How do we stay connected in a time of anxiety?

Q:

How do we stay connected in a time of anxiety? My husband craves and needs sex when he feels stressed. It relaxes him. I withdraw into myself and do not want any kind of touch when I feel stressed. One of us loses. How do we navigate this divide?

A:

Times of crisis, of any kind, can create intense reactions to everyday scenarios and heighten our emotional needs. The tricky part is that we are often matched with people around us whose needs and attachment styles are vastly different than our own. This becomes ever clearer and more extreme the more intense our feelings of fear or helplessness are.

I would sit down and start by examining your own attachment style. If touch and connection are hard when you are stressed you may have aspects of avoidant attachment. On the flip side, if your partner craves connection they may have an anxious attachment style. Neither attachment style is better or worse, but being on opposite ends of the spectrum can be challenging.

Once you have looked into what your style of connecting and needs share this with your partner at a time when you can communicate calmly and uninterrupted.

Figure out where you can find balance in meeting both of your needs and if there are other ways to meet each other's needs without completely compromising your own. For example, if you don’t want sex at all and they want it daily, maybe having sex three times a week and having a daily hour of focused conversation along with clear time blocks for you to have more space would be a good middle ground.

Remember that this too shall pass and that by spending this time learning more about who you each are and what you individually need you will come out stronger for any storms ahead.

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Written by Laura McGuire
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Dr. Laura McGuire is a nationally recognized sexuality educator, trauma-informed specialist, and inclusion consultant at The National Center for Equity and Agency. Dr. McGuire earned her bachelor's degree in social sciences from Thomas Edison State University and her graduate degrees in Educational Leadership for Change from Fielding Graduate University. Her experience includes both public and private sectors, middle schools, high schools, and university settings. In 2015, she served as the first Sexual Violence Prevention and Education Program Manager at the University of Houston, and in 2017, she became the first Victim Advocate/Prevention Educator at the US Merchant Marine Academy.

 

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