Will You Be There For Me? What Matters Most In Love


Learn healing ways to approach conflict in love, what's beneath it and ways to restore connection.

What matters most to you in your love relationships?

Is it the feeling of being loved, understood and seen? Is it the deep feeling of connection, safety and support? Is it the passion, joy and laughter? Maybe it's all of the above.

When couples come into my office they're usually suffering and in a state of emotional crisis. Sometimes the suffering is about addictions, affairs or repetitive arguments that go nowhere. Other times, couples say they've lost the feeling of love and connection they experienced at the start of their relationship. The questions that are most prominent in their minds are: "Can this relationship be saved?" and/or "how did something so right go so wrong?” By the time they've reached my office they are tired of fighting and looking for assistance. They are seeing to rekindle the deep feeling of love and intimacy they experienced at the start of their relationship. So, how did they stray off the path of love?

When first we met…

We are often drawn to a person with whom we feel a sense of familiarity, a strong bond and a deep passionate connection. This is the first stage of a relationship, often called the Romantic Stage. During this stage our defenses are silent, we tend to be more understanding/forgiving and are often more open to doing things that we normally wouldn't do. We are under the influence of love and are open to meeting each other's needs. Every waking moment is spent thinking about our partner and wanting to be together. Some of us will even say things such as, "I feel like I'm walking on cloud nine!" We feel more vibrant and energetic. Our senses are fully awake; food tastes better, colors seem brighter and the world is a friendlier place. We experience a deep feeling of connection, passion and joy and because of this, we decide to make a commitment: to see each other exclusively, live together or get married.

At first, it can seem as if we have the perfect relationship where happily ever after is possible. But over time, the novelty wears off; expectations and assumptions aren't met. The unmet needs and childhood hurts we unknowingly carry from the past get triggered in the present and we engage in a battle of wills. Where we once we were understanding and forgiving we are now less tolerant, defensive and very reactive. This is a sign that we've entered the second stage of a relationship, called the Power Struggle.

This second stage can leave us feeling defeated, angry, disconnected and in pain. If we don't learn a healing way of approaching conflict, our relationship will suffer and eventually the love we had for each other gets buried under a litany of complaints, resentment and pain. So, something that started out with so much hope and potential becomes a battlefield where we find ourselves on opposite sides of the fence.

When the past becomes the present...

Believe it or not, our childhood history has a lot to do with the triggers and conflicts we encounter in our intimate relationships. Take a moment to reflect on the following questions:

  • Where did you learn about relationships?
  • How was conflict handled between your parents?
  • What did you learn about life and love? How was love expressed between your parents?
  • How was love expressed towards you?
  • How were feelings expressed?
  • How do you think your responses have shaped your personal views about love and relationships?

Where it all begins…

As babies we're fully dependent on our primary caretakers for survival. We need them to look after our physical and emotional needs so that we are able to survive and thrive. Our physical needs include the need for food, shelter and clothing. Just as important are our emotional needs: to feel loved, seen and understood. In an ideal world we'd grow up with parents or caretakers that were able respond to our every need; if we were hungry, sad, tired or angry they'd respond in a prompt and loving manner (with understanding, compassion and guidance). However, life isn't perfect and for a variety of reasons (illness, financial stress, mental illness, their own unmet needs, etc.) our parents weren't always able to meet all of our needs.

Our unmet needs don't just go away; they become part of the baggage we carry with us into our love relationships. These unmet needs and hurts are triggered when we encounter conflict in our intimate relationships. I feel it's important to emphasize that this is supposed to happen. It's not a sign of awful things to come. On the contrary, when conflict arises it's actually an opportunity for growth and healing, but the way we react to it often stops us from getting there. Keep reading!