Conflict is a normal part of relationships, but so many don't realize the difference between healthy and unhealthy conflict resolution. The "four horsemen" is a concept developed by Dr. John Gottman to describe four unhealthy ways that couples argue, which lead to a relationship's demise: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.
When we aren't at our best emotionally, it can help on a nervous system level to just have someone be with us to co-regulate our emotions. I was definitely one of those children who needed a hug when I was upset. I have always responded strongly to the negative and positive emotions of others. I also respond very well to a calm person comforting me when I am anxious or stressed. I work mostly with children, so I am used to hearing the term "co-regulation" as it relates to parents and caregivers helping children calm down when they are upset, but it can be just as powerful for adults in relationships.
When your partner doesn't understand your mental illness, it adds an extra level of difficulty to a relationship. I am highly sensitive and feel my emotions deeply and extremely. When depression or anxiety strike, I lose my ability to think rationally. My partner of eight years is a laid-back math teacher who approaches each challenge in life like an equation he can solve. I am an unsolvable equation to him. We enrich each other's lives with our differences, but sometimes it feels like we don't live in the same world. Part of our relationship journey has been accepting that we may always live in different worlds, but with intentional effort, we can build a beautiful bridge between them.
When I first started having sex, I didn't know I was engaging in sexual spectation -- I didn't realize I was analyzing and directing my own behavior in the bedroom as though it was a performance. But at some point, I realized that my one and only focus in the bedroom was to make myself attractive to the man who played my counterpart.
Sadly, there are times when love isn't enough in a relationship. There is a song that sometimes plays in my head. It is by Patty Smyth and Don Henley, and it is called Sometimes Love Just Ain't Enough. It is hauntingly beautiful, speaking of love and loss, and of when to give up in a relationship. It speaks to when love isn't enough in a relationship.
Supporting your non-anxious spouse is important. Living with anxiety is a daily challenge for relationships, including marriage. Maneuvering through simple situations can lead to intense worry that distracts from the joy of a wonderful marriage. But like clockwork, your non-anxious spouse rises to the challenge with unwavering support. But what happens when tragedy strikes and the anxious spouse must become the rock? How can you support your spouse when you have anxiety?
I've written a lot about myself and my relationships on this blog, but now I'm turning to the tumultuous relationship of a public figure for my inspiration. Last week, we lost an icon, the incandescent Whitney Houston. Now, in her demise, the talk turns to her drug addictions and her relationship with ex-husband Bobby Brown.