Love is a Many-Splintered Thing
by Vivian Peralta-Mesa
There are three aspects to long lasting love, connection and relationship: accessibility, responsiveness and engagement.
Simply put, this means that each partner is available for each other and puts them first. Each partner gives their attention to the other and connects emotionally, not feeling shut out or lonely in the relationship when talking about their deepest feelings. Even when we’re upset, we can reach out to our partner and know they will listen.
This means we are not only there, but will act on what our partner is confiding. Our partner will reassure us about how important we are to them. Knowing that our partner will be there for us, we know we can lean on them when we feel anxious or unsure. It’s knowing that even when we fight, we will eventually work it out and come back together. Emotional responsiveness has been found to be a powerful predictor of the future quality of newlyweds’ relationships.
This refers to being positively emotionally engaged. It’s like an invisible umbilical cord that keeps us connected emotionally even when we are apart. It means feeling confident that our partner cares about our joys, hurts and fears—feeling comfortable being close to and trusting your partner—feeling we can confide in our partner about anything and can take emotional risks with them. We feel safe that even though our partner is traveling for work or out with their friends, we are present in their mind and heart.
In this type of relationship, there is a healthy and secure connection; a positive interdependence. In such relationships, people are healthier, live longer, enjoy a more satisfying sex life, handle stress and uncertainty better and are more self-confident. Interestingly, and perhaps counter-intuitively, the more connected we are, the more separate and different we can be. When we feel safe, we can take more risks with each other and in the world. We can explore who we are, what we can do and know that our partner is there for us as we grow and transform.
When this connection is threatened by a hurt or breach of trust, a type of primal panic arises—an intense fear of losing the object of our love. So anger, complaining and criticizing are seen as attempts to re-engage with our apparently inaccessible loved one. Emotionally focused therapy helps to heal and re-establish these secure bonds by optimizing accessibility, engagement and responsiveness; the foundation of healthy and long-lasting adult love.
Vivian Peralta-Mesa, MS, LMFT, of the Counseling Center at Charlotte, 3900 Park Rd.,Charlotte, can be reached at 704-910-7942 or visit KidsFamilyCounseling.com.