…it is possible to process at most 126 bits of information per second…It is out of this [limited amount of available attention] that everything in our life must come – every thought, memory, feeling, or action…[and] in reality it does not go that far.
-Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow, pg 29
Two PsychCentral bloggers have written recently about emotional infidelity, and I want to throw in my own two cents.
Like Beth, there was a time in my past when I was involved with a lovely and lovable man who insisted on maintaining close “friendships” with other women, including several of his exes.
And that’s a good thing, right?
Joe was super-smart, responsible, kind, scrupulously honest, family-oriented, conscientious, and like me, more focused on doing valuable work than on making tons of money.
The relationship itself, however, was stupefyingly difficult, for reasons Joe and I struggled to figure out.
I’m paraphrasing John Gottman from a wonderful 3-minute YouTube clip entitled The Best Predictor of Divorce.
I think it’s instructive to the critical person to enter the room…and find it empty. What will he do with his irritable feelings now?
Perhaps he’ll fill it right away with another lover, or with material objects. Perhaps she’ll clutter it with work or other busy-making activities.
But what if the critical person simply sits in the empty room and experiences the irritability? What might he learn about himself? Perhaps she’ll find that her feelings aren’t deadly and that, in fact, she is fine just the way she is.
And doesn’t this go for all of us? Spending some stretch of time alone, with no other person to affix our moods to and no external factors to blame for the way we feel…what might that teach us about our worries?…our melancholy?…and our happiness?
What do you most need in order to feel secure and loved?
In Hold Me Tight, Dr. Sue Johnson suggest that you answer this question in writing, and then have this conversation with your partner.
In case it’s difficult to put your feelings into words, Dr. Johnson provides this list of phrases partners have named, and suggests you use these as a checklist or starting point:
Right now I’m reading Hold Me Tight, by Sue Johnson.
Johnson talks about “Solace Sex” in her chapter entitled Bonding Through Sex and Touch:
I’m reading Hold Me Tight, by Sue Johnson, and this passage, about the trauma we feel when a loved one turns away from us at a time of great need, really got me. Why would someone who loves us abandon us as the very moment we need them most?
The condition of being lonely creates brain changes which result in self-defeating beliefs and negative attitudes, which in turn generate a self-fulfilling loop of relationship failure and further isolation.
So, the very people who need and crave love most, wind up being the folks least likely to be able to accept it.
I can’t walk out
Because I love you too much, Baby.
So you find this amazing other person…and the love is there…the chemistry is there…even the friendship / genuine liking / mutual enjoyment of one another is there!!!
And yet?…the relationship is a hell hole. Why?
Because romantic relationships also require a deep level of trust.
In fact, there’s a tad more involved.
In The Science of Trust, John Gottman states, clearly and simply:
A committed romantic relationship is a contract of mutual trust, mutual respect, mutual protection, and mutual nurturance. (p 350)
Yes, sexual betrayal is one way of betraying your partner. But Gottman comes up with twelve more!
Read ‘em and weep (as I did)…and then use them as a checklist towards becoming a better partner (as I am in process of attempting):
Why do some relationships succeed, while others fail?
Why are some people lucky in love?… while others of us (equally warm, wonderful, valuable and lovable human beings!) endure one romantic train wreck after another?
Is it Fate?
The random miss-alignment of the planets?