3 Vital Keys to Connection in Marriage
Beep, beep, beep! Susan slammed her hand down on the alarm to silence it. The stillness in the room was spoiled by the weighty reality of another long and lonely day. Her husband Mark would be at the office for more than a dozen hours, leaving Susan alone from sunup to sundown… yet again. Is this what marriage was supposed to feel like?
What was the big deal? She had more than enough to fill the hours. Susan had three kids to get off to school, lunch with her girlfriend and an afternoon Skype call with her oldest daughter who was away at college.
Why do I feel so alone? Susan wiped the tear from her cheek and stuffed away her sadness. Dwelling on it had never helped to fill the void. Nor did it answer the question of why?
Susan curled into a soft chair to meditate. She had decided that if she could put herself into a meditative trance perhaps the void would be filled with…well, with something that didn’t hurt. Maybe she would find the answers there.
Susan and Mark had been married for 23 years. They had raised four ambitious and responsible kids. Though Mark had floundered somewhat in the job market, he had always provided sufficiently for his family. Susan and Mark prided themselves in putting others’ needs before their own. He had always been grateful that Susan could take care of herself and the kids while he was pursuing a real passion.
That doesn’t seem so bad…so what’s wrong with this picture?
Breaking it down…the nuts and bolts of relationship
Susan feels alone because she is in a marriage that is emotionally disconnected. Children, friends, a busy calendar or even her service to those less fortunate, will never fill her longings for Mark’s love. They are all substitutes for what she needs. Let that sink in. We have all had substitutes that stand-in for the real thing.
Trust me, there are no healthy substitutes for real connection!
Mark grew up in a family that didn’t express emotions. His wife’s emotional need scares him and causes him to pull away. It often seems overwhelming or out-of-control. Feeling helpless in soothing Susan, Mark works harder and zones-out in front of the T.V. to manage his own stress.
Susan has burned-out on pursuing him. She has turned to meditation as a way of surviving her loneliness. While meditation can help with emotional balance and self-awareness, it is not a solution for what is wrong with her marriage.
So What is the Answer to Loneliness in Marriage?
We feel loved and secure when the people closest to us pay attention to our emotional ups and downs. From infancy to adulthood we rely on our parents and then our spouse, to respond to our emotions. Our brains are hard-wired to emotionally bond with another person. When the person we are bonded with ignores our emotions, we feel alone and sad.
Meditation is not magic or medication. When done mindfully, meditation can help us become more aware of our need for loving relationships. It can put us more in touch with our emotional pain and should help us to take action to remedy it.
Susan and Mark need to learn how to become emotionally responsive to each other. Mark doesn’t know it, but he needs this as much as Susan does. And their marriage relationship depends on this.
Are You Ready to Take Action?
Here are 3 vital keys to creating connection in close relationships
Allow yourself to feel what your partner is feeling. Without training or effort, our heart knows to ache when our child is in distress; Allow the same emotional responsiveness with your partner.
Express compassion for your partner’s emotional suffering, rather than offering a fix or solution. “It looks like you are really hurting right now.” Let your words be sincere.
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The books Hold Me Tight and Love Sense by Sue Johnson, Ph.D. may help you begin to understand and grow in emotional communication. Couples in cycles of conflict should consider getting the help of an Emotionally Focused Therapist. Go to our home page or to ICEEFT.com to find an Emotionally Focused Therapist in your area.
I’m Dr. Michael W. Regier. I’m highly trained and experienced clinical psychologist, Certified Emotionally Focused Couples Therapist and EFT Supervisor in Visalia and San Luis Obispo, CA, who, along with my wife Paula, co-authored Emotional Connection: The Story & Science of Preventing Conflict & Creating Lifetime Love.