Living Isolated In Your Relationship

Sometimes couples come in for counseling because they feel they have grown apart and they just aren’t sharing with each other like they used to.  They tell me of how unhappy they feel and how they don’t know if their partnership can be saved.  Then they look to me to help them fix the relationship.

Often in the counseling process a couple may become aware of how long they have been living separate lives.  They’ve been co-existing together.  Sometimes they do this really well, and some couples are really proud that they never fight.  Even so, they come in because something is missing between them.

I listen to their stories and history and I begin to wonder when they started to leave each other.  When I say leave each other I am not talking about geography. What I am curious about is when did each person stop asking the other for what they wanted or needed to stay connected and happy in the relationship?  When did this couple begin the slide into separate lives?

The separation information is important because what ever was happening marks the beginning of when each person began to rely on themselves instead of their partner? Both people start accepting their right to get their own happiness outside the relationship.  For one person it could show up as spending more time at work.  For another it could mean travel without the mate.  Maybe it’s a connection to different groups or classes.  What ever takes you away from the other is where we start.  I am less interested in what the person was doing; I am more interested in what the person was feeling because people look outside the relationship when someone feels they are not what they need.

It usually boils down to something simple, as simple as a connection with the other.  I often hear couples say, “We just don’t communicate anymore.”

Sometimes people have hurt feelings over unresolved pain from the past.  If you are in pain in your relationship and you have more or less accepted that you have to live with it without healing, sooner or later you may seek some kind of relief outside the relationship and that could drive you away from your partner.

I like to help couples look at what happened between them, before their lives began to separate.  We examine what each felt, and learn why they reacted the way they did.  This is usually helpful and allows the couple to begin understanding each other in a new way.

When we discover what has not been resolved or attended too we can revisit old wounds and begin to heal.  Once the healing has occurred couples find that turning toward their partner for relief feels better than turning away, and that’s usually what partners are after, a chance for a deeper connection.

Send your comments to linda@lindanusbaum.com

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Feeling Small

Feeling small.  It’s a condition everyone experiences now and then.  It can occur out of nowhere.  Maybe you are in a conversation and someone talks about something you don’t know anything about.  You might feel small.  Or what about times when someone forgets to include you in something you wanted to be a part of.  You might feel small here too.  Feeling small, it happens.  It happens to all of us.

I think what we’re really feeling though is disconnected from others, disconnected from someone, something or an event.  I think it’s a feeling we get when we are alone and we don’t want to be.  I also think it’s very, very common.  We all feel this “small” feeling at times.

So what do you do about it?  The first thing to do is recognize that it happens and then discover what happens to you.  Get familiar with the feelings inside yourself and start to put words around it.  Maybe it feels like isolation, maybe it feels lonely, perhaps it is sadness, and whatever it is, begin to label it.  What you will be doing is learning about yourself, and your inner world.  These are essential steps to describing what is going on inside yourself.

So why is it important to understand and label what’s happening inside?  First it helps us identify what’s happening with us, so we just don’t feel so terrible.  Second, when we understand what’s going on inside us we can explain it to others. 

So why would you want to describe feelings of loneliness and sadness to anyone, because all these feelings get evoked because you are alone.  You feel disconnected from other people.  If you talk about the feelings, no matter what they are, you will be connecting, which is really what the soul is missing.

I know it’s hard to let people know when you feel these feelings.  These are the kinds of feelings most of us were taught to keep hidden from others.  Many of us were taught to just show happy feelings and hide the hard ones; discomfort, anger, frustration, fear, worry, sadness, guilt, shame.  Few people are taught that these feelings are O.K. to reveal.  Few people feel comfortable saying things like, “I feel angry at you right now,” or “I am full of sadness,” and “I feel guilty about that.”  These are not things that come naturally, but when we can reveal them to others we get rid of the “small” feeling.

When we know what’s happening inside us, when we can identify our feelings, we can then learn how to express them to others.  Usually when we are at this stage we are not yelling, we are calmly explaining what is going on with us.  When others hear what’s happening inside us almost every time they will want to come closer.  A person’s natural instinct is to move toward another when they are describing something vulnerable.  That is what makes us human, our ability to move toward and help others.

So when you experience those times where you just feel left out or “small”, try and remember to turn toward another.  It will lead you toward the connectedness we all crave.

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