An in­ti­macy for­mula

Ex­plain­ing your vul­ner­a­ble emo­tions and craft­ing lov­ing re­sponses are the keys

Annex Post - - LIFE - DR. JESS

There are many paths to in­ti­macy in a lov­ing re­la­tion­ship, but one of the sim­plest and most mean­ing­ful ways to cul­ti­vate an in­ti­mate con­nec­tion with your part­ner in­volves a sim­ple con­ver­sa­tion. It arises nat­u­rally and it’s for­mu­laic: In­ti­macy = vul­ner­a­ble ex­pres­sion + lov­ing re­sponse.

In­ti­macy arises when one per­son feels vul­ner­a­ble and ex­presses that vul­ner­a­bil­ity in a con­struc­tive man­ner and the other per­son re­sponds with love and sup­port.

It took Toronto cou­ple Ser­ena* and Ni­cole* some time to un­der­stand how this works. Ni­cole has a high-stress job but en­joys it thor­oughly as she’s close with her co-work­ers. They of­ten go out for drinks af­ter work and share play­ful mes­sages on a group chat on the week­end. Ser­ena has joined them a few times but felt left out be­cause they mostly talk shop. She finds the week­end text chats in­tru­sive, and Ni­cole’s re­la­tion­ship with one par­tic­u­larly vi­va­cious woman in the group makes her feel jeal­ous.

At first, Ni­cole re­sponded to Ser­ena’s vul­ner­a­ble emo­tion (jeal­ousy) by lash­ing out. When that didn’t pro­duce the re­sult she was look­ing for, she with­drew. Ser­ena then crit­i­cized this “other woman,” in­sist­ing that Ni­cole come home by 6 p.m. and even check­ing her mes­sages to keep tabs.

Ni­cole’s re­sponse to Ser­ena’s vul­ner­a­bil­ity (now ex­pressed as anger, with­drawal and con­trol­ling be­hav­iour) didn’t help the sit­u­a­tion.

She was dis­mis­sive, call­ing Ser­ena “crazy, jeal­ous and in­se­cure,” and it’s no sur­prise that the ten­sion and con­flict height­ened. It wasn’t un­til the cou­ple worked with a coun­sel­lor who was able to help them name their emo­tions, ex­press them con­struc­tively and craft lov­ing re­sponses that things shifted.

Ser­ena learned to say things such as “I feel left out and worry that you like hangin g out with them more than me. And when y ou’re tex­ting them at the brunch ta­ble, I feel like I’m not enough for you.”

Ni­cole learne d to r espond with love a nd r eas­sur­ance: “You’re the one for me. And of c ourse you’re enough for me. I like h anging with my f riends, but of course I lo ve our time tog ether. A nd I should put down my phone.”

I’m sum­ma­riz­ing and sim­pli­fy­ing their story, but the r esult is clear: once y ou learn to ex­press vul­ner­a­bil­ity in a con­struc­tive (nonac­cusatory man­ner) and y our part­ner r esponds with love and re­as­sur­ance, you re­duce re­la­tion­ship con­flict, and in­ti­macy soars.

Vul­ner­a­bil­ity is a univ er­sal ex­pe­ri­ence. Once w e ac­cept that vul­ner­a­ble feel­ings hav e the po­ten­tial to be sources of power and con­nec­tion, we cre­ate open­ings for a more in­ti­mate con­nec­tion.

*Please not e that names hav e b een changed and re la­tion­ship de­tails have been shared with p er­mis­sion f rom all par­ties ref­er­enced.

If you feel jeal­ous when your part­ner goes out, ex­press your emo­tions

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