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I spoke to a girlfriend this morning on the subject of relating, with intimate partners to be specific. We were discussing her relationship with her current partner, and the often fickle dynamic they share.
Her? A strong, independent (yet very sensitive) woman and mother to their child. I’ve known her for some years… she can come across quite serious, yet has this incredibly warm and playful innocent side, which comes out beautifully in her mothering. She loves living by the ocean, in a country cottage and owns her home.. She values cuddles and being able to be a bit silly and playful in relationship.
Him? A business man, single focused and driven. A making lists, and ticking them off kinda guy. He doesn’t make much room for intimacy and cuddles, as he no doubt feels he will forget something important if he stops to take in a tender moment. He likes modern architecture and cities. He values a woman that accommodates his aesthetics, and praises his hard work and wittiness.
Two very different people, both driven by their own motivations. They have differing previous life experience and have their own story running about what is going on in any given moment based on their belief systems, and their current mood.
These two people have come together and chosen to have this experience in life with one another, not only that, they created a child together out of their love… when you think about it, it’s incredibly precious, and shouldn’t be taken for granted… yet so often we fall in to resentment, feeling misunderstood and like our needs are intentionally not being met by our partners.
This particular conversation, we were discussing her desire to go on a big family trip next year, and she was sharing her disappointment to his apparent total disinterest towards planning for such an adventure, of which, of course she took personally and was feeling deflated by something that she was originally so excited by.
I suggested, perhaps there was more going on for him then that.. that maybe he felt emasculated by her apparent more healthy financial status, and as a provider, he may have felt less excited, and more daunted or challenged in his role and the responsibility of making that work financially.
In truth, it could be any number of reason (without asking, it’s just a guessing game!), my point being, unless there is an open dialogue, we so often have no idea what is actually going on for the those we are close to. Instead we just build a story that matches our beliefs, and then go and complain to our friends about it.
It takes courage to share with a lover what challenges us, what makes us feel inadequate in life, and to speak up and ask for what is required in order for us to have our needs met and to feel safe. We think that by talking about it, we will come across as un sexy, or we fear sounding like a nag, but this stuff, it’s important!
Being heard, and being seen – it’s important in life!
Yes, it can be easier to play the bravado, or the fun bubbly, always up for a good time girl or guy! But it’s unsustainable in the long run, because we all fall short somewhere, there are cracks, we get triggered, our stuff comes bubbling to the surface, we are human… and that’s something we all have in common. I find comfort in that.
In an ideal world, we want to find another who we can trust with our fragmented parts, that we can say, hey this is what I struggle with, can I trust you won’t hurt those parts of me? And that the other won’t reject us, or worse, use our vulnerabilities as ammo against us later on if times of conflict arise.
We need to allow others to see all of us.. the gloriously fun bits, the mundane bits, right deep down to the filthy, darker bits!!
This is what makes us feel truly close with someone. If you can be ok and accept one anothers ugly bits, or as a friend says, their “cup of crazy”, that’s when you know there is an opportunity for real love and intimacy to grow, not to mention, true friendship.
I read somewhere once, that vulnerability is the first thing we are searching for when connecting with others, yet is the last thing we want to show the other person. It takes courage, to show up with all of our bits and say, this is all of me!
One of my favourite philosophers, Alain De Botton said in a talk I attended once, when we go on our first date, the first thing we should say to another is, “here are all the ways in which I am crazy, how about you?” a funny (undeniably cringe worthy) concept.
In that same conversation and on the topic of speaking up and being ourselves, my friend shared with me that her partner had seen her on her phone for a prolonged period of time the evening before, and had said to her, “Honey, get off your phone and take yourself to bed!” She told me show incredibly sexy she found that. I found it fascinating, another person may have been offended at a remark like that, but in that moment she saw his care for her, and found his assertiveness and attention a total turn on.
We are all so different. What holds meaning for one person, may be insignificant to another, which is kind of beautiful. If we got around always connecting with others who hold the exact same opinions and ideals as us, things would be boring. We wouldn’t be challenged to go to our edges, to grow and to look differently at circumstances, and ourselves.
Relationships are a chance to grow, rather then a needs exchange. That’s the beauty in connection, exploring our differences and making room to love another, in all of their unique brilliance, and their shadowness.
I believe, that in life, it’s our job to express our needs (and importantly our love) to others. It’s not anothers job to guess them. What the other does with meeting ours needs is up to them. It takes work, and it doesn’t always work out. It’s risky, this staying open and showing up with all of you business.. but despite the risk, I think it’s worth it. What else are we here for?
That’s what I gather from my life experience so far. How about you?