There could be no greater feeling than falling "in love." Love has an uncanny way of healing old wounds that life sometimes sends our way. It makes us feel more connected to our entire world. But at times, when love does not seem to be working, it can leave us feeling frightened and vulnerable. Sue Johnson, world-renowned Emotionally Focused Therapy expert, says it best when she says ...
... the person we love most in the world, the one who can send us soaring joyfully into space, is also the person who can send us crashing back to earth. All it takes is a
slight turning away of the head or a flip, careless remark."
Falling in love can send us soaring and make us feel incredibly joyful. At the same time, it can send us crashing to the ground, feeling frightened, vulnerable and alone. When
couples seek marriage counseling, one of the most common longings is "to feel the way we did when we were first met."
Who could blame them? That longing for the incredible "high" one experiences when falling in love is so powerful. It makes us feel like we can take on the world. We feel special and
beautiful, desired, and valued. But when we begin to sense our partner turning away or when we reach for them and he or she doesn't reach back, it can feel threatening and devastating.
So, we begin to build walls around ourselves, to protect ourselves from feelings of inadequacy. We ask ourselves ... am I enough? Do I make him happy? Does she still want me? "Am I desirable in her eyes?
Why does this happen? For many couples everyday life, careers and children begin to take precedent. There is less time to spend with each other and unintentionally partners become less responsive to each other's feelings and needs. They attempt to "fight" their way back; but try as they may, they just can't seem to connect with those deep connections they once experienced. And when they struggle and can't seem to find their way back -- they wonder, "Am I still in love?"
So what is the answer to this question? When love is not working, we hurt deeply; and we begin to disconnect from the one thing that gave us the deepest sense of comfort and security we've ever experienced. In most cases, this doesn't mean you've fallen out of love, but rather you've learned to dance around hurt feelings and painful memories. It feels too vulnerable to risk feeling more pain and emotional injury.
Yet, the way one finds his or her way back to being "in love" is by exploring the way you began to exit it. This includes being able to understand the negative cycles that the two of you have created. Then, you must begin to repair the injury caused by years of unintentional hurt and pain, so that you can re-connect in the very way you did in the first place -- by developing the deep emotional bond you once had.
The greatest gift you can give to each other -- and to your family -- is to once again become emotionally attuned and responsive to each another. To need and love others ... to invite your lover into those spaces of your heart again ... is not a flaw. It takes great strength and it is the most incredible gift you can share with each other.
For more information about Emotionally Focused Therapy, I recommend the following readings.
Love Sense: The Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Relationship by Dr. Sue Johnson.
Hold me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by Dr. Sue Johnson
The Science of Trust: Emotional Attunement for Couples by John Gottman, Ph.D.
The Man's Guide to Women: Scientifically Proven Secrets from the "Love Lab" About What Women Really Want by John Gottman, Ph.D.