No, we are not talking about the pre-marital declaration of commitment ceremoniously sealed with a diamond ring. We are asking whether you, as a couple, are really involved with each other. Can you say you are truly engaged in your partner’s life? In a sadly perverse way, marriage is often catalyst to a process of gradual, inexorable disengagement. The interest, wonder, excitation and effort to know and be known can routinely crumble under the weight of life’s multiple distractions. And yes, it is easy to find comfort and solace in these distractions (be they kids, jobs, household responsibilities, internet mesmerization, or outside interests) especially while real engagement requires emotionally difficult interactions.
In a recent mentoring session a woman declared “I want more communication about feelings!” Implied was that her partner was at fault for the lack of such communication. Yet it was abundantly clear that they were co-conspirators in the establishment of an “emotion-free relationship.” Though she said she wanted more feelings expressed she was as avoidant of anger, fear, hurt, disappointment and sorrow as he was. These difficult emotions are not readily welcomed by many and most of us are prone to find a thousand ways to shift our attention elsewhere.
Disengagement happens, often imperceptibly, as couples turn away from conflict, vulnerability, need, and even playfulness with each other. The commitment in a committed relationship is to remaining engaged in the tempest of real intimacy. Such intimacy involves an openness to discovering the truth, even when it hurts. It means hanging out on the precipice of pain and pleasure.” I want to know your feelings.” means “I’m willing to be hurt.”
Engagement involves at least four key components
- Acknowledging and feeling how important your partner truly is.
- Willingness to meet each other in conflict, no matter how uncomfortable.
- Keeping your sexuality alive.
- Recognizing your competitiveness while still supporting your partner’s growth and development.
To be engaged therefore means making the choice to move toward you partner – no matter what.
We would love to know what you think.