A Little Distance Can Make the Heart Grow Fonder

July 23, 2012

One of the great joys of working with couples in therapy is coaching them on strategies to remove the obstacles that are keeping them from the happy, intimate relationship they are wanting for themselves. It may sound strange but one path to greater closeness is a little distance. I don’t mean separate vacations or any kind of geographical distance. Instead, I mean getting a little distance from painful and destructive ways of communicating and moving toward clearer communication that comes from the heart.

For example, in your relationship does your partner often feel criticized or attacked? If so, you may be needing or seeking greater support or closeness but your disappointment and hurt may be keeping you from expressing your desire to be close in a way that helps your partner move closer to you. Instead of saying “You don’t ever show me that you love me.” It will help to stop and think about your softer more vulnerable feelings and get a little distance from your anger. Speaking from your heart and saying “I am feeling unloved….can you hold me?” or “I am needing support….can I share my problem with you?” will help your partner hear and respond with empathy and give you the support you are seeking.

Or, if in your relationship your partner often feels unheard, ignored or low on your priority list you may be needing some reassurance that your partner realizes you are wanting to be there to listen and to provide support. Instead of withdrawing or trying convince him “you shouldn’t feel that way,” it will help if you can get a little distance from your painful feelings of hopelessness and express any fears from your heart. Saying something like “I want to be here for you and listen but it’s difficult to give you that when I feel attacked” or “I love you but I worry that I’ll let you down in some way if I say the wrong thing” may help your partner know your intentions are to be there to provide support and care.

Getting a little distance from our pain and putting it on the back burner for a moment can help us move toward clearer communication that comes from the softer places in our hearts and leads to less blame and attack and more compassion, empathy and closeness. It’s a distance that leads to a growing intimacy and a stronger bond with one another.

Wanda Sevey, M.Div, LMFT is a Senior Staff Therapist and Director of Council for Relationships’ Voorhees, NJ office. She can be reached at 856-783-4200 ext. 1.