You and Your Mate – How to Work Together

It takes two to tangle, but the emotional tangle can be even harder to unravel when you and your mate each bring your own struggle with fear to your relationship. Sex should deepen and reaffirm a couple's bond. But it may not work that way.

If you've suffered sexual abuse, physical intimacy may trigger unconscious fear -- fear that you try to work out by avoiding deep emotional intimacy. If you grew up in a home with a depressed or angry parent, or parents who were emotionally absent, you probably didn't get enough opportunities to develop a strong oxytocin response. Your emotional thermostat may be turned up too high -- your fear response is too strong. Your love response may not be strong enough to overcome your fear of others.

As an adult, you may be able to fall in love and get into a relationship, because nature gave us lots of dopamine, the chemical of reward-seeking and pleasure, to get us over our fear of strangers so that we could find a mate. But once the excitement of dopamine wears off, we need the oxytocin response to keep us together.

If we're not pumping out lots of oxytocin -- sex, cuddling, sleeping side by side, eating together -- it may be a struggle to keep our fear in check. When you first get into relationship, you're experiencing all this oxytocin and dopamine, and it feels great. But what used to feel good doesn't feel so good anymore. Now, intimacy feels uncomfortable or threatening, while conflict escalates. If this is a pattern you fall into with your mate, you can see how it would complicate your parenting. When both regress emotionally, how can you act as a stable parent to your child?

I’m not saying that you won't be able to employ the oxytocin parenting strategies successfully until and unless you have no fear. I am  saying is that you may need to use the same strategies to help each other move out of the place of fear and into a place where you can calmly connect with each other again and help your child regulate.

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