Vulnerability with a partner when trust has been lost can feel like jumping off the edge of the world without a safety net. We only like to extend ourselves if we can snatch that exposed feeling back. When we can say, “Well, I don’t care that you didn’t respond to my bid for attention because you’re a jerk anyway,” it feels a lot safer. I mean, who wants to be the Dodo who continues to ask someone (who only questionably likes you) to support you when you’re ragged and fragile?
Well, you do.
I don’t care if you click off this blog and go watch fail videos on Facebook now. You still saw this. You’ll be thinking about it while you’re staring, glassy-eyed, at cats falling into bathtubs 14 different ways. Might as well hang around so I can give you the skinny on how to make your relationships warmer.
Relationships that fundamentally forbid showing your tender parts are not intimate. They’re transactional, sure. They may get “the business of us” done. Kids will be squired towards adulthood, dogs will be walked and taxes will be paid. You might even fit in some good sex here and there. But, partnerships in which you’re gaurded lack personal authenticity. Frankly, tucking in the feels all the time is a hell of a lot of work. That exploding thing you do when you least expect it? It’s because you’re relationally tired. That zoning out thing the other one of you does with regularity? That’s also because you’ve got a bad case of the relationship tireds.
You can put on a façade for your boss, and your mother-in-law, and for that one aunt who reminds you that you were a lot thinner when you were 24. (Am I the only person who had that aunt? Bueller?) But when you’re with your boo thang? No, you have to be you or you’re going to be a miserable, mean-spirited caricature of yourself instead. And, you won’t do that because you’re actually a miserable bastard. You’ll do it because you have begun to lack the reserves to pretend anymore.
When couples come in with high levels of conflict, I work pretty hard at demanding that they change their communication patterns. However, I work a bit more on asking them to articulate their ideal selves as partners.
Who do you really want to be as a husband/wife/girlfriend/boyfriend?
How does that best version of yourself communicate?
What does your ideal version of yourself contribute emotionally, sexually, financially and spiritually to your union?
What would be the first signs that you are beginning to transform into the partnered you that you most respect?
I think the litmus test of a good relationship is not just how your partner behaves towards you. Rather, it’s how able you are to blossom into the spouse you’re capable of being—the compassionate, passionate, engaged you that is hiding under all the layers of aggression or ambivalence that has calcified the relationship.
When you’re asking yourself if you should stay or if you should go, one of the pivotal questions must be, “Can I safely and joyfully perform the best version of myself in this relationship?” I want couples to speak about this with one another at length in session. They should know who they’d be getting if change were to happen in the relationship.
Making space for your partner to live into his or her potential is no small feat. It requires incredible courage and resilience, and an ability to recognize fledgling efforts at evolution. Moreover, it requires you to support a partner you may be angry with (for lot of good reasons) during a planting season when the ground looks barren so that the reaping season is ripe with juicy collaboration.
Do you want to have a conversation about how you can be deliberate in the way you partner? Do you want to figure out if your partner can support that best version of you? Why don’t you come on in so we can talk about it.
Your Partner in Healing,
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