“I Hate You! Don’t Leave Me!” Sound Familiar? Dr. Carol Ann Conrad, EdD

How Accessible are you and your partner to each other? How Responsive are you and your partner to one another? How emotionally engaged are you with each other? A.R.E. you there for each other? These are the real questions underneath we are looking for the answers to when we are with our partners! Yes, REALLY!!

Being human means we need others. Current research has shown that the human brain is hardwired, much like an animal with instincts, to know that being in close proximity to others is our greatest chance for survival. We were not designed to be alone, and thus being alone codes as “dangerous” to our brains. We can go into a primal panic if we feel we are all alone and in a perceived threatening situation.

The greatest punishment for hardened criminals in prison is solitary confinement; in some states they are banning this form of isolation because it is so cruel and inhumane. Because we need others to survive and thrive in this world, we can feel off-balance and insecure when we don’t feel close to another, especially when we don’t feel valued, seen, heard or important to our partner. So how does the need for proximity, closeness, and emotional safety play out in your relationship?

When we’re in the midst of a fight with our partner about whose turn it is to do the dishes, it’s hard to believe the REAL problem is lurking below the surface and that it often has to do with how accessible, responsive, and engaged your partner feels to you–but that is likely exactly what is happening! Especially if that kind of argument happens in a similar way time and time again.

Lets see how this plays out with Arwin and Blair, a young couple in their early 30’s, who you will be introduced to in the Hold Me Tight® Tri-Cities retreat. See if this sounds familiar to you and your partner when you have difficulties.

Both Arwin and Blair were professionals with their own careers when they got married in their late 20’s. They had a pretty connected and happy relationship, had lots of friends and family, and enjoyed being together with lots of activities to keep them busy. After several years they felt it was time to have a family. Shortly thereafter Arvin got pregnant and Blair landed a job oversees. They were excited, it was a new adventure for both of them, and they loved traveling!

So Arwin quit her job, they moved, and she began to rely solely on Blair for financial and emotional support. Soon after they settled into their life, Arwin had the baby. Blair had to work long hours at his new job to get established. He felt the burden to provide for the family. Arwin was at home with a new baby who needed lots of attention. Everything had changed for both of them. They didn’t have family or friends in this new culture and country, and it was expensive to call friends or family back home very often.

Arwin felt lonely, and began to need Blair in ways she had never had to rely on him before. She was anxious as a new mother and unsure of herself. Blair needed Arwin’s support and confidence as he was gone long hours of the day trying to prove himself with a new boss. Blair began to feel overwhelmed at Arwin’s new demands on him for his time and attention. They didn’t know how to reach for each other in ways to garner the support they needed during this difficult transitioning time for their family. Neither of them felt the other was accessible, responsive, or engaged in the way they each needed.

So a typical argument went like this…Blair was just arriving home a little after 7pm from work. Arwin had dinner on the table at 5:30 pm, the time they had agreed on for dinner to be served. As Arwin fed the baby, put her down to bed, and left the food on the table to grow cold, she sat down and waited in a fume for Blair to come home. When he arrived she was cold, aloof, and curt with him. “I’m sorry,” he said sheepishly, “I totally lost track of time while I was trying to get that last report on the bosses desk for first thing in the morning.” “The food is cold,” Arwin said, with an even colder stare. Blair immediately felt defensive feeling her anger, but he didn’t dare speak for fear she would verbally attack him. He just sat down to eat, not knowing what else to do. Arwin started in, “Where were you? Why didn’t you have the decency to just call me? Don’t I matter at all to you? Dinner is suppose to be at 5:30, now you’ve missed seeing the baby. She won’t even know her dad! Am I just supposed to sit and wait and wait and wait for you to finally show up?” Blair felt defeated and like a shmuck, but didn’t say anything, he kept eating. “Don’t you have anything to say?” Arwin kept the pressure going, “I’ve waited all day to have some adult conversation and you just sit there after being almost 2 hours late and say NOTHING to me!” A long tense moment of silence. “I hate you!” Arwin screamed as she stormed out of the dining room. Blair sat confused. He didn’t understand why she was so unreasonable and distraught.

Arwin and Blair are caught in a negative pattern that Dr. Sue Johnson, the author of Hold Me Tight®

calls the “protest polka.” The more Arwin protests the distance between them, the more Blair withdraws. The more Blair withdraws, the more Arwin protests–around and around.

But what is really going on between Arwin and Blair? Arwin is feeling lonely. She doesn’t feel she has enough access or responsiveness from Blair so she is upping the ante to try and get some kind of response! Without saying so, Arwin is really seeking to know she is important to him enough that he is thinking of her, and that he will comfort her in the distress of being so alone and isolated in her new environment. Blair is nervous about his new role as a sole provider, fearful he isn’t good enough to be what she needs from him. When Arwin blows up at him for being late even after he apologizes, he feels like he can’t ever get it right for her. He goes silent to keep from making it worse between them, which leaves Arwin feeling even lonelier, which then turns to an angry protest. The angrier she gets, the more silent and fearful he becomes, which just makes her more angry! This is a never-ending circle that feeds on itself and ironically creates the very thing they are most afraid of, being unimportant, unvalued, and alone without each other!

Do any of the steps in this move seem familiar to you and your partner? Do you get stuck in negative patterns that seem to repeat over and over again, even with different subjects but a similar theme of hurt, anger, tension, and distance?

In our Hold Me Tight® Tri-Cities retreat the first (of seven) conversations you will have with your partner is to discover the negative pattern you get caught in and ways to get out of it! You will together begin to uncover the steps of your negative dance and start to see what is driving it, so the two of you can take control of the cycle rather than the cycle controlling your relationship.

So come, come to the Hold Me Tight® Tri-cities couple retreat for a REAL treat! You don’t wan’t to miss the conversations that can lead to A.R.E. with your partner!