In my last blog post I talked about how behaviors trigger emotions and emotions move behaviors. Now that you are spending so much time together with your spouse, behaviors that might not normally trigger negative emotions often do. So, I thought today I could explore the topic of emotions in a little more detail.
After World War II, English Psychiatrist John Bowlby was asked by the World Health Organization to study children who had been orphaned during the war. He found that children who have been separated from their parents, especially from their mother, suffered a great deal more anxiety and stress than their counterparts and that these emotional problems often carried into adulthood. He concluded that children (from the first moments of birth) need to form secure attachment bonds with their parents if they are to achieve normal emotional development.
A couple decades later, Canadian Psychologist, Sue Johnson extended Bowlby’s findings to adults. Her research showed that all human beings need to form and maintain close attachment bonds with the significant others in their lives. This will not be a surprise to us Christians because we know we were created by Love for love and so this desire to be deeply loved, deeply attached, is innate. (Once again, social science research has discovered when we Christians have known all along.)
It is this need to form close attachment bonds that drives us to marriage. It is a motivating force. As human beings, we have an intrinsic need for the safety that only a close attachment bond can provide.
During uncertain times like these, your spouses need for safety can be significantly heightened. Fear of illness, unemployment, financial variability, and being forced to stay at home can trigger fear and anxiety. This uncertainty will heighten your spouses need for close attachment bonds with you.
When your spouse is feeling unsafe, it can motivate him or her to attempt to connect with you often during the day. This increased frequency of contact can lead to you feeling overwhelmed and like you do not have any space for yourself. This emotional frustration can lead you to say or do things that can hurt your spouse emotionally. But the more you push your spouse away, the more he or she will seek to reattach with you. And thus an endless cycle of pursue/withdraw results. The more your spouse pursues you, the more you withdraw and the more you withdraw, the more your spouse will pursue you.
The solution is to reassure your spouse that you are a safe place and you always be there for him or her. Negotiating with you spouse the time you will be together and the time you will need your own space can reassure him or her that you will be there when needed but that you also need time away. Uncertainty is very uncomfortable. Establishing a schedule for together time will be very comforting for you and your spouse.
Remember: We are perfected through our spouse’s imperfections.