by Bonnie Weiss LCSW
Jen complains, “We used to have romantic dinners and talk for hours, now we barely update each other on daily tasks and responsibilities.”
Rob bemoans, “She thought I was the most interesting man she ever met, now she carps at me about little things and doesn’t have time to touch me.”
What happens to passion in a committed relationship as time goes by? Why is it so elusive?
At the beginning of a love relationship, you let down the drawbridges and open the castle of your heart to another person. Then in the natural flow of life your partner eventually behaves in ways that triggers early pain from your childhood. This reactivates the protective system designed to defend us from re-experiencing the deep hurt of these wounded children inside us. These knights stand guard outside the castles and engage each other, while the children hide in the basement away from the light of day. Passion and engagement with your partner are replaced by safety, and you become resigned to a lack-luster relationship.
How can we re-ignite that flame and open those doors again?
The first step in revitalizing a relationship is to pay attention to it. Set aside quality emotional time away from work and other responsibilities. Create a space where intimacy becomes possible again. This means taking quiet time for yourself as well as with your partner.
Passion Recovery Process
The most important way to recover your passion is to become curious about the internal dynamics that dampened it down.
- Take a moment and close your eyes, take a few long deep breaths, and remember what it felt like to be open and close? What did it feel like in your body? Your heart? What did you believe about the other person? What did that make you feel about yourself? Perhaps you felt special when you felt loved and believed that you were finally being seen for your true self. You might have thought the other person was sensitive and perceptive.
- Ask inside, “Who are the guardians that are protecting my vulnerability?” You will be surprised how quickly those voices are there, how clearly those bodyguards can come into focus. There might be a strong knight that says “You will never be hurt or humiliated again. I will never let you be rejected!”
- Find that place inside you where you can greet this guardian and be interested in it. Let it know that you are there to understand it and appreciate what is it trying to do for you.
- Ask this Protector to share with you its current concerns and perhaps even its history. When did it start protecting you and what did it believe about you then.
- It might show you a scene from your childhood where you were rejected or humiliated, when you were too young and powerless to stand up for yourself. The protector has sworn to never let that happen again.
- Let the protector know that you can take care of that inner child, and you have more strength and resources than when you were young. Ask it to relax and allow you to open your heart to your partner.
This is a learned skill so allow yourself time to work at it. Share with your partner what you have learned about yourself, talking FOR your parts not FROM them. Let them know you want to change these dynamics and become close again. This can bring your relationship to a new level of trust and intimacy. This is just the beginning, there is much more that can be done in a therapeutic process, but setting an intention and moving towards each other again can make a big difference in the felt sense of the relationship.
Reading: Introduction to the Internal Family Systems Model, Richard C. Schwartz, available at www.selfleadership.org.