“When it comes to emotional intimacy, most of us, especially men, struggle.”
The Problem – Emotional Intimacy
Why do we fall out of love? Why does it get harder to feel the joy and pleasure of an intimate relationship? Why is the divorce rate over 40%? Why are 70% of divorces initiated by women? Emotionally intimate relationships, by their very nature, always bring up issues and feelings that require processing and problem solving. Unfortunately, many (if not most) couples don’t have the relational skills and tools to do this effectively. Emotional intimacy is easier said than done because it’s vulnerable, and we’re (especially men) not comfortable with it. Yet it’s the key to a healthy relationship.
The Relationship Cycle
Relationships cycle between harmony, disillusionment and repair. It’s the repair skills that are most often lacking. This leads to resentment, blaming, withdrawal and contempt and we tend to either avoid issues (flight) or our attempts often lead to conflict (fight). Understanding how feelings work is essential for maintaining a healthy emotionally intimate connection. For many years I taught a couple’s workshop call “PAIRS” (Practical Application of Intimate Relationship Skills) and one very useful concept in the course was the “emotional jug” illustrated below. It illustrates what happens when we lack the skills to process feelings (and issues) effectively.
The Emotional Jug
Anger (a.k.a. “mad,” resentment, frustration, irritation)
Anger usually “floats” to the top of the jug and eventually builds up until we “blow up.” Notice that vulnerable feelings like sadness and fear are “underneath” anger. That’s because anger NOT vulnerable. It protects us from being hurt but in relationships it blocks us from intimacy and closeness. When couples arrive in my office they almost always have “full jugs.” They’re confused and bewildered because they lack the skills to deal with their feelings. Notice that LOVE is at the bottom of the jug, “squished’ under the heavy weight of unprocessed, unexpressed feelings. If you want to fall back in love with your partner you’ve got to learn how deal with the vulnerable (intimate) feelings in your jug.
How to empty the jug.
Each partner asks the other the following 4 questions:
What are you are mad about?
What are you sad about?
What are you scared about?
What are you glad about?
Do this and you’ll begin to clear the air and fall back in love. This can be done as part of the Daily Check-In that I’ve talked about before. As always, I welcome your feedback & comments.