A study showed that couples who had sex at least once a week (or 3-4 times over 2 weeks) rated themselves happiest in their relationships. Another study says watching porn ‘primes partners’ attraction to one another’. They also show that yes it’s true, men initiate sex more. We’ve probably heard these ‘facts’ already, over and over. So while many a study has shown the things that make a relationship last longer and run better, nothing much has been said on how to actively reach those goals. And now you have the answer. Its so basic. It’s what we probably already knew: be emotionally open and responsive with your partner.
For example, a study that found that it is also indeed true that women are the sex gamekeepers in relationships. Emotional fluency and responsiveness (i.e making someone feel special and validated) plays a large role in a woman’s enthusiasm on the matter. That’s just one way incorporating it into your relationship can benefit you (and him/her).
Emotional fluency and responsiveness helps intimacy growth, better communication and – yes- it helps your sex life. Something that seems to constantly be highlighted- but for good reason.
What is emotional fluency?
Emotional fluency is a term coined by writers Brian Gleason, LCSW, and wife, Marcia. The pair both founded the Exceptional Marriage practice as well as co-authored the book Exceptional Relationships: Transformation Through Embodied Couples Work. Did we mention they’ve also been together for nearly 40 years? We’re willing to bet they know a thing or two about intimacy and commitment. So did Science of Us writer, Drake Baer, who spoke to Gleason about how to learn this skill.
“We’re just not trained to speak in emotional language,” says Gleason. It’s odd to think that given the inescapable emotional ties a relationship entails (and cannot thrive without), it would surprise us that at any given point, you are feeling something. And so is your partner. Be it anxiety, longing,or joy. It would make sense then to have a medium to express these emotions- for the simple reason that your partner knows what the hell is going on. Whether the emotion relates to them or not. Gleason elaborates, “The more that we’re able to put into some sort of language and convey it to our partner, that these are my inner experiences right now, the more empathy there is in the relationship.” This makes sense, because we cannot empathize with what we’re unaware of. And a partner can’t possibly know what you’re feeling or thinking, if you don’t say it.
“The obverse of that is that the less I can say, this is my inner experience, the more my partner is going to be reacting to my outer behavior”, Gleason says. So basically the less you say about what you’re experiencing, the more your partner is left to rely on your outer actions, and this is a recipe for trouble. “Oftentimes [the person will react] with judgement and frustration, rather than where they would relate to your experience with empathy.”
This seems like basic knowledge but being emotionally responsive and open is not something we learn in school or as a mechanism for interactions in the big outside world. Yet it is a powerful tool for communicating- especially in your relationship. The good news is that it’s a skill, and so it can be learned.
The point behind emotional fluency is creating an alliance with your partner by offering a leaf for alliance to be made. So for example, if you need support with work, without voicing it, you cannot receive it. And when your outer action is say, ‘ to avoid contact, to pull back within yourself, then all your partner is left with is responding to your behavior. They have no idea that you have something important going on’. On the outside you just look stressed and are being snappy your partner will likely become ‘frustrated with you walling off’ and you will be left ‘feeling misunderstood’.
In essence, being disfluent with your interior state, primes conflict in a relationship. But when you openly communicate you set off a chain wherein both partners feel supported, heard and satisfied emotionally. “All of a sudden, there’s an alliance.” , says Gleason.
There is a study as well to back the idea of emotional fluency up. The study, written by Diana Tourjee at Broadly, and done by Gurit Birnbaum at IDC Herzliya in Israel, replaces the term with ‘responsiveness’. The study basically looked into the things that spurred couples to having more sex with each other. Tourjee reported that both men and women felt more desire for their partner when they felt they were responsive- i.e when their partner was attentive that made them therefore feel desired and they in turn desired their partners more (read more here). It’s not rocket science. “Sexual desire thrives on rising intimacy,” Birnbaum digressed, “Being responsive to a partner’s needs is a promising way to instill and maintain this elusive sensation over time.” As Baer of Science of Us put it: ‘When you perceive that your partner is responsive to you, then you see your partner as someone “desirable and worth pursuing”.’
That’s it guys. No secret, no magic, no insurmountable obstacles. Just showing your partner you give a fuck.
By Zoya Pon.
Image: Pop Magazine A/W14