When we have difficult events in our relationships it is easy to push them aside and diminish their impact on our lives. The belief that rehashing things only brings up painful feelings again is a prevalent experience. However, by not stepping into the messiness of relationships we miss out on the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding and often a deeper intimacy.
I’m sure this has happened to you. Something small came up in your partnership. It could have been someone reminding the other not to forget something. Feelings are surprisingly hurt and there is a moment where this can be explored. Instead of the possibility of deepening there is a decision not to go there.
“I’m fine, it wasn’t a big deal.” “I don’t want to deal with this.”
Of course at that moment it may not be the right time. A more appropriate time may be later. However, for many of us we don’t want to have to talk about what happened because we are tired of the uncomfortable feelings that come when engaging in these types of conversations. We want to avoid having painful feelings come up. We don’t want to admit to feeling hurt or having to acknowledge what we said hurt our loved one.
All of this makes sense. But what is lost. In my opinion what is lost is more intimacy.
When we move towards each other in these situations we offer space to repair any hurts and be able to acknowledge the importance of our relationship. Taking time to do the relational work says the relationship is a priority.
The other important outcome can be an opportunity to be more vulnerable. When we speak to our lover with an openness to admit our failings and express our fears and shame we open a place for them to deepen into our world. They can feel us in a way that before this moment they didn’t feel us. When this happens it brings forth the possibility of more love and trust in the relationship.
Being vulnerable with our partners is difficult. Our nervous systems our designed to keep us safe. We all have known fear responses that happened outside of our conscious awareness. The sudden jumping back from a car, or the instinctual sense that where you are isn’t safe. This happens without us consciously choosing it. It is our nervous system’s protection imperative.
Our nervous system also makes it difficult to step into vulnerable conversations because we feel uncomfortable sensations in our bodies. It may be a tightness in our chest, a gripping in our throat or nausea in our bellies. These are all messages telling us not to get vulnerable. However, because humans have a pre-frontal cortex we can override this instinctual response and know that it is okay to be vulnerable with our lover. We step into the moment and express our vulnerability which gives our partner the potential for hurting us.
But if we are vulnerable and honest and we do this with a loved one it is quite rare for your significant to hurt back. What is more likely is mutual sharing.
“I was hurt by what you said this morning. I know it isn’t that big of a deal but I still felt hurt. I guess I’m worried that you don’t care about me sometimes.”
“It feels really good to hear what you are really feeling. I want you to know that I do really care about you.”
This is the kind of response we get from a loved one. This kind of moment is what intimacy is.
In my own experience I feel a lot of discomfort every time I express my vulnerability with my wife. Time and time again I am met with tenderness and love. This makes it easier to do the next time because I keep having a good experience. Still, my nervous system is on alert each time. I’m glad my nervous system is designed to keep me safe. Sometimes I even thank the uncomfortable sensations that are there to stop my vulnerable expression. I know they are trying help.
So the next time you feel that minor “ouch” from something your partner says try not to avoid it. Stay present with the hurt. Notice if there is something deeper in why you were hurt by what was said. Reach out for your partner and take a few moments to express what you felt with honest vulnerability.
If you are looking to bring more of this type of relating into your life feel free to email me or call.
Wishing You The Day You Need To Have!
Intimate relationship promises so, so much, but only delivers what we put into it. This does not mean that it’s all work—far from it! Much of what we need to put into it is what we need to extend to the world anyway: our love, our compassion, our integrity, our courage, our yearning for a deeper life. And what a lucid joy it is to enter so fully in consciously shared living—shared heart, shared being, shared evolution—that everything that arises, no matter how painful, is permitted to further our intimacy.
~ Robert Augustus Masters, from To Be A Man.