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If we attempt to speak from the heart, we may not even know in advance what we are going to say, but we can sense it palpably when the words are right.Finding our voice in conflict situations — the words that we most need to express — is not something that tends to come naturally. If it were easy, we would be less likely to get “stuck” in this particular conflict in the first place.And our partner would probably be more likely to listen, understand, and appreciate our position — and vice versa.This is where couples therapy can make the difference — to help create the safety first, and then to help each person find what they most need to say in order to feel fully understood.Once begun, it can be hard to defuse tensions — particularly when the behavior of the second person directly triggers the vulnerability of the first person, leading to escalating conflict.The first step here is for both people to make the commitment, at least some of the time, to stop the attack-defend syndrome.Not surprisingly, understanding how to turn conflict into intimacy is easier than actually doing it, especially when we are in the heat of battle.
A better definition of a successful relationship is one where on-going conflicts are acknowledged and discussed but ultimately contained.
The bottom line is this — you must be willing to temporarily leave your position (even when it feels unfair, which it usually does), so that you can spend some time exploring your partner’s position with them. Our agendas can have the power of massive locomotives speeding down the track at 100 miles and hour; they are not easy to stop and set aside.
Yet our willingness to strengthen our “self-restraint” muscle in this way is one of the most profound opportunities we have to generate more love in our relationship, and to open up our own hearts as well.
Love, after all, is not just something that comes to us or that we receive.
More importantly, love is something that we create, that we do.