Remember how your relationship was in the very beginning?
You stayed up all night talking about everything – your dreams and desires and even the things that scare or embarrass you. But then, as the relationship went a long, you stopped talking about so much. Everything became so heavy and meaningful.
In the beginning, things were great. There was a level of trust and open communication that created intimacy and understanding. So, what happened to that? Where did it go and how can you get it back?
I used to try to protect my partner from those heavy, bad moods and ugly thoughts. I went to my room and hung out until I felt like socializing again.
I thought I was noble in my ability to control what came out of my mouth.
I thought I was kind because I never let on what I was thinking.
But what I was doing was ruining my relationships. There was no relationship. I was cutting myself off from others and never allowing them to know me. They never knew what I was thinking or feeling or needing.
I was an island. A very lonely island.
I really thought that if I let people know the ugly thoughts, not only would they be hurt – but they would probably become angry and disown me – betray me, talk shit behind my back. I would be the outcast.
So I beat them to the punch! Hah! I'd banish myself to my own room (or apartment, as I got older). I'd banish myself to silence.
You can either have a N.I.C.E. (Not Interested in Connecting Emotionally) relationship… where you hide what is true out of fear. Or you can have an alive, real relationship with intimacy, compassion and understanding.
Some people withhold from their partner and add an extra zinger — they put on a show of pain and discomfort in order to punish them. It's an effort to communicate just how much pain they're in. But none of it is verbalized. It's a show of the pain.
When you start keeping secrets and withholding, when you cut off the sharing of life force between you, you're cutting off the intimacy in your relationship. Even if you think you're protecting your partner from painful or embarrassing thoughts – it's still destroying your relationship.
Relationships require sharing… both our dreams and desires along with our doubts and fears.
What are you feeling and what needs of yours are being met or not?
I'm happy because my need for support in keeping our home is being met.
I'm disappointed because my need for partnership isn't being met in the way we're handling our finances.
I'm sad because my need for connection isn't being met when you're out with your friends every evening.
Another tip: when you offer your feelings and needs, it's best to follow them with a request. If you offer them without a request, your partner won't know why you're giving them the information.
Do you want to be just heard?
Do you want advice?
Do you want to come up with a strategy for meeting your needs? Why the heck are you telling me this?
Often, a comment without a request will be taken as blame… which will lead to fixing, fighting or fleeing. Don't leave your poor partner hanging.
I recommend asking, "Would you tell me what you heard me say?" (Avoid saying 'could'- it implies they aren't intelligent enough to repeat you. And avoid saying "What did I say?" because what you said and what they heard are two different things.)
And one more tip: don't think that little behaviours are enough to be warranted as 'sharing feelings and needs.' Fixing your honey a cup of coffee in the morning is very sweet, but it may not communicate your feelings of love and contentment like actually verbalizing the information. "I love you so much", PLUS the cup of coffee goes much further.
Frowning and throwing around the bed covers while you make the bed may not adequately communicate your feelings and needs, either.
Instead, say: "I'm feeling disappointed because my need for support around the house isn't being met. Would you be willing to discuss a way to help that would also meet your needs?"
There's no room for misinterpretation there.
Try it out this holiday season: make a pact with your beloved to share absolutely ALL your feelings and needs for one day – the good, the bad and the ugly. Then follow the information with a request.
Be prepared to spend some time processing and discussing those feelings and needs as they come up.
However, try to avoid getting into BLAMING and 'FAULT' behind the feelings and needs. That tends to end up in a free-for-all about evaluations and judgments – who's right and who's wrong. Try to stick with feelings, needs and requests.
Try to do this on a day when you'll have the time.
You won't want to get cut off because you have to run to pick up the kids right when you're getting to the heart of an issue that's snuck up silently between you.
You're going to want to stay and hold each other and talk it through… and feel the intimacy of clearing out all of those old, crusty feelings and unmet needs that have been clogging the flow of love.
Article by Kristin Denton