What is emotional comfort in a relationship? To me, it is the support you give your partner when they express their true feelings—perhaps of jealousy, of feeling let down in a situation, or at times fear due to a past experience. Expressing those feelings might be hard for your partner, and if you are unable to provide the emotional comfort they need, it could lead to fractures in the relationship. These fractures might turn out to be hard to heal?
V, a 36-year-old fitness professional, based in Bengaluru, is an attractive and vivacious woman. She is married to M, a 38-year old entrepreneur. V usually ends up becoming the centre of any party that the couple goes to. They’ve been married for two years, and M gets easily jealous of the male attention his wife gets at these parties. He knows that he has no reason to worry as they both are madly in love; and that V is just being herself and not deliberately doing anything to attract the attention she gets. Yet, he is unable to get over the jealousy he feels.
M brought it up with V after almost six months of feeling this way. She immediately reassured him of her love and requested that he brush aside any suspicion that she was seeking or encouraging this kind of attention. And yet the pattern repeated at another party soon after this chat. M brought it up again. This time V got very upset with him as she had already reassured him that she had no control over how other people behaved around her. It became such an issue that they stopped accepting invitations to parties. They soon started going solo for invitations that were hard to decline. The main issue, though, of M’s discomfort remained unresolved. This, of course, affected their relationship. V felt that M did not trust her and M had no control over how he felt every time another man gave extra attention to his wife, even though he trusted her.
Knowing that they had reached an impasse they decided to seek external help and came to me a few months ago. After sharing a few ideas on how M and V could handle this situation, we settled on one that has ended up working well for them. It was clear that M needed emotional comforting in this situation. V and M decided that anytime during the party if he felt this way, he would hold V’s hand. She, in turn, would wrap up her conversation with the individual she was talking to and move on to mingle with other people.
Then there is the case of a client of mine T, who works in the field of education and has a grave fear of road accidents, especially during the night. She has had many fights with her husband if he gets late coming back from work or a party, or even when he takes a flight that lands late in the night. T stays up till her husband reaches home and the moment he enters the house, she is so anxious and worked up that they end up fighting.
Therapy has helped T a lot but not to the extent of her being able to completely stop worrying. Earlier if 8 pm was late for her, therapy has helped her push the limit to 10 pm. But her fear still remains. What eventually helped the couple, and gave T the emotional comfort she needed, was that her husband constantly kept her updated via messages when he was out in the night. It was a standard message, “All okay”. When her husband headed home, he shared his estimated time of arrival with her.
In both the cases, there is a fine line between being right and doing what is required for the emotional comfort of your partner. There is always a solution, but to find that solution you have to make the emotional comfort of your partner a priority. When that happens, your partner feels secure enough to see the situation in a rational way and you can work together to solve the issue being faced. M and V continue to socialise together, but by walking over and holding V’s hand, they now enjoy the parties. T’s husband continues to meet professional, social and travel commitments by sending a standard message to his wife every couple of hours if he is out late in the night. This highlights that it is not difficult to support your partner’s feelings. When you are thoughtful and make your partner feel like the most important person in your life, I can assure you that over time your relationship will be a secure haven for both of you.
This is a limited series by Simran Mangharam, a dating in and relationship coach, who can be reached on email@example.com