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Are You Available and Approachable?


Linda: Once I was on a plane flying to Little Rock, Arkansas. I was seated next to an older woman. I remember her as having kind, intelligent eyes. We struck up a conversation and she seemed delighted to find out I was on my way to facilitate a workshop for couples. She was on her way to teach a seminar on forgiveness.  Seeing that we had much in common, we quickly fell into an animated conversation. When I mentioned that I often taught with my husband, her mood changed, and she became melancholy. She told me that her husband had died four years earlier and that she still missed him terribly. They had been married for forty-six years. She had tears in her eyes as she spoke. I was deeply touched by how open she was about the beauty of their life together.

At one point, I gently asked, “What was the secret of your long happy marriage?” “Just keep talkin” she said with barely a moment’s hesitation. “I beg your pardon?” I said waiting for more of an explanation. She repeated herself. “Just keep talkin’. No matter how late it is, no matter how frustrated you are, no matter how tired you are, no matter what you’d rather do, if you’re not feeling good towards each other, just keep talkin’ until you do.” We both laughed and I promised that I would tell my class. I quoted her that weekend, and many times since.

Those couples that delight in a working partnership have free-flowing communication and connection. Both partners make a strong commitment to be available to spend time together and show interest in each other’s experiences. They show up, pay attention, tell the truth without blame and judgment, and are open to the outcome. If your relationship is not working at an optimal level, you would be wise to do an assessment of your availability to your partner to bring all of their experience, their concerns, disappointment, triumphs, frustration, unmet needs, and resentment. If you are only available to hear the good news about what’s working in your partnership, you are riding for a fall.

If, when you do an examination of your availability to your partner, you find you don’t get high marks, you can begin right away to put in the corrections. Here are some examples.

Distracted                           Focused Attention

Uninterested                       Genuine Curiosity

Short Tempered                 Patient

Judgmental                          Open-Minded

Distant                                 Come Closer

Punitive                               Forgiving

Unpredictable                     Consistent

Detached                             Committed

Hypersensitive                   Allowing

Argumentative                    Respectful Listen

Unfriendly                           Bringing Warmth

Unapproachable                 Receptive and Inviting

The characteristics in the first column are the ways some people keep their partner from coming close. These are their defense mechanism that they have adopted over the years in an attempt to keep them safe from emotional pain. While they are protecting themselves from harm, they are causing harm to their partner who desires to be more closely connected, to speak their truth of both of their experience more openly, so that they can have a closer bond. Also accompanying their unapproachable stance, they too are missing out on the joys of having a closer bond.

The avoidant pattern can change, but both partners have responsibility for moving their interactive system to the higher plane of well-being. It’s difficult to self-observe and the distant partner needs caring feedback to discover how much they are keeping themselves apart. The partner who wants a more genuine and consistent connection is required to continue to tell the truth of their experience, their sadness and loneliness, their desire to be closer, to continue to bring up the tough subjects, and to appeal to their partner’s enlighten self-interest catalyzes movement in the direction that will be beneficial to both of them. The partner that wants closeness can be a strong support to the one who has been unavailable by holding the vision of the successes awaiting them.

The largest portion of responsibility lies with the partner who has been distant. Taking ownership of the patterns that have held the partnership down is a good beginning. And making a full-hearted commitment to change their stance is the relationship to one that is available and welcoming makes all the difference.

So often couples give up in resignation when they don’t feel understood. There is so much miscommunication, and distortion, taboos, sensitivity, and missed opportunities. Sometimes, we have to go over the same topic a hundred times, in different ways, from different vantage-points, before real understanding can be reached. Each conversation can be like filing down rough edges where we get snagged. The secret seems to be in not quitting. Just keep “talkin’!” is simple and profound wisdom from a wise elder.

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Are You Available and Approachable?


Bloomwork

Linda Bloom LCSW and Charlie Bloom MSW are considered experts in the field of relationships. They have been married since 1972. They have both been trained as seminar leaders, therapists and relationship counselors and have been working with individuals, couples, and groups since 1975. They have been featured presenters at numerous conferences, universities, and institutions of learning throughout the country and overseas as well. They have appeared on over two hundred radio and TV programs. Linda and Charlie are co-authors of the widely acclaimed books: 101 Things I Wish I Knew When I Got Married: Simple Lessons to Make Love Last (over 100,000 copies sold) Secrets of Great Marriages: Real Truth from Real Couples about Lasting Love, and Happily Ever After...and 39 Other Myths about Love: Breaking Through to the Relationship of Your Dreams. The Blooms are excited to announce the release of their fourth book, That Which Doesn't Kill Us: How One Couple Became Stronger at the Broken Places. They live in Santa Cruz, California, near their two children and three grandchildren. To view our upcoming events and to sign up for our free newsletter, visit our website at: www.Bloomwork.com


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APA Reference
Bloom, L. (2020). Are You Available and Approachable?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 1, 2020, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/relationship-skills/2020/07/are-you-available-and-approachable/

 

Last updated: 17 Oct 2020
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network (blogs.psychcentral.com) prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.