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Asking for Presence

You begin sharing something you're struggling with and your partner does anything but give his or her full attention.  You feel your frustration rise because you have asked again and again for him or her to be more present.  You feel lonely in your relationship and just want your partner to be present with you.

"Be more present" seems like a request, but is really a statement about your need.  Often when I hear someone say they have made a request of their partner many times, I find that they have been stating a need rather than making a request.  Asking someone to be present is like asking someone to be a pilot.  Both require a complicated set of steps, tools, and understanding.

Someone who is able to be present with you in a stable and clear way is someone who has worked hard at cultivating this ability.  This is especially true in intimate relationship in which all your issues come up.

You can begin to cultivate more presence in your relationship by being present with yourself and when you really want presence, before you share something. Once you are aware of this there are various requests you can make depending on your situation.  Here are some examples:

  • State your intention"I'm grumpy and I would just like to vent, I don't have any request.  Are you up for hearing me?"
  • Remind your partner that what you say is about you"I am upset about something and I'm aware it's my stuff.  Could you hear me and remember it's not about you?"
  • Double Check Your Listener: "I am hearing you say you want to listen.  I am feeling sensitive and wanting reassurance.  Could you take a moment to check with yourself to see if this is really a good time for you?"
  • Include the Whole Picture: "I'm so grateful for our life together here - our community, the way we play, professional opportunities, and creative projects.  And still there is this little voice that keeps missing home.  Do you have space to hear it?"
  • Get Specific: "I'd love about 15 minutes to talk about a work issue and receive some empathy and perspective.  Is there a time today you could offer that?"
  • Ask for Help: "I am hearing you say you really want to be present for me.  Could you tell me what we could do to help insure that?"  (You might come up with things like:  hold hands, turn off the music / TV, taking a walk, waiting until the end of the work week, turn off the computer and phone, take a hot bath first, share appreciations first, etc.)

All of these examples depend on your ability to be present and clear with yourself.  As you become more present to you, you are able to make requests that help your partner to do the same.

Another common element of these examples is that you prepare your partner for hearing you.  This helps prevent your partner from misinterpreting what you share as criticism or complaint about him or her. You also honor yourself by creating a space where you can be received fully.

This week, when you have something important to share with your partner, experiment with one of these ways to create more presence in yourself and in your relationship.

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