Still at Home Mostly? Try this “Bare Your Neck” Challenge

How to Create Closeness when You’re In Close Quarters under Quarantine

Are you a doer? Are you feeling closed in by all the “stay at home” and “shelter in place” orders to mitigate the Coronavirus pandemic? Are you someone who has pooh-poohed things like feelings in favor of being productive and getting things done?

Are you now in close quarters with someone, perhaps a spouse or partner, who you try to help by giving advice or solutions they’re not asking for and resent receiving? Furthermore, do they frustrate you when they have told you that they just want you to listen?

Guess what? Here is your golden opportunity to achieve something that you may have been too busy to achieve – at least after the honeymoon wore off.  That something is closeness.

Before you gag on that notion, would it surprise you to know that in my decades of coaching and before that doing psychotherapy with individuals and couples, when a spouse or partner finally got fed up when their desire for intimacy was continually minimized or even ridiculed and left their spouse, that their highly productive spouse plummeted.

Apparently, the closeness seeking partner had been not just an emotional object of ridicule, but an emotional stabilizer for their partner.

Still not getting it? Still thinking, “That would never happen to me?”

Imagine that you couldn’t get on the Internet or check your cryptocurrency account for a month.  Or horror of horrors, imagine you were stuck on a cruise ship because of a Covid-19 outbreak and had limited internet connectivity to land.

Well that’s the way you may have been making a partner or spouse feel who wanted to be in an intimate relationship with you – which they thought they had when you first pursued them and before the adventure for you wore off – but instead has had to settle for an emotionally empty, transaction driven arrangement. And worse, one in which they were often made to feel silly or stupid.

If you don’t like what it would feel like to be cut off from your Internet connectivity or money accounts, don’t make your partner or spouse feel that way for being cut off from you.

Why is connecting so important?

Connecting, and I mean emotionally connecting, is what turns a house into a home.  Without it, a house is not a home.

There’s also a neuroscience reason for why emotionally connecting matters. Emotional connectivity triggers the release of oxytocin, the bonding hormone, and oxytocin counteracts high cortisol, the stress hormone. When this occurs, cortisol goes down and our minds calm down.

Giving people advice or solutions when they they want to connect emotionally and then becoming frustrated when they push back increases stress and cortisol in both them and you. What they really want is to “feel felt,” which is something high achievers don’t understand or get.

Hopefully what follows will help.

So here’s your challenge in close quarters if you’re a high achiever but closeness avoider.

Tell your partner, “I have something to ask you and I would like your undivided attention. When would be a good time to get it?”

If they become anxious say to them, “No, it’s not about money or having an affair or wanting a divorce or having cancer. It’s just something I’d like to ask you when I can get your undivided attention.”

BTW, that will get their undivided attention.

Then when you’re with your partner look them squarely in the eye and say to them, “At my absolute worst how awful am I capable of making you feel about yourself or so lonely that you’ve even thought of why the hell you’re still with me?’

If you’re fortunate, they may begin to tear up, because you’ve just uncorked feelings they had bottled up for a long time and would be deathly afraid to be so vulnerable and express to you.

They may even be tempted to look away because you just surprised them with possibly the most intimate moment they’ve ever had with you.

If that happens say, “Please, look at me. I didn’t know it was so bad and to be honest, I didn’t even want to know.  But I want to know now, because you don’t deserve that. You deserve a relationship and not merely an arrangement and I am going to fix it. And I am sorry.”

A WARNING!  Make sure you don’t do the above, if you don’t get it and if you don’t mean it.

BTW a good test to see if the above even registers is to watch this rendition of A House is Not a Home from the television show Glee, to see if it hits a nerve with you… any nerve.

A House in Not a Home

A chair is still a chair, even when there’s no one sittin’ there
But a chair is not a house and a house is not a home
When there’s no one there to hold you tight
And no one there you can kiss goodnight

Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh

A room is a still a room, even when there’s nothin’ there but gloom
But a room is not a house and a house is not a home
When the two of us are far apart
And one of us has a broken heart

Now and then I call your name
And suddenly your face appears
But it’s just a crazy game
When it ends, it ends in tears

Pretty little darling, have a heart, don’t let one mistake keep us apart
I’m not meant to live alone, turn this house into a home
When I climb the stairs and turn the key
Oh, please be there, sayin’ that you’re still in love with me, yeah

I’m not meant to live alone, turn this house into a home
When I climb the stairs and turn the key
Oh, please be there, still in love
I said still in love
Still in love with me, yeah

Are you gonna be in love with me
I want you and need to be, yeah
Still in love with me
Say you’re gonna be in love with me
It’s drivin’ me crazy to think that my baby
Couldn’t be still in love with me

Are you gonna be, say you’re gonna be
Are you gonna be, say you’re gonna be
Are you gonna be, say you’re gonna be
Well, well, well, well
Still in love, so in love, still in love with me
Are you gonna be
Say that you’re gonna be

Still in love with me, yeah
With me, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
Still in love with me, yeah, yeah

Songwriters: Burt Bacharach / Hal David

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