Connected relationships require a lot of hard work; they require attentiveness, vulnerability, emotional responsiveness, healthy dependence, and taking healthy emotional risks. I believe this can be accomplished in seconds! You’re probably thinking I’m crazy and I’m out to sell some gimmick because reasonable people know that anything worthwhile in life takes dedication, commitment and hard work! But, did you know that we are presented with opportunities multiple times a day to connect with our spouse that we ignore or are not conscious of? I believe we receive promptings to reach for our spouse and within seconds we will either act on them or talk ourselves out of them! Let me explain.
What is a Prompting?
A prompting is a thought or sensation we receive about something we should do. For example, you may see your spouse doing the dishes when the thought of hugging him or her from behind crosses your mind. Within seconds you will either act on the prompting or talk yourself out of it by saying to yourself that he/she may stiffen up or reject you. Or, you may wonder how your partner is doing at work. Again, within seconds you will either act on the prompting and call or text your spouse to let them know you are thinking of them, or you will say, he/she is in a meeting and won’t want to be disturbed.
We need to Feel Bonded to Someone
Ultimately we get into marriages because we want to feel bonded to someone; we want to feel valued, wanted, desired, significant, and know that we can depend on someone. Being bonded is in our biology. When babies are not held the grey matter in their brains does not develop normally. Dr. Sue Johnson has done studies to show that bonded couples feel less anxious and live longer. We all want to feel this kind of connection. Again, reasonable people know that building a bond takes time and repetitious experiences of feeling safe and secure with someone, even in the midst of conflict. Since we all want to feel bonded, there is a desire to reach out for our spouse but our stuff gets in the way. Usually fear holds us back-the fear of being rejected, criticized, or not enough for our spouse. So we develop protective coping strategies like holding our emotions in, distancing, defensiveness, blame, expressing anger or contempt, etc. Ultimately, theses “protective” strategies perpetuate a negative dance between two people, and a feeling of isolation from the other i.e. loneliness and disconnection.
What are the benefits of acting on our promptings?
All healthy relationships require risk, and if we do not risk in our relationships then we risk the relationship! Two things happen when we act on our promptings: 1) we will feel proud of ourselves for overcoming our fear and acting on what we know is right. 2) We give our spouse an opportunity to respond to us. This new interaction allows for the possibility of feeling bonded, and all from acting on your moment by moment promptings! Some promptings are easier to act on than others, for example, sending an affirming text message is easy compared to looking at your spouse in the eye and tell them how alone you feel in the relationship. Imagine how different your relationship would look if you acted on your promptings. Like a good friend of mine says, “to begin you must start!” I encourage you to become conscious of your promptings and notice how readily you talk yourself out of them. Make a concerted effort to start acting on less risky promptings, and notice how you feel afterwards. Be patient with yourself and your spouse’s responsiveness, but remember that every acted-upon prompting builds the possibility of connection. Happiness is a moment but joy is a process!