In the last couple of months, I have been wanting to develop an even deeper level of intimacy and trust with my husband. The Sex Surge threw us for a loop, trust-wise. It took deep, hard work on each of our part to discover our truth- he had his truth, I had mine, and we had our ‘truth as a couple.’ Luckily, those aligned for us, and we did the work to get through the Surge and come out happier and stronger. (This is not the case for everybody, nor should it be! Life has a different path for everyone, and those paths are no worse or better for any given situation; they just are.)
So, we’ve been doing well and having a very good time and I wanted to take a step towards ‘more.’ For me, ‘more intimacy’ had a particular definition (note to self: define this shit so you don’t set your expectations too high!). I’m pretty open and quick to tell my husband everything, but I wanted even less layers or masks between us; I wanted spontaneous communication (I overthink sometimes). I wanted space to share more of our fantasies (of all kinds, not just sexual). And I wanted to let go of my own fears that I wasn’t being heard or accepted sometimes (because it really was my fears in most cases- leftover junk from childhood, ya know?). I wanted to dig deeper, and this was where I wanted to go.
I started to dig for those things. To let go more, to accept more, to be more spontaneous and honest, to make space that was safe to share the deeper dreams and fantasies. And as I did, I felt vulnerable. I started to get a tiny bit anxious, a little annoyed with myself, second-guessing (I traded overthinking for second guessing- awesome), and even a little frightened sometimes. I would guess it felt very much like walking down a mineshaft, or going deep inside a cave- it was getting dark and I wasn’t sure what I was doing or exactly where I was going.
I started noticing that I also felt more vulnerable about our relationship. Suddenly, I was asking, “why are you going to coffee with that student, again?” (He’s a History professor.) I nagged more (I’m not a big nagger to start with). I kept asking him, “Are you sure?” about decisions related to me or us. In short, I felt vulnerable, so our relationship felt vulnerable. In that vulnerability and lack of assuredness, I started to destabilize our connection in my own mind. I had forgotten to anchor myself along the depths of this new cave with a strong rope or a good lamp and I worried it would cave in.
My husband, for his part, is/was all very open and communicative about this. He asked how I was doing- did I need something? He accepted all my worried questions and reassured me 10,000 different ways. The feelings were all on me.
Once I realized this, I did a little thought experiment: what if I felt stable in myself, and in our connection, even as I opened myself up to the actions and vulnerability of greater intimacy? What if I looked at our history (we’ve done pretty good!) and let that stabilize me? What if I separated the vulnerability I felt within myself from the vulnerability (I projected) on our relationship?
The relationship wasn’t that vulnerable- this was just a new level of trust and I was scared to go deeper, thinking it might ruin the totality of what we had. (<– The truth about that is, if going deeper makes it worse, you don’t lose everything. You just go back up a level and see if living there is still okay.) I remembered that I wasn’t alone walking deeper into the cave, and I had a lamp (!) and I had a rope to find my way back, if I needed it. I could steady myself with those things and keep going.
This ‘destabilization because of internal vulnerability and fear’ is one of the filters that can make our primary relationship look crappy (destabilized, unsupportive) when we’re in an affair or contemplating one. This kind of thing can also happen in any relationship– especially if it’s growth-oriented. Deeper intimacy and trust will, almost always, bring up more of your fears- because fear is what blocks intimacy. So, if you dare to dig deeper, you will find your hidden issues.
What to do in these situations? I think it’s simply a matter of owning it. I had to recognize that my insecurities and fears were mine. Our relationship was good, I was actually good (I just had to realize it). It was just me thinking and feeling those negative things about feeling vulnerable. And it was only me who could accept them, feel them, and then look at my reality a bit more objectively.
Relationship are hard, dudes. Even when they’re good, they’re hard. But I believe relationships are here to teach us and heal us. Even the tough/crappy/ugly stuff can help us get better and heal our old wounds and re-write old relationship tapes that play in our psyche. Like anything, though, we have to be willing to recognize what part we play in the problem in order to fix it. Finding a place of stability and truth inside ourselves goes a long way to helping us heal and reach our goals.