As humans, we are “wired to connect”. Emotional connection is like oxygen for us. We are built for it and we need it. The main relationships in you life – and particularly your relationship with your partner – will be central to your sense of security, happiness and wellbeing. If you feel safe and close with your partner – if you feel you can share your thoughts and feelings and that your partner is accepting and responsive to you – then you will probably feel that your relationship is stable. Research shows that when you feel securely bonded, you’ll feel more secure in yourself, more able to engage with the world, more resilient, and indeed more healthy.
When things go wrong
On the other hand, if you don’t have a relationship but want one, then you’ll probably feel isolated and sad. Or, you might be in a relationship but feel distant and disconnected from your partner. You might feel that they are not “there” for you to feel really emotionally safe with them, that they “dont let you in”, that they are critical or closed, or that they have hurt and betrayed you. If so, you’ll probably feel that a central foundation in your life is insecure. You might feel an awful sense of background distress and fear; or you might numb yourself out, to feel nothing; or perhaps both.
Dealing with your Partner?
If that’s become the pattern between you, how have you responded to your partner? Have you found yourself becoming angry and critical? Or perhaps you emotionally cut off, and move into a practical or intellectual way of “relating” to them? Either way it will probably feel empty or hollow at some level. Maybe you wish you could to find a different way to relate, but are beginning to despair if that’s ever going to be possible.
Dealing with your feelings?
And meanwhile how have you dealt with your own feelings? Maybe you’ve deadened yourself. Perhaps you’ve sought solace in an affair or compensated with sexual excitement or emotional engagement elsewhere. Maybe your functioning at work has been undermined; or perhaps you’ve immersed yourself in work as a retreat. Possibly you try to soothe yourself with substances like alcohol, drugs or food or with other unhelpful activities. And, if you have children, however much you try to protect them, they are likely to feel the impact of the bad atmosphere and will suffer too.
But many relationships can be fixed. And unhealthy ways of relating can be changed. Or, where things can’t be resolved, if you decide you want to separate, it is possible to do that with understanding and care – rather than acrimony and bitterness. These things are very hard to do alone. Relationship Therapy can help.