Across the media, you’ll see famous couples, the ones that stay together, saying they’re married to their “best friend.” I’ve even said it myself. But I think it would be beneficial to delve deeper into this present fad of labeling relationships and see how close, lasting relationships are made and maintained.
Perhaps the confusion stems from there being so many types of love or relationships that have a sexual element…marriage, living together, life partners, committed relationships, best friends with benefits, hooking up or one night stands. People are trying to describe their secure relationship as one that works. So they’ve hit upon the idea that being “best friends” is the highest form of praise. However, it wasn’t that many years ago when a dog was man’s “best friend.” Surely we can do better than that.
When you met your life partner, it was sexual attraction that brought down the barriers, so that you let this new person get close to you. However, relationships based solely on sexual attraction rarely stand the test of time. That expectation is unrealistic. There’s just nothing sexy about discussing bills or hanging out in the bathroom because you have the flu.
It’s only natural this highly charged sexual euphoria evolves. We should welcome this new phase in our lives. Because in its wake, (if you’ve been mindfully attending to yourself and your partner) you will discover a richer relationship based on trust that allows each of you to self-actualize.
One problem I see is that people become consumed by being what their partner wants them to be. Eventually you don’t know who you are any more. If you view your mate as your best friend, it may even make you think there’s no need to find friendships outside the marriage. Or you unrealistically expect your partner to fulfill ALL of your emotional and spiritual needs. Conversely, other people start to question what’s wrong because they have a happy marriage, but they consider someone else to be their best friend.
Another problem I see is that people think a best friend should accept you as you are unconditionally. In my mind, marriage is about bringing the best out of the person you marry. You push each other. You challenge each other. You encourage each other. You change each other.
Because not every spouse provides that kind of close relationship, you may not feel it’s enough to say “my husband” or “my wife”. You want the world to know that this person truly is the best, so you say, “He’s my best friend” in order to differentiate him from the deadbeats. I get it.
Rather than getting hung up on labeling your relationship as a “best friend marriage”, let’s focus on mindfully crafting a relationship that allows each to grow, explore, and become the best version of you possible.
A deep sense of security leads us to describe our life partners as our “best friend”. Yet this term “best friend” seems to be too limiting. There still needs to be a sexual component that maintains physical closeness and attachment. Yes, like friends you love doing things together; you love talking with each other intimately; you depend on each other. But there’s a closeness that transcends being friends. You have shared history, shared lives and shared dreams. You fill each other’s most intimate needs and desires.
Does that mean marriage, for you? I’ll leave that for you to decide. The key characteristics of any close relationship are mutual giving, mutual valuing, mutual respecting and mutual joy. Did you notice the word “mutual”? A close relationship has to be a two way-street. That’s how you get through life’s storms. You have each other’s back.
A lot of people don’t think they’re ready for the responsibilities of a long-term, loving relationship. The commitment of marriage scares them. This awareness means you’re open to achieving greater personal growth. I’d love to help you on this journey. Please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype).
“Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke
Have you ever tried to talk with a person who was stone-faced, showing no facial reaction at all to what you were saying? It didn’t take long before you began faltering for words, losing your train of thought and finding it hard to carry on, did it? Why is that? Because when there’s no emotional attunement, no empathy, we don’t feel connected, understood or valued. We need to feel like people are getting what we’re saying.
Emotional attunement takes more than looking at someone or hearing their words. It means using all of our senses to understand what they’re feeling so much that we feel it too. It takes being able to sense, interpret and respond to someone so that she/he doesn’t feel alone any longer. Our eyes become moist with tears when they hurt or beam with happiness to mirror their joy. We lean in and touch their arm with a gesture of compassion. We reflect back to them their emotions with words such as, “That must have been so frustrating!”
We learn to regulate and manage our emotions at an early age from our mothers. She reacted to our emotional state and responded in a way that cared for our needs and soothed us, making us feel secure. A mother gives her child this wonderful gift – the ability to decipher feelings and learn to self-regulate them. If, however, feelings are ignored or put down, the person will carry an inability to interpret and express emotion into their adulthood. The good news is that even if this gift was lacking from your life, you can still learn how to experience emotional attunement in your relationships today.
At times, everyone struggles with emotional attunement. We get caught up in our own drama or daily pressures distract us from really connecting emotionally with others, whether you’re an intimate couple, friends or business associates. If the situation makes you feel blamed, you may fall back to a defensive mode, which makes it impossible to see what the other person is feeling. It’s easy to settle for a transactional kind of relationship, solving problems and sharing responsibilities, without sharing your emotional self and listening for each other’s emotional needs.
The magic and power of emotional attunement is that it doesn’t require a lot from you. It simply takes listening with your ears, mind and heart. You don’t have to “fix” anything or offer advice. This is a huge aha moment for many men especially. You can do so much by doing nothing but tuning in!
Here are some reminders for fine-tuning your emotional attunement:
- Be fully immersed and attuned to what your friend is experiencing.
- Remain emotionally open to her friend’s feeling even if it makes you uncomfortable.
- Use subtle bodily reactions to make powerful connections – shed tears, touch her arm, nod, tilt your head in sync with the tilt of your friend’s head.
- Reinforce your being present by saying a few words that convey that, “I’m here for you” or “Yes, I understand”.
- Keep this as your goal – make your friend feel less alone.
Emotional attunement can be learned, but it’s learned experientially. It takes time, but you can learn to sharing your emotions and to trusting your own judgment in reading other people. When you surround yourself with people who practice emotional attunement you can speed up your own progress. If closer emotional connectedness is what you’re looking for, check out the Women in Leadership Retreat I’m leading with my colleague Nando Raynolds on May 20 and 21. This can be your Big Goal that we work on together.
As a somatic coach, I’ve seen how being in tune with your mind, body and spirit in every aspect of life is key to feeling fulfilled. This is true when it comes to your sex life as well. Intimacy in marriage, or in your committed partnership, only happens when you’re able to connect with your partner on deeply satisfying mental, physical and spiritual levels.
But perhaps more than any other area of life it’s easy to put up with a ho-hum, status quo sex life, especially if you’ve been together a long time. And if you’re a woman it can be difficult to know what to do about this, since we’ve been culturally taught over millennia to take a more passive approach to our sexuality.
Let’s explore the different aspects of a healthy sex life and then see what you can do to increase the intimacy with your partner, which will spice up your sex life, without feeling guilty!
Sex begins in your brain. The brain is involved in all aspects of sexual behavior including desire, arousal and orgasm. Researches are using neuroimaging to study human sexual behavior. Not surprisingly they found that women are sexually more complex creatures. However, they also found many similarities between the sexually aroused brain of men and women. Click here to read more on this brain study.
In the beginning of a sexual relationship when romance is at it’s highest it’s easy to fantasize the ideal sexual encounter. In a committed relationship it takes more effort. You can get your brain in gear by looking for the positive in your partner – whether s/he is particularly kind or s/he has the sexiest smile. Another strategy is to be adventurous and try something new. Our brains release sexual hormones when we try a new activity so plan a special surprise for your partner and your own desire will ignite.
This aspect of sexuality may seem obvious but sometimes we forget how much can be communicated through touch. Women often need to feel intimate through conversation, and while that is valid and deserves a place in a relationship, don’t forget what you can communicate through your body.
Look for opportunities to touch your partner throughout the day, not just in sexual interludes. Touch them as you pass by in the hall, give them a hug, rub their hair after a long day… It’s amazing the amount of reassurance touch can give a relationship. And in the bedroom you may want to occasionally practice absolute silence to force you to transmit all your feelings through touch.
It’s important to acknowledge that your sex life is a foundational aspect of your relationship. If it weren’t, you’d simply be friends, not partners. Your spirit is what leads to eroticism or sex imbued with meaning, romance and desire.
Start to view sex as sacred. You might already set aside time to meditate, pray or attend religious services so don’t be afraid to set aside “sacred” time to devote to your sex life. It’s easy to think that there’s always tomorrow night, but if you view your sex life as a sacred commitment, you’ll look forward to it and you’ll give it the 100% attention it deserves.
When you get your mind, body and spirit involved, sex can be a fun, satisfying and important way to keep a relationship vital.
Unfortunately, many people are afraid of intimacy on some levels, so their relationships get hung up on sexual challenges. Which is why Nando Raynolds and I have decided to co-facilitate, “Love, Sex & Intimacy: Getting Your Heart’s Desire,” a forum for men and women to come together. Join us to exchange some frank talk about sex and deepen your skills, compassion and understanding. We’ll be meeting online Thursday, February 16th, 2017, 6:30-8:00pm and in-person Saturday, February 18th, 2017, 10am-1pm & 2-5pm. Please contact me to register to attend.