I’ll be real, guys.
There are times when my relationship lets me down.
When my husband can’t give me what I want, or what I need.
Those moments feel like shit.
I feel myself collapse. As if all the life has drained out through my stomach. It feels like I’m going to throw up.
It can be something really small. Something objectively inconsequential:
Like joining me for a coffee….
Talking through our plans for next week….
Watching a movie together.
Or maybe it’s something with a little more charge:
Planning our anniversary…
Talking through the thing that’s been bothering me the last week or so.
And his answer is no.
For whatever reason, he’s just doesn’t feel up to it.
But in those moments, I feel abandoned.
Completely and utterly alone.
Because what it feels like he’s REALLY saying no to is…. me.
It feels personal. Really, deeply personal.
And in that tiny snapshot of time, I can throw the whole relationship into question. Because that’s my default when I’m hurting.
Shut down. Close off. Run away. Become Little-Miss-I-Don’t-Need-You-I’m-A-100%-Independent-Power-Woman.
Yeah, she’s as charming as she sounds.
I know it’s different for others. Some of my clients describe it as a spiral. Falling into a deep, dark hole of I’m-not-good-enough and unworthiness.
But at the root of it, it’s the same.
Hurt. Disappointment. Loneliness.
Once upon a time those moments ruled my relationship. I’d lash out. Attack. Manipulate. Defend. All in a desperate attempt to get my need met. Or else shut off completely, as if the need wasn’t there at all. Trying clumsily to protect from the hurt.
But here’s the tragedy of it:
What I’m really craving in those moments is connection.
And my intense default behavior never, EVER leads to the connection that I want so much.
Because Little Miss Independent is in denial that she wants connection at all.
And instead she drives a wedge between us. Creates an argument. Puts up barriers. Closes down her heart. And all it does is make it so much harder for the love to get in.
It turns a single moment of ‘rejection’ – an innocent mismatch of desires or timing or moods (sometimes he just doesn’t feel like a coffee) into a whirling mess of emotion and triggers.
The rational mind kicks in and starts piling together corroborating evidence. The battle lines are drawn and we’re digging our trenches.
It’s On. Like Donkey Kong.
All the times they’ve let you down. All the times they’ve rejected you. All the ways you’re not enough for each other. All the hurt and disappointment bubbles to the surface – not just from this relationship, but all the unresolved hurt from relationships long past.
Suddenly, it’s so much bigger than it actually is.
This is why loving someone is so hard.
With a single no, they have the power to collapse your whole world, and crush your heart.
It’s so very vulnerable.
But is this the only way?
Happily, no. There are other options.
But I’ll be brutally honest here:
Doing something different takes tremendous personal strength. And courage. And bad-assery.
And a ton of personal reflection.
Because you’ve got to own your crap. All the stories. The default patterns. The hurt from relationships past.
And you must hold onto yourself at the same time.
To stay open.
To keep feeling.
To keep Hoping. Yearning. Wanting.
All while you accept the disappointment that right now, your partner can’t give you what you need.
Because they’re human. Because they’ve got their own stuff going on. Because no matter how much you might secretly hope that they were – they’re not actually here to meet your needs.
The fun part of relationship is that yes, most of the time, they probably will meet your needs. And it will feel fantastic.
But it’s not their job.
It’s your job.
The art is to do your job, while still inviting them in.
How to feel the no AND feel the love at the same time.
How to talk about your hurt, your disappointment, your yearning – without blaming or grasping or defending.
How to wait, patiently, vulnerably, until that moment when you can come back to connection.
And how to walk yourselves back to that place of connection, once the time is right.
It’s not easy, but I can proudly say I’ve learned how to do this.
I’ve learned how to feel the hurt but catch myself before the story spirals out of control.
I own my stories and call them out for the nonsense that they are.
And I can keep the dialogue open with my husband, even while my stomach is falling out through the floor.
It’s been a hard-won skill, but an invaluable one.
It’s a skill that’s meant this relationship has lasted longer than any other I’ve ever been in.
It’s a skill that makes me confident that it will keep on lasting.
It’s a skill that might just create more love and acceptance on this planet of ours.
A skill that could shrink divorce rates.
Heal broken homes.
Heal broken hearts.
No, it’s not the cure all for every relationship.
But it’s an epic start.
Keep your hearts open, lovers.