In a study conducted by John Gottman in 1981, it was discovered that couples who report higher marital satisfaction are linked with husband’s ability to read his wife’s verbal cues. Open verbal communication is important, but a substantial portion of what makes couples thrive comes from reading between the lines and being able to understand differences in how each partner desires connection.
We all crave closeness and intimacy in our romantic relationships, but on a primal level, sometimes we want to see this this expressed differently than our partner does. Being at odds with how to go about “togetherness” and “separateness” can often create friction between lovebirds. And when left unaddressed this difference may lead to mounting frustration, and in some people, the desire to retreat. What makes you feel like running away?
You might notice that you seek space to yourself, sometimes automatically- especially when your partner’s demands for “togetherness” feel overwhelming to you. If your partner calls your name from another room, do you freeze up, or feel yourself tense or stressing about how much energy and attention you can give them at a moment’s notice?
Do you expect an argument to start up from seemingly nowhere based on your partners’ body language or tone of voice? Do you feel protective of your boundaries and alone time and become resentful or irritated if you don’t get enough space to work things through on your own terms?
On a deeper level, you might feel as though your partner needs too much from you, or that you can’t measure up to what they are asking for because they seemingly yearn for much more connection than you do.
This feeling of being under pressure does not mean that you don’t love your partner, it’s just that you have different needs in this respect. Perhaps your partner gets very passionate about a subject or even ramped up, and you find yourself desperately wanting to end the conversation, leave an argument and craving solitude.
Maybe you want nothing more than to retreat, and try to figure things out on your own. When the intense need to flee hits, all the alarms are going off in your mind, and you find yourself headed toward the escape hatch, here are three things to try.
Focus on being deeply present to your response. What is happening in your body? Are you sweating more or breathing more shallowly? You might feel fearful, or overwhelmed and sense that part of you has already left the room. This makes it difficult to work towards resolution with your partner.
Take notice of what you are feeling, and tell your partner about what you are experiencing. Actively seek ways of soothing yourself. Try pouring yourself a glass of water or take two to three belly breaths and gently push up against your impulse to leave just a little.
Communicate your need for a time out. Put words around your need for a break in arguments, so your partner is not left to guess where you are going and whether you plan to come back. If the communication or real or perceived arguing become intolerable to you, tell your partner you need a few minutes to get yourself together while always setting a time (preferably within and hour or two) in which you will return to hash things out.
Keep in mind that for your partner, there is no greater power than the power of your presence and your willingness to work things through as a couple
Seek deeper understanding of your partner. Recognize that your partner’s instincts may lead them to seek connection with you in times of stress in the same way that your
inclinations lead you toward space away from others. As you can’t be outsourced to someone else, realize your power to soothe your beloved and show them care in times of distress.
What helps to calm her anxiety? What gives him relief? Be curious and non-judgmental of the differences between you and your partner. Compassionately reflect upon the ways in which your partner is different than you and relies on other mechanisms to calm down.
Acknowledging the differences that exist in how you and your partner communicate can encourage you both to learn deeply about each other. This in turn helps you both to learn more appropriate, compassionate and loving ways of responding to one another.