Couples often show up in my office with a wish to improve how they communicate. I think we all look for ways to be in a relationship and get our needs met, to be able to articulate those needs, and to respond to our loved one with equal care. No small feat!
Part of the difficulty lies in the fact that most of us believe our partner ought to know what we need and want. Some of us have the mistaken notion that our partners can read our mind`, or that everyone feels this way so why can’t s/he get it? When we carry those kinds of beliefs around our inner frustration mounts. What is wrong with this person that they don’t get it, that they just don’t understand that NOW is the time to approach me, that NOW you should tell me you love me…. and the sad reality is, many of us are screaming this out by the time we decide to share. Not very sexy indeed!
Even worse, when the screaming starts, it’s never “I really need you to hold me”. It’s usually “You are such a _____! You never do anything right!” - in the end giving your partner NO information about you (other than your rage) and more information about him/herself that s/he would care to have. On top of that we have now added fuel to the fire and the hurts accumulate and resentments grow.
How can we train ourselves to remain authentic, to articulate that authenticity, even when it makes us appear vulnerable? So many times in the last few weeks I have heard people come in and describe this sensitivity as weakness! Imagine, sharing your longing with your spouse is weakness! Imagine, sharing your loneliness with your partner is weakness!! We’d be doomed as a species if that were true!
What is true is that NOT sharing those soft and tender feelings is weakness! I abhor using the word weakness all together – so let’s not. Not sharing those soft and tender feelings, out of fear, only encourages that fear to grow. Not sharing those feelings isolates you further, puts more distance between you and the person you want to be close to. Not sharing those feelings creates a block to the antidote for all that sadness and loneliness. Sharing (the antidote!) those soft and tender feelings acts like a magnet and draws your loved one closer. Sharing breaks your isolation, opens your heart, permits contact to happen, helps strength to grow…. all that from sharing from your heart.
Equally important to sharing is listening. Listening is an equally challenging task. In order to hear you must be present. In order to hear you must put your defences down. In order to hear you must accept that what your loved one is feeling is what your loved one is feeling – no ifs and or buts. In order to hear you must understand that when your loved one tells you what they are feeling, it is not an attack or a criticism of you. In order to hear you must offer each other the space and time to speak.
It’s a real piece of work to come together as a couple and give yourselves the room to be vulnerable, to create a space between the two of you that is shared and sacred where real feelings can be expressed and appreciated. Allow yourselves to be vulnerable – there is truth in that and there is connection and healing in the truth.