Our emotions are the roots to the tree of love.
When we lose control of them, we lose control of ourselves.
We scream. We hurt people we care about. We make decisions that we deeply regret.
From relationship researcher John Gottman to Gary Chapman, author of The 5 Love Languages, many love researchers agree on one thing: the biggest struggle between couples is an inability to understand the different needs of each other. We often love our partners the way we want to be loved, even if it doesn’t match their individual needs.
The other reason a relationship may fail is because the individuals don’t know what needs they should ask their partner to fulfill. They’re mindlessly unaware of the emotional barriers that prevent their relationship from feeling like heaven on earth.
So how do we become more aware of our own emotional motivations? Here are three powerful ways to start:
Ask Yourself “Why?” Three Times
Asking “why?” will give you insights into the needs you need most. An amazing relationship is a byproduct of meeting your partners needs, while they are meeting yours.
This brings me back to my earlier point. If we are unaware of our needs, our emotions and thoughts can hijack our actions into doing things we deeply regret – like snooping, cheating, or lying.
Often when we ask ourselves why we do what we do, our egos get in the way. Our egos tend to push aside our deep-seeded needs to protect us from our own raw vulnerability. In my experience, the first “why?” I ask tends to be rationalizing bullshit.
Here’s an example from my own life. Before I started focusing on my own emotional needs and working to improve my relationships, I transformed from a nice guy to a crazy, untrusting boyfriend. It wasn’t pretty.
One night, I hacked my girlfriend’s phone by using her apple sign on and password to read her personal text messages. 1
Here is my answer to the question why when I made that decision.
“Why did I hack my girlfriends phone?”
“Because she seemed more interested in this other guy than me. I felt inadequate.”
“Why did she seem more interested in the other guy than me? Why do I feel inadequate?”
“Because I’ve been cheated on before. It pains me to have to experience that betrayal again.”
“Why does being cheated on hurt so much? Why is betrayal such a bad thing?”
“Because being cheated on makes me feel like I am not good enough to deserve a woman who will only want me. And betrayal validates that feeling. It makes me sick. The lack of security and trust in my relationship kills me.”
This relationship was one of the relationships I had before my health declined into this:
Studies show, time and time again, that when our emotional needs are neglected, our physical and mental health gets neglected as well.
Back then, I was still coming to understand these needs. Uncovering the answers I explored above were not easy.
Sometimes this exercise would lead me to asking the same questions for days. I was trying so hard to unearth the answer. But if you keep asking, the answers will come. They may be ugly. But the truth will set you free.
So pay attention. Explore what feels right. Keep asking. Keep questioning your motivations. The more uncomfortable the answers become, the truer they are.
Mindfulness & Meditation for Emotional Barriers
First off, meditation is damn hard. You sit silently. You focus on your breathing. You allow whatever thoughts and feelings to enter your mind until they decide to leave.
Are you kidding me?
My mind is a dungeon of evil. I battle thoughts of being cheated on. Feelings of doubt and mistrust swirl like a hurricane.
And that’s exactly why I need meditation the most.
Prior to meditating, I took my thoughts and feelings as reality. This is a common experience, but just because we feel something doesn’t make it so. Just because we believe someone is cheating doesn’t mean they actually are.
Learning to take a step back from our emotions requires emotional maturity. That kind of maturity can easily be developed in meditation. Meditation teaches you that thoughts and feelings are nothing more: They’re just thoughts and feelings. You can witness them flow into your consciousness, and then watch them wash away with the next coming thought.
Learning to do this is a vital skill that will transform many parts of your life. Meditation simply trains your mind to be aware of your own thoughts and emotions, rather than react to them.
Think back to those times when you may have acted out unknowingly. Think about when you freaked out over your partner talking to someone. When you became really nervous in the bedroom or made up excuses to not to talk to your partner about something you know you need to talk to them about. You can start to bring awareness into your thoughts and behave differently to get different results.
Meditation enables you to recognize the thoughts and feelings in the moment. Stuff like, “when Jake ask me to come to bed early, I feel like avoiding him. I began to rationalize reasons to continue to work rather than be intimate with him. I’ve never noticed that before.” Or, “whenever my girlfriend talks to her ex-boyfriend, I get really jealous and bring up irrelevant past problems. I never realized I did that until now.”
It’s hard. It’s difficult. But it will change your life. To start, just try meditating for 3 minutes. Do that for 21 days straight. Then build from there. Simple, right? If you want a non-spiritual guided meditation, then check out Sam Harris’s Meditation here. It’s my favorite.
The final way is…
Therapy for Emotional Blockages
Yup. Go see a shrink. Here’s why. My personal therapist was a Godsend to my emotional health and relationships. In fact, it was so powerful that I am now attending the same master program he did.
A quality therapist asks the “why?” questions like above, but dives even deeper in the depths of your emotional makeup. They guide you into lines of questioning about yourself that you’ve never considered before.
A therapist is able to see the entire picture of your pain, while you are still stuck in the frame. This allows them to show you that something you always believed to be true was actually an emotional reaction. They can expose how your part of an interaction influences another person to fulfill your deepest fears.
For example, I had an unfortunate romantic event that happened in college. I hadn’t really explored how it had impacted my relationships and myself until I got into therapy. Once I did, my therapist helped me realize its impact and how it affected me, and that allowed me to begin working past those issues. It allowed me to cultivate the healthy relationships my old emotional patterns were preventing me from having.
These approaches won’t create instant transformations. You won’t wake up one day and say, “shit, I never realized how much I needed to feel an emotional connection.”
The process of uncovering emotional patterns slowly plays out over time. It’s like losing weight or getting fit. Yes, you can take steroids or get fat sucked out of your body, but eventually your old unhealthy habits will cause you to surpass your fat ass in weight again.
There’s no shortcut. The only way is through: through the tiny realizations. Through the minor epiphanies. Each will reveal a deeper layer of yourself.
Once you can understand your emotional needs, you can then take the steps to actually getting them met. You can enable your partner to meet your needs, instead of blocking them from giving you the love you need.
- Note; Often this behavior is a byproduct of insecurity and a lack of trust towards the person you are dating. This was an ultimate low in my relationships but also a slap to my face that I had some deeper emotional issues that needed addressing. Now I have a very healthy relationship with someone I trust. #Winning ↩