As I see couple’s in my practice, what I notice comes up a lot for me is the importance of each partner in a relationship engaging in their own healing work before, entering into the journey and contract of marriage.  

When we suffer from childhood trauma, unmet needs and or abuse, we tend to bring the outcome of those into our relationships with our partners.

On a subconscious level, we believe that we “can fix” our unmet needs with our partner even though these needs can only be met by our own selves. We need to engage a therapist to assist us in recognizing our core beliefs about ourselves and to identify the triggers that cause us to lash out, criticize, abuse or belittle our significant other.

Couple hanging out

In reality, what we blame our partners for lacking in, is usually a need that we did not get met by a parent, as a child.

 It is easier to point out their short comings and blame them for not showing enough love, being emotionless, being selfish, not being thoughtful enough etc. 

In reality, anything that triggers us, for the most part, comes back to us and isn’t about our partner. There is something in the trigger, more than likely that is an old attachment wound, that feels the same as what is happening with our partner.

I see couples most often when they are at a point where they, “can’t stand each other”. They are fighting. They both believe the other person is wrong and they rarely see a problem with any of their own behaviour.

Most often one of the partners has a fear of abandonment and the other has a fear of engulfment.

 The person with fear of abandonment often needs constant contact and reassurance that the other person is there for them. They need immediate responses to their texts, communications and questions. When they don’t receive these responses quickly, they feel as if their partner doesn’t love them, thinks they are “too much” and assumes their partner will leave them. When their partner doesn’t respond emotionally enough the feelings of abandonment grow bigger.

When the person who has a fear of engulfment experiences their partner this way, their first reaction is to run or shut down. If this partner experienced “over-parenting” or controlling parents as a child, the neediness and perceived bossiness of their partner, will subconsciously feel like their parent all over again. They will run in the opposite direction which only further alienates their partner who is terrified of being alone and feeling worthless.

Here describes the Dance of Intimacy.

Each partner is dancing to a different song. This makes it difficult for them to dance together as they are both taking different steps. They are not in sync.

In order to remedy these missteps in the dance, each partner has to do their own healing work.

Often it is the person with Fear of abandonment who will first reach out for help from a therapist. If and when they can heal the issues within themselves, and learn how to get their own needs met, they will require less affirmation of their worth from their partner and will be more comfortable with silence or being alone for a time.

This shift will often take pressure off of the partner with fear of engulfment and often they come back towards the partner with fear of abandonment. They are curious about where they went? 

When both partners can meet each other and dance to the same beat, there is calm. Each partner is less triggered.

There is so much more explanation to this dance of Intimacy and this is just a bit of a peak into the ways in which we trigger each other and push each other away.

If you are in a long term committed relationship and considering getting married or well on your way in the planning stages of this big exciting step, please consider seeking pre-marital couple’s therapy.

Why not begin this beautiful journey on the same page and dancing to a beautifully choreographed song?!

Please feel free to contact Psychotherapy with Shelley for a complimentary consultation.