Relationships need vulnerability – we need to be able to be real in front of our partners. The feeling of connection is all about taking the risk of being vulnerable and allowing someone to see us without our guard up. When we are able to take this risk and feel safe and nurtured, it gives us that feeling of intimacy and love.
Two big reasons for losing intimacy is boredom and issues with trust. When people are presented with the same stimuli repeatedly they become irritated, maddened and eventually may enter a dissociative stupor (finding by Dr. Stuart Grassian). In other words, people need new experiences to remain interested, happy, and growing. This is so important that not receiving new stimuli can be a form of psychological torture – as in solitary confinement. Relationships are wonderful because they are generally a great source of new stimuli in life. They keep us challenged and help us to grow. However, even the best relationships can begin to stop growing and lose that feeling of fascination.
There are two ways to regain the growth and fascination when boredom becomes an issue. The first is to become more interesting. Have you stopped exploring new things, challenging yourself, and as a result, have you stopped growing? The happiest people are generally not the people who have a pleasant life, but are those who challenge themselves and enjoy the journey.
Once you’ve examined yourself, it is also important to look at your relationship. The biggest source of boredom in relationship is a lack of vulnerability. Have you stopped sharing yourselves with each other. Over time, small slights and signs of lack of interest can accumulate and deep sharing can feel unwelcome or unsafe in your relationship. It is important to try to get past the surface of your day to day life and engage your partner in deeper sharing. This is where people are constantly changing and it is when these deeper parts of yourself are open that connection can be re-built.
Relationships become unstable when trust becomes an issue. The walls start to go up and we become anxious and fearful. Lack of trust means that it is a bigger risk becoming vulnerable. Without the vulnerability, we lose intimacy and connection.
Researchers have been finding that when we are unable to trust we become uncertain about whether our partner is right for us. This uncertainty breeds sensitivity. The small things that never used to matter all of a sudden become painful signs of a broken relationship.
In addition to becoming more sensitive, lack of trust breeds increased scrutiny of daily activities. Partners who don’t trust start to become detectives for evidence. The search begins for positive and negative signs. We look for signs that the person loves us and we look for signs of cheating and lying. We start developing expectations and theories for what behaviour means. If the person does this, then they love me. Then, if the person doesn’t pass the test, we have our proof that they never loved us. This kind of daily scrutiny and testing leads to big ups and downs in the relationship. Things are OK when the partner passes the test, but things take a nosedive when they fail.
Most people can’t live up to this kind of scrutiny and it can extremely difficult to pass these kinds of tests. Although these tests may seem obvious to the untrusting partner, they can become extremely specific and unreasonable for a normal person to pass.
Trust is a result of the present behaviour of our partners as well as our past experiences. We may be an untrusting person because of past betrayals, parental neglect, traumas etc. This can colour how we view our partner, making it difficult for them to live up to the high standards necessary to reassure their untrusting partner that they are safe. However, trust is also a product of current behaviours. Is our partner dependable? Do they lie? These experiences will obviously affect trust, as well they should.
Sometimes is it is very reasonable to not trust your partner. Trust can be broken and it then becomes a decision as to whether each party wants to work to develop that trust again. Building trust takes time and is a process of becoming vulnerable (i.e., taking risks) and then having your partner respond appropriately in a reliable manner. Communication is a critical part of this process. It is important to make expectations known and clear. It is also important to try to stop looking at the daily activities of life and to try to take a longer view if you want to give your relationship a reasonable chance to succeed.
By Dr. Syras Derksen
Campbell, L., Simpson, J. A., Boldry, J. G., & Rubin, H. (2010). Trust, variability in relationship evaluation, and relationship processes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99, 14-31.