"Where did the love go?" Is this you?
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Priya Tourkow
21st February, 20110 Comments
This is a little different from a normal article. It takes the form of four actual scenarios described by men, concerning their relationships. It seems to me that we don’t too often hear the male perspectives.
Each scenario is followed by my personal response to them, having first talked with each one. They are all real situations with no names mentioned for reasons of confidentiality.
The responses are necessarily personal in that it addresses their own particular circumstances. However, the main themes of loving communication, creating trust, closeness and intimacy, though described in varied ways, are the corner stones of loving relationships for us all, whatever our gender.
The content goes pretty deep and is not about easy situations. But how and where do we talk about this very real stuff? You may be able to see yourselves in some of these scenarios or parts of them. I hope they shed light and give you useful ideas and inspirations. I have to admit, it’s a little long and mainly about intimacy, love and sex…
I know I can be habitual and lazy and even shy in the area of connecting with my wife. She can be harsh to me at times. I guess she's fed up with me keeping myself to myself. I would like to be more open and warmer with her and I'm nervous...
For starters, this is a great thing to be aware of and it's good that you recognize your patterns that keep you distant.
I bet your wife wants to be more lovingly connected to you too!
My guess is that her behaviour, which you experience as confrontational, is a cover up for her feeling the lack of your closeness. It's hard sometimes for people to show their vulnerability and so they get protective of themselves with harsh behaviour. This enables them to feel untouchable and tough...therefore safer somehow. But it's a false and unhappy scenario, which becomes habitual. As a result, you get pushed away which is actually the opposite of what you both want.
Take a look at this for yourself also. It may be true for you too. Is your shy, closed off behaviour also part of your protection of yourself? You may be cutting off for fear of her confrontation (maybe this relates possibly to how you yourself were parented??) It's very different from her harsher method, but nevertheless, equally unproductive, as it pushes her away too.
Don't misunderstand me here....you both are who you are and of course you are different individuals, with your styles of being. This is good and positive and it brings richness to the two of you. But when the styles of communication get exaggerated in reaction to the other (mostly unconsciously) then it gets destructive. These habits can be unravelled through love, honesty and a genuine desire for this to change.
Begin by expressing your desire to her to get back to a more loving, softer way of being together. Tell her about your feelings of missing this type of connection. Talk about what you can each do to enable this? If this is something you both want, then you each have your part to play. This is your joint project.
Even if it's YOUR project to start with, you can put new energy into sharing yourself more....actions go a long way. Talk about yourself more and how you are feeling. Ask her how she is and LISTEN from your heart and acknowledge things that are difficult for her. Just affirming what she is feeling is enough. She will feel heard.
See if you can also be a little more physically expressive. Say...let's have a hug...or let's cuddle up and talk on the sofa...for example!!
If she starts to experience you as willing to be closer...(and you can say, you may not find it easy but you genuinely want it and would like to make it possible)......then she will gradually feel safer to open up to you more honestly and vulnerably.
Your wife also has a head start on you in a way, already being open and communicative about her feelings. As I said earlier, if you let her know it's not easy for you, (not so much your style) but be honest about the fact that if she takes it a bit easier with you, you feel you could be more open and less avoiding with her.
You both have a role to play in this. You clearly both need to feel loved and safe in your relationship as much as possible. If you can both feel this kind of security, you can accept and let go of each other's different ways of being more easily.
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My wife is very busy with her life and so am I. I feel I've forgotten how to show my love to her these days. When we do have sex....it's just that...having sex. How can I help us back to real love making and being more intimate together, like we used to be?
Well, it's lovely that your desires are very clear. You would love more intimacy....tell her this with no pressure, but most of all....lovingly express it!
Start with communication....the master key! The description in the scenario above........about expressing your love and desire, which you both can do as a joint project, plus, most of all, lots of listening to each other......... is very crucial here as a foundation to bringing in more physical connecting.
Put your arms around her more and make gentle contact a normal part of the day as you pass and as you do things together. Say you would love to be closer. Hug and kiss her more and invite her to do this also. As you feel more comfortable in your communication and less wary of each other, you will find that the flow of physical intimacy also improves. And you each need to make more of it and have it be part of your relationship more consciously.
Be more appreciative of each other. As soon as you notice something you like or think is good....tell her! Make sure it gets heard and really lands with her. If necessary, say...."Please take a moment, I want to tell you something nice." or..."Are you willing to hear an appreciation from me?". Find your own words that work for each of you.
Do the unexpected sometimes.....bring some flowers or a gift home out of the blue. Suggest a nice dinner out together...somewhere romantic and quiet.
Try to establish a Journey of Love between you. Think of sex as a bonus at the end but don't put it on the agenda for a few weeks. Talk about this together. Acknowledge that sex between you is more mechanical and less loving these days. And.....you want to change things and begin afresh.
As you mature and grow together, you can offer each other so much MORE love! Just think of all the gentle sweet things you can do apart from actually having sex. Make love by: holding, snuggling, kissing, stroking, etc and then if you flow into actual sex from this place, it will be softer and more loving. And cuddle up afterwards....never let it be otherwise.
Where does sex begin and end anyway? Pretend you are two teenagers who don't know the answer! You have each other's bodies to explore and love. What a treat! Enjoy!
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I feel as if the love in our relationship has shut down. We are not communicating on a deep level any more and we are not close. I am choosing to stay away from her a lot. It's become a habit and we just aren't addressing this. It's very painful, but we are stuck. I'm not sure if we can make it......
Response:First of all, thank you for your honesty and vulnerability. I can really get a sense of how painful it is to you to feel the loss of the love in your relationship. I also got the feeling that you are almost giving up on it and at the same time avoiding the truth of what really IS. And I also think there is a spark in you of wanting the loving connection back ....this is the motivation to go with here.
Below are ideas and thoughts on possible ways forward for you both to re-discover the love that is very likely still there but lost underneath a pile of unexpressed truths and defensive habits at this point in time.
My guess is that your wife is feeling as sad and lost, about the lack of loving connection between you, as you are, but layers of self protection have covered that up.
As you said, you didn't know each other well when you married. This is something to acknowledge with each other. Now you have an opportunity to truly get to know each other and re-birth your relationship. The BIG question though is: Do you want to? Does she want to? I hope so.....
If you both do want to make this commitment to a more loving connection, then you have the possibility of beginning this journey of finding each other again. You are a team of two and looking at what you can do together about this is your joint project.
You need to begin by honestly talking together about re-finding your love and expressing it. Tell her about the sadness and pain that you feel about your separateness.
If you tell her the truth about wanting to get back in love, how can she fail to be moved? If you talk about your desire to get the fun and intimacy back for you both, that's a very good starting point. AND you both need to address what bothers the other.
In the main, YOU need to be the one to step into giving more and not wanting more from her or blaming her....challenging? Yes, it may be. But it's about role modelling a loving, gentle approach, that which you also need. If you model the way you would like it to be, you are creating an environment of more safety to each talk with vulnerability about the issues that keep you separate.
What, for example, makes her shut down? Is this to do with her upbringing? Does she feel that if she opens up with you, you will not be there for her.....you will leave her and want to be with others more? Something is clearly not getting met in you by her.....talk about all this from a place of desire to change it through love, rather than blame and anger. Get curious as to how you can start again almost as if from the beginning, as if neither of you knows the other...really. What a journey to embark on.
Initially, set some time aside to just listen to each other.....your relationship depends on it. Simply give each other listening time. Try to each talk about your fears and hopes, from your heart. This is not about blame or shame. You have nothing to lose!
Then begin to look for possibilities for giving and receiving, where you talk about what you are both experiencing and feeling and what you need from each other. A very concrete example of this is the issue of you not returning home with your wife on social occasions. You both find this hard. She would love you to be with her, going home together as a couple. She probably feels abandoned by you. But you feel like you don't belong together any more. So you stay outside of your relationship to enjoy yourself in a way you feel you don't do inside of it. But this is acting out, rather than addressing the real issue......You are not feeling loved and nor is she. You are both distressed about this situation and so actually both shut down. You, by taking yourself away. Her by taking away her open expression of who she is. You are actually both scared and this fear has put in place these habitual protective layers on both sides. No wonder you are feeling so lost and separate....both of you.
This is the stuff that you both need to acknowledge......you may well need help to do this.........and hear each others truths. When you both feel safe enough, only then, can you begin to talk solidly about what you each need to feel loved again. Don't make it enormous. Just one or two requests each and stick to them....that's very important as trust has gone too and needs to be rebuilt. Small steps but honest ones are needed to create this new way forward.
See if you can do something VERY simple together....just the two of you. It can be really undemanding like sitting on the sofa together, with a little physical contact, watching a movie together, or have a hug or a walk in the park, maybe holding hands.
As for your intimate contact, tell her you are in truth avoiding this and you would love more of it. See if you can gradually express it! (See above for how to express the physical intimacy.)
This may all sound rather idealistic to read, but just begin slowly, one step at a time. You may be surprised that the honesty and willingness that you express will open up something really big and it will maybe go faster than you could imagine.
Again, I ask you....what have you got to lose?
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I know I can be self centred, but I feel I'm not getting the love and sex I need. We have four boys and it's all go! We are pretty connected, the two of us.....but she has little desire for intimacy and is very kids orientated.
The overall feeling I get is that you and you wife have a pretty good relationship on the whole. That's great!
As you say, the environment you are in is a tough one, with your four young sons, and it's for sure a very lively, buzzing environment too. I find myself wondering if you were both hoping for a daughter, especially the fourth time, and now you have a small male football team instead! Well it must be fun as well as pretty exhausting, and as you say, your wife gets very bogged down with them all.
Such is life! And, this is where the two of you are at right now, in the thick of bringing up your boys. Before you can turn around, they will be teenagers...and the next minute...they will be adults...so enjoy every moment now! And if they experience you two being happy and loving with each other, the happier they will be. It's great role modelling for them to have parents who are deeply connected as people.
Of course, it's also very vital for your relationship for the two of you to stay connected and in love very consciously, or else that spark could get lost in the sea of kids and busyness.
Maybe there is a way that you can do more on the kids and home side of things, as I'm sure you have both talked about. Maybe your partner has something she would very much like to fulfill in her life and you may be able to enable her to do this. All relationships benefit when each person is growing and personally developing in their life to some degree. It gives them satisfaction and happiness which then can feed back into the couple dynamic and enrich it.
Of course, relationships also flourish best when the two of you are a team and give each other love, intimacy, support and friendship in a variety of ways. Basically, enjoying each other's company and wanting to be together a lot is a very good thing.
It sounds like you pretty much have these basics in place and you are wanting more intimacy, emotions, communication and sex. You did mention you have a bit of a self destructive side to you.....so check in with yourself...are you overdoing your wants?
My main suggestion is that YOU role model in your relationship the ways you would like both of you to be. Give more to her of what you would like her to give. Instead of looking for it to come from her and thinking she's not giving enough (and "I'm not getting enough") you do the giving!!
You can demonstrate your love and caring from your heart in words as well as in touch and contact, by being loving, open and positive in your outlook. I'm sure you are already doing this but putting the emphasis on your delivering this will create a huge wave of appreciation from your wife to you. I'm sure you will find everything evens up beautifully and you both enjoy each other even more. Giving is receiving!
Make sure you give your wife regular, loving appreciations for all that she does as a mother and as your partner and for many other aspects of who she is. Make sure she really allows your words fully into herself and is not just rushing by as you tell her something you love about her.
Remember to clear things out of the way.....both of you.....if something is bothering you about the other one.....tell them how you feel about it, so it doesn't build up into anything bigger. Always say first you are needing to clear something and ask if it's OK to do this. Focus mostly on what you are feeling about it, rather than the thing itself. Always clear stuff with the intention of getting back to loving again. If you are too angry...take a bit of time out alone if possible, otherwise it will just be a dump, rather than a clearing.
Remember that lovingly listening to each other is crucial, as in asking questions, caring about and affirming what your partner says. There is nothing more connecting and safe than each of you knowing that what you say will be received fully by your partner. Even if what you say is not necessarily what they want to hear, your words can still get acknowledged and given space. That, in itself, is often all that's needed.
Also, you can take turns at initiating things, like inventing ways that you spend time alone together. See what creative ideas you can both come up with, from ordinary things like snuggling up on the sofa and watching a movie together.....to.....giving each other a sensual massage. Of course, you have your boys around, so making it possible to have these special times just for you two has to be well thought out and requires support from outside sometimes.
Building up intimacy in your relationship is important too. Parenting can get in the way of this too often, but keep the space for your expressions of love open for each other. Even if it's simple and non-sexual sometimes, like you just hold each other as you share words, or stroke each others bodies, or faces. Touch is not always about leading to sex. In fact, it can offer so much richness to find beautiful non sexual ways of being close and sensual together. When you choose to add sex to that.....wow! It's even more deep and alive, since you have laid a lovely foundation for it.
Going from feeling a bit separate into being sexual is OK sometimes, but, generally can lead to a separate kind of sex, rather than creating intimate closeness. So, think of your intimacy as a Journey of Love. Start with gentle words, kisses, strokes and so on.....maybe becoming sexual and sometimes not.
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