Negotiating Different Needs for Closeness and Alone Time in a Romantic Relationship

One of the most common issues that leads couples to break up, separate, or divorce, is the difficulty talking about different needs for closeness and alone time within a relationship.

Whenever one person has a greater need for alone time, it can make the other person feel an absence, longing, or sadness, which when left unexpressed can turn into a permanent dissatisfaction and sense of neglect.

In this blog post we will examine how you can deal with this thorny issue without compromising who you are or what you need.

Why Blaming Your Partner is Not the Solution:

The most frequent mistake couples make when trying to resolve a conflict about how much time to spend together, is to try to elevate one’s own needs beyond those of one’s partner, and to pathologize one’s partner for being either too needy or too distant and cold.

This kind of blame game is natural, but not helpful.

Although blaming the other person temporarily gives you respite from your own guilt, sadness, or sense of deficiency, batting this deficiency over to the other side is only going to lead to more distress in your partner, which is no overall gain for the relationship.

In fact, the more distress that gets placed on your partner, the less available they will be to respond to yours.

It is exceedingly difficult for a husband to lend a sympathetic ear to his wife’s longing for more attention when what he hears from her is the message that he himself is falling short or is the cause of her pain.

Likewise, it is very difficult for a wife to respect her husband’s need for alone time, when she herself is struggling with doubts about how important she really is in her husband’s life.

Most of the time, when both partners feel stressed out by negative feelings about themselves, they cannot be present to the feelings of their partner.

For this reason, couples need to find a different way to negotiate differences between them. They must not resort to blaming the other person or invalidating the other person’s needs.

Why Sucking it Up is Not Your Only Alternative:

This of course does not mean that you just have to suck it up and adjust to an unsatisfactory status quo. The trick is to find a better option than either blaming your partner or accepting the unacceptable.

In order to solve this dilemma, we need to see the problem within a larger perspective.

First of all, we need to realize that people are different in how much they need time away from each other, and how much they need affirmation and closeness.

It is not wrong or bad to want time away from your partner, and it is not wrong or bad to need to feel more connected. It is simply human. There is always going to be a difference between partners on this key dimension, and so the issue of negotiating distance and closeness is going to be part of any relationship.

See Yourself in Your Partner:

It is important to understand that the need for independence and closeness are never just due to individual character traits.

A person may be very independent, but if they get together with a person who doesn’t really seem to need them around that much, it is naturally going to produce a sense of uneasiness and anxiety in them that will propel them to seek reassurance, or will make them withdraw into sadness.

At the same time, a person who currently longs for connection from their partner, may get into another relationship where they find their partner’s need for affirmation overbearing and overwhelming, and feel a need for more personal space themselves.

Once we realize that the need for independence and closeness is largely a barometer of a particular relationship dynamic rather than an indictment of one of the partners, it frees us up to have a new kind of conversation about the issue.

How to Find a Win-Win Solution:

Fortunately, even though we each have different needs for space or connection in our current relationship, we are wired to respond well to each other’s needs if only they are presented in a way that we can hear without feeling bad about ourselves.

Advice for the person who is feeling neglected:

The person in a relationship who is currently feeling rejected, uncertain about how loved they are, or missing a connection, can learn to reach out without blame or criticism, and talk about their needs in a way that naturally elicits compassion and closeness.

Instead of teaching their partner a lesson by shutting them out, or making their loneliness a product of the other person’s failings, they can express a longing that is free of blame.

They can notice the soft underbelly of their frustration, or the fragility underneath the sting of the pain that makes them want to lash out.

They can express themselves from a place of undemanding loneliness, yearning, or affection.

If done straight from the heart this will naturally move their partner into a readiness and willingness to care. That is biology 101.

We are wired to respond well to soft and genuine signals from our partner. By not reaching out in a way that puts their partner into the defensive space of having to deal with a sense of being bad or uncaring, their partner no longer gets stuck in their own feelings of shame and guilt, but are free to simply respond with affection and empathy.

Advice for the person who is feeling stifled:

Likewise, instead of simply taking space away from their partner, the person who needs more time on their own can learn to assert their needs while at the same time reassuring their partner that they need them.

Instead of feeling embarrassed or afraid to share their need for alone time, or feeling wrong or anxious about having certain thoughts or feelings that might trigger a negative reaction in their partner, they can learn to share their longing for more independence in a way that still seems loving and caring.

As they learn to gently and assertively talk about their feelings and needs in a way that that still affirms that their partner is loved and important, they will seem more engaged and present in the relationship. This in turn will increase their partner’s sense of connection which has often become questioned because of the perception that the partner who wants alone time isn’t sharing themselves much anymore, but has become emotionally distant.

The neglected partner is largely responding with fear and anxiety to a lack of perceived reciprocity and a sense of their partner as being withdrawn or not really sharing themselves. It is this that makes the neglected partner question the other person’s interest in them or their availability as someone they can turn to and depend on when the need arises.

Paradoxically, when the person who wants more alone time or space feels they can be more authentically themselves within the relationship, their need to periodically break the connection to preserve their sense of self, or relax and be themselves, greatly lessens.

The Importance of Working Together:

Of course, no one can create this shift in a relationship by themselves. It is truly a team effort to learn to manage negative feelings without blaming one’s partner, and to acknowledge and talk about the fears, the guilt, the sadness, and the shame that all too often has no space to be talked about within the relationship.

Partners often need a little help to not immediately hear what the other person is saying as a threat or criticism and to begin to give each other the benefit of the doubt.

Both partners have to agree to a new beginning and begin to work together to help each other access the softer more vulnerable feelings hidden underneath the anger and resentment, or the anxiety of fully being oneself.

How to Turn a Negative Relationship Around

Sometimes relationships can feel like a lot of work. What once was an easy and joyful engagement with a caring compassionate other can slowly turn into an exhausting exchange of complaints and a mutual sense of deprivation and dissatisfaction.

Over time our once best friend can slowly begin to seem like an adversary, and our once biggest source of good feelings and accolades can slowly become a source of negative feelings of falling short or not being good enough.

Fortunately, we now have a remedy to this steady decline of good-will that befalls so many relationships.

Want to know what it is? Then you are in luck…

In this article and the accompanying video which is included below, I will tell you exactly how to turn a negative relationship around.  

The big news item is that the fault is not in your partner, nor in yourself for that matter. Instead the real culprit of negativity in your relationship, is the negative cycle of interactions in which you have gotten stuck.

Emotionally-focused couples therapists have mapped out the nature of the negative cycles that take over perfectly good relationships and turn them into battle fields of negativity. They have also found a way to get couples unstuck from these patterns so they can regain and even strengthen the positive connection they had when they first met.

In the video I am about to show you, you will see how one married couple found a way to turn their relationship around by heeding the insights of emotionally-focused therapy.

Understanding Your Negative Cycle:

35840798_thumbnail_smallA negative cycle is a self-pertuating merry-go-round where what one person says or does creates negative feelings in the other person, and what the other person says or does creates negative feelings in the first person. Couples thereby get stuck in a negative spiral or vicious cycle that keeps them separate from the love, the closeness, and the good feelings they really want.

Emotionally-focused couples therapists have studied the steps involved in the negative cycles that squeeze the love and connection out of relationships. They have made it easier to get out of these patterns, by giving us the tools we need to understand them, and providing us with insights into how to place our feet differently.

The individual steps in any negative relationship cycle can be broken down in the following way:

Primary emotion: the real emotional response a person has to something their partner says or does) or doesn’t say or do. This emotion is often vulnerable and can make the person feel exposed or weak. It tends to be an emotion like sadness, pain/ rejection, shame, or fear.

Secondary emotion: the emotional response a person has to the way their partner has made them feel (the primary emotion). This emotion is often a response to the more vulnerable emotion that makes a person feel stronger or at least makes the person feel less exposed or vulnerable. Sometimes this emotion will be one of anger, contempt, or anxiety

Perception: The conclusion or interpretation a person makes about their partner based on their secondary emotion. If the person feels angry, they are likely to interpret their partner’s behavior as deliberate and ill-intentioned. If the person feels anxiety, they are likely to interpret their partner’s behavior as a sign of danger and bad things to come.

Behavior: How a person acts or reacts based on their secondary emotional reaction and interpretation to their partner. If a person feels anxious in response to their partner, then they are likely to placate in order to avoid further conflict, to freeze up and go into problem-solving instead of staying engaged with their partner’s feelings, or to shut down and withdraw in order order to protect themselves.

When these individual steps are connected together in a chain for both partners in a relationship, they can be depicted as an infinity cycle that loops back and forth between partners in a continuous spiral:

infinity cycle

In this case what is below the grey dotted line is also often below the threshold of a couples awareness.

Why Couples Get Stuck:

Partners who have grown accustomed to feeling criticized or shut out by each other are mostly in touch with their more reactive secondary emotions, and not with the more vulnerable primary emotions and their underlying unmet needs. They lead conversations with angry criticism, or a tendency to anxiously withdraw, appease, or problem-solve.

However, because how they respond to their partner exacerbates the very problem that occasions the criticism or withdrawing to begin with, they get stuck in a lose-lose situation where both are unhappy.

A person who appeases and placates in order to stop the unbearable criticism    from their partner, still remains hidden behind a wall of empty words and empty intentions, and this only makes the critical partner feel more alone, more disconnected, and more critical.

A person who criticizes every little thing their partner does, instead of expressing an underlying need for attention or closeness, only ends up making their partner feel aversive to spending time with them and shutting down the very emotional connection they are yearning for.

How to Get Out of Your Negative Cycle:

What I will show you in my video is how a couple can begin to understand the things they argue about in terms of the steps of the infinity cycle. You will get to understand not only why couples fight, but also what they can do to stop the negative cycle and begin to create a more positive one.

As the video shows, this married couple were able to shift out of their negative cycle by getting more in touch with their primary feelings and underlying unmet needs.

By communicating not just about these, but from these, they were able to transmit a different but also more congruent emotional message. In other words, they were showing their partner what they really felt.

The wife could now let her husband in on how much he really matters to her and how desperate she can get sometimes when she feels unsure of her importance to him.

The husband, in turn, then no longer needed to get his defenses up, but could now feel pulled into an emotion of compassion and love for his wife and a concern with not wanting her to feel so alone. This allowed the husband to reassure his wife and to hear her past complaints, not as a criticism of him, but as a longing for him.

Blamer Softening and Withdrawer Re-engagement:

The video shows how the wife could choose to approach her husband differently in order to get a different response. In emotionally focused therapy this dance move is often referred to as “blamer softening” because the wife here was able to express her dissatisfaction in a softer and less critical way.

The counterpart to “blamer softening” is “withdrawer reengagement”.

In the example of the married couple in the video, this would entail the husband making a new dance move and thereby calling for a different response in his wife.

The husband could let his wife in on how small and rejected he feels when he hears his wife criticize him or make snark comments about ways in which he is not satisfying her.

Instead of withdrawing into his cocoon, he could reengage by letting his wife in on his hurt and saying that he wants to be close but sometimes feels intimidated and unsure if she even likes him. This in turn, might make his wife see his absenteeism in a new light, and would already make her feel more connected with his inner thoughts and feelings, which is what she has really been longing for.

Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy Can Help You Get in Sync Again:

As you can see, emotionally focused couples therapy offers us a roadmap for how to turn negative relationships around, by helping us understand the dance steps that get us in trouble, as well as the dance steps that will get us in sync.

In conclusion therefore:

The next time you find yourself in a negative merry-go-round with your partner, ask yourself: What are the steps of our own little dance, and what would be required for us to step into a different one?


emotionally-focused couples therapy

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Dr. Rune Moelbak

About me: I am a psychologist and Certified Emotionally-Focused Couples Therapist in Houston, TX. I help couples get unstuck from their negative patterns and recreate the love, connection, and respect they both yearn for.


5 Steps to Turning Resentment into Greater Closeness:

Why Do We Become Resentful?

In a relationship it is very easy to step on your partner’s toes. We are always making interpretations of each other’s actions and omissions, statements, and silences.

The moment a negative interpretation creeps into the relationship, it will provoke a feeling in the perceiving partner, which will need to be dealt with somehow.

When things are fine in a relationship, the partner may feel safe and comfortable enough to talk about their interpretation and to share the feeling it provoked.

But sometimes when this does not happen, negative interpretations are left to fester and may instead turn into a subtle change in behavior, which gets passed back to the other person and leads to a negative interpretation and feeling in them. Over time this might lead to the build-up of resentments toward each other.

Why John and Mary Started to Resent Each Other:

John and Mary are a married couple who often found themselves making negative interpretations of each other’s actions. Small situations could lead to big consequences, such as long periods of silence and disconnection, or protracted periods of anger and hostility.

One evening, John felt hurt by Mary’s subtle body movement away from him when he tried to rub her shoulders. He interpreted this as a sign of rejection, which produced a feeling in him of hurt. Because John, however, felt silly about being so impacted by his wife and felt too vulnerable to let her in on how much her approval matters to him, he was unable to share how he really felt.

Instead he channeled his feelings into the more acceptable response of becoming emotionally distant, and he all of a sudden became very quiet and withdrawn.

Mary, of course, picked up on the change in his behavior and interpreted it as a sign that John was angry with her. This interpretation made her feel annoyed because she generally thinks John has a tendency to be easily offended and to withdraw emotionally as a form of punishment.

Mary resented that John can shut her out that easily, but she was not in touch with the sadness and pain underneath this resentment. Therefore, when John eventually wanted to breach the gap of disconnection by showing physical affection again, Mary was not ready to accept his peace gesture, but brushed him off in a similar way that he had felt brushed off when he tried to rub her back to begin with.

This interaction between John and Mary is a perfect example of how couples get into trouble by not talking about how they truly feel. Because both John and Mary are only in touch with their anger at each other, they end up passing negative emotions back and forth and perpetuating a negative way of relating to each other.

The Danger of Not Talking about Your Feelings:

Over time, negative emotions can build up and make each partner harden themselves and become less and less vulnerable. What could have become an opportunity to know something about the deeper feelings and needs of each other instead becomes the source of built up resentments.

When we are both not getting what we are needing from each other, but find it difficult to talk about this with each other, the normal response is to become increasingly angry, or to begin to withdraw emotionally to lick one’s own wounds and protect oneself from further disappointment.

The emotional bond is still there, but it becomes hidden by resentments about not feeling loved and not feeling appreciated, or not feeling that your partner has your back or can be counted on. What we want so much from each other becomes too risky to let each other in on, and becomes buried underneath arguments which make it seem like we are not loved, and that what we ultimately want and long for is out of reach.

How to Get Out of a Pattern of Resentment:

In order to shift out of the negative dance that has developed over time, both partners need to get in touch with what they are really feeling underneath their need to protect themselves or their anger at their partner for not seeming to care.

In order to do this, both you and your partner, need to understand that underneath anger or indifference, often lie needs, longings, and more vulnerable emotions. These needs, longings, and feelings may have been buried for so long that they are not really present in your conscious awareness, so you might need to do a little digging to uncover them.

To help you out you can try an easy little exercise that will help you access your true feelings about some recent situation that bothered you. The goal is to help you turn resentments into opportunities for closeness and understanding:

5 Steps to Turning Resentments into Greater Closeness: 

    1. Identify the trigger of your negative emotion: Try to identify the situations that has bothered you or have made you feel some negative emotion. Try to be as specific as possible about what triggered this emotion. Mary, for example, could point out that she has a negative emotional reaction when John shuts her out emotionally. This trigger, however, is still rather general, and could become even clearer if Mary was able to identify that when “you shut me out yesterday because I didn’t feel like getting my back rubbed, I had a negative reaction”
    2. Identify the immediate emotional reaction to the trigger: What was the immediate emotional reaction you were most in touch with in the situation you identified as bothersome? Did you feel angry? Did you feel self-protective, such as frozen, numb, or detached? Mary, for example, was able to identify that John’s detachment or sullenness filled her with anger at him for shutting her out.
    3. Identify behavioral reaction to emotion: How did the emotional reaction you were most in touch with make you act? Did you withdraw? Did you lash out? Did you leave the room? Mary, for example, was able to identify that when she felt shut out for refusing the back rub, she reacted to the anger she felt, by brushing off John’s later attempt to reconnect as a kind of “tit for tat”

So far, so good: we have now identified the sequence of events that motivated Mary’s actions, but we have still only stayed at the surface. The next part of the exercise asks you to dig a little deeper to get to the real heart of the matter:

  1. Identify deeper feelings triggered by the situation: Underneath our anger or our indifference and numbness, we often hide the more tender feelings of fear, shame, or sadness. Ask yourself the question: what did I feel just before I got angry? Or: What did I feel just before I shut down? Did your feelings get hurt? If so, why? What is your anger or indifference masking about how you really feel?  In Mary’s case, her anger was really masking her hurt feelings. When she dug a little deeper, she was able to acknowledge to herself, that when John seemed to shut her out, it was very unpleasant and painful for her. It made her feel discarded and rejected, like she wasn’t loved or cared about, or wasn’t good enough. This in turn made her feel sad and somewhat anxious that John might not really accept her for who she is.
  2. Identify underlying need: Along with the more tender and hurt feelings, we often have certain unmet longings or needs, which these feelings reveal to us. In Mary’s situation, her sadness revealed a need to be important to John and a need to feel secure in the fact that John loves her even when he may not be pleased with something she says or does. More specifically, she would like for John to not just shut her out, but to let her know when he feels hurt, so she does not just feel discarded.

In a similar way John might discover that he shut down (3) when Mary turned away from him (1) because it made him feel rejected and unloved (4), which he in turn felt ashamed to say (4), so instead he got angry (2). He was therefore  unable to communicate his need for Mary’s approval and affection (5) which he could have expressed as a more specific request to receive a verbal reassurance that Mary still cares about him and still feels attracted to him even though she may not be in the mood for physical intimacy.

Improve Communication in Your Relationship:

Like John and Mary, you too can develop your ability to identify and have conversations about your true feelings.

If you go through these five steps any time you find yourself frustrated, angry, or hurt, and are able to go to your partner and let him or her in on point 4 and 5, you will have mastered the skill to turn resentments and hostility into windows of opportunity for greater closeness and intimacy.

Remember, it is inevitable that you and your partner will step on each other’s toes and hurt each other’s feelings from time to time. What determines if this hurt turns into resentment is whether or not you are able to talk about your hurt feelings. The five-step exercise to turn resentment into greater closeness, is one way to prevent hurt feelings from going underground, and to use miscommunications as means to strengthen the emotional bond between you.

Dr. Rune MoelbakAbout me: I am Rune Moelbak, Ph.D., couples therapist in Houston Texas. I provide couples therapy and marriage counseling, and help couples turn hostility and anger into opportunities for greater closeness. Visit my website to read more about my approach to couples counseling.

5 Characteristics of a Healthy Relationship:

How do you know if your relationship is a healthy one?

The general rule of thumb is that a relationship is as healthy as can be when both partners feel secure and safe with each other.

Both partners need to know that they can turn to each other if they need something and that they can be assured that their partner will be emotionally available and responsive when they express what they need.

If this simple expectation can be felt as a certainty for both partners, the relationship will be secure, and subsequently strong.

Secure couples show the following characteristics, which we can take as the signs that your relationship is healthy:

1. They are better able to retain their emotional balance

Because they feel secure with each other, partners in a strong relationship are less prone to become flooded with anxiety or anger when they feel disconnected from each other. Because they know they can ask for what they need and feel certain that they will reconnect in the future, secure partners are less likely to feel threatened by the absence of each other, and are less likely to pick fights. They are also better able to listen to each other without becoming defensive, because they don’t fear that their partner bringing up issues, might mean that they could leave each other or stop loving each other.

2. They are better able to tune into emotions and express what they need

Strong couples are good communicators. They don’t believe that no communication is a sign that everything is fine. They realize that a relationship is a bond that needs frequent attention and care, and that it is enhanced, not threatened, by talking about needs and wants. Because communication is frequent, partners don’t bottle up their feelings, and don’t explode in anger when they have finally reached their limit. Knowing that they can always come to each other with their concerns, makes them better able to tune into what they are really feeling, and better able to express what they feel without feeling anxious, or doing it in such a way that it comes across as critical or accusatory.

3. They are better able to remain open and flexible

Because secure couples give each other the benefit of the doubt, they don’t immediately jump to negative conclusions about their partner’s intentions. Instead of simply getting swept away by catastrophic thinking and mistaking their own emotional reactions for accurate reflections of reality, they are able to push the pause button, and reflect on their interactions more. Instead of simply getting back into an old argument, they are able to step back to look at the big picture and take a “meta-perspective” on the situation. A meta-perspective is a perspective on one’s perspective. It is like stepping back to watch one’s interactions with one’s partner like a third person who is watching what is going on. When couples can do this, they are better able to talk to each other about their relationship patterns without assigning blame to the other person.

4. They are better able to maintain a positive view of themselves

When partners feel secure with each other, the are less likely to feel bad about themselves and to lose their sense of worth or esteem in moments when they feel disconnected. They are not as likely to worry that they are unlovable or that their partner is going to leave them, or to feel that they are failures because their partner is angry at them. Because they maintain a basic sense of self-esteem and worth even in moments of disagreements, they are less likely to feel threatened by their partners reactions, and better able to stay engaged without becoming angry, sad, or withdrawn.

5. They are better able to be alone and focus on other things

When partners are unsafe or insecure in their relationships, the relationship becomes their predominant concern at all times. However, when you know that your partner can always be reached when you need them, you can feel much more comfortable being away from each other and engaged in other things. You are no longer threatened by your partner’s individuality and are able to enjoy the time you spend alone. When you don’t have to doubt your importance to your partner, you no longer need to cling to each other, but can venture out into the world as someone who feels assured that they are loved and know that they can always return for comfort and support when they need it.

So there you have it: my list of signs that your relationship is secure. The good news is that if you are not quite there yet, it is never too late to begin to build a stronger and more secure connection. With some concerted effort, even couples who have felt disconnected for a long time, can regain their sense of security and begin to build a stronger and more fulfilling relationship.

Dr. Rune MoelbakAbout me: I am Rune Moelbak, Ph.D., a couples therapist in Houston, TX who helps couple restore safety and trust in their relationships. To read more about my approach to couples therapy, please visit my website.

How to Increase the Intimacy in Your Relationship

Many people end up feeling rather lonely in their relationship over time.

Sometimes it might seem to you that your partner doesn’t really care as much anymore. He or she may not answer your text messages as often, may seem more preoccupied with work, or may leave you with most of your shared household responsibilities. You may start to wonder: Am I really in a relationship here, or are we just ships passing by in the night, two separate lonely existences?

If you have entertained this thought, you may also deep down have begun to wonder if you are really losing your emotional connection. You may have started to quietly and secretly wonder if you are ever really going to be happy and fulfilled in your relationship.

If this sounds familiar, then you may sometimes be teetering on the brink of despair, and may sometimes feel so utterly lonely and disconnected that you begin to think about ending your relationship.

How to Feel Close to Your Partner Again:

If you are going to save your relationship or find a way to be happy again, the remedy is to find a way to increase your partner’s sense of engagement with you, so you can feel once more that you and your partner are involved in a shared meaningful existence.

A Bond is a Fragile Thing:

Most relationships begin to go awry when one or both partners stop paying attention to the fragile bond that connects them. Once one person begin to have doubts about their level of emotional connection, it sows the seeds of discontent that can quickly turn into a negative downward spiral that can end in break-up, separation, or divorce.

Although the bond between two people can sometimes be taken for granted, it is actually in need of continuous monitoring and attention. If we neglect it for too long, our relationship will soon become very difficult. Fights will increase, and so will the level of criticism and contempt. We should all heed the message of a recent Facebook post that warned: “My love is like a candle. If you forget me, I will burn your fucking house down”

Anger as a Sign of Disconnection:

When one person begins to feel emotionally unfulfilled or disconnected it often manifests as anger toward their partner for being thoughtless, inattentive, for not helping out, or not participating. Angry complaints such as: why do you never start the dishwasher or take out the trash? Or: Why do you always fall asleep or watch TV? are often disguised longings for more emotional connection.

We need to feel that our partner is emotionally present, interested, and engaged so that we can feel a bond between us, and when we don’t, we become discontented and ultimately angry.

Anger: The Solution that Doesn’t Work

Getting angry about our sense of loneliness or disconnection, unfortunately often doesn’t work. You can’t yell at somebody and expect him or her to want to give you a hug. Most often, in fact, anger and criticism, or a barrage of complaints about ways in which your partner is falling short, will only serve to drive a deeper wedge between you.

The most frequent response from your partner, when you express your discontent, is to pull away emotionally so he or she does not have to feel inadequate. Your partner may begin to feel that it is more risky to open up to you or talk to you about their real thoughts and feelings, and what you therefore end up with is less intimacy – not more.

Finding a Solution that Does Work:

So what are you to do? Should you just accept your partner’s lack of involvement and lack of attention? Should you just be content with living a lonely dissatisfying existence?

The answer is: of course not.

The secret to increasing intimacy with your partner is to get in touch with your frustrated longing, to let it inform you about what you really miss in your relationship.

This longing, you will often find, is a longing to feel more connected, to spend more quality time together, to feel like your partner cares about you as a person and understands more about your feelings and intimate thoughts. It is a longing to feel that you matter, that you are important, that you can count on your partner to be there for you emotionally. It is a longing that tells you that you miss feeling close to your partner, and that you get scared that your partner is forgetting about you, not really thinking of you, and not really caring about you anymore.

If you can get in touch with your soft underbelly: your wishes, your fears, your desire for connection and for closeness, and if you can communicate those in a loving respectful way, then you stand a much greater chance of having your partner respond to you with increased affection and closeness than if you blame and criticize.

The road to greater intimacy and connection is to always lead a conversation about your relationship with your softer, more loving emotions. You have to start from a place of vulnerability, and you have to risk letting your partner in on what you are really feeling underneath your seething anger and contempt.

Remember, underneath your anger and resentment, is a very loving realization: Your partner matters so much to you that when they become distant or uninvolved, or when you doubt if you really matter to them, it hurts you and deprives you. You want more of your partner, not because they are failing you, but because they are important to you. If you can express this, which is no minor feat of courage, you may just find that your relationship will slowly grow into a more loving and intimate connection.

free relationship guideAbout me: I am Rune Moelbak, an emotion-focused couples therapist in Houston Texas. I help couples find their way out of their negative interactions and restore intimacy, love, and connection. To schedule an appointment, or download a free relationship guide, visit my website: