Relationship Drag

In a moment of quiet discontent, sometimes you wonder how your relationship went so south, how your partner changed into someone unrecognizable. One minute you are giggling over dinner and planning your weekend get-away and the next thing you know, it’s all about whose picking up the kids from soccer practice. This can sneak up on you; sometimes it’s a blind side or a slow simmering boil. No matter what, you are left wondering- how did it get here? Is it me? Why didn’t I see this? Could I of stopped it? Usually these questions crystallize after the damage is done. Many of us either deny or deflect our relationship drag, in fear it is no longer repairable. So we throw ourselves into the kid’s extra-curricular, the work related drama or our BFF’s latest crisis- all in an effort to avoid our own truth. We stopped being mindful of our partner and ourselves.

Here’s how we operate…

From birth, we thrive to connect. As attachment researcher Jude Cassidy describes, an infant is like a heat-seeking missile, looking for an attachment figure (typically the parent) that is sufficiently near, available, and responsive. For our physical survivor and as we mature, we are drawn to the proximity of others in an effort to feel attuned to the ones we love and the world around us. Attachment to loved ones is our safe place. What researchers have discovered is that the area, right behind the eyes (the orbital prefrontal cortex), is quite specialized in functions having to do with attachment. It turns out our brains are very social, and that the prefrontal cortex seems critically important in functions having to do with interpersonal relating. We innately need to feel safe in our experience, comforted when worried and connected to the surroundings. So based on how we experienced the world as children, sometimes we scream louder to be heard and at times withdraw because we believe we will never be heard.

Now what could we do…

Two thoughts

Notice the small shifts- hard to do when juggling work, kids and life. The shifts could be as subtle as no longer kissing good bye as you walk out the door or as obvious as not responding to your partner’s request for intimacy (or visa-versa). As a result, most of us will travel down the path of self-doubt and the critical inner voice that shames us. These reoccurring tapes reinforce the core beliefs we are not good enough or unlovable Change up your prewired approach and consider a mindful, open hearted view to what you are experiencing. Easy to say- hard to do- this requires an acceptance and self-kindness.

Notice what your body is telling you- do you know your cues? Tightening in chest, clenching of fists, avoiding eye contact? Your body reacts before you do. Recognize it for what it is- your red alert that something is about to happen. Subsequently, we do one of two things out of primal fear, according to Jaak Panksepp of Washington State University, we either are demanding and clingy in an attempt to be comforted and feel safe, or we withdraw and disconnect to protect ourselves. It’s either- “Hear me now!! Or “I need to move away to stay safe”. So consider tuning into what you are experiencing and noticing it for what it is. Can you step away and breathe? This moment allows your executive brain to kick in and look at the situation through a more objective lens.

Next time… couple of other things to consider.

Next time… couple of other things to consider.