Withholding Affection

Written by Katie Mitchell, M.A. NCC, CST-Candidate

Often, I work with couples who, by the time they find themselves in my office, have built a mountain of resentment towards one another.  I have found that one of the things that helps in being able to process their resentment and move forward from it, is to talk about how two opposing truths can exist within the same emotional space.  Meaning that: one can be disappointed and hurt by something their partner has said and/or done, and can also still love their partner (show them physical and emotional love). 

As a counselor, I find that couples have a difficult processing this idea, because often times showing affection (either verbal or physical) has become synonymous with “being done with something.”  So often I hear couples say things like, “I was angry so I wasn’t ready to move on from my anger...” or “I couldn’t show my partner love of affection because then we’ve moved on and I won’t get to speak my piece.”  When this absolutely does not have to be the case.    

It is at this point, that I love to bring up that two opposite truths can exist within the same space.  You can be disappointed in something that occurred and want to further discuss it.  AND, you can also still love your partner and want to show them affection.  One experience does not negate the other.  Because you offer affection to your partner, it does not mean that the two of you cannot come back to a topic of discussion at a later time.  In the moment of an emotional discussion, physical affection, such as an embrace, and/or verbal affection would likely help both of you to feel more connected and safe.  As a counselor, I often reframe this experience as perfecting a “time out.”  An argument does not have to become bigger than yourselves or your relationship to feel like your partner has heard you. 

As we head into the weekend, keep this information in mind; especially for the next time you and your partner have a disagreement.  I challenge each of you to embrace one another and the idea that two opposite truths can both exist in the same time and space.  See if adding verbal or physical affection helps to ground the two of you during an argument.  If you and your partner are struggling to fully embrace one another or this idea, reach out to our office today!