Offering What’s Been Missing
If you are working to transform an intimate relationship, you are likely beginning to offer something that has been missing from that relationship for a long time. You have woken up to your part in the relationship's decline and now are eager to do what you wished you had done years ago. What you are now offering could be one or more of a variety of things like:
Attuning to your partner - seeing who sh/e is deeply and celebrating that, getting curious about that, offering empathy, and being fully present when you interact
Creating safety - doing what it takes to make sure you don't vent reactivity at your partner, using a warm tone of voice, owning when you are grumpy or reactive, replacing judgment and advice giving with curiosity and empathy, replacing demands and convincing with open negotiation, honoring all needs equally
Sexual engagement - expressing your sexual energy in a way your partner can receive, inviting your partner into physical intimacy, offering long lingering kisses, telling your partner s/he is attractive, making yourself more attractive in ways your partner has requested over the years (in alignment with your integrity, of course).
Honesty and sharing - regularly sharing what's working and not working for you in the relationship, sharing what's most important to you, sharing your inner experience as well as the happenings in your life, expressing who you are emotionally, physically, energetically, spiritually, & mentally.
As you change and begin to offer your partner one or more of these, you may have noticed that your partner isn't necessarily celebrating your offering with smiles and open arms. S/he may have been asking for this change for years, so when you start to make it, you might hope for a big warm reception. But being able to happily embrace someone's offering means that there is a certain amount of trust present, or at the very least, that there is no history of broken trust.
As you begin to change and offer what's been missing in the relationship you are rebuilding trust. Rebuilding trust requires consistency over time and an openess in both of you to make space for the change. As you offer to your partner what's been missing in the past, you will likely be greeted with some combination of the following: defensiveness, resentment, resignation, grief, and the barest glimmer of softening and hope. This can really hurt. You are offering as best you can from your heart and your partner isn't able to fully receive. This is the moment that requires your courage and sense of vision for your relationship. It also requires you to stay clear. Your offering is like a drop of water for a thirsty wanderer in a parched desert. You wouldn't expect the wanderer to jump for joy about the one drop of water. You know that it takes time and a lot of water for a very dehydrated person to return to a hydrated and vibrant state of health.
Having this level of clarity and courage in offering what's been missing isn't easy. Consistent self-care and coming to the relationship with a sense of resource and resiliency will help continue to make this change. It's essential to make truly nourishing self-care a priority so that you can bring the best you to your relationship. When you are feeling stable in yourself, you can more easily let go of ideas that your partner is suppose to meet most of your needs or make you whole. It is likely that, in the past, these kind of unconscious expectations eroded trust over time. From the perspective of two whole and differentiated adults, giving is a thing that comes freely from the heart and grows in subtlety through honor and understanding of one another.
PracticeTake a moment now to reflect on what you are offering in your relationship. If it's something that had been missing in the past, how are you handling your partner's reception of your offering? Are you resentful that s/he isn't receiving in the way you would like? If so, what would support you in maintaining a sense of courage and clarity in the moment so that you can generously allow trust to build over time?