We all want to share love freely with our intimate partners. We want to experience the kind of love that flows with ease and hums like a wild song on a summer's eve. We know it's possible, yet so often our fears, insecurities and entrenched habits caused by old pain prevent this flow from occurring.
In working intimately with many people over the years, I've learned that it's often through loving action that we unclog the passageways that prevent love from flowing freely. We can and must explore our fears and tend to our hurt places, but then we need to take action to counteract the fear-based behaviors that interferes with closeness.
Feeling irritated? Move toward your partner. Feeling sad? Ask for a hug. Many people habitually contract like a sea anemone when they're feeling vulnerable, but that only amplifies the distance and minimizes the closeness.
There is one simple and loving action that can set the tone of the day or evening in terms of closeness or distance: how you reunite after being apart.
Reunions, simply defined, are the times when you come back together after being away from each other. We generally think of reunions as occurring after long absences, like when one of you has traveled, but we also reunite first thing in the morning after sleep and at the end of the day following work. We even reunite when we’ve been in our separate spaces within the same house for several hours and then come back together again.
Reunions are potent times in that they’re mini-liminal, or in-between, zones. Transitions always include a liminal zone where you’re between an old stage or identity and a new stage. When you get married, for example, the liminal zone is the engagement, when you’re no longer single but not quite married. When you become a mother, the liminal zone is pregnancy, when you’re no longer a non-mother but not quite a mother. (Men have their equivalent of the parenting liminal zone, but it’s not as obvious as being pregnant.) The liminal zone is characterized by feeling vulnerable, disoriented, and uncertain. Other liminal zones include dawn and dusk, the spring and autumn equinoxes, noon and midnight, and the month of January.
Why is this important to understand and what does it have to do with creating connection with your partner? Because when you come back together after being separate, you both feel vulnerable. Your defenses are down and you’re more available to connect, but you’re also more primed to entrench old habits and beliefs. As with all liminal zones, old wounds can be reactivated and either healed or calcified.
In other words, if you have a running commentary that says, I’m not enough, or People don’t like me, you may be waiting for your partner to confirm his or her love for you every time you walk in the door, say goodbye, or see each other after a long absence. If that’s the case, you may be approaching these times with an expectation that your partner will bridge the gap in a loving way and “make you” feel loved. You may be holding back and sending a signal that says, You do it. You make this okay. You let me know that you still love me.
Paradoxically, if you’re experiencing relationship anxiety or you’re generally the distancer in the relationship, you’ll be the one to put up walls during the reunions. So you may simultaneously and subconsciously be saying, Make me feel loved AND Don’t come too close. Your partner may naturally approach you for a kiss and you’ll feel your familiar tightness. She puts her arms around you in the morning and you have the urge to run away.
To circumvent this, there’s a very simple solution: be the one to initiate! Not only will you be sending a message to your fear that you’re not going to let it run the show, but you’ll be sending a clear message through action to your partner that you’re here and you’re available.
Here are some ways to initiate loving reunions: