"Today's lesson about intimacy in your relationship is brought to you by...NCAA Men's Basketball."
by Keith Miller, LICSW
On April 3, 2010, West Virginia faced Duke in the NCAA basketball finals. In one dramatic moment, West Virginia's Da'Sean Butler fell hard to the ground, badly injured. What happened in the next moments is what drew my interest as a relationship therapist.
Watch the video (click on image below) and notice how Butler (injured) responds to the medical personnel. His agitation seemed to increase as he was checked over by the doctor. It's hard to watch him in so much agony. Then notice the amazing difference that coach Bob Huggins makes by moving in closer, much closer, to Butler. Coach Huggins doesn't accomplish anything medically significant, yet his player responds like he was given very good medicine.
Lesson for your relationship? If you don't think you have the same impact, get the same attention you used to, or have a good connection to your partner or children, do an experiment: Do a coach Huggins move, and move closer; trust that your presence itself, without your having to make anything happen, is all that is needed. It's just a first step, but often the most important one that lowers anxiety enough to make the correct secondary actions.
The two people that responded to the injured Butler had completely different agendas. One was there to fix and the other seemed to act with the belief that his presence alone is what the other needs the most. Try the following to lower your partner's anxiety and make more of an impact in your relationship:
- Do less multi-tasking, less problem-solving, and less strategy-planning around your partner.
- See how differently your partner or kids respond to you when you remove clutter from the space in and around your relationship, starting with your communication. Say less, but mean it more.
- If you're the quieter partner, try moving aside your silence and make more contact. (More you, less space!)
- You might need more physical closeness, more eye-contact, and more of what sex therapists call "non-demand touch."
There's a hidden bonus here too for some of you (probably men). Next time you hear complaints about watching too much college basketball in March, use this newsletter (and, of course, what you learned from it) to get out of jail. Void where prohibited.
DO I REALLY WANT TO TRY THIS AT HOME?
More intimacy is not always the right prescription to improve your relationship. Like a spark plug that requires a slight gap to conduct electricity, sometimes we get disconnected by being too close. If you know this is true for you or your partner, don't try to push the gap closed to reduce anxiety in the relationship. Instead of more closeness being your goal, make it about the right kind of closeness. Keith Miller is a Bethesda psychotherapist and Bethesda marriage counselor in (you guessed it) Bethesda, MD, and Washington, DC. For more articles, videos and other free relationship resources, visit www.keithmillercounseling.com.