Boldly Ask for the Relationship You Want
A Connection Gem reader, let's call her Silvia, recently wrote with the following example from her relationship with her boyfriend:
I often need reassurance (we had a troubled relationship we're trying to make it work).
So I am starting to say:
"I am sad because I need reassurance (or I need connection), could you tell me you love me or something you appreciate about my improvement?"
He answers with things like:
"Do you want affection on demand... I'll give it to you it when I want to, you can obtain better from me if you don't ask... some sweet things and compliments have to be spontaneous, you are boring me, I need to relax..."
I try to give empathy saying:
"So, do you feel …?", but he stops me or goes away or switches his phone off.
So how do I give empathy to a person if he wants to stop the dialogue??
No doubt there are many complicated dynamics going on with Silvia and her boyfriend. At the same time it's important to tend to the big picture. In the example above, Silvia is voting for a particular kind of relationship – one in which revealing feelings and needs is a valued form of connection. Her boyfriend may not know this. He may be interpret her actions as attempts to control or criticize him. As a part of honest expression, it's important that Silvia explicitly share this vision with her boyfriend and ask if he is on board.
The more clearly you communicate about what kind of relationship you want and what that looks like to you, the more your partner or potential partner can answer you honestly about his or her values. Communicating in this direct way means that you are willing to live from your values at the risk of losing relationship. That takes courage! It also requires the ability to tolerate immediate pain and discomfort in trade for a more sustainable sense of satisfaction and ease. Silvia may adore her boyfriend in many ways, but if he doesn't share her vision for what it means to be in intimate relationship, they are signing up for a lot of suffering. She has to be willing to endure the temporary pain of a break up in order to find someone who shares her values.
Being able to boldly ask for the relationship you want requires this ability to live from your values in the face of pain and discomfort. It also requires that you know what those values are and some core ways to live them. If this is fuzzy for you, you can start by looking through the needs list (http://www.wiseheartpdx.org/resources.html). Of all the needs on the list, imagine that you could only consistently meet three of those in your intimate relationship. Which three do you choose?
Now that you have those three, take some time to articulate specific ways those needs would be met? For example, if you chose "collaboration" as one of your three, how does this show up? Is it about bringing in equal money, sharing household chores, a shared commitment to transformation, regular sharing of feelings and needs, equal time with both families of origin, or something else?
Having high expectations for your relationship is a way to honor yourself and your thriving. Keeping these expectations hidden and/or assuming your partner wants to meet them leads to lots of confusion. Whether you have been in a relationship for thirty years or thirty days, boldly ask for the relationship you want.
This week take some time to choose your top three needs you would like to meet in intimate relationship. First notice the specific ways these needs are already being met. Next, ask yourself if there are other ways you would like to meet them with your partner. Lastly, let your partner know and ask how that lands for her or him.
Authority vs. Power Over / Power Under