Three characteristics of a strong relationship are honesty, open communication and the ability to be vulnerable.
When I think back, I remember how I used to be afraid to share my fears and insecurities. I was afraid my partner would judge me. In time, I came to realize that I was judging myself. I was projecting my own view of myself onto my partner assuming he would think the same. I was so wrong.
I also had moments when I formed an opinion of what he was thinking – without verifying. I would get myself worked up over absolutely nothing!
Many of my clients have experienced similar situations. We hide behind our thoughts of not being good enough or our fear of being rejected. It amazes me how common this issue is.
Once I built up my self-worth, the world was a very different place. I had a completely different perspective. I stopped anticipating a negative result. I have learned that my feelings are important and that I needed to pay attention to them. I learned to explore them first.
If I was upset or worried or afraid – I would first identify the emotion. That was a big first step: to be willing to go into that vulnerable space and acknowledge to myself what I was feeling.
My next step was to understand why I was feeling that particular emotion. Was it due to a long-standing self-limiting belief? If my experiences growing up developed a childhood fear, that stuck with me into adulthood, I had to identify it. I needed to recognize it was no longer valid and change my perspective. It was a conscious process that took time.
I discovered most of my adult fears were from childhood!
To a child, they are frightening because back then, we didn’t have the emotional maturity to put them into perspective. We just know deep down, to avoid them or bury them – because they hurt too much. We don’t even realize we are doing that.
Fast-forward to adulthood, and we are in a romantic relationship. Things happen, and we automatically revert back to that vulnerable child we once were. And we blame our partner when in fact, the situation ‘triggered’ those vulnerabilities buried deep within us. We aren’t aware of what just happened – we assume it was our partner who upset us and we feel bad. Then add to that, that we don’t speak up about our feelings. It’s a doubly painful experience.
It’s time to try something different if you want new results.
It’s a brand new day! I’m not suggesting that by reading this you can heal your childhood fears that are interfering with you speaking up to your partner. What I am suggesting is that you be willing to explore the possibility that you may be hiding behind your own fears and limiting the intimacy in your romantic relationship. The context for the word intimacy here is to be raw and vulnerable – to express your true self.
A professional counsellor can help you work through this. I know of two who are outstanding if you want a referral. For now, here are some thoughts to consider:
- You are worth it – your feelings are valid and important and please do not let anyone tell you otherwise. It’s helpful to start to build your own personal foundation to create the self-awareness of who you are and what your strengths and personal attributes are. It will help you start to believe in yourself.
- Learn how to ‘not react’ in the moment when you feel upset. Excuse yourself from the situation if necessary – letting your partner know that you need a few minutes and you will be back. Please do not walk out on your partner – that is hurtful to them.
- Start identifying your emotions and perhaps write them down. You could even write down what triggered the emotion (what just happened, what was said, etc.). After doing this several times, go back and reflect on what you wrote. You will see common words and themes that will start to reveal important information to you.
- I would strongly suggest you go back to your partner and share what you are feeling. Before you do that, you may want to prepare yourself for the conversation if you feel it is necessary. First – decide – what is your intent? Do you want to share what you are feeling? Do you want to understand why they behaved or said what they did? Do you want a resolution to something that upsets you?
- Now, it’s time to talk about it. Ask him/her to give you some time to discuss something. You could even let them know that this is not an easy conversation for you and that you would appreciate it if they could hear what you have to say and give you their perspective. Communicate your intent. For example: “I’d like to talk to you about something that upset me, and I’d like your help to resolve this situation.” That’s very different than raising your voice or blaming your partner.
If your partner blames you or shouts or belittles you – then they likely don’t have the emotional maturity to handle this type of conversation. You may want to have a counsellor assist if this type of situation is frequent.
No matter what, it’s so important to express what you are feeling in a safe space. Healthy relationships create this space for each other.
I love this quote:
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
~ Brené Brown