Part two of submitted column
While distancing is effective at avoiding conflict, it leaves you feeling more lonely and disconnected. So, how do you experience less loneliness and more joy in your relationship? Build a bridge to emotional intimacy by taking five small steps.
Step 1: Identify what emotional distance is NOT
Couples often worry about spending time apart or not having enough common interests. If you share similar values on the big things, your relationship can withstand marriage differences.
Distinguish between times when your spouse has a different interest/goal, but it is not an emotional distancing response. For instance, your spouse may like to watch the hunting channel, but it is only distancing if he’s using it to avoid fighting with you. Otherwise, it’s just a different interest than you have.
Step 2: Recognize your own part in co-created distance
What do you do that is distancing? What do you do when you feel threatened? Again, you can distance in your internal reactions or your outward behaviors. Some examples of emotional distance are:
• Taking differences personally
• Being critical of spouse
• Over-helping spouse
• Being more negative than positive
• Over use of substances
• Using work/hobbies as avoidance of spouse
• Avoiding topics that upset your spouse
Step 3: Eliminate built up resentment
If your negative thoughts over-ride any positive feelings you may have, then you may be holding onto resentment. Are you tense and angry because of work/life stress or because of your marriage? You may be missing out on choices that you have right in front of you, and projecting your stress and frustration onto your spouse.
Step 4: Turn crisis into opportunity
If your marriage or relationship has reached a breaking point, take advantage of this crisis. Turn it into an opportunity for growth, and a time to work on yourself and how your relate to your mate. Fight off hopelessness and revive hope by believing in yourself.
Step 5: Do what makes you feel closer to your spouse
Are you waiting on your spouse to make the first move? Or, complaining about what your spouse doesn’t do anymore? Turn all that energy onto yourself. Focus less on what you fear, and more on what you want.
List all the ways you used to connect with your spouse. Look for things you can do instead of waiting on your spouse. Reach out without pressuring your mate to respond. Respect your spouse’s timing and movement.
You will be taking the final step over the gulf. You will be putting yourself back on to the bridge toward emotional intimacy. Here’s to falling in love with your partner again! It’s the best gift you can give yourself and your loved.
Marci Payne, resident of Lee’s Summit, is an Individual and Marriage Counselor in private practice: http://www.marcipayne.- com.