I was working a lot this past week with individuals in relationships and many of them were facing the same things. Feeling stuck in the same problem over and over again and finding it really hard to be completely honest with their partner about how they were feeling. It never fails to amaze how me how hard it can be to share the pieces of ourselves that are the most important to being truly known. Even as a therapist I have to really push myself at times to share how I am feeling when certain feelings are bubbling to the surface.
When I was talking with my clients this week, many of them also shared that they were worried that sharing their feelings was what would make them weak. The other fear was that if their partner really knew how they felt, they would leave. What a sad situation to be in; fearing that by being who you really are, the person you love most would no longer choose you. With these themes coming up a lot this week I wanted to recommend a couple things:
The Call To Courage: This Netflix documentary by Brene Brown is everything. For starters, it speaks to the research behind vulnerability and shame and why it can be so challenging to open up. It also gives you ideas and suggestions on how you can make some changes. My personal favorite is her line “The story in my head is…” I think we should all use this more in our interpersonal relationships. Finally, it’s only an hour and 15 minutes which in our emotionally exhausted, time crunched world, feels like about as much capacity as many of us have these days to learn new material. If you haven’t watched it, you really must. I genuinely believe if you let the material sink in, it will show you how to develop a healthier, more courageous relationship with yourself and those you love.
A Reason To Leave: In Glennon Doyle’s book Untamed, she spoke about how a therapist once essentially told her that the life she really wanted could only be real if she were living another life. She came to the conclusion that we really only get one life so we might as well live the one we want. I think this is really important in our partnerships to recognize. By all means, I think one of the most beautiful things a person can have in their life is a long-term, committed, happy relationship. I see a lot of people sacrifice the happy part in order to be able to say they have the long-term part. This isn’t to say that I think every moment will be happy and I definitely don’t believe every moment will be easy, but I do believe that overall, we need to be more committed to happy than long-term. In other words, if you genuinely believe underneath that you can’t be your real self with your partner, I think it is important that you ask yourself what is making you stay. There are a lot of couples in relationships where they are technically together but they “broke up” a long time ago. How sad to spend years of your life feeling disconnected, hurting and lonely. While I think it is really hard to open up and be vulnerable, I also know that doing so will make you feel so much closer than you ever will by biting your tongue. So be brave, and risk showing your true self. If they genuinely can’t accept that, you might need to consider that a reason to leave.
Give both of these things a shot and let me know if they make a difference in your connection.