“The best portion of your life will be the small, nameless moments you spend smiling with someone who matters most to you.” ~ Unknown
Like this quote says, openness isn’t just about being talkative. You don’t have to spend all your time together, pool your money, or tell each other everything to be close. But, on occasion, you may want to think positively about your spouse, so you can enjoy each other’s company. Without openness, it will be hard to smile in their presence.
Openness is a playful. light and easy going feeling that helps you be yourself and be emotionally present with your spouse. We are open when we are calm and not reacting as if there is a threat. This openness comes and goes, and it can be hard to see our part in the times we feel less open.
Instead of blaming your spouse, observe your own distance. What makes you switch from playful and open to closed off and distant? How do you switch it back on? It’s hard isn’t it. I know you are tempted to say but he or she does or doesn’t do enough of…
Assumptions Fuel Emotional Distance
While you may not believe me, your happiness is separate from your relationship. We can all make ourselves more negative or more carefree with a different train of thinking. Your spouse may be distant at times, but I imagine you are too.
The only way to be more smiley, open, and playful with your spouse is to see your spouse as separate from you. That is, your happiness and emotions can be less regulated by what your spouse does or doesn’t do when you see it as a less of a reflection of how they feel about you.
Kathleen Cauley, licensed marriage and family therapist, shares her thoughts on emotional separation in her video Myths about Communication. She stresses that communication is less about getting your point heard, and more about calming down to hear. In this way, openness is “staying interested in your spouse without assuming: 1) it has something to do with you, 2) it hurts your feelings, or 3) it will get in your way.”
For example, if your spouse is emotionally unavailable to you on occasion, it doesn’t mean that you can’t be happy without his/her response. Nor does it mean that your spouse don’t care about you or you aren’t important to him/her. But when you make these assumptions, you probably start pulling away to protect yourself.
Our assumptions fuel our distance, and emotional separateness creates intimacy and openness. If you don’t take your spouse’s busyness, tension, or unavailability as a threat to your own emotional well being then you are free to be available. You don’t have to distance too. So when your spouse is available, you will be too.
“Emotional separateness is the key to emotional intimacy.” ~ Margaret Otto, LCSW
Marci offers face-to-face counseling services in the Kansas City, MO area. Schedule an appointment today to help you move forward.
Or if you are looking for a counselor in your area? There are therapists who are trained to work with individuals on marriage and family issues: Bowen Family Systems or American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy