Partners in a troubled romantic relationship will often report that while they love their partner… they are no longer “IN”love with him or her. We believe the only difference between the two statements is the word “IN.”
We have learned over the past 38 years that to be “IN” Love requires that we make a decision to become emotionally vulnerable with our partner. Below, we present in bullet form what we have found to be essential in the foundation of such emotional vulnerability. These bullets are the four building blocks of being IN Love.
John and Elaine Leadem are licensed clinical social workers whose combined investment in the field of addiction treatment spans more than sixty years. Their commitment to helping recovering families has provided the core inspiration for the development of a "A Decision to Be IN Love"© which has helped many couples move from the traditional parallel model of recovery to strong united core support group.
Editor: Saad Shaheed
IN Love is an intimacy model for romantic health in which partners in a committed relationship work together as a team to build an emotional and spiritual bond. That way each partner can draw strength from each other when they each find his or her individual personal reserves running low.
Here are the four essential building blocks to being IN:
- The first building block that we that we have found essential to the foundation for being INis: Mutual Consent.
The question that partner need to answer from the very beginning is whether or not they both believe it is time for change – and have agreed to – the level of work needed for bringing back emotional intimacy and communication into the relationship.
Do both partners want to work on this relationship? Not necessarily so. Just because two partners are exchanging wedding vows at the altar, or sitting in a marriage counselor’s office together, does not prove that they are both invested in, or wanting, the same kind of intimacy and healthy communication as each other.
One partner cannot order the other partner to be IN. Partners need to be IN by mutual consent.
- The second essential building block to the foundation of being IN is: Safety.
Even though it is placed “second” on this bullet list, safety it is actually the cornerstone to being INLove. We could not place it first because it can be risky to engage in intimate communication and vulnerability without the full consent of both partners. Without safety however, there is likely to be limited if any progress in improving the relationship.
Safety is not a wish list of every change that you would like to see your partner undertake in order to ensure total comfort. Safety as we use the term is the circumstances, behaviors, or events, within reason, that represent significant obstacles to your ability to risk vulnerability in the relationship.
Threats to safety can be physical, emotional, sexual, spiritual, financial or parental. No one gets to decide for an individual what his or her safety needs are.
- The third building block that is a critical part of the foundation for being IN is: Self-Care.
This building block is intended to help each partner develop or enhance a plan for taking care of his or her physical and emotional needs. The term “self-care” is widely used to refer to activities, practices and attitudes that are engaged in on a regular basis to maintain and enhance a person’s health and emotional well being. This is the sense in which we use it here.
Partners in a relationship must understand that each of them are individually responsible for the quality of his or her own life. If our romantic partner is either the problem in our life, or the solution, we are in trouble.
When partners engage in self-care, they surrender the “blame game” and instead develop healthy, adaptive ways to take responsibility for the quality of their own life.
- The fourth and final building block that is a critical part of the foundation for being INis: Emotional Bonding.
A commitment to be IN Love requires each partner to invest time and emotional energy into the development and maintenance of an emotional bond. Emotional bonding is a feeling and it is also an interactive process. It relies on and generates trust and affection. A bond of this type often develops when humans face extreme stress together, such as combat or a fatal illness. While we are not suggesting that you and your partner pursue either path, we are suggesting that romantic partners can develop that same end product by working as a team. This type of bonding occurs when two people decide that they are responsible to each other.
You will notice in the previous sentence we wrote “when two people decide that they are responsible to each other” – not for each other, but to each other. We are not asking partners to be responsible for each other. In fact, we discourage that practice between two competent adults because it generally causes a great many problems (far too complicated for us to explore in this short blog).
Be responsible to – not for – your partner. The difference is a fundamental one but easy to misconstrue. We are encouraging you to give care to – not take care of – someone.
In upcoming blogs we will further expand on each building block. All four will be presented with more depth. To learn more about practically utilizing these essential building blocks in your own relationship, we invite you to the source of this material which can be found in its complete form in our recently published book for couples titled “Awakening to Your Soulmate: A Decision to be IN
Love.” In this couples guide, users are walked through precisely how to implement these tools in any relationship.
(If you are a helping professional and would like more information about how to use this couples model in your practice with couples, we invite you to attend one of our upcoming trainings. Our most recent workshop was held at the 2016 NASW-NJ conference in Atlantic City, NJ. You can click HERE for more information about this training.)