When we consider our partner when we feel upset, we are staying in the relationship. When we sit in our own feelings because we have been hurt and stay mad or sad, we stay alone, even if we are in a relationship, we will feel alone.
This is one of the hardest things for couple to understand. Here’s what I often see when counseling a couple: both have been hurt and are distanced from their mate. Both feel that their partners should do something different to make them feel better.
Feeling unappreciated can happen in an instant. Let’s say you are the cook in your relationship. You plan a meal, make the food and expect that your partner will arrive so everything will come out exactly so. But then they don’t and the minutes go by and you start to worry that the food you prepared so well will be cold and not as good. This causes you stress and now you feel as if your partner doesn’t care and you are now feeling unappreciated.
I know how this can happen because my husband is the cook in my family. I have in the past taken longer at work than I told him and when I finally came home he said something like, “I thought you would be home sooner.” He just sounded so bummed and sad. Then he said, “I wish you would let me know when you are going to be later.”
I think all of us have some sort of expectation when we do something nice for another. I think it’s pretty human for us to expect to feel something good when someone receives what we have given them. But I had an insight recently that challenged that notion.
I was thinking about a couple of times when I made an effort to be gracious to another, yet after the exchange I felt empty. I realized that I was waiting for a great response and since I didn’t get it, the experience was lacking. That’s when the insight kicked in. And I thought, the giving is the gift.
I had this idea recently and it came to me while walking my dog. She is an old girl, a small white little one. I was noticing as we were just wandering down the sidewalk that we were in sync. Both of us were stride by stride.
And that’s when it hit me, we have cultivated this ease at walking together by doing the same thing over and over again. And in that moment when I was noticing it, it felt like the best thing in the world. Just the two of us, just us.
Then I flashed to other habits that I enjoy in my life, and I immediately thought of the time I spend in the morning with my husband, just sitting in our den, reading the newspaper, drinking tea or coffee and just being.
When we are in a relationship and we are close to someone special, we feel everything: love, hate, revulsion, gratitude, pleasure, disturbance, kindness and disappointment. Those are just some of the things we feel, when interacting with different facets of our partners.
Every relationship is like this. We all feel everything. This is how humans interact. When we fall in love with our special person, we let down all our defenses and we let our person come close. It feels so good to feel loved, and for many of us it might even feel like the first time this is happening to us.
I was running in my neighborhood one Thanksgiving Day. The streets were empty, and smells filled the air. I was thinking about the meal I would be eating later, with loved ones, when a sharp yell pierced the air. It was a woman screaming at a child.
I heard it come from a home across the street so I couldn’t see who was yelling, but I got an instant picture. At first I felt pain for the child, but then the mind traveled to the one who was yelling and I realized something else. It was something familiar I must have felt as a child, something this woman could be feeling at this moment.
Expressing feelings in relationships doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Maybe you struggle with expressing your feelings in a relationship. Or perhaps you have a partner who has trouble expressing their feelings.
I bet many of us have suffered when we have tried to get our partners to open up about their feelings. I hear this situation often when I meet a new couple during a counseling session.
It usually starts out with the female saying, “He doesn’t like to share his feelings and I don’t know what is happening to him.” And sometimes it can be the opposite where the male says, “I never know what she is thinking. She doesn’t share with me.” It even happens in same sex couples, so you know this is a problem with all genders.
I was talking to a friend the other day when I said something that made me think, “Wow, I have to write a blog about this.” What I said was we have to remember who our special person is, instead of focusing on what they are doing.
Let me explain. We love our person because they just feel right to us. We know it on the inside. No one is able to see this, only us. No one can feel this like we feel it, either.
When it is right, we just know it. And then we just throw in with everything we have and try and make a life. So, we start from where we are knowing what we want. We love our mate and we want to always feel this love.
Even though all of us are different, if we blame someone or something for our discomfort, then we have one thing in common: we’re internally wired the same. There are many of us in the world. And it’s my guess that if you blame or criticize when you are unhappy, you have heard about your behavior from others all your life.
I know I have. When I was little my older sister called me “the angry child,” because of my loud, blaming ways. I didn’t intentionally come into the world this way. I didn’t have a conversation with myself when I was learning how to express myself that said, “Start blaming. It’s a good system.”
No, that’s not what happened. I imagine it was my circumstances that encouraged me to use my voice to let my caregivers know I needed something. I just used my vocal cords to be heard. This habit just morphed over the years and I got better at leveling the criticism or blame when I got upset.
I was thinking about something I heard recently. It was a story about a counselor that talked to this couple. The couple had some relationship difficulties and the counselor simply advised them to come from the heart, not from the head. That’s it. The therapist just said, “Come from the Heart, not the Head.” Yep, that was the advice. And guess what? The couple cleared their challenges and became more mindful, and then they lived happily ever after.
I know I probably sound glib. I’ve worked with many couples, and helping them is not that easy unless there is very little that needs fixing. But I do realize that this is a wonderful opportunity to talk about what coming from the heart means and why it can be so powerful.