What do you bring to your relationship?
Now that you have noticed your bodily cues when experiencing relationship drag, it’s time for the next step of understanding. Not by allowing the critical inner voice, blame you or your partner, but by wholeheartedly acknowledging the experience and seeing it clearly.
What does that mean?
It’s truly an amelioration of three schools of thought:
According to John Kabat-Zinn, when thoughts or feelings come up, don't ignore them or suppress them, nor analyze or judge their content. Rather, simply note any thoughts as they occur as best you can and observe them intentionally but non-judgmentally, moment by moment, as the events unfold.
By observing your thoughts and emotions as if you had taken a step back from them, the view may be a clearer picture of what is actually on your mind. You notice thoughts ebb and flow one after another. Note the content, the feelings you have and your reactions to them. You might become aware of likes and dislikes, underling beliefs and inaccuracies in your ideas. You can gain insight into what moves you, how you see the world, who you think you are--insight into your fears and aspirations. (Kabat- Zinn, 2013). This may be precarious and needs patience, self-compassion and kindness.
So instead of thinking “He always turns away from me, using the kids or work as an excuse”, consider “I wonder why it’s hard for me to just let him know how much I need him”. Notice the emotions of longing and shame in an open, honest and non-critical view. The key is self- acceptance in the moment without judging your partner or yourself.
Secondarily, we are social creatures; our emotional well-being depends on it. The need to connect is innate and when we fear losing that link we experience primal fear (Pankseepp, 1998). We do one of two things: we fight/argue, demand, or withdrawal to the safety within ourselves. It looks different in each of us and it is likely you and your partner have contrary reactions. You may run into the other room as your partner follows in an effort to connect- either via an argument or apology. Consider the origins of your experience. Our reaction is based on the understanding of our world and the people around us. If we grew up unable to trust we would be protected, then turning away is the safest thing to do. We learn to rely on ourselves because no one knows how to truly comfort us.
Lastly, it is not easy being vulnerable. Sigmund Freud once said “We are never so vulnerable as when we love”. It requires you to be open to harm or attack and that takes courage. This courage connects us deeply to our partners. This tears away at the- should haves, could haves & would haves and allows us to feel worthy of love and belonging. It is not comfortable, but it is necessary. Brene Brown speaks about the courage to be imperfect; it is your naked truth with a compassionate embrace. Tenderness or street fight?
Say I love you first….
Experience your moment with an openness and tender heart, blame- free. Look inward with a gentle kindness and notice what this exchange brings out in each of you. Are you running or demanding? Have the courage to be vulnerable. It is human to love, comfort and safety. Try to meet your partner half way. All easy to say and hard to do- until you do it.