“The point of marriage is not to create a quick commonality by tearing down all boundaries; on the contrary, a good marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of his solitude, and thus they show each other the greatest possible trust. A merging of two people is an impossibility, and where it seems to exist, it is a hemming-in, a mutual consent that robs one party or both parties of their fullest freedom and development.” -Rainier Maria Rilke, poet
One of the ongoing polarities in any relationship–whether between marriage partners, parents and children, or friends–is the balancing act of closeness and distance. This is the ongoing dance of intimacy, and the key is to learn to move towards and to move away without seeing either polarity as right or wrong, good or bad. To forge the bonds of relationship takes time together but also takes time apart lest the bonds begin to feel too tight or binding.
In my last blog about the tug-of-war in relationships, I described the predictable stages of closeness and distance as the bond of intimacy develops over time, working towards the goal of mutual interdependence. What happens when a family goes through times of increased stress due to loss, trauma, illness or rapid change?
Stress and the Tug of War
When anxiety goes up in a family or relationship due to times of rapid change, each of us has a preference for one side of the polarity. When stressed, young children cling more to one or both parents, whereas adolescents often do the opposite and pull away, locking themselves into their bedroom and refusing to talk. What do you do? What does your partner do? Is it more painful for you to be more distant from loved ones or do you feel …