4 S’s to Mature Love

"And when we feel a secure attachment in the realm of behavior we develop a liberating type of emotional intimacy that propels our sex life to new heights and deeper connectedness."

"And when we feel a secure attachment in the realm of behavior we develop a liberating type of emotional intimacy that propels our sex life to new heights and deeper connectedness."

A toddler spends time with his mother. She silently exits, sneaking out of the room and away from the boy at play. If he cries, we have a little bit of a problem. A child who has an insecure attachment to his mother will feel that she may never come back, that she has forgotten or doesn't care about him. In other words, that child can’t trust her. His world is unsafe. When she returns, the toddler will run to his mom in fear. Once she picks him up to say hello, he’ll hit her, as a means to express his sentiments, “How dare you leave me like that. You scared me.” A secure attachment, on the other hand, is when a child knows beyond a shadow of doubt that his mother will return. He trusts that she’ll be back.

As a counselor, I have yet to meet someone with a secure attachment. Most of us will be angry when our loved one strands us in a predicament, hurts us, or leaves us wanting more. Emotionally we’ll strike back like that hurting toddler. Its relieving to know that there's hope. An Earned Secure Attachment means we’ve jumped over all the emotional hurdles and we stand in mature love. We need to do one thing to get that earned secure attachment: attachment repair.  Attachment repair is when we express how we’ve experienced a violation in the relationship (or when we’re responsible for one) and then work as a team to repair the bond. Be safety. Express security. Demonstrate seeing. Practice soothing.

Safety is when we tell our partner, with our behavior, that they are safe in our presence. No one wants to walk on eggshells. Our goal is to create and maintain an emotional environment where our partner knows that our mood won’t swing into scary zone, our physical behavior, like rage, won’t peak, and that we are trustworthy. Don’t use your mouth to create safety. Use your actions.

Security is a statement that allows your partner to rest in the relationship. Feeling secure in a relationship means that you know, through and through, that you are not disposable to your partner- you aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Security means trusting your partner that you matter, even when your ugly laundry is visible.

Seeing is taking the time to communicate with something other than words. So get your actions and show your partner that you see his or her internal world: their concerns, their fears, and their joys. Investing in your partner’s, child’s, or family member’s life is like saying, “Hey, I see you and you matter to me.” Feeling seen is being the celebration. If we feel unimportant, as though we live behind the scenes of our partner’s life, we can feel very inadequate. And that's when resentment becomes the name of the game.  

Soothe your partner. When they come home from a bad day, put down the iPhone or spatula and listen. And when your partner has a concern, don’t listen so that you can gather all the evidence claiming your position as the right one. Listen to their concerns. Put yourself in their shoes and understand how valid their experience might be. Listening, empathizing, and creating a soothing place will take your relationship to a new height.

Earning a secure attachment style means that you and your partner have built a connection wherein both members tolerate space without becoming angry or fearful- even when it feels like the other has snuck out of the room.  And when we feel that earned secure attachment in the realm of behavior, we develop a liberating type of emotional intimacy- and that propels our sex life to new heights and deeper connectedness. Safety, security, seeing, and soothing, the things that make our love stronger.  

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Posted on October 13, 2014 .

2 ½ Reasons Why Marriage Equality is a Crock!

marriage equality

As both a member of the LGBTQ community and as a clinician, I have become very familiar with how we refer to ourselves, particularly in our search for that magical someone. In our hunting there is one small parasite that pops its little head up from time to time: Body Surveillance. The wonderful gift of body surveillance is self-denial, self-doubt, and self-blame. While we search for our future spouse, or live alongside him or her, we beat ourselves up. Maybe I’m not funny enough or maybe they don’t like me because I’m too fat. When I walk into a room, I know exactly how I look, what I choose to wear, and how I think others might judge me. And then I catch myself: body surveillance.

Guilt is the voice that tells you have done something wrong. Shame, however, is the voice that says I am something wrong. Shame is the feeling that something is wrong with you, something inherent and unfixable- this is the root to body surveillance. In this light, marriage is often seen as the refuge. We dream that when we are truly loved we will somehow feel differently about ourselves. So we hunt. We hunt and hunt and hunt for that one person who can rescue us from our own self-shame. Doing this can set a person up for a serious dilemma, and this is why marriage equality can feel like one big crock:

1.     You partner isn’t responsible for your pain.

After all that time daydreaming of being rescued from your feelings of unworthiness, we implant an expectation on our future partners or current signif others. We subconsciously make them responsible for reading our minds and knowing how to take care of us. When our partner fails, we can become sad, isolated, and most often angry. If you really see me, you would know that I cut my hair. If you really knew me, you would know that the dinner with my parents was really important and you would’ve been on time. If you…then… Ugh! We get stuck here and we feel as though our anger is valid. Your partner, family member, and friends cannot read your mind and they can’t know everything about your insecurities (trust me we all have them). Take care of yourself. Recognizing that your reactions are your choice and responsibility will help you navigate arguments in a very healthy way that connects, not protects. Protecting via isolation or anger is all about the me vs. you mentality. Relationships function best when they operate as the me-and-you unit. 

2.     The dilemma is not your fault, but your responsibility…unfortunately.  

If you spend too much time believing in shame and the ensuing need for body surveillance, you’ll be other-person focused. You’ll loose focus on your passions, happiness, and confidence. In this light, body surveillance is not your fault. As an adult, however, it is your responsibility to surround your self with healthy friendships, family, and a partner who can help you see yourself in a positive light. It is also your responsibility to challenge the voices of shame and body surveillance that lives inside of you. Confront these freeloaders with peace and compassion. We all hope for that quick rescuing that will prove our worth. But the most efficient way out is to take responsibility for your actions (emotional or physical) and your interpretation of someone’s behavior. Trust me.

2 ½.  Needing another to validate your value means entering relationship with a structure that is half built.

When body surveillance holds you constrained you’ll try to become a better version of yourself so that you’re good enough for someone’s love. Seeing marriage as the ultimate form of evidence that declares your worth will create bad juju. You’ll be dependent on needing another to validate who you are. And although we say, “my partner is my other half,” in reality this is not very fun. Needing a loved one to validate who you are is depleting for you and your partner. And if both partners come in only trusting one half of their personhood, it’ll be a great breeding ground for something I call the coD…the big codependency.

Marriage equality, in this light, is about two people having a steadfast sense of I am… Knowing who you are, how you demonstrate beauty, what makes you alive, and how your unique dance is a contribution to the world allows you to enter relationships as a whole person. Not needing your partner is a gift. There is power in knowing that you don’t need someone, but that you want him or her. Needing vs. wanting is the difference between 1) the desperation to be cared for and 2) feeling the joy of being cherished. When a woman marries a man or a woman, and those two people unite out of their self-assured beauty- and not their shared pain- we’ll see a beautiful union that is gorgeously sustainable. 

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Sex and Relationships: the 3 Do's and Don'ts

1.     Emotional Intimacy is the goal, not a hot orgasm.

Often times we forget that there is something called getting to know one another before we hop right into Commitment Land. And when I say, “getting to know one another,” most automatically assume that I mean the things that make a person tick or what are his or her mommy issues. But what I mean by getting to know someone, or in other words creating emotional intimacy, I'm pertaining to knowing your partner’s emotional fabric- aspects of their character that will eventually integrate into your daily life and relational interactions. The fabric of your partner's emotional intimacy lives in their emotional and relational scripts. What does it look like when you feel insecure? What do you do when you are responsible for immature behavior? Do you take responsibility when you are wrong? How do you support people when they’re hurting? When we know our partner answers healthily to questions like these we have the ability to feel safe. Safety, Isaac? Yes! Understanding that your partner is your relational partner, that he or she is willing to be vulnerable and put in the work, means you can rest knowing you both have what it takes to make your relationship work! And when we feel sure we also feel safe. Feeling safe in a relationship means we're feeding off a healthy dose of emotional intimacy. Sadly, most of us jump from understanding his or her favorite color and land right into the sack. As we make this jump, and watch emotional intimacy rest inactive beneath our feet, we're skipping over the sustainable element that make relationships long-lasting. And when we feel isolated, forgotten, scared, hurt, or ignored, we get angry. We blame our sexual partner for not treating us like we deserve, for not knowing us well enough. We then wonder why our relationships keep falling apart or why we keep picking emotional losers. At this stage in the game, we've become professionals at praising the orgasim more than what our hearts really crave: emotional intimacy. Treat yourself well and get to know your partner from the inside out. Get to know their interaction style and emotional capability.  Trust me, it’ll save you some serious time and you'll experience higher levels of satisfaction- in and out of the bed.

2.     Unconditional Acceptance vs. Criticism.

Criticism is something I know all too well, unfortunately. Walking into a relationship thinking that we can “love him into shape” or that “she will grow out of this,” sets us up for a lifelong battle and imminent resentment. Trust me, you don’t want to resent your partner for not becoming the person they never knew you wanted them to be. You’ll be rather embarrassed, if of course you can see past your mistake. Unconditional acceptance is a matter to question even before you circle the “Y” on that love letter. Love is based on accepting who the person was before you met him or her. Thinking that your love is strong enough to change someone will leave you watching the boat of happy couples sail right in front of your eyes. When you think of that special him or her, ask yourself if you appreciate what you know so far. If the answer is positive, sign up for one more day. Collect all the data you need. If the answer starts to look a little too bleak and you start to hear that pesky voice or criticism, take a step back and put on your work boots; this is where the rubber hits the road.

3.     Practice Trusting without the need to run in fear.

We all come into relationships with significant gouges taken out of innocent exterior. In this posture, walking into a new relationship feels like giving your treasure to a stranger on the train, needing the bathroom, and asking them to be there when you get back. We feel the glamour of being heard and then the responding threat of rejection, of being seen and the risk of abandonment, or the sensation of being understood and then the betrayal of needing to earn their attention. As we experience even the slightest threat of denial we speculate, creating in our imaginations worst case scenario, and then run for the hills. Yikes! How, ever, do we make these things called relationships work? I say start small. When you can trust someone with a little secret, a small expression of fear, or a matter that is mildly embarrassing, you’re off to a good start. If they respond to your vulnerability well, your first run at practicing trust has set you up on great footing! As you continue to practice, with bigger fears, deeper wounds, and frightening details observe how they respond. Remember, you deserve respect, to be supported, and to have safety in your relationships. After all, you want to be there for a very long time, right?

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