During the midst of his separation from his wife Katie, Ben, as played by Bruce Willis in the 1999 movie The Story of Us, recalls the experience of “feeling gotten” by her in their early courtship.
Breaking the “fourth wall, he states to the audience that when it comes to relationships, there is no better feeling in the world than “feeling gotten.”
What does “feeling gotten” mean and why is it important in relationships?
Feeling gotten is a core aspect of successful bonding.
When you feel “gotten” by your significant other, you feel known, valued, significant and alive.
When couples fall in love, they expend a lot of energy putting their best foot forward to communicate their interests, history and selves to their new partner. This creates a powerful bond when reciprocated. “Feeling gotten” leads to a strong sense of connection.
Unfortunately, over time committed couples often lose this sense of close connection. Rather than “feeling gotten”, they now feel “forgotten.” I often hear complaints in couple therapy such as: “My spouse is too busy with work or the children to spend time with me.” “My partner seems preoccupied and is not present.” “My significant other spends all of their time on Facebook or E-mail and neglects me.”
In each case, the partner feelings unimportant, “less than” and “forgotten.”
Just as there is no better feeling in the world than “feeling gotten”, there is no worse feeling in the world than “feeling forgotten.”
The loneliest place in the world is to be in a lonely marriage
As my mother used to tell me, the loneliest place in the world is to be in a lonely marriage. Social science backs this insight up. Loneliness has many negative physical and emotional outcomes. It is accurate to say, in fact, that “loneliness kills.”
Loneliness in marriage is also a predictor for infidelity
The desire for connection is so strong that individuals will seek out connection from a new love object if they are not feeling connected at home.
So, what can couples do to feel more “gotten” and less “forgotten” in their marriages? Here are some suggestions.
1. Begin by rediscovering yourself
Keep a feelings journal.
Record your dreams. Pursue your passions. Widen your social network. Before you can feel less lonely in your partnership, you might want to start with yourself to increase your own level of self-connection.
2. Choose a good time to talk with your partner and communicate your feelings of loneliness and alienation.
Using “I” statements rather than “You” statements will go a long way toward having a productive conversation. Stick with feelings rather than accusations. “When you are on your phone at night, I feel unimportant and lonely” is likely to work better than “You are always on your phone and it makes me feel like you don’t like me.”
Ask for what you want rather than complain about what you don’t want. “I would like us to spend some quality time talking” is likely to work better than “I need you to stop ignoring me.”
3. Work on finding better ways to begin meaningful dialogue
Good communication often involves using the right questions to facilitate conversation. This process is akin to finding the correct key to unlock a lock.
The worst questions to facilitate meaningful dialogue are ones like “How was your day at work” or “Did you have a good day at school.”
These questions are simply too broad and usually evoke a terse reply (“fine”) rather than anything more meaningful. Instead, I suggest that you experiment with questions such as: “What is the range of emotions you felt today?”, “What is your biggest worry?”, “Did someone help you today?” or “What is your biggest regret?”.
While “feeling gotten” may be an essential step in the mating process, it is easy to lose that feeling over time given the multiple pressures that couples face in today’s busy world. Hopefully, the suggestions I have offered will allow you and your mate to feel less “forgotten” and more “gotten” in your partnership despite these many pressures of modern life.