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Building Reconciliation and Closeness in Relationships April 8, 2011

God has made us to be intimate and close with our friends and partners. Often In the midst of conflicts we are really seeking closeness. Unaware of this, often one person withdraws and the other gets angry at the withdrawing. Then, the more the other gets angry, the more the other withdraws. The more we do this, the more it separates us rather than unites us.

However, if we step back and become aware that the problem is not the conflict, but that each is protesting the possible loss of closeness, we can much better work on the root of the problem.
Sue Johnson tells how one can do that in her book “Hold Me Tight”

Another example is the way we hesitate at talking to certain people about hard things. I find it helpful to realize it is perhaps because we fear loosing our relationship with them. Johnson points out, the more we do this, little by little, we will find it builds closeness rather than separation and the easier it becomes.

Here are some helpful quotes from the first chapters of her book.

“This drive is for emotionally attachment – to find someone to whom we can turn and say “Hold me tight” – is wired into your genes and our bodies. It is as basic to life, health, and happiness and as the drives for food, water and air. We need emotional attachments with a few irreplaceable others to be physically and mentally healthy –to survive. “

“Rigorous studies during the past fifteen years have shown that 70 to 75 percent of couples who use these methods recover from distress and are happier in their relationships. The results appear lasting, even with couples who are at high risk for divorce. Conventional counseling has a success rate of about 35%. “

“We can forget about learning how to argue better and analyzing your early childhood, … Instead we need to recognize that we are emotionally attached to and dependent on your friends and partners in much the same way that a child is on a parent for nurturing, soothing, and protection.”

“The way to enhance or save relationships is to be open, attuned, and responsive to each other and to reestablish emotional connection. “

“Love is not the icing on the cake of life. It is a basic primary need, like oxygen or water. Once we understand and accept this, we can more easily get to the heart of relationship problems.”

.”Marital distress raises the risk of depression tenfold!”

“Simply holding the hand of a loving partner can affect us profoundly, literally calming jittery neurons in the brain.”

“When we are close to or hold our partners we are flooded with the “cuddle hormones” oxytocin and vasopressin. These hormones seem to turn on reward centers in the brain, flooding us with calm and happiness chemicals like dopamine and turning off stress hormones like cortisol. “

“What couples and therapists too often do not see that most fights are really protest against emotional disconnection. Underneath all the distress, partners are asking each other: Can I count on you, depend on you? Are you there for me? Will you respond to me when I need you? When I call? Do I matter to you? Am I valued and accepted by you? Do you need me? Do you rely on me?”

“Most of the colleagues who come to me for training have been taught to see conflict itself and couples’ power struggles as the main problems in the relationships. As a result they have focused on teaching couple’s negotiation and communication skills to contain the conflict. But this addresses the symptoms, not the disease.”

“Love is the best survival mechanism there is, and to feel suddenly emotionally cut off from a partner, disconnected, is terrifying. When marriages fail, it is not increasing conflict that is the cause. It is decreasing affection…”

Workings on personal relationships are an important part of following Jesus and peacemaking.

“Conversation 3: Revisiting a Rocky Moment” is on Sue’s website: This conversation has been significantly helpful to me.

Pray for my coming time in Colombia starting May 2nd until June sometime.
Pray for Barak Obama and his advisors that they would seek the ways of peace, find it, and put it into practice.

Peace, Jim


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