I came across this youtube video and while it’s funny, it’s accuracy is not only representative, it’s also a little sad. It is what walks into my office regularly … the race has been run, and in actuality, no one has won. Now don’t get me wrong, some relationships are better off coming an end. I am writing this piece to simply suggest while we are all forced to stay home and likely not executing the end of relationship right now, why not lean in and just see what pushing towards a different direction might look like? Worst case scenario … you may understand yourself a little better. You may also find solace in knowing you genuinely tried and you might even find clarity that gives you space to do what you need to do for you.
Let me rewind … I was asked recently “what is the thing that breaks couples?” While this is a complex question, and every couple and situation is unique it does indeed boil down to one common thing: not being heard. On both sides. When our partner comes to us and says that things could “be better” or “we need counselling” or “you never plan a date night” or “you never want to have sex” … the other party typically hears failure. We often go straight to “I’m never good enough” or “I can never make her happy, no matter what I say” or “he is so critical of everything I do” … again I go back to the complexity of this. If neither of you hear one another, and nothing seems to land on either side, you may have a situation that simply won’t progress with out third party guidance. Blinders may help you win the race, but they don’t help you grow in relationship.
Let’s roll things back to communication 101, which is a great place to start because let’s face it, we were likely not taught how to communicate well. How to listen so we hear what is being said without attaching our story and transference to it. Let me explain … when someone shares what you can do better/different to help the relationship … hear it for what it is. It is not about how shitty you are. It is not about you not being good enough. It is not about you being less then. It is an opportunity for you to improve your relationship. It is about an opportunity for you to catch your partner and learn how to love her/him. Again, it is not about you being less than … this thought process, of being less than, is yours. It is your story. It comes from your history and it is in actuality, transference
. Could you imagine what it would sound and feel like if you heard the words for what they were – the request from your partner is not about you … it is about them and what they need. If your first response to this is “that sounds like a you problem and not a me problem” then again I’d strongly recommend some form of counselling or coaching. As harsh as this sounds that is where the blinders get you … across the finish line, without your partner.
If your partner is asking for a date night or a conversation or sex … can I suggest you lean in? Love and relationship is about leaning in. And it’s when we want to lean in the least that we need to lean in the most. When we choose to love someone, when we choose to get married and share our life with someone isn’t their happiness important to you? Not that you are responsible for it … but isn’t it a priority? Not hearing our partners requests sends one very loud message: I don’t hear you and you are not important. That is what is heard on there other side. The requests may get louder … and if they remain unheard, the requests will eventually stop coming. This is the extreme danger zone. The heart starts to close up and when she/he says she/he wants to separate there will likely be little you can do to turn this around. This is where I hear from partners that they were blindsided. When I work with couples and we start to unpack some realities of the relationship the belief about being blindsided leaves the room. And there he/she sits … suddenly seeing the moments when leaning in was missed, and the pain that comes with this realization can be heart wrenching.
In saying all of this, there is a high probability that the messages could have been more clear, or delivered better, or delivered sooner. While there is accountability that needs to be present on both sides … this truly and always boils down to self love
and awareness. I bring this back to self love because how we love ourselves is how we teach others to love us.
I get that we avoid conversation that historically stirs up an argument or potentially a split. And here in lies another issue. The threatening of a relationship ending, be it to our partner, or in our head is a tremendously damaging perspective. We need to stop the thought pattern that “I’m done if …” or “he’ll leave me if …”. The stopping of this doomsday perspective needs to happen ASAP. If our relationship ends because we want to talk about how we feel then maybe it was meant to end. We aren’t equipped with all the answers … we aren’t taught that being vulnerable is a strength and as asset. We are taught, and have been taught, that leaning in is weak. That admitting we need something is perceived as needy and insecure.
So I ask you … if you knew that how you hear your partner is how you hear you … if when she asks for tenderness, or he for sex, and it is disregarded, with each request, slowly yet steadily the race will come to an end. When she/he says “you’re never home” or “you never want to have sex anymore” or “you never have time” what is really being said is “I miss you … I need to spend time with you”. There is always more to what is being said. And when we can tap into what is really underneath we free up the tension and the hurt.
“So are you telling me that if I hug her more she’ll feel loved enough?” Or “If I plan a date night or have more sex we will make it through?” Again, relationships are two way streets, not a one way race. Leaning in needs to be led be someone. Leaning in means you are willing to receive love – this is a common, very real, vulnerability. And after years of triggers and shit between you leaning in, by either party, is unquestionably difficult to do. But again … if you knew that leaning in could result in bringing you closer before it’s too late, isn’t it worth a try?
Start there … decide to show up and love one another. Be vulnerable, together. Be real, together. Be honest, together. Being honest can mean we trigger or hurt the other person – and here is where we go back to self love because when we are triggered by what someone says or does, it is ours to sort through. And let’s not forget that when we hear what we are saying we need to reflect that back to self because we are likely expressing old wounds. When we get guidance that can help us understand us, we will know in those moments that our shit is ours and therefore will be open and able to have conversation that keeps us moving in the same direction, together.
If you love him/her lean in … take the time and set the intention to learn how to love each other. And what this means is ultimately learning how to love you. Because everything else, in all honesty, falls into place. Self love has a ripple effect. If marriage is like the horse race video… you’ll notice that romance and affection
get left in the dust – and it’s this mutual affection and love for one another that helps us navigate the bumps … bumps are inevitable and are much more navigable when we have someone in our corner. Someone who sees us, someone who wants to fill us up because it fills them up, and vice versa. This is love, and is the recipe for love in the log run.