Heartbreak

The Crucial Ingredient Missing From Almost All Insecure Relationships

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two men cuddle romantically in front of a window

Every day when I take a break from working, I go on Facebook to look for funny animal videos.

The videos that mesmerize me the most are the ones where the Koi fish nuzzles the cat, the deer who has been playing with the dog for eight years, or my favorite: the baby goats and the llama sleeping together.

All those animals were looking for a connection, a safe bond they could count on. Anything that is breathing needs a connection.

Are people any different? No, they're not. We all crave emotional connection.

Often, when things go wrong in relationships, it's because of a lack of these connections — not because of an inherent incompatibility. 

Without these connections, trust cannot grow.

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Building a home — simpler than building a relationship

The drive to eliminate emotional isolation often leads us down paths we struggle with — and sometimes regret.

Take for example my client Zach. He is 41, engaged for three years to Brian. Zach has a demanding career as the head of IT for a well-known company. He routinely experiences a lot of professional pressure.

Brian has a good job working in marketing. They do very well financially.

Zach has always been in love with Brian. When they parted ways nine years ago, it broke Zach’s heart.

Fortunately, he had a demanding job. It kept his mind busy, but he came home every night to an empty bed.

Six years passed, during which Brian went into therapy. They re-connected, and they decided to make it official.

They decided to buy a co-op in Manhattan and do the needed renovations. I can tell you, as a former contractor, that this is an incredibly stressful time for couples.

What I witnessed time and time again is that the stress of a construction project will bring out the worst in a relationship, or be considered a huge inconvenience, even if it's not necessarily a deal breaker.

Eventually, the renovation is complete. The water runs hot or cold, the lights turn on and off, and the icemaker hums along.

At least something is working — even if the relationship is not. 

So, how did Brian and Zach survive their rennovation? 

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It comes down to communication & emotional mindset

Zach is very emotionally sophisticated. Brian is not.

Zach’s style of communication is talking through a problem. Brian wants things written down.

Zach is willing to jump into the deep end of the pool. Brian is wearing an inner tube in the spa.

How do two people reach the level of one-ness when one is terrified of the deep connection?

For starters, it should never be about who is "right," it’s about finding ways to communicate that keep each person intact.

Zach needs to help Brian by writing. That’s where Brian feels safest.

And Brian needs to help Zach by talking. That’s where Zach feels whole.

For Brian to lose his fear of intimacy, he needs to share stories of his childhood about times when he felt vulnerable, marginalized, teased or threatened.

And then, if he chooses to, he can re-tell those stories — as he wished they had ended. This will give him power over his fear and bring him to a place of trust.

Zach simply must listen and be supportive.

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How to build trust — which is the portal to intimacy

Trust and intimacy are two sides of the same coin. In many ways, trust is the portal to intimacy.

If Brian wants the relationship, he must move forward with a tiny step. He must learn to trust himself first.

So, back into the woods we go, allowing our needs to lead us forth. We want to build relationships the moment we exit the womb.

We need warmth, closeness, and affection to make us feel safe. The need to connect is profound. It starts during childbirth.

The womb is the best hotel we will ever stay in — perfect warm temperature and round-the-clock room service. But Mother Nature has other plans for us. 

We seek connection from the beginning

Out we come, and it feels like climbing out of a warm pool into the freezing cold air.

We wail in protest at the exit, and now the search begins to recreate that bond we felt for nine months.

We are forever looking for connections — with our siblings, on the playground, and as we get older, looking for a best friend, looking for a lover.

We are forever looking for that unique relationship that nurtures us, just as we are, accepting us in our most vulnerable moments. That’s the rub. So often we pair up with a person who is emotionally unavailable, but we hope to change them.

We marry the potential of the person, not the person themselves. We engage for the wrong reasons, and it is an accident waiting to happen.

We divorce and we do it again. Although this time we’ve matured, we’re making our own money, and feel we understand how to make the connection work, this time.

Not likely — not unless we've also done some serious self-evaluation and committed to change.

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Intimacy demands a bold approach

The core issue is a lack of intimacy brought on by fear. To feel deeply connected we need to take the plunge into the murky waters searching for clarity, searching for oneness.

It takes guts. Being vulnerable when your partner is not is risky.

What happens if they say something that really hurts? How will it feel to hear something you suspected, is now spoken? What is the cost of the truth?

The struggle sometimes feels like it's "do or die." We feel desperate to hang on, agreeing to do anything to prevent a breakup.

As disconnected as we feel, we grasp at any straw in the wind.

We go into couples therapy. We have another child. We turn to religion. We learn to meditate.

The list goes on as we do whatever we can to make that meaningful connection.

Here's why: Intimacy is not negotiable. As with most interpersonal connections, communication is the key.

And the bottom-line truth is that you deserve to get what you want. Don't ever let anyone tell you something different.

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Pegi Burdick is a published author and certified coach helping people sort out their emotions and their money. 

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