“He tells me to stop being so emotional. Does he want me to be cold and unfeeling like him?”

"Cool Hard Steel"—Adam Scott by Mimi Stuart
Live the Life you Desire

The steadfast, unemotional husband, who at first is drawn to his warm, emotional wife, soon grows distrustful of the roller-coaster ride of her emotions. (Of course the genders are not fixed.) He becomes cold and withdrawn; she becomes desperate for connection. Neither attitude is a great aphrodisiac!

Intrigued by one another at first, opposites sometimes end up loathing the opposing qualities. When each tries to change the other, both become more deeply entrenched in their own original one-sided position.

We’ve seen relationships where the emotional partner oscillates between gushing love and fervent hatred. The logical partner of such a type often protects himself from the volatility of her emotions by detaching himself from her, exacerbating her devouring need for connection.

He thinks himself capable of analyzing relationship issues logically and correctly. Yet, his unawareness of his own secret prejudices and sensitivities makes his use of apparently cool rationality potentially pernicious. His partner may find it difficult to argue against his seemingly superior logic, which may be riddled with outbursts of irritation.

Here is a case where intense reactivity can lead couples to polar extremes. The extreme position of the each partner scares the other into a more defended posture.

If the relationship is to grow, each partner needs to integrate some of the opposite quality to become more whole. Both partners need to accept the other’s qualities, as flawed as they are, and move toward the center themselves. If one person becomes more balanced, the other is likely to follow, because there’s less need to be on the defensive.

If the emotional person were to respond with calm objectivity, it would allow the rational person to show more feeling without fearing being sucked into histrionic chaos. If the rational person were to get in touch with and express some of his own emotions, discomfort or fear, for example, the feeling person would gain compassion for him and soften her melodrama, no longer needing to get a show of emotions from him.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Emotional Intimacy.”

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