As a counselor, I see people with a variety of problems; however, I have observed that many problems have one root cause. That cause is an emotional disconnection with the person or people they love. When a husband and wife lose their connection, they are going to experience difficulties. If they don’t recognize what is happening and go to work on it immediately, there will be consequences. When a couple has to deal with the pain of an affair, it is a horrible experience. What is so important for me to help them discover is that the affair was the culmination of their emotional disconnection—not the beginning. Disconnections always begin in simple ways, such as that of not doing the kind and loving things for each other that characterize connected relationships. However, they also include an element of betrayal. Brene Brown has capably written on this subject in a fine book entitled Daring Greatly:
In fact, this betrayal usually happens long before the other ones. I’m talking about the betrayal of disengagement. Of not caring. Of letting the connection go. Of not being willing to devote time and effort to the relationship. The word betrayal evokes experiences of cheating, lying, breaking a confidence, failing to defend us to someone else who’s gossiping about us, and not choosing us over other people. These behaviors are certainly betrayals, but they’re not the only form of betrayal. If I had to choose the form of betrayal that emerged most frequently from my research and that was the most dangerous in terms of corroding the trust connection, I would say disengagement.
When the people we love or with whom we have a deep connection stop caring, stop paying attention, stop investing, and stop fighting for the relationship, trust begins to slip away and hurt starts seeping in. Disengagement triggers shame and our greatest fears— the fears of being abandoned, unworthy, and unlovable. What can make this covert betrayal so much more dangerous than something like a lie or an affair is that we can’t point to the source of our pain—there’s no event, no obvious evidence of brokenness.[i]
Every person who knows the genuine satisfaction of being connected to another person in a loving relationship (the best example of this is marriage) also knows the work of guarding that connection. There are a host of things that can erode that connection: work, sickness, depression, disappointment, or just the unpredictability of life. Healthy relationships stay healthy because they stay connected. That doesn’t happen by accident, but rather because two people choose to make it happen every day of their lives.
[i] Brown, Brene (2012-09-11). Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead (pp. 51-52). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.