In the course of my day, as both a writer and a therapist, I listen to a lot of people tell me about the inevitable ups and downs of their love relationships.
I couldn’t help but notice that, for many, the desire for more closeness versus the craving for more freedom and autonomy, is often a big concern..
In fact, these two opposing forces can cause a ton of conflict and confusion between two people, supposedly in love.
For some, there’s insecurity, especially when communication breaks down, and one ends up feeling distant and disconnected. Then, it becomes more about the natural tendency to want more closeness and security.
On the other hand, one partner may feel smothered and controlled, and develop a craving for more autonomy and freedom.
It’s an ever-fluctuating, dicey dance of intimacy, where the ebb and flow of needs is ultimately dictated by each couple’s unique chemistry and particular desires.
Finding a balance
Whether you’re overly needy, (codependent), or someone who relishes emotional distance, there’s always that search, often unconscious, to find a satisfactory balance between more intimacy and more autonomy.
Consider yourself fortunate if you and your partner are able to strike a good balance between these two seemingly opposite poles.
And how great is it when two people’s needs and wants seem to easily jive, when the dance of love is in sync, and their movements appear almost effortless?
You’ve seen those kind of “relationship dancers”; they make it look so easy!
But, with so many couples, problems arise when one partner has an overriding need for increased closeness, which often threatens the other, the one who regularly defaults to the given order of the relationship.
This troubling juxtaposition frequently leads to a serious relationship imbalance, where one partner grasps and the other feels suffocated.
And Lord knows how tricky it can be to successfully find this true balance of intimacy, so hurt feelings and boiling resentments don’t end up dominating, and eventually, ruining a promising partnership.
When the dance gets out of rhythm
So what can you do when your dance of intimacy goes awry, when legs get hopelessly tangled, and everything is out of step with you and your partner?
Well, we know that dancers may stagger and stumble, but the really good ones get up again and seamlessly continue on with their routine. They maintain their balance, and so can you, by doing these few things:
Lack of communication is the number one issue that I routinely observe, especially when working with couples who are out of relational balance.
If the dance of intimacy is causing you to stumble, it may be time to directly express your innermost desires to your partner. Then, hopefully, your mate will make a greater effort, not only to better understand your personal needs and wants, but to more lovingly join forces with you, in order to help make your request a reality.
Whether you’re feeling the need for more closeness, or more space, go ahead and communicate your wishes.
After all, you have a lot to gain by taking the risk!
It takes two.
They say it takes two to tango.
It takes both partners, who are secure and accommodating enough, when making the decision to draw nearer or create more space for the other.
And it also takes two people who sincerely care about the happiness and personal welfare of the other.
Too often, I see couples fight tooth and nail, in order to get their own way – not a good prescription for lasting love.
And, whatever the particular requirements may be, self-centeredness and selfishness will not get the needs or wants of the other met – hence, it always takes two.
Be willing to make yourself vulnerable.
Vulnerability is all about being exposed, undefended, and real, especially when you’re expressing your own true desires – and that can be a very scary proposition.
Even so, it’s no time to hide away or don your emotional armor during those moments when you’re really needing to communicate.
But, that’s not always a simple thing to do.
If you’re feeling the need for closeness, you may be afraid of coming across as too needy.
If you’re feeling the need for more independence, you may fear hurting your lover’s feelings.
But, what’s the alternative to honest communication?
Becoming overly-controlling and letting resentments build up!
These are toxic behaviors that can seriously threaten any relationship.
Taking the risk of complete openness with your partner, is just about the best, and perhaps the only real way, to make necessary changes to your relationship.
And the pay-off?
Hopefully, increased acceptance and appreciation from your partner.
So, open your heart, feel the fear, and be vulnerable.
Meeting needs through self-care
Healthy relationships occur between two separate individuals who take responsibility for their own lives. This is the path to a true and happily shared intimacy.
Total reliance on your partner for your happiness, is always a big mistake, for over dependence on another can stifle any relationship and will surely distance your partner.
Instead, practice self-care and cultivate your capacity to enjoy your own company. Your partner, if they’re emotionally healthy, will appreciate your self-nurturing ways.
Too many people are either way too reliant on somebody else, or have a harmful habit of pushing their partner away.
So, shoot for a happy medium.
Live in the gray area
Again, we come full circle, back to the notion of life balance.
Many of us live a black and white, either-or, type of existence
Nevertheless, whatever our desires, it doesn’t have to be an all-or- nothing proposition. Closeness versus space, is a fluctuating kind of thing, which often calls for mutual moderation and, so often, a bit of tact.
In my own past relationships, there were times when I desired more intimacy, and other times where I wanted more independence. There were also instances when I required more attention from my partner, when I didn’t feel all that strong, as opposed to those times when I chose to be more nurturing and supportive.
For me, the dynamics of the relationship are never the same and always changing.
I also think that these kinds of fluctuations can create more resilience and are a normal part of any healthy partnership.
Moreover, most solid relationships encompass a give-and-take quality, where, hopefully, each one’s wants and needs are mutually acknowledged and regularly honored.
So, if you truly grasp this reality, than absolute symbiosis or, the other extreme, total independence, won’t have any place in your relationship, that is, if you’re looking for enduring love, which allows for routine variation and change.
The best love is interdependent love, the kind that can only be found in the gray area of life.
Whether you have a desire for more closeness or more autonomy, communication, collaboration, vulnerability, self-care, and the capacity to live in the gray area, will lead you to a more meaningful and long-lasting love.
What are your feelings about closeness vs. autonomy in love relationships? How do you find that acceptable balance in your own partnership? Please leave your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below. We appreciate your input!