Wednesday Jan 12, 2022
Need a New Year’s Re-Boot For Your Relationship? Answering these three questions could get you started again.
It’s not unusual to feel a little bit lonely and disconnected from time to time. The important thing is to not let it carry on too long. Here are some questions to ask yourself that can help you get back on track.
Sue Johnson, the founder of Emotionally Focused Therapy, states that the key to emotional and sexual closeness is emotional responsiveness. Emotional responsiveness requires always being mindful of three things.
Am I accessible to my partner?
Am I responsive to my partner’s needs?
Am I engaged with my partner?
Or simply stated, A.R.E we there for each other?
To expand upon this, let’s take a deeper dive into what accessibility, responsivity, and engagement mean.
Accessibility seems like an easy one. In fact, it seems that we are accessible to the entire world all the time. With emails, texting, and social media, the question is when are we not connected? But accessibility to our devices robs important intimate energy from an intimate relationship. In this context, the goal is to shut down all the noise and be present for each other. The first step is knowing when to turn off the tech. Having your smartphone with you is like inviting the entire world into your living room or bedroom.
Alone time should not include screen time! So, consider making a hard and fast rule — NO smartphones allowed at dinner (home or out) or any other time devoted to the two of you. And if you’re finding it difficult to make the choice to put down your devices and that you’re using them to distract you from your relationship, then it’s time to seek the counsel of a couples’ therapist to find out why being on your phone is more important than being present for your partner.
Think of responsiveness as slow dancing. In order to slow dance well together, you really have to be attuned to each other’s every move. And during slow dancing, you are touching, embracing, and holding each other close. It’s all about you and your dance partner. (It would be impossible to slow dance and multi-task!) A relationship requires this same type of responsivity – times when it’s just about the two of you, responding to each other. Responsiveness means making your loved one feel like when he or she reaches for you, they matter and they are the most important thing that is happening at that moment.
Research suggests that this type of interaction actually calms the nervous system and provides a sense of safety and security. So, in addition to improving emotional and sexual intimacy, the added benefit is better health and well-being.
Being engaged means experiencing each other emotionally! There’s no better feeling than knowing your partner is excited to see you at the end of the day — that they find you desirable and truly love and adore you. Engaged partners are able to share empathy and compassion with each other. They are able to demonstrate how much they care about each other; and that they want to be there for each other. Think back to the beginning of your relationship. Isn’t that what drew you to each other?
Engagement begins to diminish when small, unintentional, emotional injuries begin to take place. We begin to become disappointed and then if left unresolved, resentment builds. It’s hard to be engaged when you’re feeling resentment and sentiments are more negative than positive. But being emotionally engaged creates a reservoir of good feelings – closeness and connection — that strengthen the emotional bond. And when negative sentiments arise, the strength of the bond will see you through the more challenging times.
Couples need a loving connection to thrive in their relationships and their lives. To put it in Johnson’s words, “The longing for emotional connection with those nearest and dearest to us is the emotional priority, overshadowing even the drive for food or sex” (2008).
Applying the concepts of A.R.E. we there for each other is fundamental to emotional well-being.
If you would like to know more about A.R.E. We There For Each Other, please feel free to reach out to me. If you would like to receive the Accessibility, Responsiveness, and Engagement Questionnaire (Johnson 2008), simply complete the “Contact Us” form requesting a copy of the questionnaire.
Dr. Laura Richter is a licensed Marriage and Family therapist who works with individuals, couples, and families. Her specialties include: surviving infidelity, improving communication, beginning again after divorce and effective co-parenting after divorce. She is also a trained mediator, qualified parenting coordinator and collaborative law mental health professional. For more information, please call or text us today at 561-715-6404 to schedule a consultation to see how we can help.