I remember when I was married. Things would bother me and I would stuff them down, not to speak about the issue at hand. I couldn’t. There was zero space to share concerns in that relationship. I stuffed them down and then every 6 months I exploded and asked for a divorce. He would swear he’d change and beg me to stay so we could work it out. It was an awful pattern. There were a few things going on in that relationship, not just not having a space that allowed for criticism but I also didn’t know how to ask for what I wanted or needed. I didn’t have a voice. I didn’t have the tools I have now.
Two years ago I attended a camp for sex educators called Sex Geek Summer Camp. I’ve spoke of it many times in this blog, I’m sure. The one take away from that camp, that really changed my life, was the communication role modeling I experienced. I learned to share my fears with the people around me. That was a completely new concept to me at the time. I remember going home to my love, K at the time, and sharing my fear of his upcoming date with another woman. It added a new level of sharing to our relationship. I learned a lot about vulnerability in that relationship. He was always a safe place to share. He knew how to listen and he was a grounding force in my life for a long time. He still is, even though I don’t consider us partners any longer. When I need that safe place to retreat, he’s always on the short list.
With P, that level of communication and vulnerability has only grown. We keep taking it deeper and deeper. It wasn’t long ago that I came to a realization though: I need the vulnerability to be coming from all sides. It’s one thing to have a partner that can listen. But can they also share? My strongest loverships are with those that can return the deep vulnerability. To be part of that level of exchange requires trust from all directions. Trust in your partner to hold the space and trust in yourself to be ok with the risk.
“What risk?” you may be asking. The risk to end your relationship. Sometimes you have to broach a topic that may mean the end. What if you just aren’t compatible any longer? What if your partner decides that the ask is too much?
Growth is always on the other side of of fear but sometimes people are just too afraid to take that hard look. Sometimes the emotions are scary. Sometimes the introspection is scary. Sometimes we fear the truth we will find. What if I dig deep and realize that I need something my partner can’t give? What if that realization ends the relationship? What if my needs aren’t being met? Am I willing to compromise and lessen my needs? What am I afraid of losing? What am I afraid of gaining?
I’ve gotten much better at stating my needs and wants. Before I could get there I had to gain confidence in myself. I left my marriage not trusting nearly any thought I had. I didn’t trust my decision making. I didn’t trust my self control. I didn’t feel I was a good partner. I didn’t feel I had earned the right to have needs of my own. I left without autonomy or even knowing what autonomy could feel like.
Yesterday I had to take some big things to P and lay them down for him to process. (We are still dealing with my feelings of invisibility to which he takes responsibility for not being very present when we aren’t physically together.) I was confident in my needs. I was confident that I was a partner worth attending to. I was confident that I would be ok if those needs couldn’t be met and that I might need to leave the relationship if things didn’t improve. I have the self worth I didn’t have before. I have the confidence to know I would be ok. But I also knew that P, being the way he is, would take an earnest look at my needs and self reflect. Like me, he’s really great at self reflection. We both take responsibility for our contributions, both positive and negative. The blame game doesn’t exist in our relationship.
All any of us want is to be heard and seen. Do you ever feel like you get into arguments that just seem to go round-and-round because you just don’t feel heard? You both are so stuck on defending yourself that the other can’t feel heard. That’s where we are winning, P and I. We don’t do that. It like our egos step back and we try to practice a high level of empathy. We understand resentment is a relationship killer. We both value growth and are willing to take the risks to tackle our fears, because we know growth is on the other side.
Here are a few great reads I want to share. The first is A Conscious Relationship: A New Way to Love. It talks about exactly what I speak of above, having a relationship based on growth. The second great read as of late is To Stay in Love, Sign on the Dotted Line. P and I want to write a contract. He’s going to be diving in today, thinking about what he would include, as he doesn’t think about our relationship nearly as much as I do. So I’ll let him start and lead on this one. (I always say that I think about our relationship enough for both of us!)
Do you have the confidence to ask for what you want? Do you feel you deserve to be seen and heard? If you struggle around these areas, I have a few great resource for you! Cuddlist.com and CuddleParty.com. A Cuddlist session always has a few components. First, they will always ask you to lead your session, asking for what you want. Second, they will only be a yes to asks that feel good to them too. It’s a safe space to ask and it’s a safe space to experience what a whole hearted yes feels like, as well as a safe space to process a no. These can also be experienced at a Cuddle Party. Go play! Play with your yes and your no! Play with asking for what you want! These two organizations, both of which I work with, have changed my life in so many ways. Join me!