Sometimes, less is more. If you apply that maxim to relationships, what kinds of questions or thoughts does that conjure up for you? Where do you imagine that would be true for you and your partner? Maybe it could apply to how much time you both spend distracting yourselves…maybe it’s about ways you complicate things that don’t need to be complicated!
One area where you run a large risk of having the less-is-more idea NOT work is when it comes to communicating things that are keeping you both from being able to feel connected to each other. Now, this isn’t based on the notion that we’re connected 24/7 to our partners (though I do think that’s emotionally and spiritually possible). This is based on the idea that little things we don’t communicate gradually build into habitually withheld communication that eats away at a relationship as surely – and slowly – as any kind of cancer.
That may sound dramatic, but it probably isn’t. When you think about (if you think about it) the fact that your passion (and I don’t mean just sexual passion) for your partner is feeling kind of lean and flat, how often does it boil down to upsets you have with him/her? Odds are, you very well may not know that that’s the case…you may be like a lot of people, who mostly just notice that the feelings aren’t as strong or as accessible. The mistake you can make, if that’s what’s happening for you with your partner, is thinking that that means there’s a fatal flaw in the relationship. While that could be the case, what’s more likely is that you have not been telling the truth to yourself, or to your partner, about any number of things – big or “little” – that have been eating at you for God knows how long. You have been denying your and your partner the opportunity to have each other, and your relationship, grow, and thrive.
If you commonly hear yourself saying things to yourself like, “I don’t want to upset them,” or “It’s just easier to keep it to myself,” or even, “It won’t do any good or make any difference, anyway”, don’t kid yourself. Firstly, the one you’re really trying to protect is you, and it could cost you your relationship/marriage. You’re the one whose feelings you’re trying to care take, particularly if it means you have to confront scary or unpleasant aspects you judge about yourself. When you do that, you’re projecting your “stuff” about reactions onto your partner – even if they do, in fact, get reactive. In essence, you choose to take the Fifth so as not to incriminate yourself!
I was taught that it wasn’t spiritually cool to tell people things that would cause them harm, for no apparent good. An example of that would be telling your partner that you’ve always hated their hair, just because you’re pissed off and feel like lashing out at someone. But, what I see causing horrible conflict – and even divorces – is holding back on communicating what you’re thinking and feeling about things and issues that – were they to be talked out, even if it happens with some heat around it – have every potential to bring you both into greater intimacy and connection on the other side of whatever tensions may first arise.
As an example that I hear about quite frequently from clients, a lot of you aren’t telling your partners the truth about what you really want or what you don’t want, particularly in the areas of being supported with the day-to-day demands of balancing work and home obligations, getting reminded you’re loved, and in the bedroom. Even worse: there are some of you reading this who may not be telling your partner that your frustration and unhappiness levels have reached a point where you have one foot out the door. By the time things have gotten that bad, make no mistake about it…you’ve played a huge part in creating it to be that bad, by not giving your partner a chance to know what they’re doing or not doing that really makes a huge impact on your emotional well-being and ability to be emotionally intimate.
They can’t look for themselves at what may be transformable without hearing that something’s not working. And, if you’re thinking that they should be able to figure it out by how you’re withholding your affection, sex, and/or energy, you’re on a road to nowhere, to quote the Talking Heads.
So, what to do? While a very complicated topic, here’s a couple of simple places to start:
- Get clear on just what exactly you’re unhappy about…then, look and see what the expectation was that triggered you being upset at not having fulfilled (e.g., hoping your partner would take you to a nice dinner on your birthday, which they didn’t do, which then got you disappointed and passive-aggressively withdrawing your energy from them for a few days).
- Look at how you could’ve communicated that expectation, why you didn’t, how often you don’t, and then take full responsibility for that pattern and resolve to both work on it and share that you have it with your partner.
- Then, share with your partner what you’re learning about YOURSELF, not THEM…and how you want to explore changing that behavior, with their explicitly requested support.
If, like an unfortunately large number of people, you’ve avoided doing this for so long that you’re more in touch with your resentment towards your partner than you are your love for them, you need to reach out for help to someone who can help you both disentangle yourself from the webs you’ve woven with each other without even realizing it. Clearing up weeks, months, or years of what you haven’t said or handled with each other really requires help from a good Relationships Coach (if you’re reading this, you may even know of one close by!) that can set it up and guide you to do it in a way – and within a context – that optimizes you both getting closer rather than farther apart.
Remember, like many things in life, if you don’t take risks, you just stay where you are…and, if where you are isn’t working, wake yourself up from the stupor that has you thinking that if you do nothing long enough, it will work itself out. That’s just a crock…it WILL NOT…or, if it does, it will be getting worked out by lawyers more likely than not. Is that what you signed up for when you committed to your relationship?