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I think I want to print out your articles and hand them out as a sort of relationship waiver form. “You want to be my friend?….You are interesting in going out? Here read this first. Sign here to acknowledge that you have read and understand the enclosed material. Thank you.” Seriously. I think it would work. — Guerin Moorman
Guerin Moorman
For the first time in my life I could truly explain, through your words the way in which I experience life and myself. Brenda… It all fell into place. I had found myself and had such a moment of clarity. It felt like such a big weight was lifted off of my shoulders. Finally I felt like it was ok to be me. I was not the only one. I had found people and a little space where I fit in. … I was at work and crying on the inside. Emotions ran wild inside me. I was ecstatic, sad, confused, motivated, i…
Niko
You’re so honest in your writing. It’s bold. It’s frank. It’s wonderful. I could definitely see the work you are doing here as a useful book. It could save/make a lot of relationships! — Jimmi Langemo
Jimmi Langemo
I have been dating an introverted man who I am very in love with for almost 2 years.  Reading your posts have helped me to be more supportive and understanding to him especially during the times when he needs space.  I just wanted to thank you for your weekly posts and let you know how helpful they are for someone who is in a relationship with an introvert. C.M. on space2live
C.M.
Brenda has truly opened up a space for introverted types on the ‘net, and her self-revelations are always inspiring. Her voice is one I always look forward to. She is one of the writers that actually played a part in my return to writing.  — S.E. of Sunflower Solace Farms
S.E. of Sunflower Solace Farms
BRENDA: thank you SO much! Your advice is exactly what I need to do. I am amazed how much you “get” me after only exchanging a few messages!… Again, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You’ve helped me more than a year of therapy sessions! – Megan on space2live
Megan
I met Brenda and took the MBTI… I had a fairly good understanding of these types before the meeting but was impressed by the depth of knowledge that Brenda shared with me. She clearly has a passion for this work and a gift in imparting the information. There have been doors opened for me because of our talks… — Alan Hintermeister
Alan Hintermeister
THANK YOU….. you just summed up my swirling thoughts into something i can read with out everything else in my head meshing with it. I finally feel like i can explain what happens within without getting distracted. I’m an Introvert with ADD and it makes it so hard to explain quite what im feeling sometimes. — M.G. on space2live
M.G.
Thank you for all the words. You’ve created the magic drug I’ve been looking for all my life. Your blog has transformed my life, and I feel like I am on the brink of a most satisfying fulfilling journey…You’ve made me see everything in a new light. I now feel calmer, able to care better for my toddler, less hateful of people around, and hopeful for my future. I am not so afraid for our marriage anymore. — Shilpa CB
Shilpa CB
Your site has saved my sanity and my life. Maybe even my marriage. I work part time and have two young boys at home, my husband is supportive of me but until recently I thought I was going crazy. … Reading your writing not only inspires me to pick up the pen again, but gives me nourishment in the deepest places. I will fight for balance. Everything you write is spot on… And wellness is so incredibly multifaceted.  I was ready to give up hope, but understanding myself through your words is bring…
J.K.

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How to Handle the Fluctuations in Emotional Security and Closeness Within a Relationship

Home Alone, Together

There is an ebb and flow of closeness in relationships. The amount of emotional connection and distance fluctuates. I first noticed this with a crush I had on someone  years ago. I remember feeling anxious when our normally quite deep and personal conversations changed for a week or two into more casual surface interactions. There was always a return to depth and connection for us, but I feared there wouldn’t be. At some point, I was able to extricate myself from my hazy love mind and get objective. I noticed the back and forth pattern and told myself to calm the heck down. I think that is when I began developing myself so that I would not need someone else’s attention to make me feel OK. It was scary to need someone’s validation that much. Out of survival mode, personal curiosity and a later-learned lesson that people who have their own light are more attractive and content, I started differentiating myself.

I am still working on it.

How secure is your relationship today? 

We have a constant monitoring system which looks over our relationships and judges how secure they are.

Even within the relationships I have with my children I experience frustration, fear, love and safety. There are times when they seem closer to their dad than me. During those phases, I feel I have lost touch with them. This is hard to take. My ego squawks and I feel alone and unsure of my parenting. Other times, I desperately desire space from them in order to internally recharge which leaves me feeling bad for wanting the distance. Still other times, our family life hums along. I nurture my kids in a way that feels right to me and I know the kids appreciate each parent for their own ways and style.

An inability to handle the changes in closeness can wreak havoc on any relationship. We can feel distanced and dependent if we allow ourselves to be swept away by the tide of changes.

The trick, according to marriage counselor and author of Passionate Marriage, Dr. David Schnarch, is to develop the ability to manage your emotions and reactions to these fluctuations. He suggests doing this by undergoing the process of differentiation.Woman-man-on-separate-benches2

Separate together

Differentiation entails maintaining personal integrity while maintaining a connected relationship or more simply, holding on to yourself while holding on to someone else.

How do you do that?

According to family counselor, Nancy Eisenman, you start with an openness to learning from experiences, then move to a readiness to act/change/grow. This means significant self-awareness followed by actual self-regulation.

Self- Awareness: Know your shadow side — the parts of you you’d like to hide, the darker imperfect side. Know your wounds — childhood slights and suffering, past relationship baggage you still carry. Notice them, own them and feel them. Do the same with the glowing facets of yourself. Take down walls, be vulnerable, be authentic but also maintain boundaries so you are directed from within rather than moved to please others. Be aware of your immediate reactions to others. Self-awareness is most easily found by taking time to go internal and reflect. Therapy, meditation, practicing craftsmanship, writing, running, praying, feedback from trusted individuals — this is an incomplete list of gateways to increased self-knowledge.

you are what you loveIf you know who you are then no one else can tell you who you ought to be.

Freedom.

Take heart, self-awareness is a lifelong process.

Self- Regulation:Taking responsibility for your own reactions and anxiety. Acting counter-intuitively. Stop your defensiveness and knee-jerk reactions which arise from your past hurts (childhood, former relationships). Permission to pause. Revolt against The Myth of Urgencywhich is the belief that you have to react right away when someone is pushing your buttons. Nancy Eisenman, MSW, LSW, urges her clients to think, I can be just fine in this moment without reacting immediately. In fact, the ability to hold still in the moment will allow you to later react with thoughtfulness and calmness.

If you can manage your own anxiety, it is easier to be with others and their anxiety. Their reactivity is theirs, and not about you. You will have a level of objectivity and patience that allows for greater intimacy with that person.

An important note to keep in mind while you are working on yourself and making changes — The system (i.e. the relationships, way of doing things) you had in place before beginning the differentiation process is going to rebel against the new less- reactive you. The system does not like changes therefore it will require time, integrity and courage to stay the new course and allow the parts of the old system you value, to adapt, while the parts you do not value, fall away.

Rather than reacting to your or your partner’s needs for closeness or separation do this…

At times, it feels as though our stability depends on another’s caring and opinion of us. We need them to make us feel loved and valuable. Other times, too much togetherness makes us uncomfortable and we need space.

It is easy to react with a plea for solitude during the highly intimate times and with insecurity during the more distant times but the most healing and evolved way to enhance a relationship is to help each participant differentiate. When an individual is solid in their feelings about themselves they can tolerate fluctuations in relationship closeness and therefore relax into intimacy.

Do you think it is easier for introverts or extroverts to differentiate? How enmeshed are you within your relationships? How do you handle when someone is too close or too distant within a relationship?

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6 Comments

  1. […] like this can only be avoided for so long, then they have to be handled. As I mentioned in, How to Handle the Fluctuations in Emotional Security and Closeness Within a Relationship, working through gridlock involves the process of differentiation. Differentiation means […]

  2. […] is his own person. He is immune to my anxieties. Miraculously, his personal integrity and strength, fortify me. Normally, I am so […]

  3. Carol V Cowan February 15, 2015 at 9:26 am - Reply

    Please change my email address to carolvcowan@gmail.com. I want to keep getting your valuable and informative correspondence.

    Thank you. Carol

    • Brenda Knowles February 15, 2015 at 1:09 pm - Reply

      Dear Carol,
      If you would like to keep receiving my posts simply re-subscribe with your new email address.:) Glad to have you as a reader.

  4. Renee February 13, 2015 at 3:27 pm - Reply

    I really needed this right now. My happiness level is in direct proportion to how much positive attention and validation I get from others. I’m dating someone new, and we email every day. If I don’t get the email on time, I feel rejected and want to withdraw. It’s nutty and painful.

    • Brenda Knowles February 14, 2015 at 7:39 am - Reply

      That roller coaster IS nutty and painful. Being dependent on someone else to make your day is a lot of pressure on them and an easy way to make yourself high-anxiety. I know. I have done that. I honestly think we all have. I posted an image on the space2live Facebook page that said, Don’t wait for the right person to come into your life. Make yourself the right person to walk into someone else’s life. I think that speaks to the process of differentiation. You are aware of your reactivity. That is the first step. Now go forward and define your personal integrity so that you can be intimate with someone without being dependent on or highly reactive to them. Best of luck! Thank you for reading and sharing so openly.

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