I’m not sure about you, but relationships 101 was never a class that I was taught in grade school. Prior to becoming a relationship therapist (and at times since) I find myself fumbling my way through, and not always getting what I want. We shame ourselves into believing we “should” know the right way to do relationships, when the only experience we may have is from watching our parents who are not always the most skilled themselves.
So let yourself off the hook and prepare yourself for an amazing relationship. One that is conscious, connected and loving.
This article is the first in a series of Relationships 101, because we could all use more skill in our relationships. I want you to know what to do when it does get hard, and I want you to spend time consciously creating the life you want with each other.
Let’s start with you. How good are you at asking for what you need?
One of the biggest misconceptions is “if they really loved me, they would know”. Well I have numerous ill-suited Christmas and birthday gifts to prove the contrary. Our partner’s job is not to be a mind reader. That puts all sorts of expectations on the other person, who isn’t likely to always get it right. Then you both lose; they are in trouble and you don’t have what you want.
If asking for what you need is difficult for you, here is a simple formula.
1. I Feel…
Start with how you are feeling. Anger can be quick to present itself, and know that it is often a primary defense emotion. Is there anything underneath the anger, like hurt, sadness, fear or loneliness?
2. When…… happens, I start to think….
Let your partner know what your head starts to say when they do a certain behaviour. This is often a place where our thoughts can take us to all sorts of scary places and sometimes create problems that weren’t even there to begin with.
3. What I need is….
What is it you need from your partner? Is it reassurance? A hug? Maybe it’s to be acknowledged and appreciated for your efforts?
Here is what it might sound like put together.
“I feel hurt and frustrated when you leave your dishes on the counter for me to put in the dishwasher. When I see that cup sitting there I start to think that you don’t care about me or what’s important to me. I need to know that my feelings matter and that I am important to you.”
As with all skills, give yourself and your partner time and patience to practice. If you struggle to get the words out, then you can begin by writing it out for yourself first.