Anxiety and love are connected. Logic, as we think of it in the Western sense, is often prized above love, when love is thought of as an emotion that lacks intellect. Yet love, which is comprised of all six innate identified emotions (recognized and verified via social science the world over): fear, anger, happiness, sadness, surprise, and shame, is exquisite in its logic of self protection. We are designed by evolution to seek connection for survival and much research on attachment theory has verified this. So what happens when our sense of attachment with our partner feels threatened and we start to feel anxious?
Perpetual issues permeate every relationship. A perpetual issue is essentially an unresolvable problem, kind of like having a bad back when you age. We learn to live with chronic conditions like this and to make the best of things in spite of them. BTW, did you realize that marriage allows you to have the special privilege of annoying one person in particular for the rest of your life? Uhmmm…and the other way around as well? By definition, when you enter a relationship, you have chosen a set of problems that you will deal with for the duration of that relationship. Here’s an example of what I mean by a perpetual issue, and a technique for managing it called a gentle start up.
How do you like to be loved? Does this seem like a strange question? Or perhaps an unusual question? Maybe you don’t know the answer. Would you like to find out? You would be surprised at the simple, but not so obvious answer, to this conundrum.
Ever have the feeling that you and your partner are drifting apart like icebergs, and you don’t even know how it happened? This cold sense of drift is one that mounts very slowly over time, and then one day you just know that the relationship is in danger of being irretrievably lost, yet you experience the shame and sadness of not knowing how this happened. You begin to wonder if there is anything that can be done to save it.
Appreciate the boring, the routine, the mundane, the ubiquitous features of your daily life. If they were removed, you would grieve for the normalcy lost. This is in fact a thread in some of the testimonies recorded by Holocaust survivors in the memory foundation created by Stephen Spielberg as a part of living history. His USC Shoah Foundation has filmed about 52,000 two-hour eyewitness accounts in 34 languages and in 58 countries. What most struck me in some of the recordings is their gratitude for mundanity, the “everydayness” of the lives that were stolen from them. This Thanksgiving I see these testimonies as urging us to appreciate what we have.
Gratitude schmatitude. Bah humbug. And many other similar sentiments would express how I feel about the recent election shenanigans that were so filled with negativity. I had on my negative lens. But instead of dwelling with that experience, I chose to immerse myself in Cucalorus. Cuca-what you say?
There are a number of practices recommended by therapists to improve your relationship, all good. A few include making time to talk with your partner (and truly listening when you do), conveying appreciation and affection, managing conflict well, sharing rituals you both have come to expect and look forward to, supporting each other’s hopes and dreams, and having each other’s backs–loyalty. But one practice that goes unheralded, especially in American culture, is touch.
Did you ever find yourself thinking “After I found Mr. or Mrs. Right, I was sure that I would be happy forevermore! Now I wake up and look across the pillow, wondering what in the world I have done to my life. I’m bored. We’re just roommates now.” When this happens, we are often chasing the myth of eternal happiness. We have these ideas about what “should” make us happy. The problem is that we have many false beliefs about that very subject. Science can help us understand what relationship boredom is and how it impacts us.
Why do couples get stuck? And how do they move through the most pervasive issue that keeps them there? What is that issue? I will answer that question, but please keep reading first.
It’s all in your mindset. Everyone who lives in this region the past week understands what it is like to wait for a hurricane, especially one of the magnitude of Hurricane Matthew. I sincerely hope your family did not suffer during the storm. The idea of scarcity or abundance is easily apparent at the grocery store if you shopped for bread early. The ritual of buying hurricane supplies demonstrates the evolutionary instinct to stockpile for tough times. Were you anxious about not having enough food to get through the storm? Considering this idea, what sort of attitude do you approach your relationships with? What do you have stockpiled that will help you make it through the inevitable storms of your relationship? Read more
PAGE RUTLEDGE, LCSW, CHt | Anxiety Therapy
5006 Randall Parkway (close to UNCW)
Wilmington, NC 28403
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