The Cold, Hard Truth About Long-Term Relationships
The Cold, Hard Truth About Long-Term Relationships
Have you become comfortably numb?
By Corinne Farago
There’s no getting away from the fact that couples in long-term relationships impact each other profoundly, in small and large ways.
If you’re a couple who lives together, there are moments throughout each day that bring you together to discuss something, to work on a task, to accomplish an errand, to share a story, or listen to one.
Partners flow in and around each other with such symbiosis, that we can sometimes feel like we’re one mechanism with a shared mind.
The functioning nature of our long-term partnerships becomes hardwired into our brains, just like everything else we do, day-in-day-out. Once settled into any repetitive pattern, our neurons are designed to minimize energy and attention on the subject at hand. It’s effective, it’s familiar, it’s secure, and in the case of relationships, it’s hazardous.
We become numb to our partners.
This is the cold, hard truth about LTR’s (long-term relationships). The good news is this numbing disease is not terminal. There is a cure. It’s called awareness.
Just as we trained our brains to become ‘comfortably numb’, we can train our brains to bring awareness to our daily encounters with our partner. Awareness wakes us out of our slumber of familiarity, and reminds us numerous times a day, that we can shift out of old patterns and into new ones.
One of my ‘wake-up’ exercises I introduce to comfortably numb couples is to bring awareness to their daily interactions with their partner.
At the end of an interaction they can ask themselves, “how would my partner rate the feeling quality of that exchange?” On a scale of 1-10 (1-3 being negative, 5-7 being neutral, and 7-10 being positive).
No one’s keeping score. It’s not a game to win. It’s simply an exercise that brings awareness to our day-to-day encounters with our partner when they cross our path. What rating our partner assigns to our encounters is largely within our control and our choice; our choice to feed them or drain them, to leave them feeling connected to us, or disconnected from us.
Bringing awareness to our relationship reminds us that we have a choice in how we impact our partner every day. What kind of general rating would your partner assign to their experience of you on a daily basis.Would they give you 2? 6? 9?
Do they walk away from you drained by your complaints, or energized by your praises?
Do you leave them with a furrowed brow of concern, or a smile and a chuckle over a silly joke?
Do they get the best of your energy, or do they experience you running on autopilot, putting out as little energy as possible in your exchange?
Ongoing daily encounters in the range of 1-5 are a sign that a relationship is not being enlivened or fueled with the kind of energy that nurtures connection and stimulates intimacy. A 1-5 range relationship dampens our happiness and deadens our enjoyment. If most encounters leave our partners feeling drained, their sense of connection to us will be laced with resentment.
If we want our partner to come away from an encounter with us feeling in the 7-10 range, we can bring more awareness to what gets them there.
Perhaps their 7-10 range is met with a few words that leave them feelings appreciated or cared for. Perhaps it’s a look that communicates desire and flirtatiousness, or a touch that says, “I care, I’ve got your back.” Perhaps it’s a silly face or a shared joke.
What quality of energy do you generally leave your partner with? Even the most mundane daily encounters wire our brains to seek that which gives us pleasure or repel that which inflicts pain.
It’s not surprising then, that couples who generally live in the 1-5 range have a harder time accessing the kind of trust and connection that elicits desire in the bedroom. Fulfilling sex lives are nurtured every day in the small connecting moments we create with our partner.
Bring awareness to the energy you bring to your partner on a daily basis, and ask yourself, “Did I bring my partner a 1-5 or a 5-10 experience?” Ultimately, the choice is yours.
If you are feeling “comfortably numb” in your relationship right now, coaching may be exactly what you need to go from a 1-5 to a 7-10.
My female cousin was a primary contributor to my early sex education, when I needed it most. For instance she clarified that I couldn’t get pregnant by dancing with a boy, no matter how close we got. She also confirmed that I wasn’t the only person who touched themselves (down there), and most importantly, she showed me that ‘wellness massagers from Sears were used for things other than sore necks and shoulders. A few years later my boyfriend introduced me to the real deal. A vibrator made specifically for genital arousal. It was a cream colored, hard plastic, shapeless cylinder with a twisting on/off switch at the end.
This week a client told me she was doing a Marie Kondo on her closet. She was getting rid of what no longer gave her joy.
We went on to talk about her sex life with her partner and the nagging resistance she has to being touched.
Somewhere along the line she formed a belief system about touch. She couldn’t identify a particular incident that informed that belief system. There was no trauma or abuse. She just knew that when she was touched (even by her loving partner) her body would recoil and she’d shut down.
There’s no getting away from the fact that couples in long-term relationships impact each other profoundly, in small and large ways. If you’re a couple who live together there are moments throughout each day that bring you together to discuss something, to work on a task, to accomplish an errand, to share a story, or listen to one. Partners flow in and around each other with such symbiosis, that we can sometimes feel like we’re one mechanism with a shared mind.
Even in the midst of this unprecedented time, the holiday season is once again upon us. If you’re fortunate enough to have one or more loved ones around you, you’re probably giving and receiving a gift or two. I’d like to share a few thoughts I have on gifting.