In today’s post we’re going to briefly look at an important issue that’s too often overlooked in discussions of effective couples communication—how to be an emotionally available spouse/partner. For many couples, experiencing each other as emotionally unavailable creates significant distress and over time can lead to chronic marriage/relationship problems.
Before we proceed, I’d like you to reflect on two questions for a moment—your answers are important and relevant to the creation of a healthy marriage/relationship:
1. What is it like when you’re with someone who is emotionally (and fully) available and present for you in a particular moment?
2. And how do you know that this person is indeed emotionally present?
I asked these questions at a workshop I recently held for couples on how to communicate more effectively and deepen emotional intimacy. After a few moments of thoughtful reflection, couples began sharing their personal and powerful experiences about the role of emotional presence in their lives and marriage/relationship.
What follows is a summary of some of their responses.
What is it like to experience the full presence of your partner?
“I feel important…like nothing else matters to the person.”
“It’s like a spotlight of love is shining on me.”
“It makes all the difference between feeling emotionally connected or totally alone.”
“I feel loved and cared for.”
“For me it means everything. Like I’m a priority, like I matter.”
“My guard and defenses vanish and I feel ready to open myself up to the person.”
How do you know that your partner is emotionally present?
“He’s totally focused on what I’m saying.”
“I can see it in her eyes, a curiosity and interest in my wellbeing.”
“He’s attentive and open to what I’m talking about.”
“She gets impacted by what I’m sharing. Not in a bad way…but she seems moved emotionally.”
“His energy is honed and directed toward me. He doesn’t try to intrude on my experience and he’s not too detached that he seems uninterested…It’s like a perfect balance of focused attention and compassion.”
As you can see from the couples’ responses above, your ability to be emotionally present for each other can make a pretty significant impact on how you feel about each other and the relationship. And from these responses, we can decipher the key ingredients to being more emotionally available and present for each other.
The emotionally present spouse/partner is:
~Fully available and open to the experience of the other partner;
~Momentarily selfless (s/he is not preoccupied with his/her own issues and concerns—at least not in the moment of being emotionally available for the other);
~Focused and attentive on what is being shared;
~Balanced (the emotionally available spouse/partner is impacted and moved by what is being shared, without over-identifying and becoming overwhelmed with the other person’s experience).
The truth is, achieving this level of emotional presence is challenging, a life-long work-in-progress for most of us. So much of life pulls at us—preventing couples from claiming the potential gifts of emotional connection that exist in the now. When you allow the relationship now to slip away from your union, you create an emotional void in your relationship—a void that can end up permeating the space that surrounds you and your partner.
Emotional voids are created when spouses/partners become overly preoccupied in some way—when you allow yourself to be pulled from the relationship now, you abandon the present moment, you abandon the opportunity to be an emotionally present spouse/partner, and, in essence, you abandon your partner.
Marriage/Relationship Help Resource:
Effective couples communication is essential for a fulfilling, healthy relationship. I’ve created a comprehensive guide for couples who want to make effective communication a regular part of their marriage/relationship.
Check out my Communication Breakthrough Ebook.
Dr. Rich Nicastro