One of the main needs in a marriage or relationship is the need for physical and emotional security. The feeling of emotional security is one found when despite moving from another country, uprooting your kids, and after being married for 18 months, your partner is still present and will keep you and your children safe.
Susan did not expect that after 18 months into a marriage, her partner would want out. He needed more space so that he could figure things out. They reluctantly agreed that they would still stay married, see each other a few times a week, and try to rebuild their love for one another. It sounded really good in theory.
But Susan and Jake soon complained about the time they spent together. They saw each other at least two to three times a week. More often than not, they would end up arguing. Susan would respond by wanting to be closer with Jake, and work on their relationship. Yet, at the next meeting, she would proclaim that their relationship was over and done. She wanted to split. The flip flopping continued; Jake was confused. He was also angry and responded by hurting her with words. “Okay, fine. Let’s get it other with. I’ll send you the divorce papers.”
But they didn’t divorce. Deep down, they loved each other and wanted each other, but there was something going on that pushed them further apart. Some weeks they forced themselves to act pleasant in front of one another. This did not last long and soon they were back arguing again.
When Jake moved out, Susan’s emotional security was threatened. Despite the promises he had made, she didn’t trust that he would always provide that level of physical security, and that was the most important need for her. She was unaware of this on a conscious level and was, therefore, unable to articulate it to Jake. But her emotional security was violated.
At every interaction she had with Jake, one part of her was insisting that she should do the best she could, work on her marriage, and fix it. Another part was shouting that she shouldn’t trust him because after moving from another country for him, he left her.
As soon as the voice was present, Susan was triggered into a defensive state. She confronted Jake and led with that anger. And within minutes, the communication broke down. They focused on what they did wrong and all their faults. There were many parts of them that were confused in trying to protect each other. Jake had the same challenge, and his parts told him that he couldn’t trust that she loved him for who he was. He was afraid that she could never love him.
They’re still married and living apart, but they have set a date to move back in together.
No, this is not a hall pass. They have some individual work to do with the relationship. They are still facing issues in how they deal with their emotions and what they think is going on.
In order for them to rebuild emotional security in the relationship they have to do this with activity. Jake has agreed to sleep at home 2 days a week and spend the rest of the week in his apartment. When they are together they have a very specific goal and that is to communicate their needs where they feel heard.
This activity is the best way to break through that feeling of being alone and feeling let down. Talking itself, without the experiences, is not going to be enough to rebuild security in their marriage.