“To love at all is to be vulnerable” – CS Lewis, The Four Loves
Let’s just dive in deep.
In their book Created for Connection, Dr. Sue Johnson and Kenneth Sanderfer make this powerful statement:
“It is imperative that we comprehend what love is, how to make it, and how to make it last. People of faith, knowing that we are created in love and for love, feel this imperative on a spiritual as well as a pragmatic level. God is love (1 John 4:16) and we are created in the image of God (Gen 1:27). To be
disconnected from an understanding of what love is and how to live it out is a threat to the most fundamental aspect of our humanity, namely our connection to God and to one another. When we lose the ability to create and hold onto romantic love, we lose the completeness that God created us for as image bearers (Gen 2:18-24).”
I want the fullness and wholeness of all that my marriage has to offer me, my wife, our kids, my community, future generations, and God himself.
I don’t think it too far-reaching to say that fear and disconnection are what fuels 99% of the issues that we experience in our marriages. We misunderstand each other because our perspectives, assumptions, and lenses have been formed and informed by broken models. We become defensive with each other as our insecurities get exposed and we forget that taking ownership and working towards reconciliation is the best way to love ourselves and our spouse. We struggle to be vulnerable with each other because as Dr. Brene Brown says: “Masks make us feel safer even when they become suffocating. Armor makes us feel stronger even when we grow weary from dragging the extra weight around… Vulnerability is the last thing I want you to see in me, but the first thing I look for in you” (Daring Greatly).
We are relational beings and need community (even you, Hardcore Introvert… I see you).
Two different times last week, I asked two different clients of mine about their support systems or circle of friends; they both said some version of this: “I hate humans/people. I honestly do. I would so much rather be by myself.”
We must see this and similar perspectives as dangerous deceptions. Do we all need silence, solitude, and stillness- intentional time of withdrawal- in order to recharge, reset, and rest? Yes. Do people sometimes get on our nerves and test our patience? Absolutely. But to declare that you “hate” people is just a weak effort to justify your struggle to connect and to be vulnerable. Johnson and Sanderfer make this statement: “isolation and the potential loss of loving connection is coded by the human brain into a
primal panic response.” Safe emotional connection is our most valuable survival mechanism!
When it comes to our marriages, the value that we place on connection is paramount. There have been studies done which prove that loving contact with others is as important as physical nutrition. Johnson and Sanderfer note that, “contact with a loving partner literally acts as a buffer against shock, stress, and pain.” In other words, outside of relationship and connection, we will die (at least, we will die more quickly).
So, I want to briefly present the acronym A.R.E. which are three questions grounded in Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT) that are meant to encourage emotional responsiveness and return us back to a place of love and connection in our relationships, thus fulfilling the longing of the heart of our Father. These three main components are taken from the aforementioned text, Created for Connection:
- (A)ccessibility: Can I reach you?
This means staying open to your partner even when you have doubts and feel insecure. It often means being willing to struggles to make sense of your emotions so these emotions are not so overwhelming. You can then step back from disconnection and can tune in to your lover’s attachment cues.
- (R)esponsiveness: Can I rely on you to respond to me emotionally?
This means tuning in to your partner and showing that his or her emotions, especially attachment needs and fears, have an impact on you. It means accepting and placing a priority on the emotional signals your partner conveys and sending clear signals of comfort and caring when your partner needs them. Sensitive responsiveness always touches us emotionally and calms us on a physical level.
- (E)ngagement: Do I know that you will value me and stay close?
The dictionary defines engaged as being absorbed, attracted, pulled, captivated, pledged, and involved. Emotional engagement here means the very special kind of attention that we give only to a loved one. We gaze at them longer, touch them more. Partners often talk of this as being emotionally present.
Jesus is our best model, especially because many of the models that we grew up with failed to live out their own marriages with this kind of intentionality and care. He is receptive and responsive. He is compassionate. He is move by our strength and vulnerability. He is a connecter and teaches us to do the same.
What do you think are some of the other parts and pieces of God’s vision for our marriages?
What are you tempted to do when disconnection shows up in your marriage?
What is one step towards vulnerability that you can take this week with your spouse?