (and protective) response creates feelings of rejection, and abandonment in our partner, so that his/her own biological instinct to fight/flight/freeze kicks in. This in turn, creates feelings of rejection and abandonment in us, and we react with fight/flight/freeze.
And so it continues.
Ok, lets pause here for a second, and review.
We know that relationships are fragile, and that they require presence, trust, and responsiveness. We also know that as animals we have a strong instinct to protect ourselves whenever we feel rejected, or abandoned by our main attachment (parent/partner).
And lastly, we know (because we’ve all done it) that when we are tired, and stressed, we tend to resign ourselves to our most primitive and reactive state, rather than engage our problem solving skills, and perspective taking.
So taking all of this into account – when we are depleted – how on earth can we manage to treat our partner’s needs as gently, and responsively as we would have liked our parents to treat ours?
That’s a fair question, and one that has baffled me for years.
But no more.
Here is what you do, you take that finger that is pointing toward your partner, yes – you know the one. And you turn it around – turn, turn, turn.
Until it is pointing at YOU.
Now, ask yourself:
- How do I feel when my partner does the things that I find so upsetting?
- What do I do to protect myself when this happens?
- How do I imagine my partner feels when I do this?
- What does my partner do in response to protect him/herself?
- How do I feel when he/she does that?
- What do I do in return?
Can you see the loop that the two of you are stuck in?
That is the first, and most important step in getting yourselves unstuck, and beginning to move more consciously, and co-operatively (rather than reactively).
For another essential tool to getting unstuck in your relationship – take this FREE lesson from my Online Program: The Depleted Mother’s Guide to Wellness and Balance.
Let me know your thoughts about this.