Human nature dictates that our most comforting feeling is in our intimate connection to a spouse. When we lose our feelings of “connection,” an alarm goes off in our brain. The “panic” part of our brain, called the amygdala, also called our fear center, goes into high-watch alert.
The fear center of our brain is put there for our own security and for self defense. It is like having a burglar alarm, and when the alarm blows, our primal instincts, the ones that come from our earliest ancestors, starts pumping out adrenalin. The “fight or flight” action takes center stage, and we don’t think-we act. At a primal, unconscious level this is what happens when partners disconnect.
The bad news is that all relationships are going to experience periods of disconnect, this is just part of life. The good news is, we can and do reconnect, especially when we are committed to each other. During these times of disconnect, sometimes it is only loyalty and commitment which holds it together.
The early period of a relationship is all about connection, intimacy and thinking your partner is perfect. More mature relationships are about making conscious choices with resolve to work through issues. There are two roads after a period of disconnect, and the outcome will be determined by the road that you choose. If you continue to disconnect, a pattern of arguments will begin which will induce terrible feelings of insecurity.
If you decide to go down this road your relationship will begin to feel like an unsafe place, where you begin to doubt that your partner is really there for you, and where you don’t feel valued. You begin to doubt that you really come first in your partners life. The problem is, we don’t feel what we feel on a conscious level, so we argue about surface emotions, and pick silly things to argue about.
Here is what you need to know: emotional isolation is traumatizing for human beings. Our culture has placed a negative connotation on our human instinct to be dependent on each other, but that is exactly what we are, and there is no shame in it. We are all interdependent on each other, but especially with our most intimate partner, our spouse.
Most fights are really not about who left the toilet seat up, and whose turn it is to do the dishes. Most fights are subconscious protests about being emotionally disconnected. Men often need a time to disconnect, to go into their caves, and women are very quick to pick up on the connection break down, so they become scared. Do you love me? Do you need me? I need reassured.
Since women don’t know what they are feeling deep inside they begin pursuing their partner in a way which assures that the emotional disconnect will go deeper. They often start blaming their husband for failing in some essential way, and men withdraw even further while suppressing their inner feelings. Its a cycle that can be broken, if we understand the differences in the way men and women think and function.
If you decide to take the other road, the road which leads back to reconciliation, touching each other is the key. After a short period of male cave-dwelling, the fast and easy way to reconnect is through touch. Is your wife nervous that you don’t love her or find her attractive? Give her a hug and hold her hands. After all, if you are paying attention, people who are “in love” are always touching each other. Capture the moment!
Has your husband been in his cave too long? Grab him and take him to the bedroom! The best thing you can do for your husband is to reassure him of what a hunk you [still] think he is. Sex is intimate touch, and in a committed relationship where you feel emotionally safe, open, and responsive, the sky is the limit. Sex is the best reconnection exercise that there is. Willful with-holding of sex (by either partner) is emotional and spiritual abuse.
Sexual rejection, especially by someone who vowed to “love, honor and cleave unto” you is devastating. It leaves you feeling unattractive and undesirable.
When sex goes away, it doesn’t take long for the emotional disconnect to start happening. It is a vicious cycle, you have an emotional disconnect so you don’t feel like having sex, but by not having sex the emotional disconnect gets worse. So, turn off the t.v. and the computer, start hugging and kissing, and pretty soon the connection will be back. It is important to keep the sex connection even if you have to schedule it!
When you have sex with your partner, the bonding chemical oxytocin is being released. Oxytocin needs to be released on a regular basis, or the feelings of disconnect will happen more and more often, until you finally end up in divorce court (which happens to 50% or more of us!). Some researchers have determined that it takes as little as six weeks, without sex, to start viewing your partner as you would a brother or a sister.
In the final analysis, if you value your partner, kindness is the operative word. Studies have found that being kind to one another is the key to a lasting successful marriage. The saying that sex starts in the kitchen is true, and in the living room, and in the car and on the phone. All this really means is that you’ve made a conscious decision to be kind, which leads to more and more intimacy.
Kyra Sedgwick, Kevin Bacons wife says that the key to their marital success is that they “keep the fighting clean, and the sex dirty.” Oh, if we really knew how true this was, and if we consciously thought about it, and acted on it, the divorce rate would drop dramatically, and most of us would be thriving in a healthy and emotionally connected relationship where kindness is the rule and not the exception.