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Your Partner’s Inner World as Sacred Ground

You would like to be a part of your partner's inner world and contribute to his or her awareness and growth.  Yet, your partner's inner world is a vulnerable and private place and attempting to enter can easily be experienced by your partner as trespassing on Sacred Ground?  This is very tricky stuff.  Partly because it's easy to forget that offering your perspective on your partner's inner world is best done only with explicit permission (and even then you might be trespassing).  Also, because your motivation to offer this might have some unconscious layers.


Let's begin with permission to enter sacred ground.  Your partner's inner workings, history, habits, conditioning, and family of origin is an infinitely complex realm.  Regardless of how much time you have spent together, you haven't been there for the formation of most of this.  Remembering this, your job is to stand at the gates of this Sacred Ground in a humble and soft way.  You have no right to enter uninvited and if you do, you will likely do damage.  Remaining humble and entering by explicit invitation only is an example of keeping a healthy boundary.


But, as I said above, even when your partner offers an explicit invitation, it's still dicey.  Your partner may be giving up his or her own self-respect or self-empowerment and thus act in collusion with you.  This creates a one-up / one-down relationship.  If you are the one offering interpretations, analyses, and "insight", you are in the one-up role.  In this role you will likely come to resent your partner and have thoughts that you wish your partner would grow up, be responsible, transform, and do their personal work.


The second part, your motivation, isn't always easy to discern in the moment.  Motivation, in NVC consciousness, is just another way of saying universal need.  Here are four of the most common motivations behind offering your perspective on your partner's inner world:

  • Safety:  If you keep yourself in the one-up position, you create a perceived sense of control and thus imagine your need for safety will be met.  This is likely safety with regard to emotional pain or perceived attacks or abandonment.

  • Acceptance:  If you find fault with your partner, then it's easier to stand in the idea that you are not the one messing things up.  Blaming others is a way to protect a sense of self-acceptance (though it is a costly and not deeply effective way).   Being "the one who knows" is also a common way to maintain a sense of self-acceptance.

  • Relief:  You are in pain and want more of your needs met.  You hope that if you can change your partner, you will have relief from pain.

  • Contribution:  You see your partner in pain and genuinely think you have something to offer that would bring him or her relief.


Knowing what your motivation is in the moment requires a willingness to stop and reflect before speaking.  In that reflection, take the time to name your thoughts, feelings, sensations, impulses, and needs.  From this compassionate witnessing of yourself, you can act authentically and directly from the need alive for you.


If in your discernment, you decide that you really do want to contribute to the well-being of your partner and this contribution does not rise out of your own pain and anxiety, then you approach the gates of your partner's inner world humbly and softly.  In a soft and neutral tone you might say something like this:  "I have a guess about something that might be going on for you.  I don't know if it will be a fit for you.  Would you like to hear it or would you just like some space to be heard?"  Offering a second option, supports your partner is being able to say no to your input and choose a different way to connect.


In a mutually evolving relationship, offering your analysis, interpretations, and insights about your partner's inner world, is likely rare event.  Instead, you spend time listening to your partner and making it safe for him or her to share by bringing empathy and curiosity.  Consistently meeting needs for safety, empathy, and acceptance in your relationship, creates a secure base for you and your partner to reflect individually and honestly and courageously embrace transformation.


Practice

If either giving your input into your partner's inner world or asking for it, is a habit of yours, start practicing by just naming it when it happens.  A tactile way to do this is to put a handful or beads, stones, or the like in one pocket.  Every time you catch yourself doing the behavior, transfer an object from one pocket to the other.  


Do this practice for a week and notice under what conditions the behavior increases or decreases.  At the end of the day, as you remove the objects from your pocket, guess the needs that were up for you each time you engaged in the behavior.

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