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GLOW you say? When was the last time you noticed if it was missing?

Recently, I had the opportunity and pleasure to interview Relationship Therapist, Sara Bunce MFT. Sara specializes in working with couples and complex relationship dynamics. I call her a “Relationship Artist.” Her work is transforming and she helps couples “get their glow back!”

I was super intrigued listening to what Sara had to say about “couples at risk” of relationship failure, those who have lost their “glow,” and more importantly…the core reasons why (which she says has to do with our brain and behavior).

Sara listed out for me 4 main reasons couples lose the glue and glow that show in healthy relationships. Here they are:

Failure to Risk Vulnerability

Failure to risk vulnerability can show up in two ways. Shying away from vulnerability can take the form of “fighting like cats and dogs with no resolution.”  Never ending fighting can be a way to avoid the real issue at hand (and keep the stress hormone of cortisol flowing in relationship).

Sara also goes on to say, “Couples that shy away from conflict, arguments or heated discussions, avoid vulnerability too.” These couples can outwardly appear as June and Ward Cleaver, where everything is just fine, or their homes can be mistaken for the movie set Pleasantville.”

“Being conflict adverse can mean we don’t tell our partners the truth because we are afraid of upsetting them and risk dis-approval.” So, instead, we wear a mask of adaptation. This mask has protective properties and over time we begin to lose touch with our true needs…for the sake of getting along and keeping the relationship waters for smooth sailing.

By the way, says Sara, “Couples that don’t risk vulnerability, often don’t have great sex lives either.” Placing the priority of “smooth relationship waters,” before vulnerability, can create a relationship, which can be deadening both emotionally and financially.

Emotionally, not risking vulnerability leads to un-met needs, chronic anxiety, silent resentments, and eventually a deep disconnect with ourselves and partners.

Financially, not risking vulnerability,  can mean not confronting behaviors of increasing debt, over-spending, under-earning or lack of savings in order to avoid conflict.

Although conflict avoidance can appear as a way to create smooth waters, what really occurs is a turbulent under current that eventually can capsize the boat. Turning a blind eye, not talking about the real issue, living in denial, or sacrificing truth and vulnerability can be harmful over the long run to your heart and bank account.

Breaking Commitments

Another relationship behavior that dulls the glow, is breaking commitments (not keeping your word), and then dismissing or minimizing the damage of the broken commitment.

Little things add up…emotionally and financially. Chronic lateness, chronic forgetting, saying one thing and doing another are ways we break commitments with our partners.  Over time this leads to eroded trust and un-met goals.

When it comes to finances, breaking commitments can take the form of creating a cash flow plan and not taking agreed upon action to stay on that plan, saying you won’t make an independent spending decision on certain higher ticket items and then doing so, or paying bills late for services already provided to you that you agreed to pay by a certain date.

Chronic broken commitments over time chip away at the foundation of trust in a relationship, which can take extensive effort to repair.

A Belief  That Happiness Exists Outside of Self

Third, Sara tells us, couples are at risk, that aren’t able to comfort themselves and believe happiness exists outside of themselves.

Anytime we believe the solution lies outside of us, we aren’t taking personal responsibility for ourselves. We are looking outward for a fix to make our insides feel better.

Relation-ship wise, this translates into placing expectations on our partner to behave in ways that make us happy…instead of finding ways to create our own happiness regardless of what is going on in an external way.

This is the case with addictions for sure, both process (shopping, spending, eating, sex) and substance (alcohol and drugs).

In my practice, I find when clients try to fill an internal need with an external object of desire, they are feeding the growing emptiness inside…and the hole just keeps getting bigger.

An example of this is trying to fill the basic internal esteem (Maslow) needs of love & belonging, fun, power, and freedom in an external way. People who do this spend more. Lets say you aren’t so great at creating intimate connections with your actions and words, then you might try to buy love through high ticket presents. This is an example of meeting an internal need in an external way.

Lack of Novelty

Fourth, Sara says, “Couples that lose their glow are ones that don’t create some form of novelty in their lives. Novelty can be very small and simple gestures to create new experiences or new ways to express love.”

Guess what? Novelty doesn’t have to cost money either. You can write your partner a love poem, create a date night, cook a special meal or share a new hike.

When you learn to talk about money, there’s a very good chance you can talk about other sensitive subjects, which will increase your intimacy and marriage satisfaction.

Sara’s work with couples integrates psychology (behavior) and biology (the brain). Her parting words in this interview were:

Know that your brain impacts your marriage

The primitive part of our brain that is good at keeping us alive in the face of danger, is very bad at love.  You can learn how to steer away from those hurtful fights & instead experience empathy, acceptance, & intimacy.

Reconnect in a new way that feels good to both of you.

Our culture doesn’t teach us the benefits of making marriage a priority

Putting time & effort into marriage can be a scary and counterintuitive thought.  Imagine feeling loved and taken care of? This will trickle down to your children and anyone that comes into contact with you.

In the meantime, if you want to read a book (recommended by Sara Bunce) try “WIRED FOR LOVE,” by Stan Tatkin. This book is based on psychobiology, understanding how our brains and behavior work together. It is filled with ways to get your glow back in relationship…and remember, what’s good for love is good for money!

Tremendous appreciation for Sara’s time in granting this interview.

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