With Mark having focused on his own journey for a while, Arian has watched him from a distance. Mark realises that his hopes for more connection with Arian have not been fulfilled. In the meantime, Arian feels that Mark is busy learning all this stuff about inner child, being present in his body and changing the way he talks to his son. When he asks about going out for lunch together or approaches Arian in the evening, she appears as distant as ever. There always is a good reason for her as to why he cannot commit to spending time with him. Or she is simply too tired to have sex.
Mark wants more connection in his relationship. How can he ask for it so Arian can ‘hear’ him?
Mark feels he has tried everything available to him: he has asked, explained, nagged, shouted and, lately, tried to sit down and explain what he wants and why he is unhappy. The new communication skills seem to work in some ways to improve the quality of their conversations, but Arian simply doesn’t seem to know what he wants.
When he tells her she is not available, she retorts that she is. And that they spent so much time together on the weekend that she needs a bit of space to catch up on her own stuff. Mark feels she simply has no grasp on reality and is minimising the problem. If ever she noticed that there is one! Arian in turn gets a bit tired of Mark’s nagging and tries to apply honesty, as she has learned: she tells him that she is tired (which is true). Or that she has things to do (which is true).
Our deeper fears remain powerful drivers for behaviour and can jeopardise how we ask for connection
In their next counselling session together, they bring up this topic. The counsellor explores the perceptions of each partner about some concrete examples and revisits the concept of honesty: The idea of being honest is firstly applied to each partner for themselves. Arian has a closer look at his inner experiences in this context and finds that Mark’s nagging and accusative voice makes her shut down. She finally faces the fact that she is afraid that he might be right: she might just not be capable of fulfilling his needs and he might leave her!
Mark in turn realises that his ‘truth’ in this context leads back to his fear that Arian might leave him because he has failed to do the right thing for her. This causes him to seek constant reassurance that he is still loveable. And he asks for it in all the wrong ways, as the counsellor remarks.
Once they realise that honesty means digging into the underlying reason for their reactions to each other – once again! – they apply the couples dialogue to explore more about their own experiences. Arian can assure Mark that she loves him and has no intention to leave and Mark does the same. They laugh as they realise that they have the same fears but for different reasons and that they have different ways of dealing with them.
The counsellor explains how Mark, as the more ambivalent attached person, seeks connection but is afraid of losing it. This often causes him to ask for it in a pushy and threatened way. He is also afraid of accepting it once it is offered for fear of the hurt that might come when Arian inevitably turns away from him again. Arian on the other hand, as more avoidant attached, has less conscious need for closeness. She feels lonely without knowing that she shuts herself off. A part of her wants the connection but the larger part of her is independent and happy to not have to rely on anyone too much.
What we want depends on where we come from
The counsellor explains how Mark, as the more ambivalent attached person, seeks connection but is afraid of losing it. This often causes him to ask for it in a pushy and threatened way. He is also afraid of accepting it once it is offered for fear of the hurt that might come when Arian inevitably turns away from him again. Arian on the other hand, as more avoidant attached, has less conscious need for closeness. She feels lonely without knowing that she shuts herself off. A part of her wants the connection but the larger part of her is independent and happy to not have to rely on anyone too much. en.
Asking for, receiving and giving connection
Both partners begin to learn more about how to invite and accept connection. Mark finds out that he loves touch as well as time together while Arian appreciates positive acknowledgement of her efforts and support at home. The ensuing conversation creates enough space for both partners to explore what makes them feel loved and connected and how they can increase their willingness to offer what the other wants.
At home, Mark offers to take over the main shopping of the week. In return he would like for him and Arian to sit down and talk about what needs to go onto the shopping list and what they feel like eating during the coming week. This seems simple enough and they discover after a while how just this one small thing makes them talk more with each other. In the process of discussing dinner menus they also find out things about each other they did not know, such as ‘best meal ever cooked’ – Arian concludes this is mainly because she never asked!
If you need some support in working out how to better communicate for connection, you can book a free 45-minute check-in-session with Mattie or Michelle now.