Remember the Honeymoon Stage? That post-nuptial period where both partners experienced butterflies, big dreams and a lot of intimacy. If it's twenty plus years later as a couple, and you're wondering where are earth are those butterflies, you're not alone. Among the hundreds of couples I've seen for marital therapy, one of the most common complaints is an absence of a core love that once existed in the relationship.
Somehow, this deep love for each other that was once there has been covered up in the tangled web of life's struggles - extended family obligations, children, financial stress and the vicissitudes of life that collectively interfere with a couples' access to what was once their deep love for each other.
Here we take a deeper look at love - to tell you what it is and how to reclaim it with your partner.
Inherent in that deep love - at its essence - is a desire for a secure connection with another person. The mutual deep love that was once the hallmark of the relationship when it first began, often grows into each person relying on the other for nurturing and affective sustenance. Researchers have uncovered clear evidence that it's in our wiring to need emotional contact and responsiveness, even as babies we seek comfort from our mommies. This is the sine qua non of attachment theory - and that need for secure attachment never disappears. However, many of the components of our culture have framed such deep needs for attachment as a flaw in our personality makeup.
We treat having an attachment to a trusted and loved person as a tremendous source of security and safety. When we don't feel that attachment with our partner, we begin to feel isolated, alone - and consequently feel that our needs for security aren't being met either. You feel your partner let you down and doubts about his love arise.
Superficial arguments likely ensues …
When deep love is felt between two people, you feel immensely fulfilled, secure and rewarded. But what can also - and often does - emerge is the fear of the loss of that love. These fears can turn into day-to-day arguments over power and control; struggles between being emotionally available for each other versus being selfish; acting up and acting out; or verbal attacks and withdrawal. At such times the pain can shut down our hearts and make us less open to expressing our needs in a healthy way.
The first step toward getting back to deep love is acceptance. Accepting your attachment needs and desire for a safe and secure relationship is often then a theme throughout the process of getting a relationship back on track. After that awareness is enhanced, a deep and lasting love for each other can be established by ongoing examination of what one's own needs are that occur in re-occurring arguments.
Second step is complete openness and honest communication about your needs and wants - and always with compassion. It is this completely open and honest expression of our heart that is the first step to re-invigorating your love connection. Get to really understand what deep love means to your partner. What can you do t show that you're attached with this person? How can you provide them with feelings of safety or security? What else are they in need of from you?
The third step is becoming highly aware of your innermost desires and figuring out ways for you to fulfill them. By looking within yourself rather than to your partner for your own happiness, you become increasingly aware that no single person can meet all your expectations. You'll become more accepting of your partner for who he is and what he brings to your life.
The final step is intimacy. I have asked my patients to hug each other for 30 to 60 seconds in my office, with the hope that each person's longing for feelings of attachment can become palpable. I also believe that feelings of deep love can be rekindled, and fears can be mitigated. By prescribing such an extended hug, I try to help a couple to let go of fears of rejection and in so doing, find more of their true selves, more connection to their own healthy, love for themselves, and an ability to deeply love their partner.
Now go hug your man … It might just solve everything.
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About the author: Dr. Alan Tepp is a Clinical Psychologist who received his doctoral training in Clinical Psychology at the Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago, IL and obtained Post-doctoral training in Child and Adolescent Psychology at the Yale University School of Medicine.