Goodbye's, see-ya-later's & transitions speak volumes. For some, it's business as usual. For others, the world feels like it's ending. Many fall somewhere in between. Regardless of your experience, separations pluck tenderly at our heart strings. They tap sonically on our tingling spines. They stoke heat in our chests and release butterflies in our stomachs. Separations are somatic: that is, they have an impact on our bodies.

Humans are wired to connect & your nervous systems is designed to chat with those around you. You feel light when your partner walks into the room. You start sweating when your boss walks towards you. Your whole being reverberates with love, concern & compassion when a small child takes a tumble on the sidewalk. The fact that our nervous systems gab with such ferocious fervour can be both a great gift & a rocky realization. 

How we learned to respond to goodbye was largely influenced by our early caregivers and interactions with close adults. Consider these:

  • Your father left for work before you woke up and returned home, well after you went to bed.
  • Your mother responded with shorter statements and less focus as time ticked closer to your grandparents' arrival.
  • Your uncle tucked you into bed, read you a story, and warmly wished you off to dreamland.

Each one of these common narratives offers an insight into the development of our internal working model for transition and separation:

  • Your father left for work before you woke up and returned home well after you went to bed.
    • (No ritual around separation and reunification)
       
  • Your mother responded with shorter statements and less focus as time ticked closer to your grandparent's arrival.
    • (Incomplete or inconsistent ritual around separation and reunification)
       
  • Your uncle tucked you into bed, read you a story, and warmly wished you off to dreamland.
    • (Consistent, tender and soothing ritual accompanying the transition from wake to sleep)

So, what does that have to do with sexuality and relationships today? As an adult in partnership (dating, partnered, or otherwise) you offer a similar, if not the same, template for separation & reunification as you experienced in those early years. If you aspire to intentionality, and present communication during time spent together and away from your partner(s), there are countless opportunities to experience affection & attention in moments of transition. Your nervous system is dynamic, repair-oriented & healing.

However, if you rush through, avoid, or make movements to shut down intentional transition, you cue the music for a dance with instability & insecurity with your partner. Do you ever experience:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Binging on food during the late hours
  • Waking up feeling groggy or bothered even with ample hours of sleep
  • Increased anxiety as the work day comes to a close
  • Challenges connecting with your kids, pets, family members, and important projects
  • Spontaneous conflict with your partner following an airport pickup

While seemingly disconnected, there is no coincidence between these experiences & a terse relationship with transition. Our early selves are actually quite simple. We need to be soothed, reassured, attended to & loved consistently. As an adult, you likely learned to do that in unique ways yourself. And yet, if you are making the prime investment of living in partnership, why not cash in on the perks of your attentive other? Rituals around transition, separation & reunification offer powerful opportunities to fully land with your partner. Think aircraft controller moving in sync with pilot, offering an experience of welcoming from ground to gate.

How can you signal to that primal part of partner's nervous system that everything is ok? What activates the button that powers down your own defensive systems and says, "love & safety are here"? Consider these exercises with your partner as you turn towards rituals for separation & reunification:

  • When you walk in the door, take each other in full embrace & sink into it. I'm talking at least 30 seconds. Help identify & sooth points of tension within your partner. Be both explicit & help guide each other to the regions in your body that need the most support.
     
  • Experiment with landing in bed at the same time. Curate the room with soft lights - candles or LEDS - and gentle scents (i.e. essential oils). 
    • For partners with opposite sleep schedules, you DO NOT need to sleep at the same time BUT YOU CAN put each other to bed.
      • Consider sharing a song, reading, or expression of gratitude
      • Wrap your partner up snugly in the blankets
      • Offer sweet soothing expressions ("I'm here...I love you...I care about you...I can't wait to see you next")
         
  • Sit in silence, hand-in-hand, looking out the same window together before turning on the car & driving off
     
  • Fill your partner up with affirmations, tenderness & genuine touch before you walk out the door. Plan an extra 5 minutes for this (particularly in the mornings).
     
  • Check out Wired for Love by Stan Tatkin (particularly Chapter 5 - "Launchings and Landings: How to Use Morning and Bedtime Rituals" for even more ideas!

There is simply no end to the number of ways that you can transition & reunite with your partner. Be curious, accommodating & explorative. Most of all, BE THERE. Couple's that transition together, move with shared vision forever.

What creative ways do you signal endings & coming togethers with your partner? Feel welcome to comment below.

 

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