Horrible Harvey has finally left, and the outpouring of love for those generous souls who have given of their time, resources and money is beautiful to behold. Houston is full of heroes, many of them unsung and all deserving of as much gratitude as we can muster.
Fortunately, love is one of those rare renewable resources; so no matter how much we give away, we always have more. The question is whether we choose to find and share it. In the aftermath of this unspeakable disaster, I am afraid that our public displays of love are plentiful, but the equally, if not more, important private romantic expressions may be in short supply.
Do you know that natural disasters are proven to be significantly and statistically linked to spikes in the divorce rates in the affected areas? Sometimes as high as 30-50% increases are found in the months after a particular event.
Whether we are dealing with devastation personally, or simply empathizing with those around us, most of us are caught up in sorrow, grief, shock and frustration at being out of control. It’s not unusual for these feelings to cause us to shut down emotionally and pull away from our loved ones, even as we need them the most. Ironically, we can be showering love upon our community heroes while simultaneously overlooking the love of our life sitting next to us. A lot of people will argue that going without sex for a little while shouldn’t be a big deal and they have other things to worry about. While this may be a perfectly rational response, the fact is that our desire for intimate connection isn’t rational, it’s emotional. This means that our relationships can be seriously hurt by “rational” decisions.
We need to acknowledge the pain felt by those who find their sense of self by protecting their families, yet find themselves completely impotent against mother nature. The losses suffered financially may be minor in comparison to the feeling of failure they are besieged with as they have to clean up the mess they couldn’t prevent. Dealing with this huge toll on their ego exactly at the same time as they lose the ability to prove at least their sexual prowess with their partner can render an enormous sense of futility and loss of self confidence. It's negligent of us to ignore or overlook the very human need for physical affection and connection after such catastrophic event.
We know full well that many men experience emotional intimacy only through sexual connection, when we take that opportunity off the table, they may be left with no other ideas for how to reestablish a meaningful bond. This disconnect causes resentment and unhappiness which gets blamed on the lack of sexual activity. But the problem is more likely to be the sense of disconnect that is troublesome and isolating. The good news is that with a bit of effort, most people can learn to maintain passionate, romantic connection even during extended periods of “forced abstinence”. While it would be foolish to consider lack of sexual intimacy a death knoll for a relationship, it is equally foolish to pretend that the issue doesn’t need to be proactively addressed for a relationship to survive.
The key is to find a way to feel connected and allow the flow of romantic love even without sexual congress. Because whether we like it or not, we are social animals and we are healthier with positive emotional connections to others especially in tough times. This connection is much more important than sex, but is harder to acknowledge because it is absolutely intangible despite its strength. Those who take their traditional male responsibilities seriously and yet are completely unable to protect their families from this devastating loss may be emotionally reeling and feeling that they have failed the ones they are charged to protect. This takes a huge toll on their ego exactly at the same time as they lose their ability to bond with their partner through physical intimacy. It's not fair to recognize post natal depression and yet fail to recognize the very human need for physical affection and connection after such catastrophic event. We need to acknowledge this and help people support each other before it's too late
The problem is exacerbated by the reality that our immediate response to a situation continues to inform how we cope further down the road. The couple that fails to share the stress today is unlikely to have a sudden spontaneous change of heart tomorrow, the next day or next week. The longer they live without intimacy, the less likely they are to resume it.
Make no mistake, if you care about your relationship, the time to connect is now and every day moving forward. As the physicists have proven, nothing remains the same. What this means is that if you aren’t pulling closer, you are getting farther apart.
We couldn’t stop the rain, but we might be able to prevent the divorces.
Love your beloved the way they want to be loved today. Repeat daily.
(Think you can’t “love” your partner because you don’t have any privacy? Think again. And check out tomorrow’s article, “10 ways to Love in Plain Sight”, because I will give you some easy and practical ways to maintain loving intimacy even when sex is not possible. Remember, there is always enough time and space for love.)