Negativity and Isolation: Branching Out To Avoid Breaking Up
Dr. Jed Diamond wrote an interesting post on The Good Men Project today that triggered this post. 5 Time Bombs Set To Go Off in Your Relationship Unless You Act Now
Here are the 5 Time Bombs according to Dr. Diamond:
- Our social networks are getting narrower.
- We’ve increasingly put all our “emotional-support eggs” in a single basket.
- We are expecting more and more from our spouses in meeting more of our needs.
- Our brain’s negativity bias causes us to over-emphasize the negatives in our partner.
- Our brains are Velcro for the negative, but Teflon for the positive.
Can you recognize some of these behaviors in your relationships? Let’s take them apart for a second.
Our social networks
In our personal lives and our work lives we are becoming more isolated. Sitting in front of a computer screen or texting is not really social. You can communicate that way, but going social, getting personal with someone requires face-to-face communication. Eye contact and physical touch go a long way to unlocking our deep feelings and giving us deeper connections. Who do you share your issues with? Do you have one or several friends you can go deep with? In most cases that number is very small. And there can be problems if the only person you can reveal yourself to is your spouse. It’s hard to complain and get advice from your spouse, especially if the issues are between the two of you. Recommendation: Broaden your network of face-to-face friends who can hear your problems without reacting to them.
All of our “emotional eggs” in our spouses basket
Closely related to the first one. Your spouse can be your best friend and most trusted confidant, but you need others. And there are some things that are better worked out with someone other than your spouse. Recommendation: If you don’t have other deep friends you might consider a counselor or minister of your church. You need someone other than your spouse to get things off your chest.
Expecting our spouses to meet all of our needs
And we of course expect more than just the ability to talk about deep subjects and disagreements. We need to talk about things like kids, bills, chores, sex, planning, money. Sometimes the blur of hard subjects can mute the positive things. If you spend 80% of your time working things out, you’re not got going to have much energy or compassion for getting close. Even closeness requires energy. And if the hard stuff hasn’t caused you both to request a break, then you might be able to spend some time making love. But that’s a long “if.” Recommendation: Get help where you can. Put your bills on autopay. Hire a housekeeper if you can afford it. Getting some of your needs (non-sexual of course) met outside of your marriage may go along way towards bringing the good energy back in to your marriage.
We have a negativity bias
It’s easy to see the things your spouse is not doing right. You can point the finger at her for not wanting sex as much as you do, and she can point it back at you for not paying attention to the chores and repairs that need doing. Recommendation: Affirmations of your spouse can go along way towards reminding you what you love about them. Giving appreciations when you first get back together is easy and a great way to restart the connection on a positive note.
Velcro for the negative, teflon for the positive
Often it’s the feelings of anger and resentment that get stored up and kept deep in our secret heart. It is harder to release these kinds of feelings. (Again, this is a place where a counselor or confidant can help grately.) So we tend to stick those hurtful feelings deep inside, trying to bury them. But this never works and they fester until they come out in some indirect way. And positive feelings often feel fleeting, especially if they are small moments within the storm of life. We can hold on to the positive with some practice, but it’s harder to store. Recommendation: Find ways to release the anger and resentment, either dealing with the issues directly or talking to a counselor. And learn to bias your responses to life in a positive light. Find the things you are happy about and bring them up more often. Give thanks and affirmations freely and to everyone you meet. (Not in a trite way. Example: “Sweetheart, I love the way you made breakfast for the kids and let me sleep an extra hour. Thank you.”)
It’s all about biasing towards the positive and finding ways to discharge the negative. You can release a lot of the resentment and anger away from your primary relationship. While your spouse may be the trigger for the anger, the depth of the feeling is probably related to events and hurts that are much older. Often our deep rage is related to our family of origin and what behaviors we learned or were hurt by as kids. And here’s a key: Our spouses cannot heal us. The healing is up to us. And often it is best to get that support and growth strategies outside our marriage.
It doesn’t always work. We fail, we get angry, we let the shit fly. And if we can’t redirect enough of the struggle away from the heart of our love, we might end up in divorce. The best we can do in this circumstance is to continue to try and forgive and move on. And even more important now, the affirmation of your ex-partner as a good parent, and accentuating the positive goes a long way towards showing your kids how relationships work. Even when you are no longer married, the issues are the same. Stay on the positive side. And if you need help, get it, from someone other than your spouse or ex.
The Off Parent
back to On Dating section
Reference: 5 Time Bombs Set To Go Off in Your Relationship Unless You Act Now – Dr. Jed Diamond
image: love bomb, karl norling, creative commons usage