We are all great at being ourselves—in fact no one is better. We are our own experts at knowing what we like, don’t like, want, or don’t want. And sometimes we just need to be by ourselves to figure things out, even if we are in a relationship.
This is normal. Everyone needs his or her alone time. But what happens when one of you wants closeness and the other wants to be left alone? All of us who are in a relationship have encountered this at some time or another, and sometimes it becomes a problem.
I hear couples talk a lot about connection. In fact, feeling disconnected is probably one of the biggest difficulties couples face. Often one of the partners will say something like, “I just don’t feel connected to him.” But it could be a man saying this too. Feeling connected is something we all feel inside our body, and it is different for every one of us.
Some of us live inside our feelings and literally feel everything that happens to us. That’s me. I am a right-brain-dominant person, which means that I experience the world through my feelings. Imagine how frustrated I felt when I coupled with a person who is left-brain-dominant. That means he interacts with the world through his thinking mind. He thinks first. I feel first. We are different.
When we find our special person and we feel connected to them in ways that seem magical, we begin to believe, in parts of our body, that this is what we have been looking for all our life. This feeling we have with our person is the real thing. We want it to last. We all want our relationships to go on and be this way forever.
All relationships begin this way. Then other things start to happen and people wonder where that beautiful, wonderful feeling went to. Couples still say they love each other, but sometimes they don’t feel loved by one another. Sometimes, people wonder if their partner—the one who loves them—really loves them.
Many times when I work with couples I hear them wishing they felt better. I feel their discomfort when they tell me about their partner and how they don’t feel loved. I empathize with the individuals who tell me how unhappy they are about feeling distant in their relationship.
These feelings are pretty common. And there are reasons why. When we fall in love with our special person everything feels better than it’s ever felt. We fall in love with that feeling and we hunger for it when it goes away.
Trust issues pervade relationships everywhere, but they can be overcome.
It almost sounds funny to talk about how we have to learn to trust our special person, our partner, our mate. But we do. We have to learn that the one we are in relationship with does love us, even when we can’t feel the love. And that is one of the hardest parts of staying together.
All of us in relationships want to feel accepted and received by the person we love. It’s a longing we all share and impossible not to feel. We crave our person to see us and to remind us that we matter. We need to feel valued by the one we love and we hunger for these reassuring moments.
So the idea that we may NOT feel loved, necessary, or that we matter to our mate is, in my opinion, one of the worst things we can feel.
I was thinking about a birthday in the family the other day. I remembered to wish that family member a happy birthday, and it felt good to do so. Then I remembered that even though I always remember this person’s special day, they never remember mine. And when I thought about being forgotten, I felt sad.
Then I thought more about it and realized that my family member loves me no matter what. This family member didn’t stop loving me when they didn’t wish me a “Happy Birthday.” There was no withholding of love from me. There was no deliberate act of unloving anywhere. So why would I have a thought about this person who just didn’t know something?
Learning how to handle conflict in a relationship is tough, because it forces us to challenge our instincts.
When people get their feelings hurt, most of us don’t want to go near the person who hurt them. This holds true in families, with co-workers and in relationships. It’s just easier to back away when something painful happens. It’s just the way many humans are wired.
As a couples specialist I know that even with the person we love, for some of us it’s instinctive to pull away when things get messy. I work with people who love each other who just want to know what to do when they fight. They usually wonder if they could do the fighting part better so they don’t have to stay wounded and apart for so long.
I was listening to someone talk about feeling lonely in their relationship the other day and I realized that sometimes I feel the same thing. It isn’t as often as it used to be, but sometimes it’s there; that wonder if my partner really loves me, or loves me in this moment or if my mate is thinking about me even though I can’t feel it.
I think it’s common for people who are close to another to sometimes feel this. I know over the years the wonder or worry has decreased. But earlier in my relationship I often wondered if my beloved loved me when I couldn’t feel it.
Sometimes couples can stand even the hardest things. Take two people who love each other and who have been together for a while. He is oblivious about his wife’s feelings and she is a mess. Make no mistake, they love each other and they long to be happy, but the truth is they haven’t a clue how to get there.
Being in a relationship with the person we love is one of life’s greatest joys. Many of us long for that special person who we can just feel safe and happy and at home with. Most of us don’t need a lot. Love is really simple, a good connection, care, compassion, understanding. That’s really what people want from their beloved.