by Hamsa Martin, M.A., PLPC, NCC
There is a feeling that haunts all of us on occasion, it’s that feeling of doing it all on our own or feeling alone in work or decisions we make. In a sea of family and friends, we can sometimes feel like we are on an island and no one truly understands the deepest part of us, making sure not to show the “ugly” parts of our hearts with most people. We don’t want our family to know we struggle or might need help, we don’t want our neighbors to know that our lives are chaotic, and we don’t want our close friends to know that home life isn’t as peachy as we’d like them to believe.
What are all of these examples above missing? Connection. Connection, or bonding, is an integral part of any intimate relationship. It’s the linking of two people where the strength of that relationship is determined by whatever is tying/holding those two people together. The level of intimacy determines the strength of that hold. Creating intimacy means going against the preservation of our perfect image and sharing the wounds of our hearts. Opening up our wounds does not mean trashing others or telling someone the business of everyone around us. It is not focusing on the faults of others or their actions or intentions against us. It is the telling of our story. Anyone can gossip and tell someone how so and so hurt them and did the same thing to so and so — that knowledge is often obvious to others without us gossiping. Gossip bonds two people by the hate or frustration shared, but I would argue that the strength of the connection, or level of intimacy, is very weak. If it is so easy for this person to talk poorly about someone else, what makes us think that they would never speak the same way about us? Trust is not a result of this kind of connection.
To build trust, we must share something with another person that no one else can share with them. Each action against us and interaction of our past is a part of our story, yes, but to tell our story right, we must focus on the way these events settle in our hearts, change our views of our self or others, and the effect that these things have on how we approach people. When we share that part of our story, we begin to connect to the listener with a stronger hold than that of the gossip natured connection. We must let someone into our pain and allow that person to have empathy with us. We must allow that person to also understand our hearts and intentions enough to challenge our actions or views of others so that we do not get stuck in our one-sided downward spiral of judging others. This relationship should allow you to have empathy not only with each other, but to help each other begin to have empathy with others. This is where true LOVE begins.
In the spirit of the season, we will focus more on intimacy in partnership and marriage. We must implement the same characteristics of connection described above. When we share our hearts, motives and pain with our partner, it leads them to begin to trust us, and will motivate our significant other to want to share his or her pain with us. Vulnerability breeds more vulnerability. Love, the feeling at least, is the result of bonding like this and also through the actions of holding, hugging and kissing. All of these things cause our body to release a hormone called Oxytocin, which is said to be the bonding hormone, monogamy molecule and serves to create a sort of safety with our partners. These wonderful things build a strong bond that is severely difficult to break.
The problem is, there is a large percentage of us in the South who live under the standard of not respecting others or ourselves for even paying attention to our emotions. When we ignore our emotions and just dust our shoulders off and pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, we neglect an important part of ourselves. This would be equivalent to getting kicked off of our horse, then getting right back on the horse, ignoring the sprained wrist or broken leg, and continuing to ride on. In this metaphor, these wounds do not heal properly and we end up feeling hints of pain from our ill healed wounds with every ride we take.
Bringing this metaphor back to partnership or marriage, we bring in all of our past hurts that we have ignored and watch them effect our relationship. Our instinct is to keep the hurt inside and to not let anyone in to that sacred pain. We may not even be aware of what is causing the pain. We find it almost heroic to not let our emotions effect us – on the contrary – I would argue that it takes more courage to choose the path toward love by understanding those emotions and sharing them. We may be too afraid to enter into this uncharted territory and we sure as heck do not want someone else to enter in with us … they might be a part of unveiling the ugliness we have kept hidden for so long. The contradiction here is that the ugliness stays ugly when left deep down in the darkness of our hearts, but becomes beautiful when we unveil it to our partner. The beauty of it is that we are vocalizing that we trust them, thus creating a handsome bond between our partner and our self. The beauty is that we become known and fully known by our partner.
We sometimes find ourselves in a place where the stakes are too high to just try practicing with our partners because we are too afraid of offending or hurting them (or vice versa) because his or her actions may be contributing added hurt onto our already opened wound. This is where the counseling room comes into play. It is a safe place where we can explore our stories, mend wounds, cry, explore our emotions, discover our patterns of anger and intimacy, understand what is keeping us from intimacy, and practice communication with or without our partner present. All of this in hopes of helping us become seasoned story tellers (of our own stories) in order to strengthen the bond between us and our partner.
Veritas Counseling Center is a nonprofit counseling center made up of professionally trained counselors who want to walk with others in learning how to tell their stories. We desire to see mended relationships, healed hearts, and an understanding of why one acts, thinks, or feels the way they do. The more awareness, the better a storyteller, the better bond we create. Veritas Counseling Center wants counseling to be available to all people who are desiring to walk the journey of healing, so it provides counseling at a rate of $40 an hour (compared to $80-$150 at most counseling centers). We hope to rid the stumbling blocks that keep some from entering into the counseling room. You can visit our website, www.veritascc.org to learn more about our services, and call or email one of the counselors on our team to schedule an appointment.